Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bodyweight Training.

Inspired by this video I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about body weight training and why it's so important. I was sitting around thinking the other day, about what I'm doing with my clients; is it fat loss, strength, hypertrophy (muscle growth), self improvement etc. I think the answer in most cases is more than one of those, if not all of them, but something that I haven't really elaborated on is strength training, in relation to body weight exercises. I've seen other trainers give exclusively body weight routines, and to be honest I've thought less of them. But moving your body weight, in different ranges of motion, with control and grace is important, after all, it is the true application of real strength. Are we in the gym trying to get strong at lifting weights? Or are we trying to get strong at day to day things, at moving our bodies comfortably through ranges of motion. Yes weights will do this for you, if you follow what has been termed "functional training" (an admittedly vague title that can mean just about anything outside of bodybuilding training), but we need to program and specialise for the individual.

My general thought process has been, not for all cases obviously, but as a general starting off point, for beginners: body weight for the upper body, light to moderate weight, for the lower body, and this has yielded positive results (with girls being able to do 30 push ups with toes on a bench to a respectable depth). The important thing is: no injuries, there is no excessive overloading of weight, no awkward movements, no patter overloading and it provides ancillary benefits such as core stability, and shoulder stability.

Most people who start training with me, can barely do a push up, and I'm talking man or woman alike. Working in the city, I get a lot of business types, who sit at their desks all day, who, therefore, aren't able to activate their glutes, have cervical and thoracic issues and lack even the most basic levels of strength and fitness. It's hard as a trainer with x1, 30 minute session a week to try and undo all that de-training. Body weight training is a great way to load somebody up, with functional movements, that help activate the core (including glutes), the stabilizers and to burn some calories. Do I expect my clients to be like this behemoth (above)? Of course not, but it's a great demonstration of: a person who set out to achieve a difficult goal (and got there), real/functional strength and a decent fitness level.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Want to stay fat? Keep running.

Hey guys, here is an article I wrote for the online magazine known as "Wangle".

Want to stay fat? Keep running

Posted on October 31st, 2010 at 6:00 am

By Rob Bezant

Forget what you think you know when it comes to fat loss, because I’m here to tell you, you don’t know anything! Distance running, distance walking (even worse), steady state exercise, whatever you want to call it…

As a personal trainer this is one of my biggest headaches.
I understand that you love to run; it gets you free from the constraints of daily life, makes you feel free.  I get it.

But the problem is when you run one kilometre, burning somewhere between 60 to 100 calories or so, based on your weight, you’ll subject your joints to 1500 jumping steps at 2-4x your body weight.

In the case of women, the specific structure of your hip, particularly in relation to you knee, running causes you to have specific knee and lower back problems. In fact most of the runners I have seen complain of the same issues: plantar fasciitis, lower back pain and patello-femoral problems.

How good is it for fat loss you ask? Terrible! Like almost no benefit for you terrible.

It reduces your metabolism (which makes it harder to burn fat), it increases adrenal stress (which makes you fatter), it increases oxidative stress (which accelerates the aging process), it lowers the testosterone/cortisol ratio (making you fatter) and after 8 weeks, the effects plateau.

When debating with people I put this image to them: Who has less body fat, a sprinter or a marathoner? The answer I receive is almost always ‘a marathoner.’  The correct answer, however, is a sprinter!

It’s not difficult to understand why. We’ve all been sold on the idea that in order to burn fat you have to do long, slow running. Sprinters do almost zero continuous running, yet they have less body-fat. How is this possible? The reason is in the nature of their training.

Apart from their weight training sessions which are done with heavy weights and low repetitions, sprinters get into shape (fitness and body fat percentage wise) by utilising a method called Interval Training.

Because of the intense nature of interval training, you only need to do it for a quarter of the time you would normally do what we call ‘steady state training,’ like distance running. Instead of finding time to do an hour-long run, you can sneak off at lunch, do 15 minutes of intervals and burn a higher amount of calories.

One of the main mechanisms we are aware of at the moment is a raise in what is called EPOC (Excess Post exercise Oxygen Consumption). Current research by exercise physiologists states that EPOC is not the only factor causing the raising of the metabolism from interval training.  The mechanics by which fat loss occurs over a 24-48hr period after exercising is not fully understood, but the point is, the result is well documented.

The information regarding high intensity interval training comes from the results accumulated by the world’s leading strength and conditioning coaches.

There is more and more evidence coming out that supports the notion that interval training is a superior tool for fat loss. It reduces the likelihood of injury due to shorter training periods, it increases metabolism making you burn calories for significant periods of time, it doesn’t reduce muscle mass and is the best method for utilising fat as a fuel source.

So why aren’t people the world over doing interval training over steady state?

Pure and simple – it’s hard! The nature of interval training is an all out brutal effort, and for some reason people seem married to running.

When you point out all the obvious benefits of interval training over running, they will still fight you tooth and nail. It’s time to pick: Do you like running? Or do you like looking hot?

You need to get it into your head that exercise is meant to be difficult, uncomfortable. If you’re not asking yourself ‘Why am I doing this?’ then you’re not training hard enough!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Destination: Abs.

As some of you who are friends with me on facebook know, I've been doing a lean down most of this year, I'm going to put up my journey thus far for you guys to see what I did.

This is what I used to be, this was my biggest and fattest. So many guys in the gym think this is what bodybuilding is. I got so offended when 80kg "nothings" would just call me a fat guy. "I can deadlift 205kgs for reps", "I can squat 220kgs" were my defenses. .so what!! I ended up being more like a powerlifter, and a weak one at that, than any kind of bodybuilder. Eating crap and lifting heavy? Yeh that's bodybuilding in the 60's. I was about 110kgs here with about 25% bf, this was about a year and a half ago. The problem was I followed bodybuilding magazine routines and bodybuilder diets forgetting one huge detail, I wasn't taking roids, so I couldn't keep all that muscle when it came time to diet! I remind myself this is how I looked whenever I get fed up with dieting and just want to be "big" again. Big isn't attractive, it's not "cool", women certainly don't enjoy it, and it scares most people, specially when you're fat and not musclular.
This is week 2 of the diet, my 1st week of training (after a holiday to America . .You can imagine how I looked after my body!). Training regime: Alternating set system. 15 Rep supersetting between upper body and lower body. 3 different superset groups in each workout (total of 6 exercises), done x3 per week. Body weight is 98.5kgs. High starchy carb breakfast and pre workout meal, protein and fribrous carbs for last meal of day.
Start of the 5th week Made a few bad choices regarding diet last week (icecream and almost only protein intake), think my metabolism died, so I'm recovering from that. Did my bodyfat % on the OMRON and I'm 17%, needless to say it's been a pretty shit week, starting to question why I'm doing it, you see people eating maccas, CARBS an not being too fat and then I'm sitting there with my 2nd fish meal for the day. . .eh over it! Particularly when you get numbers like 17%!!
Start of week 10- last week of Cosgroves Science of fat loss program. Going to have a week off training next week, then start basic circuits, probably do 2 phases of that then start strength training again. Bodyweight is 90.5kgs and bodyfat % has jus crept under 16% (on the OMRON, so take that as you will). Really should get someone to do skin folds soon . .
Start of week 11, my week off . . . No training beyond regeneration, mobility and flexibility this week. Happy with where I am and plan to be a little indulgent this week with the diet i.e eat carbs whenever I want, eat a little junk an not feel guilty. Spend this week getting my head back into it, having some time off so I can begin my next 12 weeks of gruelling horrible-ness :)
Still at 15% and 90.5kgs . . .Have knuckled down again this week, have started phase 2 of circuits/complexes and edt, with 30 minutes of HISS at the end of every workout now . . Just want some fat to start coming off those bottom abs dammit. This is about 17 weeks into dieting.
This is like week 22, I've been friggin shocking with my diet the last 2 weeks. I'm doing x4 rounds of 8 rep circuits with 40 min HISS after, x3 week plus a day of complexes (x3 sets of 10 reps x5 exercises) and 2 days of HIIT- 1 minute on, 1 minute off. Haven't tested weight and bf% for a few weeks, too afraid. 2 more weeks of this then I'm going to go into a superset, push/pull split x4 days per week with 1-2 interval days.
This is me as of the 25th/10/10. I've been doing a vertical push/vertical pull, horizontal push/horizontal pull (upper) on day 1 and quad dominant/hip dominant, abs/arms (lower) on day 2. I'm 3 weeks into my 12 week phase, have cut out the junk food, am sitting at around 94kgs, not sure the bf%, but it looks to be around 16-17% ish.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


It's come to my attention that I haven't been very clear on the carbohydrate issue, when dieting (as most of my clients are) I usually try to manipulate macronutrient intake to get the fastest fat loss possible (while being healthy). There some basic rules to fat loss via carb intake that I would recommend, as a basic primer, they are outlined below:
Cut starchy carbs out after 4pm.
Only ingest starchy carbs for breakfast and around your workout and fibrous carbs during the rest of the day.
Fibrous carbs only on non weight training days.
You can have starchy carbs post workout no matter what time of the day.
You can have protein and carbs at the same time.
You can have protein and fat at the same time.
You can't have carbs and fat at the same time.
Starchy carbs are things like:
Grains, beans, legumes, cereals (oats), pastas (brown/wholmeal), bread (brown/wholemeal), potatoes (preferably sweet).

Fibrous carbs are things like:
Fruits and vegetables- Asparagus, beans, broccoli, brussel spouts, chick peas, cucumbers, capsicum, salsa, spinach, lettuce, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwi, orange, nectarine, peach, pear, plum, strawberries and watermelon.

Have the most amount of starchy carbs for breakfast and taper them off during the day. If you're going to have starchy carbs, try to fit some veggies in and make sure you have protein with every meal too. If you're progressing through a dieting training program then starchy carbs are the calories you want to reduce from in each phase, while making sure you keep meal frequency at about 4-6 small meals per day with about 30-50 grams of protein with every meal. Generally I will create a 12 week program broken down into x3, 4 week phases, I find it best to make reductions at the end of the 4th week of each phase when going in to the next one. The first phase will generally be about cutting out junk, I'm generally not too strict on the starchy to fibrous carb ratio in the 1st phase, if you're not drinking or eating junk I'm happy. Phase 2 is where it becomes critical to drop the calories, make sure you're eating 4-6 small meals a day, a heap of protein with every meal and are only having starchy carbs for breakfast and post workout (maybe a starchy carb meal pre workout is fine). Phase 3 is where it gets crazy, protein, protein, protein! By this point it'll be scrambled egg whites for breakfast, chicken and vegetables for preworkout meals, starchy carbs and protein for post-workout shake and chicken and vegetables for the last meal of the day. The only variance allowed are smoothies, they make great snacks and are a quick easy way to get more fruit, vegetables and protein in.

I've said it before guys, this is up to you, make small changes each week and before you know it you will be eating healthy, don't self sabotage with junk, have meals/smoothies prepared ahead of time so you don't succumb!
Low starchy carb/high protein meal- Scrambled eg whites, ham, spinach
High starchy carb/high protein meal- oats, skim milk, banana, egg whites
High fibrous carb/high protein meal- fish, broccoli, peas
High protein/fibrous carb meal, add brown rice to make high starch/fibrous meal- diced chicken breast, mixed vegetables
Ingredients for a smoothy
The finished product
Strength coach findings
Bowden J., 2010. High Protein Diet Myths. Retrieved 21/04/2011.

Poloquin C. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Low Carb Nutrition. Reterieved 21/04/2011.

Brinkworth G.D., Noakes M., Clifton P.M., Buckley J.D., (2009). Effects of a Low Carbohydrate Weight Loss Diet on Exercise Capacity and Tolerance in Obese Subjects. Obesity (Silver Spring).

Cook C.M., Haub MD., (2007). Low-carbohydrate diets and performance. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 6(4):225-9.

Koutsari C., Sidossis L.S., (2003). Effect of isoenergetic low- and high-carbohydrate diets on substrate kinetics and oxidation in healthy men. British Journal of Nutrition. 90(2):413-8.

Manninen A.H., (2004).Metabolic effects of the very-low-carbohydrate diets: misunderstood "villains" of human metabolism. Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine. 31;1(2):7-11.
Stiegler P., Cunliffe A., (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Medicine. 36(3):239-62.

Roberts R., Bickerton A.S., Fielding B.A., Blaak E.E., Wagenmakers A.J., Chong M.F., Gilbert M., Karpe F., Frayn K.N., (2008). Reduced oxidation of dietary fat after a short term high-carbohydrate diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 87(4):824-31.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Neverending Debate- Distance Running Versus HIIT.

I think I need to state at the outset, when I discuss distance running/steady state/aerobic work I'm talking in terms of what is most effective for fat loss. I'm also not making an absolute statement about the nature of reality, I'm taking a polar position expressed essentially by hyperbole to attempt to change the paradigm. As Michael Boyle states:
"Luckily, Canadian researcher and sport scientist Martin Gibala has come to the rescue. Gibala, an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Canada published a study in the September issue of the Journal of Physiology comparing interval training and steady state training or long slow distance. The study, although conducted over only a two week period (emphasis added), looked at a twenty minute interval program versus steady state work ranging from ninety to one hundred and twenty minutes. The interval work consisted of thirty second sprints followed by four minutes of slow pedaling. This would amount to two to two and half minutes of high intensity work during a twenty minute session as compared to 90-120 minutes in the “heartrate zone” for the distance group. Gee, which would I want if both were equal?
The conclusion was that both methods showed roughly the same improvement in the chosen marker of oxygen utilization. Yes, the same. Do the math. Each group worked out three times a week.  The interval group exercised for a total elapsed time of one hour per week with six to seven and a half minutes of intense exercise contained in that hour. The steady state group exercised for between four and a half and six hours a week yet the aerobic benefits were the same (emphasis added)?" (Boyles 2008)

Distance running has it's merits, and it's places, but should not be used as the primary tool in a fat loss program (I say that with the caveat: for uninjured individuals with a base level of fitness). If you train for a marathon, or some other sport that requires aerobic endurance then obviously you need to do distance running (as well as HIIT as it increases VO2max better). I'm not saying you can't do distance running I'm just saying that you shouldn't (for fat loss), and that stance is based on evidence: from strength and conditioning coaches, studies and anecdote. When I talk of running I'm talking in terms of distance, when I talk of say, sprinting? I'm talking about speed. By its definition you can't sprint long enough to get into distance training so I support sprints. I might, however,  get my clients to do sprints on soft surfaces or cardio equipment but I don't mind them doing them on the ground, it's the distance and the low intensity, steady state nature of distance running that I don't like.

I've been a fairly big proponent of HIIT for a while now, through demonstration and evidence I put credence in Alwyn Cosgrove's "Hierarchy of fat loss" as being pretty accurate in it's listing of methods that result in some of the best fat loss protocols we have discovered thus far. There is enough evidence to support this as valid for the time being, but even if you don't agree, look at it logically:  Running is ineffective for fat loss, causes injuries and has long training sessions.  HIIT causes relatively no injuries, has short/convinient training sessions and superior fat loss results, you really do have to ask what argument are proponents of running for fat loss really trying to make? We should pick a method backed by evidence as inferior? We should promote a method of fat loss that causes injury? Or that we should back a fat loss strategy that requires large quantities of training time per session that cuts into other dail activies? Any one of these arguments on their own would be reason enough to avoid distance running. As Michael Boyle again states:
"Here is the problem as Diane Lee so eloquently put it. Running is a poor choice for most people. I often talk about the group of people I like to call the “speed limpers”. They are the men and women you often drive by on the road that are running with a visible limp. Usually they have a knee sleeve of some kind on. When you ask them about their problem they will almost always reply “ it loosens up after a while and then I ice and take some Advil after”. What a lousy idea. Guess what, good exercise should make you tired but, shouldn’t hurt your joints (emphasis added). The discomfort should be limited to the muscles and should go away almost immediately after you are done. In my opinion running is only good for doctors and physical therapists. We have an entire cottage industry built up to take care of the injuries caused by running.

The reality is that most people are not made to run. More importantly, they are particularly not made to run long distances (emphasis added). Until the Cooper led aerobics craze of the seventies many of us didn’t know what a plantar fascia, iliotibial band or patella-femoral joint was. Most of us in the industry do now. We know because these are just a few of the litany of sites of injury afflicting runners.

More bad news. Running is even worse for women. Women runners seem to to sustain more running related injuries than men." (Boyle 2010)
For some reason people get married to the idea of running, they think if they don't do it, they'll get fat, when just the opposite is true. I'm not sure why I have to keep hammering home this point and why all for it, why wouldn't I be? I think it's the fitness industries classic reluctance to change. The sad thing is I've been arguing with people for years about it now, with clients, trainers, fitness enthusiasts alike. Hell,  even at university it was endurance training as the only option, VO2max test this, astrand rhyming test that.

Here are some general principles to consider with running and fat lass.

Alwyn Cosgroves hierarchy of fat loss:
1. Metabolic resistance training.
2. High intensity anaerobic interval training.
3. High intensity aerobic interval training.
4. High intensity steady state.
5. Low intensity steady state.

Charles Poliquins 6 reasons NOT to do aerobic training:
1.  Continuous aerobic work plateaus after 8 weeks of training so anything more is counterproductive.

2.  Aerobic training worsens power locally and systemically – in other words, it can make you slower.

3.  Aerobic training increases oxidative stress which can accelerate aging.
4.  Aerobic training increases adrenal stress which can make you fatter and produce other undesirable health consequences.
5.  Aerobic training increases body fat in stressed individuals by contributing additional stress.

6.  Aerobic training worsens testosterone/cortisol ratio which impedes your ability to add fat burning lean muscle.

As Keith Alpert finishes up:
"The Power of Interval Training
The way for individuals to raise the intensity of their training is to do "Interval Training." Interval Training alternates bouts of high-intensity exercise with that of low to moderate-intensity exercise. Recent studies have shown that Interval Training is more effective for fat loss while improving both Aerobic and Anaerobic fitness
(emphasis added).
Tabata et al. (1) compared a 70% of VO2 max moderate intensity group (MIG) vs. a high intensity interval group (HIIT). The MIG group did increase their VO2 max by about 10% without a concurrent improvement in anaerobic capacity. The HIIT group improved their VO2 max by 14% and their anaerobic capacity by 28%. The HIIT group actually improved both anaerobic and aerobic capacity at the same time!
Tremblay et al. (2) compared a sprint ergometer group versus an aerobic group. Despite burning 50% less calories, the sprint group lost three times more fat than the aerobic group (emphasis added)." (Alpert)
I hope I've met your burden of proof regarding this situation, this blog is making a cumulative case against running, when you put all the information in this post, with the rest of the blog, I hope my point is clear. If it's not, let me restate: distance running for fat loss is inferior to other methods! But I'm appreciative of correction.

I refer you to this post for a list of references that support my positions in this blog.

Alpert K., Getting Maximum Results Part II - Alternatives to Aerobics. Alternative Exercise Strategies to Help You Break Through a Plateau.

Boyle M., (2008). Death to Long Slow Distance.

Boyle M., (2010). You Can’t Run to Get Fit, You Need to Be Fit to Run.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Trainers Expectations.

As your trainer, what do I expect from you? What do I need from you for you to achieve your goals?

I need you to commit to the program, to express concerns, to stay on top of your diet, to communicate with me (email, in person, this blog, text message) and I need you to put in the effort. I offer every client a program, I offer diet help, encouragement and advice. I'm not perfect, or a perfect trainer, but the best way we can achieve results together is by communication (mostly I mean you listen to me as if I possessed the word of god, just joking, though not really). I can only give you your programs, teach you how to use them and be there to answer questions and guide you, you actually have to make it to the gym to lift the weights and thrash the cardio equipment.

I've stated previously that my programs are of a very intense nature, I only have 30 minutes to work you, once a week in a lot of cases, which means I need to ramp up your metabolism. How do I do this? Metabolic resistance training and High Intensity Interval Training! The downside to this style of training as mentioned in previous posts is, it's hard. You do, however sacrifice training time for intensity.

As Charles Poloquin states:
"Rather than establishing rest intervals between sets, a circuit combines several exercises, usually about 10, so that no two muscles are worked at the same time. The idea is that the workouts are faster and also produce greater aerobic benefits (emphasis added). It’s also a time saver. Whereas the 30 sets that the Olympic lifter performed with station training would take about two hours, 30 sets of a circuit training workout could be completed in 45 minutes." (Poliquin)
Due to how little I see you it is extremely import you either buy more sessions with me, or make sure you come in to your allotted training sessions. I hear a million excuses a day from clients and to be honest I get sick of hearing it. I understand not every client is as committed as me to training, but why are you spending money on personal training, if you're going to waste your, and my time? Why did you join up with the gym in the first place? Is it just to throw some money at a problem and get no results? Or is it to utilise a service to help you achieve that which you might have otherwise been unable. If the latter is the case, and I sincerely hope it is with all of you, then utilise me and my knowledge, it's what I'm here for.

I have plenty of clients who don't listen to me, who like to run, like to walk for long distances,  like to eat starchy carb meals at night, like to skip meals, like to drink alcohol, don't like writing down what they eat, don't like sticking to diets (or making dietary changes), don't like lifting heavy, don't like training hard etc. And you know what? These are the very same people who turn up with injuries, complain they're not getting results,  have no motivation, skip sessions and are physically weak. I'm willing to concede it is my failure as a trainer, at least in part, perhaps I need to learn more about psychology/physiology , perhaps I'm not communicating my ideas effectively, perhaps I'm failing you, I'm certainly honest enough to concede that fact. That's where you need to get my ass in line, that's where I'm accountable to you. After all, you pay me for a service, if I'm not getting you the results you desire, you're well within your rights to bust me. I will generally listen to training concerns, will adapt programs to valid, justifiable concerns a client has, I have a very big tool box, feel free to dig through it (this doesn't sound right for some reason.).

As Dave Tate states:
In short: Training has never changed my life because it is a part of who I am.
In fact, I almost saw the weight room as the cause of keeping me from dealing with the things I avoided and, in some ways, this may have been true. What I was to learn, however, was that the gym was not an escape from things, but actually an entrance into the world of reality as I knew it.
It was the place where I could find inspiration and motivation, where I have had to deal with some of life's biggest challenges. And where I have had some of my best training workouts, business ideas and negotiations. In the weight room, I have forged powerful friendships, held therapy sessions, and made some outstanding breakthroughs toward achieving my goals.
To me, and to many others around the world, the weight room is not just a place to train, but rather a Zen-like temple — a place of symbolically higher ground where we bring our hopes, dreams, and aspirations (emphasis added). A place where we commit to grueling personal discipline and the continual challenge to improve ourselves: five more pounds on the bar, one more rep, another pound of muscle mass, another pound less body fat, more self-understanding. If we are serious, it is a way of life.
The weight room is a place where the trials never end. It is the place where we test ourselves continuously — we struggle to reach one goal, and, as soon as we reach it, there is another and more difficult one to meet (emphasis added). (Tate 2010)
I need to know why you're training, why you're in the gym, but most importantly, you need to know these things and you need to be willing to defer to my ruling. If I tell you running is bad, drinking is bad, missing sessions is bad etc you need to listen, I back up these claims on the blog. You can talk to me, rationalise your choices and see if I agree, if I don't? You might need to consider I know what I'm talking about, it's why I have this blog, it's a written testimony of my knowledge, it provides scientific examples that justify my position. Sometimes you will convince me, or at the very least I can give you strategies to help you customise activities I don't agree with, so you don't get injured and so you can still get results.

In Conclusion
The point is, as I summarise, I care about the results you get, I don't want you spending 1 dollar more than you have to, I want you to achieve what you set out to, so help me do that. Communicate, listen and most importantly come in to every training session pumped up and ready to break something! As they say "train hard or get out of my way!"

Tate D., (2010). How Weight Training Saved My Life. Retrieved 22/04/2011.

Poloquin C., Poliquin 101: Circuit Training and Superset.The evolution of a training revolution. Retrieved 22/04/2011.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unilateral vs Bilateral Leg Training.

When I first started training, as so many young guys do, I read the muscle mags, I did exactly the kind of training that was in there. Bilateral movements, machines, isolation, steady state cardio, were commonplace in my workout routines for years. Then I started reading from different sources, from strength coaches such as Michael Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Eric Cressey and Gray Cook, I started to learn there are more efficient, productive and healthier ways to get the physical dimensions I desired. Now, having said that, I did do what Cosgrove calls "an over-reaction in the short term, an under-reaction in the long term" with these ideas, I dropped most bilateral movements, all machines, all isolation and all steady state. As Nate Miyaki states:
Most strength trainers, or anyone who's ever taken a physiology class, have heard the ol' sprinter vs. marathon runner comparison a thousand times. You know the drill. Marathon runners that engage in primarily low intensity, aerobic activity are usually skinny-fat, jiggle when they wiggle, and are so injured and beat-up that they look like they've come straight out of a Resident Evil movie. Sprinters that engage in primarily high intensity, anaerobic work are generally more lean and muscular.
It's amazing to me how many intelligent people understand this on a conceptual level, but don't practically apply it within their training protocols. "Yeah, marathon runners are losers." Then that same allegedly intelligent person will go out and do cardio three times a day to try and reach low single-digit body fat percentages.
No physique athlete has any business spending two hours on a stationary bike (emphasis added), unless there's a hot chick with a nice ass on the elliptical machine sweating in front of you. And even then, either man-up and make your move or go home and cry to your buddies about what could have been, but don't waste your time on a glorified coat rack.
The fittest "looking" people in the world, and the smartest coaches in the world -- the Testosterone crew, bodybuilders, figure girls, fitness models, etc. -- base their exercise programs around strength training. They all lift weights -- both the men and the women. Cardio may be a part of the plan, but it's not the foundation. Christian Thibaudeau didn't become The Beast (as an athlete or coach) on an elliptical machine. (emphasis added)

And on a side note, I would say most physique athletes do cardio out of tradition rather than necessity. Diet and strength training are what changes physical appearance. Cardio is supplemental at its very best. (Miyaki 2010)
That was about a year ago, since then I have tried playing around with what fits where and have largely discovered through my own training and my clients that the only thing I would fit back in are bilateral movements (2 legged). I like the conventional deadlift, sumo deadlift and the front squat, that's about it. When programming for my clients it's my responsibility to provide them with the best possible care I can, most of my clients come in tackling weight, strength, body fat and image issues, what they generally don't realise is that they are also dealing with flexibility, mobility and stability issues too.

It's my job when designing programs to tackle all of these issues, how do I best go about doing this? By designing programs that hit several birds with one stone and how do I do that? Largely by putting unilateral leg movements (single leg), all free weights, resistance as opposed to movements based training for the abs, HIIT over steady state and other functional exercises together that compile a "functional" program. What is meant by this buzz word "functional"? In this case it means a program that will help increase dynamic strength, drop body fat, increase stability and mobility (where applicable and possible) and most importantly do no harm! As Michael Boyle states:
[Gray]Cook's analysis of the body was a straightforward one. In his mind, the body is just a stack of joints. Each joint or series of joints has a specific function and is prone to specific, predictable levels of dysfunction. As a result, each joint has specific training needs. The table below looks at the body on a joint-by-joint basis from the bottom up:
The first thing you should notice as you read the above table is the joints simply alternate between the need for mobility and stability as we move up the chain. The ankle needs increased mobility, and the knee needs increased stability.
As we move up the body, it becomes apparent that the hip needs mobility. And so the process goes up the chain: a simple, alternating series of joints.
You're probably asking yourself, "What does this have to do with lifting?" Can it make me squat more? Yes, absolutely.
The basic fact is that over the past twenty years the average gym-goer has progressed from the bodybuilding approach of training by body part to a potentially more intelligent approach of training by movement pattern.(emphasis added)

In fact, in the sports world, the phrase "movements not muscles," has almost become an overused one and, frankly, that's progress. I think most good lifters have given up on the old chest-shoulder-triceps muscle mag thought process and moved forward to a push-pull-anterior chain- posterior chain thought process. (Boyle 2007)
Unilateral leg training is great for a plethora of reasons, for beginners simple split squats and walking lunges can help with proprioception, balance, glute activation and firing, reduce axial loading (spinal loading) and activate the core musculature while not putting too much awkward load on the person. In most cases a beginner can get away with less than 8kgs in each hand and still be very sore the next day, while similarly the strength gains are very practical and help the client to build a functional base level of strength, that we might progress to more traditional bilateral lifts.
The Split Squat
I have read some stuff that suggests bilateral before unilateral, which I would agree with in principle, but when you're working with a client for 30 mins to 1hr a week, you don't always have the time to work in the flexibility mobility training that is required for bilateral work. This way you can get them training right off the bat as you work on their length issues over the coming weeks. I would, however recommend a largely body weight approach to the first few sessions, due to the sheer volume of reps and the fact that single leg training is difficult enough as it is. There should be progressions from body weight split squats to body weight walking lunges, then weighted versions of both before moving onto the bulgarian split squat and the pistol squat.
The Bulgarian Split Squat
I think it is possible to build muscle efficiently with a either/or approach to bilateral/unilateral training, that being the case I'll go for single leg training for my clients, with some bilateral interspersed, in most cases. Single leg when extrapolated to the other leg actually ends up having you lift heavier loads with less physical stress and a greater metabolic demand which is great for clients.

The Pistol Squat, you may look like a dork, but it's great for knee stability and is a great indicator of lower body strength!

Boyle M., (2007). A Joint-by-Joint Approach to Training. Retrieved 22/04/2011.

Miyaki N., (2010). The Best Damn Cardio Article — Period. Retrieved 22/04/2011.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ab Training.

I'm pretty sure every person, every client I have is, at least in part, training for abs. We all want that lean stomach, we may all differ on the kind of definition we want around our abs, but we all agree a slender stomach is desirable. This is largely based on your diet and to a lesser extent training regime, nevertheless your abs, like the rest of your body still require stimulus to grow, but how do we do this without injuring the surrounding structures?

Anyone who trains with me knows I don't do the conventional core exercises, a lot of research (Stuart McGill et al) show nowadays that conventional ab training: crunches, situps, rotational movements (such as the russian twist) actually have a negative impact on the spine as well as shortening your Rectus (RA) Abdominis (conventionally known as the abs).

As Mike Robertson states on his blog:
The RA has three primary functions

The primary functions of your RA include:

-    Trunk flexion/Resisting Trunk Extension
-    Posterior Pelvic Tilt
-    Transmission of “hoop” stresses. (Robertson 2010)
Correct posture when training is essential, cues never involve a rounded back (thoracic kyphosis) as this puts the spine in a compromised position, it also reduces the scapulaes ability to get into appropriate positions which can lead to rotator cuff problems. When we do crunches/situps and back extensions (trunk flexion/extension) we are encouraging a posture that is detrimental, we need to spend a lot of time with clients correcting postures. Crunches shorten the length of the RA, it pulls down your ribs and by extension, shoulders further creating a rounded upper back. As Mike Robertson states:
Mike Boyle has a great analogy here – it’s like a credit card.  Bend a new credit card back and forth and, initially, it bounces back.  But if you continue to bend that card, you eventually start to see a white crack.  Continue to bend it back and forth, and over time that crack leads to a break.  Your spine is not much different. (Robertson 2010)
The RA (as well as the rest of the muscles of the core) is also designed to reduce movements around the lumbar spine (low back), it also transmits forces (from upper and lower body) as well as prevents movements. Core stabilisation training (planks, side planks, bridging) can help clients with low back pain as well as develop the core. As Mike Robertson states yet again:
Who needs crunches anyway?
Everybody and their mother can tell you that crunches train your “core.”  What they may or may not be able to tell you is that you’re training spinal flexion.

First, it’s important to note where you’re getting your movement; a true crunch where your lumbar spine doesn’t move focuses on spinal flexion through the thoracic spine, or upper back.

People will obviously tell you that crunches spare the spine and isolate the abs.  To an extent, they’re correct – when compared to a full range of motion sit-up, they probably are a superior option.

What people fail to discuss are the broader implications of performing a ton of crunches in their programming.  Just because they aren’t hurting your back doesn’t mean they’re a great exercise.

From a global perspective, I can’t tell you how many people I see with jacked up shoulders and necks.  Their postures often look the same – their head is carried in front of their body, their shoulders are slouched forward, etc. (Robertson 2010)
The point is when I program I am essentially designing ab programs that resist movement as opposed to promoting movement. The RA is innervated by the same nerve so you can't isolate upper or lower abs, instead we train for resistance rather than isolation. Ab rollouts/bodysaws, anti rotation presses, planks, all of these make up the bulk of my core routine as they are all exercises which train the abs to develop (hypertrophy) as well as training them in a way that is functionally accurate. That's part of the reason I also get my clients to lift heavy weights, aside from the fact that it has a raft of physiological benefits unrelated to the abs, it also causes the body to engage them in a stabilisation capacity, therefore developing them further.

Ab Rollouts- There are several progressions for this exercise, beginners should begin with a rollout on a fitball. The rollout, due to its eccentric loading can be quite strenuous on the abs, specifically the lower abs (even with a common innervation DOMS can still be felt in specific areas of the RA), hence we reduce the load by raising the torso.
The next progression once the client can do 10-15 reps on the fitball, we then move them onto the ab wheel, mostly ignored by myself and others as a gimmick product, the ab wheel is a great progression, from the fitballl.
If the client is well trained and can do 10-15 reps of the ab rollout, we then progress them to the valslide rollout. I couldn't actually find a picture for it, but below are the valslides, you use them on the carpet. Due to the torso being lower and the resistance of the carpet the exercise is more difficult.
Pallof/Anti-rotation press- This exercise can be done on the cable cross overs, progressions would follow along the lines of increasing the weight of the stack.
Plank/Side Plank- There seems to be some debate as to whether planks are great for hypertrophy for abs, to me it's irrelevant. Every client I get needs more stability around the trunk, they need to learn how to activate their glutes and the plank is a great beginner exercises to get them integrating the whole body into ab work.
Ab training is essential for better posture, strengthening the abs and if your bodyfat is low enough developing some additional definition. As explained above, the abs are primarily designed to resist movement, as such we train them accordingly. Exercises like crunches/situps/back extensions should be a thing of the past, there are enough progressions within the several exercises above to develop the abs functionally. 

Robertson M., (2010). Understanding Your Abs. Retrieved 22/04/2011.

Robertson M., (2010). Understanding Your Abs.Part 2. Retrieved 22/04/2011.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Getting Big.

I've put up very little on principles of getting big (muscular), because honestly, I think I have like one client who is actually trying to build muscle exclusively. As such I've stayed away from writing about it as your average fat loss client doesn't need to be concerned with it. I didn't want to start putting up building programs and tips for fear of someone who reads this thinking they can combine the best elements of a fat loss and muscle building program to create the perfect program, as Michael Boyle would say "stick to the recipe".

Over the years I've experimented with what works for me, while trying to follow the literature, I would advise the same of anyone who wants to get big. One piece of advise I can give that I have fallen prey to is: don't get married to any program, as Poloquin is fond of saying everything works, not everything works forever. Or as Adam Bornstein writes:
 Are you sick and tired of lifting the same weight, day after day, week after week? Then, do something about it. Most men create their own plateaus by not pushing themselves to work harder. They settle on using the same weight, doing the same number of sets and reps. Or, even worse, they stick to the same workout they’ve been doing for the last 10 years (emphasis added). Even Mel Gibson was popular 10 years ago. Times have changed, and so should your workout and your attitude. You need to progressively challenge your body to work harder. That might mean taking a step backwards, and learning how to do exercises correctly. For instance, if you squat and your upper thighs don’t at least reach parallel, you have some work to do. If you’re doing the bench press and only lower the weights 4 inches before pressing back up, well, that’s not really a bench press. Sometimes, the smallest changes can lead to the biggest results. That is, if you’re man enough to swallow your pride and focus on simply becoming better. In some way, you should improve each workout. That’s the goal. Keep that in mind, and you will make changes. Just be patient and realistic with yourself. You might not look like a MH cover model (or not yet, at least), but that’s not a reason to become frustrated and just go through the motions. (Bornstein 2010)
Variation, volume and intensity are important factors in hypertrophy training, and the type of program you follow is dependant on your training age. What is that you ask? Well you may not be asking . .but it's my blog I can say what I want! Training age refers to how long you've been praying to the god made of iron (lifting weights), for beginners I would normally recommend some kind of full body program, that's what I put my clients on. Variation between microcycles (weekly) and mesocycles (monthly) will be alright as long as your macrocycle (yearly) plan is geared ultimately toward muscle gain. You can have weeks where you attack volume or intensity exclusively which will mix it up, keep you motivated and help produce muscle mass. Too much volume too soon can lead to some nasty contraindication such as rhabdomyolosis, those silly crossfit kids may think that's a good thing, but I'm here to tell you, as it's life threatening, it really isn't! A full body circuit style program has all compound movements, which allows for nervous system adaptation, creates a positive hormonal situation and is a nice "easy" way to move into the world of lifting heavy things.

After an initial 12 week phase of circuit training I would move the beginner onto something like superset style training, I personally prefer this style of muscle building training for almost anyone. I think, although the paradigm is shifting, that a lot of lifters are still largely influenced by powerlifting/old school bodybuilding training, what do I mean by this? Long rest breaks, no supersetting, 1 bodypart per day, things of this nature.
As Adam Bernstein states:
 Want to crank up your metabolism? Then don’t become part of this trend: 94 percent of all men rest for more than 5 minutes between sets, while chatting with friends or watching SportsCenter, says researchers from Adam Bornstein’s School of the Brilliant.
You’d think I was kidding, but walk into any gym and the fake stat is fairly accurate. If you want to lose your gut, it takes hard work and a lot of sweat. That means shorter rest periods. How short? Anywhere from 10 seconds to 60 seconds, but no longer. Do more work in less time, and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll change your appearance (emphasis added). (Bornstein 2010)  
Nowadays, even traditional hypertrophy guys like Poloquin are still moving to superset training, Alwyn Cosgrove, Tom Venuto, Michael Boyle, a lot of people, and a lot of the research is moving toward a higher intensity apporach. What do I mean by higher intensity training? Short rest breaks, multiple exercises back to back, shorter workouts, more huffing and puffing. I like upper body/lower body splits broken up into agonist/antagonist pairings for building programs, for example, horizontal push/horizontal pull, vertical push/vertical pull, this allows both muscle groups some rest and allows you lift as much weight as possible, while creating a metabolic demand. I would suggest doing superset pairings based on movements as opposed to training purely by muscles, it may not be a necessarily entirely functional/perfect approach, but it works and I don't think it'll overload any motor patterns too much. Again as Adam Bernstein states:
Unless you’re a bodybuilder or, well, a bodybuilder, there’s really no reason to do a body part split (emphasis added). The most common complaint I hear from guys is, “I have no time to workout.” And that’s valid. You have a busy lifestyle, with work, friends, family, and your fantasy league. So if time is a premium, why are you focused on spending five days a week in the gym? Especially when those five days focusing on a different body part will accomplish less than what you could do in three days targeting your entire body. You can argue about the best training program all day. There’s no consensus. But if you’re strapped for time, you’ll have a hard time arguing splitting your workouts into body parts.
Here’s the bottom line: There are better ways to pack on muscle and lose fat. Or at the very least, much more efficient ways to see results. I’d recommend a total body workout. Or you can try splitting your workouts between upper and lower body. Other options exist, too, but whatever your choice, just start looking at your body as a group of interconnected muscles, and not individual parts that you can isolate (emphasis added). That means focusing on more multi-muscle exercises (think squats, deadlifts, and bench presses), instead of “spot training” a muscle (yeah, I’m talking about curls and calf raises). You’ll thank me later. Trust me. (Bornstein 2010)
A major part of any program is diet, anyone who is looking to put on mass needs to ingest an excess of calories. The first law of thermodynamics states that you can't get something from nothing, for your body to create metabolically taxing, homeostasis breaking muscle it needs the energy and stimulus to adapt. If we accept that you should be having a significant amount of protein with every single meal,  focus starchy carbs for breakfast, pre and post workout, fibrous carbs and protein (with some healthy fats) for every other meal for the day. You want to have high starchy carb days on your weight training days, high fibrous carb on your non training days. You need heavy weights within a typical 8-10 rep range to stimulate growth hormone/testosterone release as a base program, but make sure you program weeks that get out of this zone though, do some volume training with high reps and some density training with low reps. Like I said, don't be afraid to move away from what feels comfortable, sometimes a weight or intensity change can break plateaus.
Putting on muscle is not quantum mechanics, lift heavy weights, eat your time allotted meals (every 2-3hrs), get plenty of sleep, don't drink alcohol. It's really that simple, there's no magic supplement, no magic pill (other than steroids, which I do not recommend). My blog on supplements applies for muscle building too, you don't need costly supplements that are basically just sugar, protein and caffeine, just a routine that changes over time and keeps up the intensity coupled with some carbs and protein applied at the right times..


Bornstein A., (2010). 10 Rules of Weight Lifting. Retrieved 22/04/2011.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Spot Specific Fat Reduction.

As a trainer you always get into discussions, when going over weight loss goals, about what areas a person wants to lose fat from. It's hard, from the outset, and at an initial consultation, to know just how much depth to go into regarding this subject, and just how to tell a client that all preconceptions they have about weight loss, are wrong. There is a general census within the fitness industry that spot specific fat reduction is a myth, this is mostly supported by evidence (though, apparently not), spot specific fat reduction refers to the concept of stripping fat from predetermined areas of the body (usually trouble areas such as glutes, stomach, thighs etc). Strength and conditioning coach Charles Poloquin believes it is possible to spot specific fat reduce, but he is in the minority. It's important to note he is selling a product advertising this in his "bio signature modulation" program that, from what I understand, targets hormonal concerns. The reason he targets the endocrine response is largely due to the supposition that hormones such as insulin, cortisol, testosterone, estrogen, thyroid and growth all effect fat distribution and storage (which they do). I'd say the complication comes from whether or not his program actually works, and the testimonials certainly seem positive. That aside, the idea of specifically doing exercises to strip fat from specific areas is largely unsupported,  Poliquin's bio signature program is a highly tailored, intensive program that requires special training and measures to implement (as well as costing $$$). Your average person who trains needs to focus on the basics, a proper diet and a well balanced training regiment (I put them in order of importance), worrying about hormonal concerns is valid, and I would almost always recommend a hormone level check up, especially for women (those who, in particular suffer from a "pear" shape) but isn't the focus for your average joe. Alwyn Cosgrove in his manual "the science of fat loss" touched briefly on spot specific fat reduction, claiming it is possible, but there is little evidence thus far (though he did provide some), definitely something to keep an eye on.

Largely, when talking to clients,  I wouldn't support the notion that spot specific fat reduction being possible, if only for argument and continuity's sake, not in the quantities of weight most of you are looking for. Clients don't need to get bogged down in technical and often contradictory meta analysis of the data being produced. It's not uncommon during weight loss plans to feel stagnant when in actuality you're just losing fat from places you can't see. The point I'm making is, selling spot specific fat reduction as a fact sells unrealistic expectations and can cause the client to foucs on specific parts of their body when training on the whole would be more beneficial. Specific work can be added to certain areas on top of their program if needed.

I'm more than willing to accommodate a clients needs for spot specific fat reduction as I've found, psychologically, when a person feels like they're getting results, it can be just as motivating for them, as if they actually were. Nobody likes to hear 'eh sorry that's a myth", but the larger focus of my programs rely on burning the most amount of calories in the extremely short amount of time we have together, while getting the client to reduce the harmful activities they're doing to themselves. To the women out there who have that extra weight on the aforementioned adipocytes, and who do perhaps suffer from a pear shape (the male equivalent is an "apple" shape) I would suggest following a low carb diet with high intensity weight training and HIIT, simply working those areas won't cut it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rep Ranges.

A client of mine suggested this as a topic for discussion and I think the idea of "how much weight to lift" and "for how many reps" are important issues that I don't think I've covered in enough detail. If you're training with me, then weights are a staple part of your routine, and I think I've addressed why that is. But it's the amount of weight and the progression thereof that I think some of you are sometimes confused with.

For weights to have a positive benefit, they need to be heavy, you need to be failing just before or on the final rep allotted. Metabolic resistance work usually has what might be considered "high" rep ranges, usually in the 12-15 area, and usually progressing down to a lower rep range (8-10). None of these rep ranges are considered pure "strength" work (3-5), but that isn't to say you don't get strength gains from them. I would never, ever recommend lifting light, even if you're lifting for 15 reps (why train to be weak?), you should be lifting heavy, and lifting heavier every week. That's something I want to spend a moment on, some of you complain that I make the weights harder every week, but maybe I haven't explained why I do that? The benefit from metabolic weight training comes from the disturbance it creates in your metabolism, but the body being the way it is, it's highly adaptive. By simply making sure we are increasing the weights every workout, is a cheeky little way we can maximise your potential to boost metabolism and grow or retain muscle mass, by shocking up your system and keeping your body constantly guessing. That's also why we never spend more than 4 weeks doing the same thing and why every program is progressively more difficult. It's called progressive intensity and is one of the staple variables a trainer can manipulate to get our fat loss goals. The point is, unless you're in a rehab setting, in which case you wouldn't be lifting weights at all, there's no reason not to lift heavy (as heavy as you can within rep ranges prescribed).

This idea that women should train with light weights for fear of getting "bulky" represents a huge misunderstanding of biology, diet and training. I have no idea where this myth comes from, but training light will just mean you get no results, no bulking sure, but no weight loss or muscle growth, nothing! Getting "bulky" is a result of intensive bodybuilder style training (which I can guarantee none of you are doing) and a caloric surplus (timed protein, carbs, sleep and no alcohol. How many of you can claim this type of lifestyle?). I trained my ass off, thinking only of gaining muscle for years and still didn't gain that much, I love the hubris some people have,  the idea that if they touch a weight they'll get "bulky". Heavy weights within caloric restriction will only create density in your muscle, and possibly a slight increase in muscle, if you're eating well you will lose fat to juxtapose the gain in muscle. There are certain hormonal factors that contribute to muscle growth, namely that of testosterone, women produce less than men, that isn't to say women don't produce it and can't gain muscle, because they do, and they can. But the nature is in the expression of that effect, they produce less hence the effect will be less, so ladies, don't worry about lifting weights heavy and frequently, the programs you are on are designed to promote and maintain muscle mass under conditions of physical stress and caloric restriction (as we all know muscle is your metabolism, more muscle= greater metabolism= greater fat loss).

Monday, September 6, 2010


In this blog I'll be discussing, primarily bodybuilding supplements, but what is said herein could just as easily be applied to most supplements on the market, but please be charitable when reading this post and not jump to any conclusions about supplements not specifically mentioned.

Something the supplement business does really well is marketing, they have saturated bodybuilding magazines to the point that their products catchy names are common knowledge. But, the problem is (as with any pseudoscience) there is very little evidence (other than anecdotal) to support the efficacy of supplements. Which isn't to say that you should avoid them all, there are, however certain supplements that you should use such as: fish oil, protein powders and creatine. Most of the other supplements: HMB, L-Carnitine, Growth powders, glutamine are not proven to work, or in terms of cost/benefit ratio, are impractical. The major supplement companies and their products are mostly extremely over priced doses of sugar, caffeine, creatine, protein, additives and preservatives.

The problem that we find with supplements and their marketing, is people tend to favour them over good nutrition, which is obviously not the way to go. The term "supplement" implies that it is meant to supplement a good diet and training program, but most people I see who religiously use supplements have anything but perfect diets and training programs.

So, I guess we should tackle the question of who should use these products? (when I say "these products" I mean any other than protein, fish oil and creatine). I would say bodybuilders for the most part, and I mean competing bodybuilders, and even then, the incidence of drug use in that culture makes discerning what is drugs and what is supplement, hard to do. You're average (average in this case meaning: non competing athlete, recreational athlete etc) trainer should only be using the aforementioned supplements, generally.

Why do I promote fish oil, protein and creatine? Well these all have evidential support, from reuptable sources to back them up and are generally accepted as the only supplements that are guaranteed to have a positive effect (obviously protein was never under suspicion). Fish oil is great for brain power (increasing attention, reducing likelihood of mental illness), particularly for those of you who aren't eating fish on a daily basis. It has also been demonstrated to be beneficial in weight loss programs. Creatine is also well reviewed and backed up by evidence for helping muscle activation and muscle gain, for those clients who are looking to put on muscle I would recommend creatine once you've been on a program for a couple of months, have your diet sorted out and are looking for an extra edge.

Basically a lot of the hype regarding supplements is just that! You can't substitute the right knowledge and know how for a wonder pill or powder. Most of the effect from supplements is placebo based (in your head), which may be ok except for the ridiculous prices you pay for supplements.

I buy my protein from
I'm pretty sure you can get fish oil and creatine from this site too.

Protein/carbs post workoout 
Betts J.A., Williams C., (2010). Short-term recovery from prolonged exercise: exploring the potential for protein ingestion to accentuate the benefits of carbohydrate supplements. Sports Medicine. 1;40(11):941-59

Jentjens R,. Jeukendrup A., (2003). Determinants of post-exercise glycogen synthesis during short-term recovery. Sports Medicine. 33(2):117-44.
Fish oil 
Noreen E.E., Sass M.J., Crowe M.L., Pabon V.A., Brandauer J., Averill L.K., (2010). Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. Jounral of the International Society of Sport Nutrition. Oct 8;7:31.

Weed H.G., Ferguson M.L., Gaff R.L., Hustead D.S., Nelson J.L., Voss A.C., (2010). Lean body mass gain in patients with head and neck squamous cell cancer treated perioperatively with a protein- and energy-dense nutritional supplement containing eicosapentaenoic acid. Head & Neck.

Arciero P.J., Hannibal N.S 3rd., Nindl B.C., Gentile C.L., Hamed J., Vukovich M.D., (2011).
Comparison of creatine ingestion and resistance training on energy expenditure and limb blood flow.
Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental. 50(12):1429-34.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Getting into the gym, when you work 40+ hours a week, is difficult, I understand this. In terms of what motivates me? Well, now I've been doing it so long that to NOT do it actually feels wrong, feels weird and I feel lazy. But to you guys out there? I would first start with a specific plan, with a specific goal, in a specific time frame. Get a program going, with a diet and time by which you want to reach your goal (fat loss/ muscle gain.. whatever). Chances are if you're training with me, you have a program, so basically talk to me about what that entails, what you need to do, and also talk to me about your diet, as that's where the real results will come from.

Adam Bornstein tells of his motivation issues:
"I have a confession to make: I stopped working out.

Yep, you read it here. The layoff from this blog was no coincidence. The fitness editor stopped exercising. It wasn’t by choice, or plan, or preference. I can share excuses, sob stories, and a dramatic life-changing event that played a role in my absence. But none of it really matters, right? Excuses are lost moments that capture the past (emphasis added). I’m more interested in writing stories that embrace the future. Besides, my reasons are nothing more than a footnote in an endless list of men who have struggled to stay consistent to maintain their own health. For me, what started as a week break, turned into 3, and eventually spilled over into almost two months.
During that time I didn’t shrivel up and become a shell of my former self. My muscle didn’t turn from Dwight Howard into Fat Albert, and I didn’t go back to bench-pressing just the bar. (I swear, this doesn’t really happen) But I did experience failures in my own health: More stress, worse eating habits (as in, I didn’t eat much), sickness, and I had trouble sleeping. My excuses became reasons why I couldn’t work out; when in reality, hitting the gym was the one excuse I should have used to right the ship—or at least provide an anchor until the storm passed and calmer waters returned (emphasis added).

Maybe the break was a blessing in disguise. Most of my friends and colleagues consider me abnormal. It’s not that I’m not pressed for time like everyone else in the world; but going to the gym has never been an issue for me. Not when I travel, break bones, or have to start my day at 4:30 a.m. So a sudden stoppage of my lifetime hobby and full-time occupation provided a new outlook on how the other half lives.

What did I learn?

For one, skipping the gym doesn’t work for me. For the small investment I make (wake up early and spend an hour in the gym), I receive so much more in return. From attitude, to energy, and even my mindset—everything is better when I lift weights. I’m even a more efficient worker (emphasis added). Call it a coincidence, but my brain fires on all cylinders when I lift weights, and there’s even some research to back it up.
But more importantly, I discovered that getting back into the gym after a long break is harder than I thought. It can be humbling, frustrating, and more than anything, it’s hard building up the will to go exercise. Last week, I found myself battling the urge to crawl back into bed rather than head towards the door. I always knew that working out is tough. If it was easy, all of us would look and feel great. But now I have a better understanding of the psychological limitations that might keep your body on the couch, even if your heart wants to be in the gym.

I’m making a change—but don’t call it a comeback. (I’ve been here for years…sorry, couldn’t resist). It’s more like a rebirth. With the help of David Jack, a Men’s Health fitness advisor, I’m going to re-awaken the muscles in my body and start my renaissance. Could I do it on my own? Sure. But DJ is a bright mind with enough energy to jump start a car. Combined with a new experimental diet (details later), I hope to not only recapture what I once had, but become even better than before. After all, I now have a greater appreciation for how much of an accomplishment it actually is to hit the gym regularly.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll share my return to action. The workouts, the struggles, and what I’ll learn from it all. Along the way, feel free to follow the same workouts I’ll post here (they’re a little different) or even share your own workouts, frustrations, or successes. Whatever you choose, I only ask one thing in return: Take care of yourself, and do what it takes to find your way into the gym." (Bornstein 2010).
You need to decide what you want from your time in the gym. Unfocused random personal training sessions aren't going to get it done, aren't even going to make an impact, not in the long run. As I've mentioned previously you need a program with progressions, form and specific modalities, to keep you interested and to keep your body guessing. Running, walking, throwing some weights around occasionally, these things are fine, in the sense that you're moving, but they're not really getting you where you need to be.

Some tactics that you can use to make you get into the gym more often? Micromanagement! Making sure meals are prepared in advance, making sure alarms are set with enough time, to eat, prepare for work and fit in your personal training session/solo training session. Staying on top of your diet should keep you from getting sick, sniffles here and there are fine, but getting so sick you can't train? Shouldn't happen, ever! This comes back to the compilation post, being prepared will make sure that you're always at your allotted sessions, fully awake and ready.

Some tips from Charles Poloquin on successful lifters:
1. They value rest. Recently I had dinner with Ed Coan, a legendary world powerlifting champion who set the bar, literally, for his peers. How good was he? He became world powerlifting champion at age 21 in the 181-pound bodyweight division, winning by 138 pounds. In 1991, at 220, he totaled 2,402 (962 squat, 545 bench, 901 deadlift), and to this day his deadlift record has yet to be beat. When lifters faced Ed Coan, the only questions asked were what record he would break and who would take second.

While magazine interviews with such champions often focus on the athletes’ intensity level, the secret that Ed shared with me concerns the exact opposite. Coan says that one of the crucial parts of his training was plenty of rest, including a daily nap. He didn’t offer any peer-reviewed scientific papers to support his contention – although interesting theories are being presented about the value of a daily siesta; it was only common sense: “You don’t recover, you don’t grow!”

2. They do what works for them. I have seen many athletes of comparable Herculean strength develop their abilities with different approaches. Some would swear by short training cycles, and others liked lengthy cycles. For some, such as the Bulgarian weightlifters who often defeated the Big Red Machine from Russia, the way to their super strength was by pyramiding up and down their weights in a single workout, a method called wave loading. Others preferred a series of several sets at peak weights. Despite these radical training differences, there is one trait that all these athletes had in common: body intelligence.

Now, ordinarily, to do things in the same manner as the next guy and yet expect different results is just plain nuts. But lifters like these are “body smart”: If one training method doesn’t work, they try another, until they find the system that works best for them. In effect they learn, mostly through trial and error, the most effective ways to adhere to the principle of overload.

3. They all choose a mentor. Actually one of the bits of advice used by Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) disciples such as motivational speaker Anthony Robbins is to find someone who is successful and copy what they do. If you want to be a champion powerlifter, seek out the advice of a powerlifting guru such as Louie Simmons and find out how he trains his world record holders. If you want to be a top strongman, then seek out a top strongman coach such as Art McDermott. And if you can’t visit mentors in person and train under them, at least read their books!

Ed Coan’s mentor was Bill Seno, a former Mr. America in the ’60s who also competed in Olympic weightlifting, a cross-training activity rarely seen today. Seno was as strong as he looked and reportedly bench-pressed 573 pounds, quite an accomplishment in his era! Bill Kazmaier was a former world record holder in powerlifting who dominated the strongman scene for many years. His mentor was powerlifting legend Tony Fitton. Seno and Fitton were individuals who helped Coan and Kazmaier, like many other successful lifters, take the guesswork out of their training.

4. They constantly experiment. Once an athlete’s mentor led them to the right path, every single one of the athletes I’m talking about tried many things to get stronger. This natural curiosity and willingness to experiment and take risks are important concepts.

There’s no such thing as a single, perfect workout for everyone – every system has some effect, and some work better than others. This experimentation with variety is simply part of the training process. I find it frustrating to see so many coaches or organizations claiming that they have the perfect workout system; or to read research studies that compare one set-rep system to another, such as comparing 10x3 to 5x5, which leads readers to conclude that the system in question is the best. In fact, some of the single-set systems in such studies produced results not necessarily because they were superior, but because the athletes using them were overtrained and the lower volume allowed them to rest – a principle called Fatigue masks fitness.

5. They all are great stress managers. In case of unfortunate events or obstacles, successful athletes can see the opportunity in them, instead of the curse. They all have had setbacks, which they used to make themselves even stronger. One obvious case is Lance Armstrong and his victory over cancer and his multiple victories in the Tour de France; there are also many cases of weightlifters who have overcome obstacles.
Bob Bednarski was a US lifter who competed in the ’60s and ’70s, and Yuri Zakharevich from Russia lifted in the ’70s and ’80s. Near the peak of their careers both athletes broke world records, but then both suffered elbow dislocations that many experts thought would end their careers, especially considering the nature of surgery and sports medicine then compared to now. But both men recovered to break numerous world records. Bednarski clean and jerked 486.5 in the 1968 National Championships weighing 247 pounds, and the following year he jerked 525 pounds off the rack. Zakharevich snatched 463 pounds in the 1988 Olympic Games weighing 242 pounds, a lift only a few super heavyweight lifters since then have exceeded. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “What does not destroy me makes me stronger.” (reference: The Top Five Habits of Successful Lifters
A few common demoninators from the best athletes to help bring out the best in you. Charles Poloquin)

As far as training when you're sick, don't do it! Ever! I'm serious guys, not only do you expose me and the rest of the members to your illness but exercise is central nervous system fatiguing, which means what? When you're sick, you're body is working hard to get rid of it (I'm sure most of you know this, but the symptoms with the flu, are your body's reaction to fighting the illness),  and what, you ask, is doing all the work to get rid of the illness? Your central nervous system! If you come into the gym and run yourself down even more, I guarantee you, you will only get sicker. Better to take the time to recover (LOTS of fruit, vegetables and protein). How can you prevent yourself from getting sick in the first place? Fruit/vegetables and protein with every meal, when I hear you guys getting sick, I know you haven't been doing what I require, you know how I know? You ever see me sick? No Have I ever cancelled a session due to illness? No! Why? Cause I'm super human? Puh-lease! I'm like a lil old lady with a zimmer frame, the only difference is, I eat my fruit/vegetables and protein and get the sleep that I need. . . . That is another important factor, sleep, and recovery. As stated above, some of you are doing 40+ hour weeks, kids, mortgages this is all stress, oh and guess what part of the body deals with stress? The CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM! You're body is an integrated and fragile system, working harder than we all give it credit for all the time, I can't encourage recovery enough guys. Getting a nana nap where you can (great for fat loss), reading a book, having a quiet drink with friends . . anything that reduces stress.


Bornstein A., (2010). Funk Busting.  Retreieved 22/04/2011.

Poloquin C., The Top Five Habits of Successful Lifters. A few common demoninators from the best athletes to help bring out the best in you. Retrieved 22/04/2011.