***This post was one I originally wrote back in 2014, but the principles still apply as is the case with all of the most important principles when it comes to health, performance and fitness.
Sometimes even when we are doing mostly the right things when it comes to training and nutrition, we unfortunately don’t achieve our body composition goals (more muscle and less fat). And besides the aesthetic piece to body composition (we all want to look good naked), having more muscle and less fat is advantageous when it comes to overall markers of health and longevity, as well as performance in sports and life.
To achieve and maintain a leaner and more muscular composition, there are a few things you should do in order to enhance your metabolic rate. The greater your metabolic rate the easier it will be to get and stay lean.
With that, below are 5 keys to enhancing your metabolic rate…let’s do this!
5 Ways to Boost Metabolism
While I am all about working hard for everything that you get, it is nice when positive strides are being made even when you are just chillin’ on a lake boat with a refreshing beverage in hand…or whatever your idea of pure relaxation is (I’m a lake guy, not a beach guy)!
And this is exactly what is happening when your body’s metabolic rate is maximized.
Whether our individual fitness goals include better overall health, enhanced athletic performance or shedding a few unwanted pounds, all of us wouldn’t mind being (or staying) lean and looking good naked.
Getting lean takes some leg work (literally and figuratively), and there are a few strategies that you can implement to help enhance the process by boosting your metabolic rate.
Why should you be aiming for a higher metabolic rate?
For one, a higher metabolic rate allows the body to breakdown (during training) and recover more efficiently as long as nutrient levels are adequate. This process is what progressive training is all about, and a higher metabolic rate is a must for this to happen optimally.
Second, a higher metabolic rate means that you are burning more calories throughout the day, during activity or when you are just relaxing. This provides for an easier path to obtaining and maintaining a lean and athletic body. It also allows us to have a little more leeway with the quantity of food we consume, which is a nice thing when trying to live a life that is healthy but also enjoyable!
Have you ever noticed that the lean, muscular dude can eat whatever he wants, or so it seems?
Well, because he has worked to achieve a lean and muscular body, it is easier for him to burn off the extra calories and nutrients from a larger meal, or a meal that contains some “not so healthy” options. But, don’t get me wrong, he can’t do this forever or he will loose what he has worked for.
So with that, what are some ways you can your boost metabolic rate and burn more calories even when you are not training? Even when you are instead watching some of America’s most out of shape people get a whoopin’ on TV…The Biggest Loser is entertaining, but if your “trainer” is taking a ride on your back, well…
5 Ways to Enhance Metabolic Rate…aka Burn More Calories Daily
1) Resistance train and gain muscle
Muscle is a metabolic tissue (utilizes calories) and the more muscle you have the higher your metabolic rate becomes. Resistance training promotes muscle growth.
More muscle will not only boost metabolism, but it will allow you to gain more strength and set you up for greater performance (not to mention a more aesthetically pleasing physique). Shoot for 3-5 quality sessions per week to maximize your muscle growing potential.
These sessions should include a mix of heavy compound exercises that work in the 3-6 rep ranges, moderately heavy compound exercises that cover reps from 6-12 reps, and lighter compound and isolation exercises that span the rep ranges between 12-20+ reps for optimal results.
2) Start your morning with cold water and movement
Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to take a cold shower first thing in the morning, although this is a great way to wake up…
What I am suggesting that you drink 16 oz of cold water first thing after waking up. Follow that up with a brisk walk, 5-10 minute foam rolling session or body weight circuit and you are well on your way to getting your metabolism revved up, as well as keeping your body hydrated and “blood flowin”…both which are important for a higher metabolic rate.
Another nice benefit of drinking water before you eat is that it will help increase levels of satiety since the greater volume in the stomach helps stimulate a feeling of fullness…a good thing if you struggle with portion sizes.
3) Consume mainly veggies and lean protein
“Go figure…You’re talking about a ‘diet’ that is comprised of mainly veggies and lean protein!”
Yes, yes I am!
Processed foods are in no way conducive to obtaining, maintaining or enhancing a higher metabolic rate. Most contain trans-fat, copious amounts of added sugar and other ingredients that require you to sound them out like a third grader…classic!
All of these ingredients wreak havoc on the body and its systems. So if you want to optimally boost metabolism, don’t consume foods that will leave you stuttering like a chubby, curly haired grade schooler.
Instead opt for meals that are based around a lean protein source (think chicken breast, lean beef, turkey, high quality cut of steak, eggs, etc.) and fill most of the rest of your plate with veggies (salad, cooked veggies, sautéed veggies, etc.). Then add in a small amount of healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, etc.) and boom! Here is a great visual from the team over at Precision Nutrition.
If you are constantly in “go mode” (also known as a sympathetic state) your body does not have a chance to relax and regenerate. Although a sympathetic state encourages caloric expenditure, if you are in this state for too long your metabolism will become compromised as hormonal levels are out of balance (out of equilibrium) and your body tries to combat this by “shutting it down.”
During your day try to take 20 minutes where you are doing nothing but relaxing (going for a slow walk, reading a book, taking a power nap, taking a warm shower or bath, etc.)…focus on nothing!
And then when it comes to getting some shut eye help yourself out by incorporating good sleep hygiene. Try this…
- Shut off electronics 1 hour before your head hits the pillow (or at the very least dim the screens and turn down the volume).
- Foam roll and stretch as this will help stimulate a parasympathetic state (rest and digest)…take 5-10 minutes.
- Read…mainly fiction. It is really hard for me to read fiction as I am always looking for some good knowledge bombs, but getting lost in a story rather than trying to figure out how the information you are reading can help you be a better coach, husband, person, etc. sets you up for a better state of relaxation.
- Make sure the room is dark, on the colder side and without noise (or use white noise). Light, warm temperatures and noise all decrease your levels of quality sleep…work to reduce them! Try black out curtains, setting your thermostat to 67 degrees or cooler and use a fan, white noise machine or ear plugs.
5) Keep moving
Simply the more you move throughout the day, the more energy your body requires and the higher your metabolic rate (this is referred to as non-exercise activity thermogenesis).
In this day and age we can pretty much take care of everything sitting at a computer or taking out our smart phone. While I understand that many jobs involve sitting at a desk for hours on end, there are a few things you can do to get a bit more movement in your day.
Try getting up every 20-30 minutes and take a quick walk or do 10 squats, lunges, etc., go for a walk on your breaks, walk and talk (if you are on a phone call make it a walking phone call) and fidget (studies show that those who fidget burn more calorie throughout the day…just don’t aggravate your boss/co-workers!).
Also, if you simply have the chance to work standing vs sitting, DO IT!
**Bonus Tips: If you can tolerate caffeince and/or spicy food, try consuming a few cups (1-4) of coffee or green tea daily and use hot sauce and added spices (chili powder, red pepper flakes, etc.) to flavor dishes…both have been shown to help boost metabolic rate.
Employ these strategies, boost your metabolism and know that even when you are not “working hard,” your body is still getting after it for you.
If you have any other strategies share them in the comments below and help spread the knowledge by sharing this article with your friends and family.
This is the last piece of the “REAL Core Training” article series and here we will discuss the progressions from your basic core training, to some of the most advanced core training exercises.
If you haven’t read PART I or PART II I suggest you do that first (just click the links) as those provide the foundational principles and exercises that must be mastered first before incorporating advanced core exercises into you training program…well at least if you don’t want to risk a disc herniation, vertebral fracture or a low back that is tighter than a fat man in a woman’s tennis uniform!
Ya, that actually happened this year at Wimbledon!
So once you have mastered the basics, and have built a solid foundation that will not crumble under new and more intense movements, it is time to take your core training game up a notch. Like any other body part and movement, you must increase the demand or stimulus over time to continue progress.
What follows are a few ways to progress the standard core exercises (plank, anti-rotation press, side plank) with a few examples.
1. Remove a Point of Stability
With the standard plank you have four solid points of contact with the ground. Those points are your two arms (or forearms) and your two feet. By removing one of the points of contact you reduce the stability the system as a whole, and challenge your core now to control more than one plane of movement.
This takes the plank which is primarily an anti-extension exercise and makes it an anti-extension and anti-rotation exercise…so ya, way harder!
The goal now is to prevent the hips from shifting or rotating side to side, while you continue to prevent them from sagging to the ground (low back from arching).
Plank Leg Lift
DB Plank Row
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The db plank row is one of my favorite exercises as it attacks anti-extension and anti-rotation components. ➡️ The goal is to keep the hips from dropping or rotating as you alternate rowing the dumbbells. You should feel the work taking place in your core, never in your back. 🎯 Go for 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps per side to finish out a solid session. #core #coreworkout #corestrength #abs #absworkout #strength #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #athlete #athletic #athletes #theathleticway
2. Make the Lever Longer
With the standard plank the arms/forearms are right beneath the shoulders at a 90 degree angle. Now if you take your arms and move them out overhead, the length of the lever you need to control (the length of your body) becomes longer making it much more challenging to prevent the hips from sagging, tipping forward and the low back from arching.
The goal is to maintain the “zipper up” or “tail tuck” position throughout the entire exercise. If you start to feel pressure in the lower back you have likely slipped into anterior tilt at the hips and over extension at the lower back. Stop short of this, and work to get stronger and move further into the outreached position.
3. Add Different Directions and Quicker Movements
With the anti-rotation press adding different directions of pull with the cable requires you now to control both extension and flexion, as well as rotation.
Anti-Rotation Press Up Down
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The anti-rotation press up down is a progression of the standard anti-rotation press that enhances the benefits of the exercise. Those being 1️⃣ While pressing the arms away from the body creates a longer lever which is what challenges the core to prevent rotation, bringing the handle up to the forehead and down to the belt line increases the lever length from your center of gravity, therefore making it more difficult. 2️⃣ The up and down motion targets the stabilizers of the shoulders to a greater degree, making it a bigger bang for your training buck. ➡️ These make for a stronger, more injury resilient core that will help decrease the chance of back pain and hip pain as well as enhance overall performance. 🎯 To properly execute the exercise make sure that the abs stay engaged by focusing on pulling your zipper up towards your rib cage to prevent extension of the lower back, especially when the hands go up. Also focus on keeping the path of the handle inline with your zipper, belly button and nose. ➡️ Go for 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps per side and make your core stronger and rock hard! #core #coretraining #corestrength #coreworkout #abs #absworkout #absofsteel #shoulders #shoulder #shoulderworkout #strength #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #fitness #fitnessmotivation #fitnesscoach #theathleticway #athlete #athletes
Or you can make the lever action quick and short bursts across the body which forces you to prevent the hips and torso from rotating when there are rapid changes in external forces.
4. Add External Forces
With the side plank, adding external horizontal forces such as upper body pushing and upper body pulling creates a rotational force on the body while you are still working to prevent the hips from sagging towards the floor (anti-lateral flexion).
Side Plank Cable Row
Side Plank Cable Press
5. Be Explosive
Simply put, the more explosive and powerful an action is, the more force there is generated over a shorter period of time. With more force over a shorter period of time, there is a much greater demand on the core to prevent the hips and spine from being bent or twisted from a solid neutral position.
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1-2 days per week I like to get a little power conditioning in. ➡️ Today was 7 sets of 150 yard sprints working with 30 yard intervals. ➡️ I followed that up with 3 rounds of a medball circuit as shown. 🎯 I usually stick to a 1:2 work to rest ratio (resting twice as long as it takes to complete the sprint / circuit) as the goal is to keep the power output high and condition yourself to reproducing quick explosive actions repeatedly. 🎯 This is also a great way to enhance fat loss while minimizing muscle loss! #power #conditioning #core #fatloss #fatburn #athlete #athletic #athletes #coreworkout #circuittraining #theathleticway #fit
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Today was an intensive lower body training day, meaning a lower volume and focus on power, strength and explosive conditioning. ➡️ This was the 3rd of 10 reps of 40 yard sprints with walk backs. This gave me roughly a 6:1 rest to work ratio which was plenty of rest to allow me to keep my speed up for all 10 sets. ➡️ Keeping the conditioning on these days short and explosive with plenty of rest is key to maximize strength and power adaptations and overall results! #sprint #sprints #theathleticway #conditioning #cardio #cardioworkout #strength #power #explosive #athlete #athletes #speed #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #strengthcoach #fit #fitness #smarttraining #getafterit #fatloss
While the title of this article is a little misleading, as there is never a “final” step in your core training, the above progressions are the more advanced progressions when it comes to training your core.
These progressions all create a greater challenge and therefore enhance the strength, stability and overall performance of the core when executed properly. They also create a 360 degree demand, therefore resulting in greater definition and aesthetic appeal.
The principles discussed above along with the previous 2 articles will allow you to train your core for optimal results when it comes to injury prevention, performance enhancement and aesthetics.
No more are the days of blowing your spine to smithereens in the hunt for a higher performing and better looking midsection!
If you want even more in depth information and to go through some exercises in person check out the info below for the upcoming REAL Core Training Seminar…only a few days away!
“What is the best core training exercise?”
This is a common question for those of us who are seeking to bulletproof our body, enhance performance and look damn good around the midsection. You may have even asked someone this yourself (or at least thought about it!).
And at the risk of sounding like a smart ass, I am going to have to answer this one with, “The best core exercise is the one you are executing properly!”
I could also answer this, “The best core exercise isn’t too easy, but is definitely not too difficult where you can’t complete it appropriately.”
So with that, you can see that the best core training exercise for any one person is going to change overtime as they become stronger and more conditioned through the core.
And the best place to start your core training is to make sure that you understand exactly what it is you should be focusing on, and making sure you have mastered the basics.
It is with mastering the basics that you bulletproof your body to prevent injury, or rehab yourself back from any injuries / nagging pains. It is also with building this solid base that you will be able to achieve new levels of performance and train with higher intensity core exercises. Not to mention that you will also be working towards a lean, stronger more defined midsection…but building your base is first!
How to Build Your Base, Master the Basics and Unlock Higher Level Training
First, your core has the main job of preventing movement about the hips and spine, and transferring energy throughout the body (top to bottom, bottom to top, side to side, etc.).
Because of this, if your core is not functioning properly, or strong enough for the task at hand, there is likely too much motion occurring at the hip and spine (especially the lower back). When you have too much motion occurring, especially over a long period of time, it is inevitable that the joints and tissues (muscle, tendon, ligaments, joint capsules, etc.) will begin to breakdown and there will be pain.
Don’t believe me? Check out what Dr. McGill has to say about what the core is designed to do, and some other gems (oh, he is only one of the worlds foremost experts on back health).
So with that, you must first learn how to control your hips and spine from extending, flexing, side bending and rotating when it shouldn’t. Here is how you can do so!
1. Quadruped hip extension and flexion (cat cow)
The quadruped hip extension and flexion exercise allows you to understand how to use your core (mainly your obliques) to manipulate your hip position. Once you understand this feeling (how to swivel your hips), you can then use this to find a neutral position, and try to keep that position when other forces are trying to make you lose that position!
Here your goal is to use your ability to find a neutral position, and keep this neutral position when you extend both the arm and opposite leg. This exercise being from a supine position is great as you gain feedback from the floor. If you feel your low back arching off of the ground, or being aggressively smashed into the ground, you have lost the position. Only reach the arm and leg out as far as you can without this happening.
The birddog exercise is just the opposite of the deadbug, at least relative to gravity! But, the goal is the same…as you extend the arm and leg, you are trying to prevent the back from overarching. Here you are also trying to prevent the hips from rotating, or moving side to side.
This requires you to find the neutral position and keep it (think of your zipper being tucked up towards your ribcage) when the weight and movement of your arm and leg are trying to make you overly arch the back, as well as rotate at the hips.
Now that you know what it feels like to achieve and maintain a neutral position, it is time to start strengthening the core, and building endurance in a neutral position. The plank does just that!
5. Side Plank
Like the plank, the side plank helps to strengthen and enhance the endurance performance of your core. This time you are targeting more of the lateral core as you focus on preventing the hips from dropping to the ground, and the spine from side bending. BUTTTTT…don’t forget to maintain a neutral hip position (don’t let your low back overarch, as this is a typical mistake in a side plank).
6. Anti-Rotation Press
As the name implies, the anti-rotation press is challenging you to prevent rotation at the hips and spine. As you press the cable / band away from your body your goal is to keep everything but the arms from moving. This first requires you to achieve a neutral position (using the abs to keep the “zipper up towards the rib cage”) and then working to prevent rotation.
These baseline exercises help you ensure that you understand how to use your core, and position your hips and spine in a neutral state. First and foremost this will allow you to prevent any pain or overuse injury.
And second, mastering these basic exercises set the foundation for you to perform higher level core training exercises, as well as higher level exercises as a whole. With higher level exercises (more resistance, higher technical complication, etc.) you will have a greater chance to achieve your overall health, fitness and performance goals.
Up next we will take a dive into how you progress the basic exercises, as well as how and when to add in higher level exercises to even further your progress.
Check out the next article for these progressions.
And remember, every exercise is a “core exercise” especially when you take these baseline exercises and perform any other exercise with these principles of “anti-motion” in mind!