The word on the street or streets (I don’t know any more, found out this week I am not all that hip with it any more) is that people don’t have enough time to get in shape. I have been told that the biggest reason that people don’t get a workout in each week is because of time. Now I have not looked that statistic up, but it sounds about right.
One thing I took from an economics class back in my college days was that time is the most valuable commodity out there. Time is something that you don’t get back. There are 24 hours in a day and 8 of those hours go to sleep and 8 more for work and for the fun of it lets say you have to travel and you stay a little late at work because, well you like it so much, so lets say that’s another 2 hours. If my math is correct that only leaves 6 hours of free time for “you time”.
And that’s assuming you are living the bachelor or bachelorette life style, if you have kids, I am guessing it’s somewhere between 2 and 0 hours of free time (I don’t have kids so if you do let me know if I am correct on this one). And if I have episodes of Golden Girls (put in favorite TV show) to catch up on, then how in the hell am I supposed to find time to watch TV, eat, shit, and workout?
Since I study, eat and breathe all that is steel plates and barbells, you would think I wouldn’t have this problem of finding time to lift. Well, it is true that I am at a gym for a good 9 hours out of my day. But the last thing I want to do is workout after a long day at the place I was just at for the last 9 hours.
It’s not because I don’t like being there, in fact I love my job, have not worked a day yet. So how do I find time, well I don’t find time, I make time. I do this by shear magic and having the ability to make small miracles happen, like creating more time.
Even though the ability to create time would be awesome I unfortunately can’t, sorry for getting your hopes up, but what I can do is make it a priority. That is why it is one of the first things I do before going to work (wait, that does not make sense because I workout at my work, forget it, you know what I mean). If you care about something you love you don’t just find time, you make time.
In this case that something you love is you, If you don’t love you some you then there is something wrong with you.
If your significant other asked to go out to eat do you say, “I’ll find sometime to do it” or do you say, “I’ll make time to do it”. Which one sounds better? It should be a no brainer. Of course it’s the second answer. It’s saying that you care about them and if it’s something you care about, you will put aside everything else just to be with them.
If your health and quality of life is something that you care about, you make time. To get the benefits of an exercise program all you really need is 30 minutes three times a week. A whopping 90 minutes a week. This isn’t to say you will look like a fitness model if you do this but you
will be healthier for it.
We all have 30 minutes in our day to do something that will help out our heath in the long run. If you can’t find time then make time, if that does not work then congratulations you must be the busiest most productive person on the face of this luscious green planet, and I would like to meet you.
Next week I will give you a few different ways that you can get a kick ass workout in less than 30 minutes. In the mean time, make some time in your busy schedules to get out and do something good for you and your health.
No new fresh to death blog this week. Truth be told I got a little behind this week. I would love to blame it all on the fact that I am graduating this saturday, but the real reason was I got myself into a time management funk. What this means is I just spent countless hours playing disc golf (my new found love) and getting lost in the black hole that is watching Youtube videos.
Next week I promise, well almost guaranty, promise seems like a really strong word, a new post filled with adventure, laughs, and some hot romance (or just filled with stuff I know about, so mostly romantic lifting).
So to make it up to all you knowledge hungry, weight crushing people out there here are some good articles to get your knowledge fix for the week.
Last week I put out a blog on increasing your grip strength to help increase your overall strength. If you have not read it yet give it a reads: 5 Ways for You to Get A Grip
As for the rest:
I am sure most of us have been here before, you know, just lifting the same old boring weights. You have the thought, “How can I make this exercise more badass i.e. harder?” Well, my friend, do I have a treat for you.
Coming up, I have not just 1, not just 2, but 5, yes, five ways to make your exercise more challenging, which increases overall badassness.
As the late Emeril Lagasse would say, “Let’s kick it up a notch!”. And that we will Emeril.
Sets/Reps, Rest Interval, and Weight
Ok, this first point does not really count. By manipulating any one of the above variables you will either increase or decrease the difficulty of a given exercise. Increasing the weight will always make an exercise more challenging, same with decreasing the rest interval.
You can mess around with these variables all you want, but only the right combination of all of them will lead to the outcome you desire.
Center of Mass
The center of mass on the average person is somewhere around the waist. When you start loading up with weights, your center of mass will change. The closer the weight is to the base the more stable you will be. As the weight moves further away from your center of mass the more difficult the exercise.
We can use this concept to increase the difficulty of your exercises. Lets look at some exercise variations and how they become harder with the change in weight positioning.
Dumbbell Squat with dumbbells at side: center of mass is low and close to base of support
Barbell Squat: center of mass is moved up further way from base of support
Barbell Front Squat: center of mass is moved up and out away from the base of support
Barbell Overhead Squat: center of mass is moved to its greatest distance from the base of support
A Trapbar Deadlift will be easier since the weight is going through you as compared to a conventional Barbell Deadlift where the weight is positioned in front of you. Both lifts have a low center of mass due to the weight being close to the base of support. The big difference is the conventional Deadlift is moving your center of mass more to the front, like the front squat.
Points of Contact
The more points of contact you have the more stable you will be, it just makes sense. A three legged stool is less stable then a four legged stool. It’s the same with your body. A squat is more stable then a single leg squat and the same goes with a RDL vs. a single leg RDL.
You can do the same with pushups and planks and various other exercises by taking one leg or arm off the ground. This makes you less stable and changes the distribution of bodyweight.
Range of Motion
By increasing the range of motion, or ROM for short, you can make an exercise more challenging. This puts you in a new position where you will have to gain stability. You will also increase the time under tension, which increases the stress put on your muscles. This creates more muscle breakdown.
Two of my favorite exercises to increase the ROM for are reverse lunges and Bulgarian split squats. The way that I do this is by doing them from deficit. All this means is I place my front foot on a 4in plyo box and then perform a reverse lunge or Bulgarian split squat the same way I usually would but now I have to go through a greater ROM.
Base of Support
The wider your base of support or the wider your legs are, the more stable you will be. The squat requires less stability then a lunge. This is because your base of support is wider with a squat.
I like to use this concept a lot when doing anti rotation exercises like Pallof presses or cable rotations.
I am not a big fan of unstable surface training by any means, but it can definitely make an exercise more challenging. Doing a BOSU ball squat may look cool and be challenging but if you are trying to gain strength it makes no sense.
The only time I will use an unstable surface would be without weights or with very light weights. The goal would be to gain stability or to make a stable movement pattern unstable; this does not require much weight or any at all.
But this article is not about how I feel about unstable surface training; it’s about how to make an exercise more challenging. And doing an exercise on an unstable surface does fit that requirement.
There are many ways to make any given exercise more challenging. After reading this there should be no excuse as to why your exercises are not challenging enough. So go out there and badassify those boring old exercises.
The growth of the female sports industry has exploded in the past 10 years. This is seen in the increased participation in high school sports by female athletes and at the college level as well. In 2012 there were more then 200,000 female athletes participating at the college level. This is a huge increase in participation compared to just a few years ago in the early to mid 90’s. This growth trend should only increase with more opportunities and scholarships available for young female athletes.
The weight room has always been primarily thought of as a male’s place, but it should not be looked at that way. Strength training is just as important to the female athlete as it is to the male athlete. A good strength program will increase strength, increase stability, and decrease the chances of injury.
Even though the female athlete needs a strength program just as much as the male, there is some noticeable differentness between the two. For starters – appearance. Females look different than males. It is vital that you can tell the difference between the two.
On the left is a female and on the right is a male. Take notice of the differences.
Other things that need to be taken into consideration are that the majority of females that come into your facility will have no previous weight training experience; they are more prone to joint laxity, and have a larger Q angle. These need to be considered when training and programming for your female athletes.
New Environment Considerations
As I stated above, the majority of female athletes that come into your gym have no previous weight training experience. This is a new environment and can be intimidating. Walking into a warehouse setting with circular metal objects just lying around is not always the most welcoming sight for a middle school or high school girl.
Many of the girls that I have worked with at first seem a little sheepish and come across as not confident in our first meeting. This is all because they are in a whole new surrounding. After a few sessions, they will feel more relaxed and eventually they will think of the gym as their own.
This process takes longer for some then others. If they have friends working out at the same facility this can help speed up the process. Different personalities take different amounts of time. A smile, caring words, a few jokes and knowing their names goes a long way.
Weight Training Considerations
Let’s get some things out of the way right off the bat. One, girls will not bulk up when they workout. Two, girls can do squats, deadlifts, bench and all the other lifts men can do.
Ok, girls can bulk up, if they want to, but for the most part their body is working agents them hormonally. Women have less testosterone, testosterone is a key contributor to muscle growth and without it you will not have big muscles. So unless you are taking testosterone or any other PEDs you should not worry about it. Don’t worry, you can still get your tone on without it.
As for those big bad multi joint lifts. They are just as effective for the development of the female athletes as they are for the male, and should not be held back from them, if they have shown that they are capable of doing them.
Now that those two are out of the way, lets move on to my last two considerations.
The Q Angle and Joint Laxity
A common difference between male and female athletes is that the female, on average, has wider hips. This results in a larger Q angle, the angle in which the femur meets the tibia. This causes instability in the knees and tracking problems. This could be one of the reasons females are more prone to ACL injuries.
Have you ever noticed that a large number of girls can hyper extend their elbows and knees. Females have a tendency to have more joint laxity. Males can also be extremely lax as well. It is not safe to assume that all female athletes are overly lax, but it is something to take into consideration when working with them.
If you combine a larger Q angle with joint laxity the chances of injury will increase. The injury in particular that we want to avoid is ACL injuries.
ACL injuries will likely happen in three situations, landing, change of direction, and deceleration.
The training program should take into account all of these variables. The program should create stability. This will happen with the introduction of strength training, but you may have to direct it at a specific area depending on the athlete. Some laxity may actually be desired in some sports such as throwing or gymnastics, but it should be managed in such a way that we do not inhibit their performance, while decreasing the likely hood of injury.
With ACL injury prevention we must teach proper jumping, and more importantly, landing technique. Watching out for the knees coming in as well as making sure they are landing softly, absorbing the force of impact correctly.
Changing direction can be taught by teaching the athlete to bend at the knees when making quick cuts. Bending the knee takes tension off of the ACL decreasing the likely hood of a tear.
Controlling deceleration comes with having strong hamstrings and gluts. A good program will make sure their posterior chain is getting the proper attention.
When looking at the female athlete, all of these factors should be considered, from how they are treated to how their programs are designed. Without your female athletes feeling comfortable they will never stick around long enough to reap the benefits that a strength program can offer.
What this program will offer is more stability, better landing and cutting technique, and stronger hamstrings and gluts. If all of these are considered, you will have a stronger less prone to injury athlete. This is what we want for all of our athletes regardless of gender.
If you have been lifting weights for longer the 6 months, then this might be a familiar happening.
You planned out your workout perfectly. Each set and rep and exercise was strategically picked to optimize your results. The first 4 weeks or so your bench seemed to jump by 5 pounds each week with ease. The next 4 to 6 week you are still seeing some improvement, you are still going up 5 pounds every week or so. By the third month you see your lifts come to a screeching stop.
The first thought you have is to increase the work. “I am not working hard enough. I need to do more sets. The more sets the stronger I’ll get.” You try this for a few weeks but nothing happens, your weight seems to have stayed the same or even slightly decreased in some instances.
The next idea might be to change up your workout. Either you make a new one or pull one offline that seems appealing to you, or one out of the latest issues of some muscle magazine. You stick to the program, doing everything it tells you to do. Your bench goes up in the first two weeks but after that nothing. Once again you find yourself stuck.
If you have ever been stuck at a plateau you know how frustrating it can be. It is as if you are in no mans land, nothing you do seems to work.
Why You Plateau
To beat the plateau we must first understand why we plateau. If you are someone who has just started a workout routine then the first 4 to 6 weeks is going to be filled with weight increase. You can do almost anything and see increase in strength.
The reason is that you are untrained. Going from something to nothing is a huge stimulus change for your body. The first 6 weeks your strength goes up due to your nervous system and your body being able to coordinate muscular contraction and motor unit recruitment.
The next 4 to 6 weeks you have actual muscle adaption. This means the muscle grows in size and is able to recruit more motor units. This is why you still see gains but not as drastic as the first 4 to 6.
By the fourth or fifth month adaption seems to come to a halt. This is due to the body’s inability to adapt. Without adapting you can’t lift more weight. The reason for this lack of adaption is because the body does not have enough time to adapt between workouts.
Simply put, you plateau because you are not allowing enough time for your body to adapt between workouts.
Getting Over the Plateau
Now that we have an idea of what plateauing stems from. We can now address the issue. To beat the plateau you need to allow more time for adaption. So the mind set of making your workouts harder or increasing the workload is the exact opposite of what you want to do.
What you need to do is go through a week or two of less work. This is called a back off period or a deload. This works by decreasing the workload without decreasing the intensity.
Example: You were doing 5×5 at 205. For your back off period, or deload you will know do 2×5 at 205.
The weight stays at the same intensity. You want to stay within 90% of your rep max, even during the deload, this will allow your body to maintain its level of neuromuscular readiness. What is changing is the amount of total reps. This is what we want to decrease. By keeping the intensity the same we are able to maintain our strength while giving your body time to adapt.
The back off period will last for a week or two, but it could be a full month before your body is fully recovered. Once you have recovered you can go back to your normal sets and reps and progress to higher weights.
Getting stuck at the same weight week after week can be very frustrating. The natural human thing to do is just to push through it and think you need to do more. This mind set will only take you so far, you have to let your body recover and adapt to the stimulus that you are throwing at it.
Keep the weight up and decrease the sets. This will allow you to get over your plateau and help you see gains for months to come.
I was thinking back to the days when I first started lifting; how simple it was, it was upper body or lower body days. I did what I wanted. Loading up the leg press with all the weights in the gym, it was a small gym, but still as a high school kid I felt badass, doing 400 pound shoulder shrugs, the true test of how strong you are, and sets and reps, always without a doubt, had to be 3 sets of 10 reps.
I don’t think I ever went higher or lower then the 3×10 until my junior year in high school. I always thought it was the perfect number, hell it was what everyone else was doing. It turned out that 3×10 was not the best set up for my goal of becoming a stronger athlete. I would have fared much better from a 5×5 or even a 5,3,1 set up. But with youth comes ignorance and many years of ineffective lifting.
At this point I have done a plethora of different set and rep schemes. Two that I have been playing around with recently is cluster sets and high-density sets (honestly I have know idea what these are called, if you know the common name feel free to tell me).
The Cluster Set
Cluster sets are a great way for you to be able to lift heavier weights for a higher number of reps. This results in an increase in strength.
Before you carry me off to be burned at the stake for my wizardry, let me explain how they work. You will soon see that there is no magic involved, just some simple sets and reps manipulation.
The cluster set is a group of mini sets within a set. This is what it looks like: (4×2)x5, this would be five cluster sets of four sets of two. You would do two reps rest 10 seconds and then do the next set and repeat this for four total sets. This equals one cluster set.
Are you following me? Just think of it as the ‘Inception’ of sets, a set within a set within a set.
If you were confused by the movie ‘Inception’ at any point then you should first watch it again and figure it out before attempting these.
For simplicity I will stick with the (4×2)x5 as my example. When selecting your weights you will not be able to use your two-rep max or your eight-rep max but something more like your five-rep max will be used.
You will end up lifting your five-rep max eight times. Isn’t set manipulation great? You can now lift your five-rep max eight times in one set. This will lead to an increase in strength, allowing you to do more work within each set. You can also use this for increasing muscular size and endurance by changing the reps and sets to fit your goals.
High Density Sets (Put Name Here)
This is very similar to cluster sets but with a little twist. This is how it works. You would have your sets and reps set up something like this: 3×5/2×8. At first glance this seems cut and dry, that is because it is.
The magic in all of this is not seen just by looking at the sets and reps. You also have to look at the numbers. This setup allows you to do more work within your workout. Let’s say your five-rep max is 225 and your seven-rep max is 200. If you were to do 5×5 at 225 you will have lifted at total of 5,625 pounds. If you did 3×5 at 225 plus 2×8 at 200 that will be a total of 6,575 pounds lifted. That is 950 more pounds lifted.
This results in more weight lifted but with using less weight due to the increased reps and decrease in weight in the last two sets. This is another great way to do more work but at the same time lifting less weight. Resulting in strength gains and muscle hypertrophy, while giving your joints a rest from the heavier weights.
Give these two sets and rep schemes a try. Not every workout has to be 3×10 or 5×5. Get a little crazy with your planning. Throw in a cluster set for your squat and bench or try using the high-density sets for your lunges and chin ups. If strength is what you’re after then try them out.
I am going to be honest I have not been in the fitness industry that long, but without a doubt the #1 goal for all females that are not athletes, or are athletes for that matter…. O.K. let me rephrases this; the #1 goal for any female that walks in through your doors is to tone up. The conversation goes something like this.
Me: What are some of your goals that you would like to accomplish?
Female: I would like to loose some weight and fat and maybe get a little stronger, but I don’t want to bulk up, I guess I would like to just tone up a little. Oh and I’d really like some abs.
Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a great list of extremely vague goals. The goal of wanting to be toned is a fine goal, if you know what it is.
For some reason the phrase “toning up” has come to be the all-encompassing phrase to sum up, “to get in better shape”.
The word tone means to be firm or to have the appearance of being firm. I used to think this was a combination of weight loss and muscle gain. As you loose fat and gain muscle mass the skin will appear to be firm or tone. This is what toning up meant to me. It’s pretty much the same thing as just getting into better shape, which is a part of the toning process.
While reading Mark Rippetoes’ book, “Practical Programming for Strength Training,” I was able to gain a better understanding of what it truly means to be tone. Here is a quote from his book, “The term muscle tone or tonus describes an electrophysiological phenomenon, a measure of ionic flow across muscle cell membranes. It can be thought of as the muscle’s readiness to do anaerobic work. The more fit the muscle, the more electrophysiological activity it exhibits at rest.”
So what does this all mean? What it means is the more your muscles are ready to lift weights the more tone you will be. So a sedentary person is going to be less tone then a person who frequently lifts weights, and a marathon runner is going to be less tone then a power lifter.
How To Get Tone
If you look at the spectrum of what will get you toned the fastest, going from least effective to most effective, it would look something like this.
Low Toning Medium Toning High Toning
Aerobic Exercise → Low Intensity → High Intensity
Weight Training Weight Training
Huh, that’s funny, if this spectrum is correct then most of the programs that are out there to get you tone buns and thighs are not the most effective means of programming. The typical commercialized toning program usually involves loads of long duration cardio or a cross between a bodybuilding program and an endurance program. This would fall somewhere between aerobic exercise and low intensity weight training, but where you really want to be is all the way over to the right.
Just to clarify, the word intensity is not describing how hard the workout is, it’s describing how heavy the weights are you are using. Doing circuit training and bootcamps can be taxing, and described as an intense workout, but this is not what is meant when talking in terms of weight training. High intensity means to be lifting heavy weights. If you want tone then you need to lift heavy.
If your goal is to have rock solid buns that resemble week old biscuits, not the best analogy moving on though, then take off the pink head band and put down the pink doubles and pick up some heavy weights. The more your muscles are ready to do work the more tone they will be. This is accomplished by strength training, not aerobic exercise or interval training but by good old strength training. Remember its 2013 and strength is the new sexy.