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.