Monthly Archives: September 2015

De-loads, Do you even?

Morning Guys,

Do you even De-load?

*This post inspired by SC Vital Fitness (go check out their page) http://www.scvitalfitness.co.uk

Deload weeks are an interesting topic because how to plan one in will differ from person to person, but for the majority of people that work hard and handle weights at 85%+ of their 1RM they are an essential part of training.

A de-load will help your body recuperate and allow the R/A (recovery/adaptation) of SRA (Stimulus/Recovery/Adaptation) to occur which will let you progress further and for longer. If you were to keep increasing the volume or intensity eventually your body would give out, or more appropriately your CNS would become too fatigued to continue.

The question is how would you plan one?

You can schedule in a download every 4th, 8th or 12th week for example. Those numbers are not set in stone, but you need to have a decent amount of progression and stimulus to induce an adaptive response, if you’re de-loading too often you won’t get enough stimulus to adapt or progress.

Programming a de-load isn’t too hard, if we use every 4th week as the example for ease of numbers you will be able to see the theory behind their structure.

A basic program that hits each body part every 7 days (optimally every 3-5 days is better) based around the larger compound movements.

Goal: Increase triples (3RM).

Day 1 – Squat + 2 Assistance Exercises – Example: RDL/Calf Raise
Day 2 – Bench Press + 2 Assistance Exercises – Example: Bent Over Row/Skull Crusher
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Deadlift + 2 Assistance Exercises – Example: Front Squat/Hamstring Curl
Day 5 – Shoulder Press + 2 Assistance Exercises – Example: Pull Up/Barbell Curl
Day 6 – Off
Day 7 – Off

Main Lift 8×3, assistance lifts at either 4×6, 5×5 or 3×8.

Week 1 – 8×3 @ 85%
Week 2 – 8×3 @ 87.5%
Week 3 – 8×3 @ 90%

Now there are a couple of options for the de-load, you can reduce the intensity or the volume, here are examples of both.

1 – Week 4 – 8×3 @ 65% – Reducing Intensity while keep up volume
2 – Week 4 – 4×3 @ 85% – Reducing Volume while keeping up intensity

Both of these options are popular but which of the two would be better?

Either choice would work well but the second option of reducing the volume would allow you to start a new 3 week cycle of training with more confidence, it would also keep your bodies CNS more switched on and ready for the heavy weights you might day.

The second cycle might look like this:

Week 5 – 8×3 @ 87.5%
Week 6 – 8×3 @ 90%
Week 7 – 8×3 @ 92.5% – PB
De-load Week 8 – 4×3 @ 85%

The timed de-load will help keep the body primed for the last block of training, now at this stage your strength should have increase and considering you’re still workout off your previous 1RM the percentages might seem high but they are achievable.

Week 9 – 8×3 @ 90%
Week 10 – 8×3 @ 92.5%
Week 11 – 8×3 @ 95%
Week 12 – Rest Week or De-load leading in to new 1RM testing.

This is a very basic example and depending on the experience and training age of the lifter you can have some people who only need to de-load once every 12 to potentially 16 weeks, but a program of that length would have a lot of detail and various cycles of intensity in it, this is something more suited to athletes.

While a de-load is important you must also make sure that there is adequate nutrition and a good amount of sleep in any program too. The silent killer of progress is poor nutrition and a lack of sleep, if you have a solid program with these two things then you will make some great progress.

How many calories should you be eating on a program like this?

Considering it’s a strength based program 300-500 calories above maintenance is optimal, you can achieve a rough estimate of this number by taking your total weight in LBS and multiplying it by 17-19. You won’t need to add 3-500 calories on to that number, that number should be pretty close to where you need to be.

Use this info to help your own programming and go and make the progress you desire.

Enjoy,
Ross

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Put Your Deadlifting Head On.

Morning Guys,

The deadlift is one of the best exercises you can have in your arsenal, but it’s also one of the most dangerous.

Picking up a weight from the floor and putting it back down is by nature very simple, but that’s not necessarily true for its execution. Poor for it common in the deadlift, this often leads to injury and people failing to get the most out of this exercises.

There is one very common flaw in the deadlift that I often see and it’s something that people think is actually correct when it isn’t.

What is this flaw?

‘Looking up’

You will often hear people say “Don’t look down, you must look up.” but this has been taken in the wrong context, leading to people cranking their head up and dampening neural connection throughout the spine which often leads to a rounded back.

Don’t believe me? I have a little test for you. Get in to the bottom of your deadlift and look up so that you crank your head back, try and round your lower back, you will find it’s quite easy to do. Now that you have done that i want you to think about ‘tucking’ your chin. That doesn’t mean look down, it means tuck your chin and try to create a ‘fat face’ and now try to round your back again… Pretty difficult to do isn’t it.

When you tuck your chin you lengthen your spine and allow for better neurological signalling/connection meaning you will in fact be stronger than if you were ‘looking up’ not what you expected eh?

I feel I must make the distinction and explain the difference between looking up and cracking your head back, one is done with your eyes, thus meaning you can maintain a good head position, the other is done by gym bro’s who want to watch themselves in the mirror.

Head position isn’t given the attention it deserves. It can make the difference between a good, safe lift and a total disaster.

Oh, another thing to be aware of is looking in the mirror. If a mirror is near people will be tempted to look which is STUPID because you can end up throwing yourself out of alignment and hurting yourself, so avoid lifting in front of mirrors.

Enjoy,
Ross

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LOSE 4 INCHES OF BELLY FAT IN A WEEK!

Now I have your attention, I have an important message for you.

You’re being LIED too.

Everyday you see the stories of ‘ 6 week success’ that companies and some individuals spout out and how you can achieve the same results, all you have to do is buy their products and you will be endowed with the knowledge you need, but sadly this is all bollocks. Lots of the photos are either photoshopped, stolen from people who have taken years to achieve their results or the results of shall we say ‘Enhancement’ (steroids).

I hate to be the one to say it, well… Actually I don’t.

If you see a head line that claims any of the following:

  • Lose X amount in X.
  • Gain an inch to your arms in X.
  • Fat Loss without exercise.
  • Pack on muscle in just X weeks.

Basically anything that sounds too good to be true usually is. I understand how desperately people want results and for things to be better/sorted but life doesn’t work that way, trust me. You should always believe half of what you see and less of what you hear.

What is seen in the clever marketing campaigns is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, like that used by the magicians of old it’s all a clever act to get you to part with your hard earned cash. But guess what, it works, again, and again…. and again.

There is no quick fix, magic pill or secret to success.

Okay, there is a secret list of things to do and I’m going to give it to you for free.

Seriously…

FREE!

For the more dedicated and goal driven person:

  1. Set a goal.
  2. Plan out how to achieve said goal (yourself or by hiring a coach)
  3. Establish your individual caloric/dietary needs.
  4. Begin exercising (lifting weights) 2-4 times per week – Goal dependent.
  5. Begin exercising (steady state cardio) 2-5 times per week – Goal dependent.
  6. Keep multiple dairies – Training, Nutrition, Progress.
  7. Work hard and be consistent.
  8. Enjoy the journey, it’s going to be a long road. Remember this is a life style change, not a quick fix.

If that list seems confusing here is a much simpler one that will cater for the general goal of ‘look and feel better, while increasing confidence’:

  1. Eat more protein from whole foods.
  2. Eat more fibre from whole foods.
  3. Eat less refined/man made foods.
  4. Move more – Ideally 3 sessions of vigorous exercise (weights+cardio) per week should be enough.

Don’t believe everything you’re told and blindly follow like all the other sheep, be different, after all, being different is something that sets us apart from he rest of the animal kingdom.

Hard work, patience and consistency is what achieves results, not quick fixes.

Enjoy,

Ross

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Got Time?

Morning Guys,

Walking in to the gym and sifting through the pages of your training log to see what sets & reps you have is a crucial part of training but it can become monotonous at times..
Occasionally it’s nice to try something different that will help you reignite your passion for training and reach new heights.
Have you ever hear of Timed Sets (also known as block training)?
You will need three things to make this training methodology effective.
1 – A Stop Watch
2 – 70-75% of your 1RM for your given exercise (if you don’t know your 1RM then using an 8-12 rep weight will work well too)
3 – Determination
The principles behind this style of training are simple. You load the bar to where you need it and then pick a time range and achieve as many reps as you can in that time frame.
This is a version of Rest-Pause training where you rep until 1-2 reps short of failure, then take a short rest and continue to push out reps until the time is up.
Simple.
I would suggest using compound movements, too many isolation exercises in this style of training will give you no added benefit. If you’re form is solid with your compound movements then you won’t need much isolation work, perhaps 1 or 2 ego movements will suffice.
Here is a sample workout you can try:
Timed Sets (Block Sets) Options:
1×3 min
1×5 min
1×7 min
^^ You can use one or all 3 options in one workout, you would simple vary which exercise had which time block but you would need to write down which exercise was done for what time and make sure you did the same for at least 4-6 weeks to allow progression.
Day 1 – Lower Body
W/U – 4-6 sets or as necessary.
A1 – Squat – 1x7min
B1 – Deadlift (double overhand grip) – 1x5min
C1 –  Farmers Walk – 1x3min
Day 2 – Upper Body
W/U – 4-6 sets or as necessary.
A1 – Dip – 1x5min
B1 – Bent Over Row (overhand grip) – 1x7min
C1 – Overhead Press – 1x5min
D1 – Pull Up (medial grip) – 1x7min
Day 3 – Off
* You can do as I’ve written which is 2 days on, one day off, or alternatively you can just train every other day alternating upper/lower body.
When it comes to progression you can either go on feel or alternatively (what I would suggest) is to make a note of your achieved reps and aim to better that score by 5-10 reps, once you add those extra reps all you need do it to that total increase the weight by 5kg for lower body movements and 2.5kg for upper body movements.
While I understand that this looks easy on paper it’s actually quite brutal and can lead to some rather sever DOMS. My advice is don’t start too heavy, you can always add more weight if it’s too light without any issues, but if it’s too heavy you will run in to problems from the very start.
Enjoy,
Ross

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Me, Myself and I

Morning Guys,

Planning is a key element that is missing in most people gym routines these days.

Without a plan you will never really be able to progress, typically.

Even having a cookie cutter program (5-3-1, 5×5 etc) will give you more benefit than simply going in to the gym and aimlessly lifting weights without meaning or purpose.

There are several ways you can make a plan –

1 – Hire a trainer.
2 – Hire an online trainer.
3 – Sign up at a gym that programs your training for you.
4 – Use a cookie cutter program that’s RELEVANT to your goal.
5 – Lift on feel and write your own programs (not advised for many).

With the first 3 options they all involve a commitment. Obviously by commitment I mean they cost money, however it will be money well spent in my opinion.

The last 2 options are the most common ones that people opt for, mainly because we don’t see the value in parting with our hard earned cash. How foolish we can be.

If you are going to choose the last 2 options I have some words of advice for you – Use the standard programs with downloadable spreadsheets, progression plans etc that people have kindle already made and that can be found online for free. DON’T write your own programs, it’s suicide because you don’t know what you need.

I say the above with many years of hindsight, I planned my own programs for years, BUT, I based them off of a basic 5×5, 5-3-1 or West Side style workout and I searched the internet for the spreadsheets I would need to be able to track my progress.

I would say it’s fair to say I would be much stronger than I am now if I had now written my own programs. I spent many wasted hours int he gym without purpose, don’t let this happen to you.

Start by asking your self these questions:

What is your SPECIFIC goal?
How can you achieve it?
When do you want to achieve your goal?
Where will you need to make changes in your life to achieve you goal?
Can you really do it on your own, or is that your ego talking?

Simple questions that will help you understand how much you need help.

Enjoy,
Ross

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You’re Not Training Hard Enough…

Morning Guys,

You’re not training hard enough.

No, you’re not.

If you were then you wouldn’t be looking of rate next best program, you would be slowly and steadily making progress.

I have noticed that lots of people seem to be training much LONGER but not HARDER.

While this is only my opinion and lots will disagree, if you spend more than 45-75min in the gym then you’re not working hard enough, period.

In my opinion if you can train ‘hard’ for longer than that then you’re not training hard enough or you’re on some form of PED (steroid) because there are very few exceptions to this rule.

Why between those times?

Depending on the length or warm up you need (some people need up to 30min with all their pre mobility etc), once you’re body feels ready you start lifting and pushing yourself.

What does hard work feel like?
How should your reps feel?
How should your breathing be when running (cardio training)?

Reps –

Lets say you’re doing 6 sets of 6 reps, the first 2 sets of 6 should feel easy ish, the next two you will want to be struggling to get 6 and the last two you should only get 4, perhaps 5 reps out and those should be a struggle. This is coming close to hard work.

Alternatively you could go in with the ind set that even on your first set the 6th rep should be a fighting struggle to achieve (I like this mind set).

Cardio –

You shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation. Simple.

Too much chatter when CV training means you;re not working at the correct intensity, you should be abel to get out maybe 3-5 words or single sentences, but if you can talk almost normally then you need to be working harder.

This all sounds quite logical doesn’t it?

You’d be surprised at the amount of people who have ‘pseudo intensity’. What is it?

Pseudo Intensity is when people are working hard ish, but they often hold a lot back, this is why allows them to stay in the gym for upwards of 90min and sometimes even 3 hours.

There is a simple equation I like to remember, it goes like this:

Hard Work + Consistency = Results

Okay, there are some nuances to that but the general ethos is solid.

Now stop faffing about and go do some proper training!

Enjoy,
Ross

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Delicious Calories

If a calorie is just a calorie…

Then all calories calories are calories and the body uses them the same way right?

Yes and No…

True calories are just calories and the body processes them so that they all eventually meet the same fate, but there is, in my opinion, a big difference between energy dense and nutrient dense foods.

Some will disagree, but I’ve never seen anyone gain excessive amounts of weight by eating most of their calories from whole food sources.

That’s not saying it’s not possible to gain an excessive amount of weight that way, it’s just much harder because of the sheer volume of food you would have to eat to create a surplus isn’t easy.

Okay, perhaps scoffing down 7 bags of nuts & dried fruit will provide enough calories to do that but who eats nuts that excessively? Even so, you would get to the point of feeling sick because you simply couldn’t eat anymore. It’s also worth remembering that when people who eat ‘clean’ do tend to gain fat for some ‘mysterious’ reason it’s because they are doing one of two things:

1 – The are secret eaters and binge on energy dense highly processed foods when no one is looking.

2 – Their ‘healthy’ snacks consist of dried fruits, mixed/coated nuts, and smoothies (While not terrible in terms of their quality they are the rare whole food exceptions that allow you to eat excessive amounts).

This then leads to the debate of energy balance.

In short, if your calories in match your calories out then you will be in ‘balance’ and thus stay the same weight, where as being in a positive will lead to weight gain or a negative for weight loss.

Simple right?

Again yes & no…

In real world terms you can technically eat what you want to some degree and either lose fat or maintain your weight, but it will come at a cost… You are more likely to have a negative impact on your health from poor food choices, regardless of being in energy balance or not, this is fact.

Not convinced?

Look at the history books and you will see the correlation between the availability of more ‘convenient’ foods and an increase in illness/health degradation.

This is where taking a realist approach of 80/20 (mostly whole nutritious foods with a little of what you fancy) will help you maintain not only energy balance, but more importantly PSYCHOLOGICAL balance.

Psychological balance is the hard part, this is why people struggle, but that’s a post for another day.

What are your daily calories or TDEE?

We can’t tell you, hell, we can only really give you equations that will estimate where you are. Therefore we advice you speak specifically to a nutritional coach and have them help you work out what you need.

If you can’t afford a coach then our suggestion would be to use the Modified Harris-Benedict Basal Metabolic Rate Equation, you can use this link below to help you:

http://www-users.med.cornell.edu/~spon/picu/calc/beecalc.htm

Enjoy,

Ross

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Mobility, it’s not just the name of a scooter.

Today it’s time to talk about technique, or more importantly your ability to preform correct technique.

There are lots of compound exercises that require certain amounts skill, but that’s not really in question that often because the average gym goer forgets one crucial element,  most compound exercises also require adequate mobility to be preformed correctly.

Before I move on let us establish what mobility actually is.

Mobility, or joint mobility, is the ability to move a limb through the full range of motion with control, people often get mobility and flexibility confused.

Mobility is based on voluntary movement (squatting to full depth for example) while flexibility involves static holds (touching your toes) and is often dependent upon gravity or passive forces. Mobility demands strength to produce full-range movement, whereas flexibility is passive and not strength-dependent.

It is possible to have good mobility without being especially flexible, after all, someone who is able to perform a full overhead squat won’t necessarily be able to do the splits. Just as someone who is flexible can have poor mobility, i.e., control. Of the two, mobility is more important. It is better to be inflexible with good mobility than flexible with poor mobility.

Mobility isn’t just required for lifting weights though. having good mobility will also improve your quality of life too. In an ideal world you would wake up every morning and perform a mobility routine to help prepare your body for the trials of the day. it doesn’t have to take long, 5-10min is more than sufficient and you can do it while your breakfast is cooking.

Here is a sample routine that you can do at home and before your workouts each and everyday.

  • Rocking Ankle Mobilization (walking on the inner/outer portion of your foot for 20 meters per side)
  • Quadruped Crawl (bear crawl) 20 meter
  • Squat with chest expansion and arm swings
  • Squat hold with shoulder dislocation (sit in a deep squat and hold a towel in both hands and try to take it fro the front of your body over your head and touch your lower back)
  • Spidermans  (also called a low lateral lunge from side to side)
  • Reverse Lunge

Bonus: Static Stretching

*Hip Flexor Stretch (rear foot elevated on sofa or chair, push hips forwards)

* Door Frame Chest Stretch (have your elbows at shoulder height and lean through an open doorway)

There are lots of mobility routines available on YouTube and other such websites, the one above is a simple suggestion, i would do some research and find one that works for you and takes less than 10min to do each day.

Enjoy,

Ross

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Do You Know What A Macronutrient Actually Is?

Morning Guys,

It seems people have forgotten what food (specific macronutrients) are actually needed for in the body.

This post will be simple but very useful for those who don’t want to delve to deeply in to the science of it all.

There are 3 main macronutrients:

– Protein
– Carbohydrates
– Fat

Here is what/how they are used:

Protein = Building Muscle, Repairing Tissues/Systems and maintaining the body basically.

Once you’ve taken enough in any extra will be converted to sugar (gluconeogenesis) to be used as energy, if you don’t need any extra energy then it will be converted in to fat (de novo lipogenesis) for storage and use another time.

Carbohydrates = Energy Source, used to fuel your activities (daily and exercise bias) put simply, and are easily broken and utilised (think kindling on a fire).

If you have adequate carbs in your diet your body will never see the need to break down protein to be used as fuel, but that means any excess will be converted to fat (remember this), this is why overeating protein (having upwards of 1.2g per 1lb of bodyweight) isn’t necessary.

Carbs are a great source of fuel but if you have too many in comparison to your energy expenditure the excess that is not needed will be converted to fat (DNL). You only need a 1-1 or possible a 1-2 ratio of Protein to Carbs, for example 20g protein means 20-40g carbs.

Fat = Energy Source, similar to carbohydrates fats are used to fuel your daily/physical activities but unlike carbs fat are broken down and utilised more slowly (think a large log at the base of a camp fire).

Fat is essential for good health and hormones, low fat diets are detrimental to health. Nature pairs protein with fat for a reason you know (animal meant basically).

Like carbs your body will use fat for fuel throughout they day if that is what you’re feed it, however… fat is used backwards. You eat it and then your body does some magical things and converts if to a form of usable energy (glucose) and as with protein/carbs eating too much over your needs will be stored.

A good ration of Protein to Fat is 1-1 or 1-0.5, this means 10g protein 10/5g of fat.

Now those are some very basic things to remember which lead perfectly in to our next point.

Meal Combinations.

Protein + Fat = Good (y) 1-1 or 1-0.5 ratio
Protein + Carbs = Good (Y) 1-1 or 1-2 ratio
Carbs + Fat = Not So Good 😦

It is true that most main meals will contain a mixture of all 3 macronutrients, the ideal ration would be something like this:

2-1-0.5 = Carbs/Protein/Fat = 40g carbs, 20g Protein, 10g Fat.

This isn’t gospel, ratios will differ depending only our goals (higher carbs, higher fat etc), but you will do well to remember that you can pair protein with both individually or all 3 together but try to avoid pairing carbs & fat (unless you have a specific reason too). This over abundance of energy, because that’s all the body sees foodstuffs as in the end will either be used of stored as fat.

Enough is enough, more isn’t better.

You can workout your individual needs by various means, if you want a really easy way then take your Lean Body Mass (LBM) in LBS and multiply that by 1.2 to get your daily protein requirement in grams, then double that number for your daily carbs and you can either half if for your fat or simply copy it.

For example:

We shall take a lean athletic person who is highly active (Trains 4-6 times per week in strength & conditioning), their calories ratio might look like this

175lbs LBM

Protein = 210g – 840 calories
*Carbs x2 = 420g – 1680 calories
Fat x0.5= 105g – 945 calories

*Fibre would be roughly 10-12.5% of total carbs and included in the total calories, not in addition. You fibre for 420g would be 42g – 50g per day.

3645 daily calories total.

This ins’t an exact science, it’s just to give you a rough guide fi you’re not one for number crunching. If you want the exact number then I suggest you hire someone to establish everything you need. Otherwise just remember what each macronutrient does, how it’s used and make sensible choices :).

Enjoy,
Ross

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You Don’t Work Hard Enough…

Morning Guys,

Are you working hard enough when it comes to CV training?

Unless you know your target heart rates or what your true 7/8 on the RPE scale is then I’m guessing that’s a no.

I will often see people on the CV kit plodding along or even doing some ‘interval’ training while still being abel to hold a full conversation… This is a clear sign they are not working hard enough.

When it comes to cardio you ideally need set targets to work towards, you wouldn’t go in to the free weights area and not set your weights or their progressions week to week now would you?

Well… Some people won’t but those are the ones who get no results.

The best way to establish your target heart rate training zones is by the use of the Karvonen Formula, below I will give you the equation and the means to establish your correct intensity training zones. This way you will stay making some real progress.

You need your Resting Heart Rate – RHR (Ideally you will take this on 3 consecutive mornings just as you wake up to get a true reading).

For this example we shall say it’s 60bmp and the participant is 30 years old.

Now use this equation to workout your estimated Max Heart Rate – MHR.

Max Heart Rate = 206.9 – (.67 x AGE)

206.9 – 20.1 = 186.8 (we shall say 187bmp)

From there you now subtract your RHR from your MHR to get your Heart Rate Reserve – HHR.

187 – 60 = 127bmp.

The rest is easy.

You will now multiply your HRR by a percentage (60% = 0.6, 70%= 0.7 etc) and then add back in your RHR to get your Target Heart Rate – TGH.

127 * 0.7 = 88.9
88.9 + 60 = 148.9 (150bmp) this is your 70% training zone target which you would need to maintain at a constant pace if you were doing continuous or steady state training (more than your tough huh…).

If you were doing interval you would have 2 zones. One would be your woking target and the other would be active recovery.

127 * 0.6 = 76.2 (76bmp) + 60 = 136bmp
127 * 0.85 = 107.95 (108bmp) + 60 = 168bmp

Active Recovery – 60% 136bmp – 60-90 Seconds
Interval Training Zone – 85% 168bmp – 30 Seconds

So there you have it.

This is how you workout how hard you NEED to be working. I would suggest buying a heart rate monitor and planning a progressive program. That way you can follow it for 4-6 weeks and then reassess your resting heart rate to see if you’ve had any improvement.

2 continuous sessions (30min at 70%) and one interval session (20min, 30 seconds at 85% and then 60 seconds – 90 seconds recovery at 60%) per week should be sufficient to start.

Enjoy,
Ross

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