Do this one thing

I know the fitness community is overrun with people selling products and videos stating “It’s all you’ll ever need!” or “With this one simple trick you can…blah blah blah.”  The result is often people feeling like there is a secret out there to getting in shape.  Or one magic trick.

Well, the truth is this: while there is no magic bullet, there are some very simple things you can do that can have a dramatic impact on your physique.  If you do these “one things” you can reach your fitness goals.  This blog title “Do this one thing” will be a recurring one with simple things you can apply to every day to help you get or maintain the body you want.

OK, I guess there is a magic bullet.

(Quick side note: don’t expect to be blown away by some brand new concept, or revolutionary trick.  These “one things” are things you probably already know you should be doing.)

On to todays “one thing”.

BREAKFAST

I’m sure you’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  And it really is true.  Eating breakfast has a host of benefits when it comes to maintaining healthy weight, building muscle and getting lean.

1. Breakfast kick starts your metabolism.  When you eat breakfast, you give your metabolism the sign to “wake up”.  What this does is get your system into a calorie burning mode.  Think about this: the word breakfast actually means “break the fast”.  When you wake up, your body has been fasting for an easy 6-8 hours, depending on how late you ate dinner and how long you slept.  When you wake up, your body’s metabolism has slowed down due to digestional inactivity.  The best thing you can do to get your body’s natural calorie burner (metabolism) up and running is to feed it.  If you wait until lunch, you have literally missed out on hours of burning calories.

2. Your metabolism is like a fire. You want to get this fire burning as hot as you can as soon as possible.  This is why breakfast should be your biggest meal of the day.  Using the fire analogy, think of getting the fire to burn as hot as you can in the morning and then maintaining that burn all day long.  A big breakfast gets it burning, while smaller meals throughout the day keep the fire stoked.

3. Your body needs nutrients in the morning.  Like I mentioned in point #1, when you’ve been fasting all night, your body has fewer vitamins, nutrients and minerals to use.  It’s important to give you body these things so it can function optimally.

4. Eating breakfast sets the pace for the rest of the day.  Studies have shown that people who eat a regular breakfast tend to make healthier choices throughout the day.  It’s almost as if, when we eat breakfast, we decide on a  subconscious level to make the most of a good decision by making more good and healthy decisions.  And I know how easy it is to throw the rest of the day out the window when we make an unhealthy decision.  “What’s the point I already ruined it by…”

This gives you a few reasons, really really good reasons, to make breakfast a regular part of you day.  In fact it should be a habit.  No if’s and’s or but’s.

I hear a lot that people don’t have the time to eat breakfast.  My personal opinion is: that’s a bunch of crap.  People choose to not make time for breakfast, but they absolutely have time.  Maybe you don’t have time to make a big breakfast, fine I get that.  In fact I usually don’t eat at home, but at the gym where I have no means of making any kind of breakfast.  The solution here is to plan ahead.

If your going to make something in the morning, do some prep work the night before.  Or better yet, do some prep work Sunday afternoon for the whole week.  For example, if you’re going to have scrambled eggs, cut up all the veggies you’re going to put in them ahead of time.  Scramble the eggs together and keep them in the fridge.  Set the pan out on the stove the night before.  Little things like this can save you a lot of time in the morning.

If you really don’t feel like you have time to make breakfast in the morning, make it the night before.  Hard boil and peel a bunch of eggs Sunday night.  (I do this every week.) You have some great on-the-go protein.  Cut up some red peppers and carrots.  Put a handful of almonds in a Ziploc bag.  These few steps would give you some good protein, fresh veggies and healthy fat for breakfast.  All you have to do in the morning is grab it out of the fridge.  Easy.

Here’s a list of food items that are great for breakfast:

-Bluberries

-Oatmeal (no sugar added)

-Eggs

-Fresh vegetables (peppers, carrots, cucumbers, etc.)

-Apple

-Almonds

-Grapes

-Strawberries

-Banana

-Natural peanut butter

-Protein shake

-Turkey bacon

-Cottage cheese

-Greek yogurt

Here are common breakfast “foods” that you should avoid:

-Nutri-grain Bars

-granola bars

-Pop-Tarts

-Eggo’s

-Anything frozen, really

-Bagels

-Muffins

-Doughnuts

-Cinnamon rolls

Make breakfast a habit and take advantage of all it’s benefits!

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AHHHH!!!

Working in a gym you see some pretty silly/crazy/stupid/dangerous things.

Case in point:

I see a young twenty-something kid walk in the doors.  He heads straight for the bench press.  Loads up 205, and goes right to work.  His first rep (yes rep…NOT set) looks like he all but soiled himself.  On the second rep, he barely squeaks out enough height to set it on the lower pins (so maybe 6 inches off his body) all while having the bar at almost a 45 degree angle to the floor. (Yeah, he had that great of an imbalance from his right to left side, but thought he should just bang out a heavy single and a half right from the get go).

If he had spent the time to properly warm-up, he might have been able to get a solid double, or more.

When I pulled my deadlift PR last week, in no way did I throw 365 on the bar and give it a pull.  I spent at least 15 minutes foam rolling.  Then I took another 10 minutes or so for my dynamic warm-up and some mobility and movement work.  Things like I mentioned here.

After all this, I finally grabbed the bar, an empty bar.  I worked through 15-20 reps with a measly 45 pounds to groove my movement, and to get everything firing that I needed to be firing.  From there, it looked like this:

115 x 8

175 x 5

205 x 3

255 x 3

285 x 1

315 x 1

365 x 1 (PR)

If this kid hadn’t been in such a rush to get his ego on, he would have been better off doing something like this:

Bar x 10-20 (grooving the movement)

95 x 6

135 x 3

185 x 3

205 x 2+

It’s always important to warm-up, but especially with heavy lifts (1-5 reps) take the time to groove your movements and activate your central nervous system to set yourself up for success.

Don’t be this guy:

Are you serious?

In the fitness community, things can get pretty ridiculous.  The market is flooded with magazines that have articles on how you can get “Fab abs in five minutes flat!”.  Or, there are the crazy products and claims of getting fit in just minutes a day, or only needing one simple piece of equipment that folds up small enough to fit under your bed.  But, to a degree, this stuff is expected right?  I mean, that’s what late night television is for.

But sometimes I run across something that completely catches me off guard because it so upsetting.  The other day I was thumbing through a magazine and the title of an article caught my eye.  It was something along the lines of Perceived Rate of Exertion.  Since that is a fitness term that I don’t see very often in run-of-the-mill magazines, I stopped thumbing to read what it said.

The first part said:

Perceived rate of exertion is an individuals perception of how hard their body is working

I was with them so far.

PRE is monitored on a scale of 1-10. 1 being very low exertion (i.e. laying on the couch) and 10 being intense exertion (i.e. sprinting after your dog that got loose, again).

OK, I’m still hanging with them, although the “chasing after the dog” reference was a little odd.  But then they said this:

The optimal range for exercise being between 3-5.

Maybe that doesn’t strike you like it did me at first.  But, I certainly had to re-read it a few times to make sure that I wasn’t confused.  In case you’re wondering why I felt this way, let me explain.

If 1 is laying on the couch, then 2 would probably be somewhere around making a sandwich.  This would put 3 at about the level of exertion while washing your car.  And then once we get all the way to the “high end” of a whopping 5, we’re looking at shopping for an hour at Costco, (Hey those carts get heavy!) or maybe an easy jog.

My first thought was this, “Why are we so afraid of hard work?”  Or better yet, “As the fitness community, why are we so afraid of telling people it isn’t easy?”  I can’t speak for most trainers, but I know for my clients, they are probably at a 5 by the time they finish their warm-up.  And that’s only 5-10 minutes into their session.

I guess “this is going to be hard work, and it’s going to take some serious discipline on your part” doesn’t make for a great selling point.  But, to be honest, it’s what I tell every one of my clients the first time that I meet with them.  I want to make sure and crush the false hopes of 8 minutes abs with the reality that getting and staying in shape is work-hard work.  People always nod in agreement, but then are a bit wide eyed when they see what I’m going to ask them to do.  But the best part is a few months down the road when, during any given exercise, they (inevitably) turn to me and ask, “Remember how hard this used to be for me?”  That’s a good moment for a trainer.

In my experience, the most frustrating thing for clients is not seeing results as quickly as they feel like they should.  They’ve got these preconceived notions from bogus marketing that it should only take 5 days to drop a pant size.  This can leave them very frustrated.

Don’t buy into the marketing scheme that it’s easy.  Don’t believe ads that tell you a pair of shoes will get you a firmer butt.  Don’t believe articles that calculate how many calories your burning while washing dishes and vacuuming.  (House work doesn’t count as exercise.)  In fact, don’t believe anything that gives the impression of ease.  I’m not trying to scare anyone, nor am I trying to say that getting a strong and lean body is awful and miserable and almost impossible to obtain.  It’s not.  But it does take work.  It does take effort.  And it does take dedication.  But it is absolutely worth it!

How I train (Part 2)

Last week I wrote a blog entry discussing the basic template I use to design my training sessions.  You can read “How I train” (Part 1) here.  I also mentioned last week that, this week, I would go into more detail as to the reasoning behind why I do things the way I do.

As I mentioned last week, I focus on 6 basic movement patterns for the strength training portion of my sessions.  Again, these are:

-Vertical pulling

-Vertical pushing

-Horizontal pulling

-Horizontal pushing

-Quad dominate

-Hip dominate

Most people are not at all used to thinking of training movement patterns.  They follow a typical bodybuilding/body part split which usually results in:

-Chest day

-Back day

-Shoulder day

-Arm day

-Leg day (although this often gets skipped over)

There are a few reasons as to why I don’t train clients or myself like this.

1. It’s not practical. As you can see, with a typical body part split, it takes 5 days just to train the entire body.  I have very few clients who train more than 3 days a week.  If I followed this kind of split, it would take me a week and a half to train someone’s body.  It just doesn’t work.  Now you may be thinking, “So why don’t you double them up?” which would result in something like this:

-Chest and tris

-Back and bis

-Legs and shoulders

While this does solve the issue of it taking so long to train the entire body, I believe there are still several flaws in training this way.  Which leads us to number two.

2. Volume. When people follow the traditional body part split, there is a great deal of volume of work for each body part.  Let’s look at what could be a typical chest session.  Someone might do bench press, incline bench, dips, dumbbell flys, and cable crossovers.  That gives us 5 exercises for the chest in 1 day.  For the general population, unless you’re a genetic freak or taking steroids, this amount of work for a body part is too much.  The body isn’t able to recover in a way that creates strength gains.  Now, when someone first starts training, yes, they can make gains this way.  But most people can make gains doing just about anything when they first start.  It’s once they get down the road a little way that it becomes trouble.

Genetic freak + steroids=the ability to do a ton of volume

3.  Isolation moves don’t burn as many calories. When it comes to designing programs for my clients, I’m always looking at how to get the most bang for their buck.  I have a limited amount of time to get as much done as I possibly can, which doesn’t leave any time for things that aren’t incredibly productive.  Movements like bicep curls, tricep extensions, shrugs, calf raises, etc. just don’t burn many calories, nor do they do a great deal for someones strength.  A client is going to get a lot more actual work done by doing big compound movements.  Instead of bicep curls, do rows and pull ups.  Instead of tricep work do push ups and bench presses.  Unless you’re competing in a body building or figure athlete competition, there should be very little room for much of these kinds of movements in your routine (like an arm day).

4.  Isolation moves aren’t really isolation moves. When someone does a lateral shoulder raise, the typical thought is that it’s isolating the shoulder.

However, whats really happening is, while the shoulder contracts, so do the abs and the back.  So, a movement that is supposed to isolate really becomes more of a compound movement.

5. Time. When someone is following a typical body part split a lot of time gets wasted.  If someone is doing a bench press, they are wasting a lot of time resting up for the next set.  The way I design things, if someone does a bench press, their chest gets rest while they’re off doing a horizontal pulling movement.  This still gives rest to specific movement patterns, but gets twice the amount of work done in the same amount of time.

With the 6 movement patterns I design my sessions around, you get a great deal of caloric burn for every exercise.  Things like deadlifts, squats, pull ups, push presses, push ups, bench press, rows, etc are incredibly compound.  This, in turn, demands a greater amount of calories for them to be performed, which helps us get lean.  When you only do 1-2 exercises per movement pattern in a day, you have the ability to recover which leads to greater strength gains and more muscle.  And the more muscle we have the more calories we burn throughout the day.  Isn’t it nice how all of that works?

I would encourage you to look at what you are currently doing in your training sessions and begin to look at exercises as movement patterns rather than body part specific.  Either later this week or the start of the next, I will write more on how to set up your training sessions using these types of movement patterns.

Random Friday

Happy Friday to everyone!  Here’s this weeks random post.

-I am currently working on a series of blog entries around eating.  Basically why we eat, how we eat, and when we eat.  Be looking for those in the next week or so.  These are coming out of some questions that people have had.  As always, feel free to let me know things you would like me to write about and I will do my best to give an intelligent blog post on the subject.

-The season premier of The Office was last night.  It did not disappoint!  Any time a boss ends up spanking one of his employees for discipline, you know it’s worth your while.

-I continue to be amazed at the responses I’m getting from people on how this blog is helping them stay focused, stay inspired, etc.  It is an incredibly humbling experience.  And the fact that people have posted my blog on Facebook or sent it out to their email lists completely blows me away.  So thanks, and keep it up! : )

-Apparently this week is a week of teasers.  I’m also planning on  starting to put together some examples of metabolic conditioning workouts that you can do at home, or with very little equipment.  These exercises are great for increasing your VO2 max, general conditioning and accelerating fat loss.  I plan on having videos to accompany these so I will need to do some more recording this next week/weekend.

How I train

OOPS: To those of you that subscribe, I accidentally posted this blog entry before it was finished.  Sorry for the half written entry in your email.

I’ve had a few readers ask me for advice on how to set up their own training programs and I thought it might make for a good post.  So here it goes.

First of all, I do an assessment with every single client I train.  My belief is that if you don’t do an assessment, you are basically guessing at what a particular client needs in terms of corrective work.  I look for strength imbalances throughout the body, watch a client walk, assess the current level of glute recruitment a client has, etc.  All of these things are vital pieces of information that I use to program for each client.

Second, I individualize every program.  No one gets cookie cutter routines.  My personal belief is that this is a lazy way to train, and that it is a disservice to the client.

That being said, my programs usually follow a similar progression through each session.  I’ll list each section and then briefly expand on them.

-Dynamic warm-up

-Movement/mobility/pre-hab work

-Strength Training

-Core strengthening

-Metabolic conditioning

Dynamic warm-up

The purpose of this is to get the body prepared for movement.  All of my clients foam roll to start every session.  As well as do a variety of movements such as toy soldiers (see below), hip swings, knee hugs, etc.

Movement/mobility/pre-hab

-Movement is basically improving and reinforcing movement patterns as well as creating good body awareness.  This includes movements like wall squats, glute bridge activation, scapular wall slides.

Glute activation:

-Mobility is an incredibly important part of any program.  The point of this is to increase mobility in places where there is little to no mobility to start with.  Things like squat w/ thoracic mobility, and half kneeling adductor dips are great for this.

Squat w/ thoracic mobility:

Half-kneeling adductor dip:

-Pre-hab comes in the form of rotator cuff work and activation of muscles that are not recruiting like they should be.

Strength Training

This portion of my programs is designed to get stronger and burn a ton of calories.  There are 6 basic movement patterns that I program around:

-Vertical pulling (pulldowns, chin-ups)

-Vertical pushing (shoulder presses, push presses)

-Horizontal pulling (rows)

-Horizontal pushing (push ups, bench press)

-Quad dominate (squats, step ups)

-Hip dominate (deadlifts, hips thrusts)

An individuals specific needs determine how much of each movement pattern I program, but most people need more horizontal pulling than horizontal pushing and more hip dominate movements than ones that are quad dominate.

Core Strengthening

This includes ZERO crunches and sit-ups.  For reasons why, read this.  This includes movements like pallof presses and planks and their variations, like plate switches:

Metabolic conditioning

This where the real fun is.  The point of this is to ramp up the metabolism and burn a crap load of calories.  Basically kick a clients butt.  Some of these movements include:

Tire flips

Medicine ball slams

Kettlebell swings

Overhead medicine ball throws

The possibilities really are endless.

Next week I will expand more on my philosophy behind why I do things the way I do instead of the typical, run of the mill programs most people are used to seeing.

Exercises you should be doing: Inchworms

First off, I want to say a big thanks to everyone for all the support I got on Monday before my PR deadlift and for all the congratulations after.  I think this is a great example of the kind of motivation you get when you make your goals known to those around you.  I can honestly say that the idea of having to post a video of me missing my deadlift attempt was a strong motivator to get up 365.  So again, thanks everyone!

It is my personal opinion that people often underestimate the value of body weight exercises.  I see people that can bench 250+ but can’t do a single bod weight push-up, or can squat 350+ but can’t do one single leg squat.  The reason behind this?-body weight exercises can be incredibly challenging and tough to master.

One of my favorite body weight exercises is the Inchworm:

Inchworms are a fantastic exercise that challenge the entire body, especially the core musculature.

Cues:

-Start in a typical standing position.  From here, bend the legs as little as possible and place the palms of your hands on the floor.

-Walk your hands out as far as you can, maintaining a tight core.

-Pause briefly, and then walk your feet back into your hands.

-Do not let your hips sag when you are fully extended.

-As you get stronger with these, try to reach your hands out further from your body.

Enjoy!