Archive for November, 2010
Think back to when you first decided to work out. You had goals and hopes. We all do and that is good. You enter a gym, sign up get the tour. Something is very obvious, about 90% of the gym is machines spread out and about. Most of the of gym goers are on these machines. Some look like they have gotten very good results and some look like they are just starting out. So you take the tour, go through the paper work and then you are off to set out on your journey. You climb on the treadmill and start running, it feel’s great. Now think back to those original goals, have you exchanged them for what the machine has to offer? Are you letting that machine set your goals? Your standard for your body? Looking back, do you find that you are not training for your original goals at all, but are instead training for the treadmill? Training to increase the elevation more and the speed higher and time longer because then you will lose the weight? What did you feel the first time you were able to increase these things and found the results very disappointing?
Consider someone who sets out on the treadmill to increase their distance running, burn fat and be more athletic. They might feel like all those goals are being accomplished at first, but once they go for their first post treadmill training run, they quickly realize they were not being trained to run in the real world. It is completely different. The effort, the muscles, the oxygen requirement, are all vastly different. The treadmill set their bodies standard as being adequate on that piece of equipment for that setting and thats it. Want to run your body in the real world? Start all over. Want to switch from the treadmill to the stair master? Start all over. Kind of a sad picture don’t you think?
Now consider someone who is in the same shape as the guy prior to his treadmill training and has the same goals. Instead he sets out to start sprinting. He cannot sprint a full 50 yards at first, so he runs the mile until he gets a decent time, he figures on under 10 minutes. He then starts running sprints, he can maintain the full sprint for 50 yards now. Now he just focuses on getting faster and faster. He finds a way to improve every time, getting faster, sprinting more and more each session, cutting down rest, whatever it takes. How do you think he will perform in every other area of his training? How would he do jumping on a stair master? How would he do jumping on a tread mill? The difference is, the standard of his body was his and his alone. He owned his training, found a way to train that he could control and put in a lot of hard, hard work. He did not leave his progress up to a machine pumping out numbers or even governing how hard he trained. His standard, his progress, his training was all his and his alone. He had no numbers about calories or fat burn. He did not need to know the elevation of his track or even the speed he was running at. As long as it was his all, that is all the information he needed. And he owned it, grabbed hold and never looked back.
The choice you have is to own your training or give it to a machine that says “this is how hard you will train today, this is all you are capable of and this is all you will become proficient at, in exchange I will take your energy and your goals”, or take your goals back, believe you are capable of anything and capable of achieving anything without the “assistance” of any machine and put in hard work.
Well there are plenty of programs, trainers and infomercials that tell you that the way to achieve your fitness goals is to first scrap everything you are doing and listen to them and them alone, the question remains, is this the best way to go about achieving those goals? This is obviously not addressed in the presentation for the simple reason that they want you to believe scraping your program is the ONLY way and now you just have to decide on which program to replace it with. Then go on to tell you why it should be theirs.
I do not subscribe to this mentality. I believe the exception is; if through research you find your current program actually has a negative effect on achieving your goals. I will explain this further at the end of this post.
With that being said, if your goal is fat loss, there are not many, hopefully there are not any programs out there that are going to actually put fat back on your body! The most common goal is general fitness; an increase in strength, endurance and great body composition. There are just as many programs that promise to guide you in achieving this goal as there are people that are striving to achieve it. So how do you choose one? Should you try one, scrap it, start all over and try another?
Exercise selection, combination, periodization and a couple other “ations” are important, yet the importance of these is drastically over stated. The vast amount of arguments on what exercise is truly better for what goal leads us to believe this is the most important factor. This is false. The most important factor is: how hard are you going to do that exercise? Let me give you an example. Lets us take the vast number of core training programs. One program has you on your back with trunk lifts and leg lifts and twist to develop your core. Another has completely opposite exercises as you are on your knees rolling back and forth, and hanging from a pull up bar holding the reps instead of just lifting and lowering. All these exercises target the same muscles in a different way. Is there one that targets them “better” than the other? Sure. Is that the most important factor is the success of achieving the core you desire? Not at all. Sweat is. And you don’t have to pay anyone to get that. You just have to put in HARD work.
Take your current program and keep it! Focus on the most important thing first, how hard you are working, then give your training schedule and exercise selection some fine tunning here and there.
Give yourself a couple weeks. Put that new program you were going to buy on hold. Dedicate yourself to your current program and give it all you got. Going half way on ANY program, even the mythical “best in the world” program will not yield results.
If you find an exercise you are doing just doesn’t seem like it is working, do some research on the goal you had for that exercise and find one that seems more promising, better yet, find one that a real world example used to achieve the same goal. This would be a “fine tune” as it is just one exercise in your entire program. Just honestly examine if it’s that exercise and not a lack of intensity.
As i mentioned in the beginning there are some exceptions, as I have personally experienced, but that is in the area of goals vs training. For example I was training with a bodybuilding program, bodybuilding is dedicated exclusively to hypertrophy ( muscle growth, not growth in strength, power or endurance, just pure muscle growth, inflating the size of the muscle if you will). Meanwhile my goals were for all types of strength, endurance and work capacity to increase drastically. I was actually training in a way that had a profound negative effect on my goals. With this in mind there is a place to sit down, access your goals along with training and see if your training pushes you closer to your goals and has a positive effect on you reaching them or not. Basically discover if your training is in front of you pushing you back, as it was in my case, or behind you pushing you towards your goals as it should be.
I believe this is the exception though. As there are countless training programs that will be behind you pushing you towards your goal and very, very few that will be hindering you. After making this distinction however, you will come full circle and be faced with a plethora (couldn’t give up the chance to use that word!) of programs promising to be the best. Right back where we started. The principle still remains, access how hard you are working at your current program. Put your focus there first. Have that be the first change you make.
I have a very long history with supplements. I have taken them for well over 3 years. I have tried every one that is out there with the exception of pro hormones. I always prided myself as being “natural.”
At this time I am in better shape, stronger, bigger, faster than I have ever been. I also have better conditioning than I ever thought possible. I am also completely off supplements.
The missing ingredient was not creatine, glutamine or whey protein isolate instead of concentrate. It was me. The hard work was there, not as hard as it could have been though. The dedication in the kitchen was there, again, not as much as it could have been. The intensity was there on and off, progressively more off than on to be honest. Where my dedication, hard work and focus excelled was taking the supplements. The timing was perfect, the in between time was setting up for the next dose, the supply was never short and the “old and outdated” was quickly replaced with the “new and improved.”
The research was undeniable. Proof positive is right there. But is it the whole truth? Remember from movies in court you are sworn to tell “the whole truth”? Why do they make this distinction? What is the difference? Does it matter?
One example that blew me away is the pro hormone Androstone. It was marketed as boosting your testosterone in the hundreds of percentiles (i dont remember the exact number). Strength was also claimed to virtually double. Sounds way too good to be true, but wait! The research is right there, documented and certified. But what is “the whole truth?” The truth is the research group was sedentary 70+ year old woman. Yup, it boosted testosterone in the hundred of percentages in 70 year old woman who have sat around and knitted for the past 20 years. It doubled their strength, so now they can lift a 2lb dumbbell.
My jaw dropped after receiving this information. I am glad I did however. It was blinders falling off and now all the “research” that produces from “study groups” I come across I notice just how much information is omitted rather than how much is given. Who was in these groups? What was there fitness level? Were they even close to my age, gender and fitness level? Were they even human? (you would be surprised at this one!)
With this information in mind, I could not find ONE supplement company that gave me their entire research. I objectively looked back and how often i switched supplements and asked myself is there was ANY change in my performance. The answer was no. I cut them out, used all the focus and dedication I had to them, and applied it to my training. I never looked back. And I couldn’t be happier with the results. Supplement companies love graphs. They know people are in a hurry and people in a hurry love graphs. I wonder what a graph of my training with supplements and without would “prove”.
A few random thoughts:
No one can bottle heart. Pre work out drinks are great if they actually do give your energy. Rely on them and when crunch time comes, you will buckle. It takes heart to have a grueling workout ahead of you, pick yourself up by your bootstraps and go do it! Some days the most important training you do is sticking with your gut wrenching program and developing heart; by far the most important thing to train. Again remember, No one can bottle heart.
Vitamins should be considered almost as essential as water. They are not to be considered as supplements. Additionally supplements are not to be considered as vitamins. There is a reason one is categorized as vitamins and the other as supplements! The greatest work out routine in the world is useless if you do not stick with it. Without vitamins, the body will not repair adequately, your energy stores will deplete without replenishing, and your lowered immune system(a consequence of working out without a proper vitamin regime) will be very susceptible to the common bug going around and burn out will occur.
I would like to talk about the popular buzz words that are used to fool sincere fitness enthusiast today. These buzz words are genius to say the least. They are catchy and they give you a sense of accomplishment as soon as you hear them. But what are they really saying? What leaps and connections do they really cause your brain to subconsciously make?
I have been a victim of many in my pursuit of fitness and strength. The two major flaws with these catchy words are:
1. It directs you towards the opposite of periodization. You need to change it up to stay effective. The buzzword tells you this is the answer to everything, consequently we follow that and that alone. The body is amazingly adaptive. It will adapt (known as results, ie. building muscle to do the action, losing weight so the action is easier) but without a new stimulus, it will plateau. You will even digress if prolonged for too long.
2. It puts the focus of your success on that new word. That principle is the most important aspect of your training now. What if this principle fails? What if it works for a time and then you ascend past what this principle can offer? What then?
I would like to focus on reason 2. The main fallacy with grabbing onto to that buzzword and focusing it as the most important part is that YOU are actually the most important aspect of your training. The intensity that YOU put into it. Any program will be greater not with a buzzword, but with ol’ fashioned hard work. Intensity. Simply put, giving it everything you got. You might say “Isn’t intensity a buzzword?” Not at all. You clearly now the definition of this word. It can be applied to any protocol, any program, anything at any time. These buzzwords are vague, mysterious, and they convince you they are the key to your success without even knowing the meaning of the word. You get just enough information to inform you of how much you don’t know. Let me use an example.
Muscle confusion. Now I admit this does not violate Reason 1 and that is what makes it so sneaky. Made very popular by Tony Hortan. What is muscle confusion? While after watching an hour long infomercial on p90x you can tell someone it’s better than working out regularly. You can tell someone it’s what you and they are missing and that is why you do not have the strength/size/definition you have worked so hard to attain. You can even get technical and tell someone it is introducing a different stimulus to your body each time you work out so it does not adapt to one set stimulus. But can you tell them why? Can you tell them how to do it? Can you create a program using this principle yourself? No you were told just enough to realize that you don’t really know anything about it. You were told just enough to be convinced it works, and you need to pay ridiculous amounts of money for this person to give you the answer.
These words are also comforting. And paying them for this comfort, is even more comforting. You are told that the only reason your previous program did not yield the results you wanted is because you did not know this buzz word. In our example, muscle confusion. It’s not that anything was wrong with your strength training (ie. your dedication, your effort, your diet, etc) except, you guessed it, you simply did not know about this key word! After you pay the price and get the “magic” definition you will yield boundless success. Unfortunately this rarely, if ever happens. Ask yourself, is this one word worth the price of the program? While many would say no, I would not be surprised if this is the buzzword that has sold so many on it.
So what is muscle confusion? It’s very very simple. It’s periodization. Training heavy to activate every motor unit your muscle has in a low rep set. Then training lighter to lift faster and more explosively. This can be done is blocks of weeks, 4 weeks heavy 4 light/explosive. Or it can be done daily, ex. Monday heavy and Friday lighter/explosive. And that is really it. Is there some magic program to follow that will yield more results than another? Not that I have found. There are some lifts that would better than others, and there are some combinations that would be better than others. But the main factor is YOU. Train as intense as you can and you will yield amazing results with anything.
I personally yield to one style of training over all others. I chose my goals and look for real world examples that excelled at these. For me it’s a boxer. Their blend of strength and conditioning represents the challenges I crave and thrive on. I research what lifts, style of running and everything else that comprises a workout regime are better for the boxer and I apply intensity to them. Briefly sticking with this example watch a boxing match and you see one person who can go full speed for 10 rounds and the loser. Do you think they did totally opposite routines? I would bet money there were routines were so similar you have to look closely to see differences. So why did one fail and one excel? I believe it’s the intensity, dedication and flat out hard work applied to the program. I know there are those who yield towards a total opposite style of training than myself, they chose their goals, found a real world example that excels at them and researched just as I did, yet we both excel and continue to see results, reach our goals and set higher ones. Why? We both bring incredible intensity to our programs. We put in HARD work, we push through the pain of fatigue. If you do need a buzz word (even though I previously said it was not and still believe it is not) “Intensity” is it. And you do not need to pay anyone to know what that is. You don’t need any program created for you to make sure you are applying it correctly. You will know when you are and when you are not using this principle.
So what are these red flags?
1. A new buzzword repeated over and over.
2. It is presented as the cure all.
3. It makes you feel like this is the ONLY thing that was missing from your previous endeavors.
4. You are told just enough about it to realize you know nothing about it.
5. You are then told, this secret, this “magic”, this answer can totally be yours and your fitness goals and dreams will come true, and you will look better than you ever thought possible, you won’t even need to put in that hard of work, it basically does everything itself, and we tell you everything about, show you how to use it and be with you every step of the way, now all we need is your credit card number.
Hello everyone. I have created this blog to give you the tools and motivation for you to really own and personalize your training! It is my sincere hope that you not only reach your current goals, but smash through them. I hope that you find that YOU are the most important aspect of your training and not some new machine or over priced program.