How Supersets May Be Sabotaging Your Strength and Power
Supersets and other methods of pairing exercises is a great way to make your training more efficient, create a greater metabolic disturbance in the body and is a programming method I use the majority of the time.
But when your goals include maximizing strength and power, or learning new complicated movements, supersets and other classic pairings may be doing more harm than good when it comes to the results you are seeking.
Check out my latest article for Stack.com to understand when you shouldn’t pair exercises, or at least the best approach to doing so when you are trying to maximize movement learning, strength and power…
How Supersets May Be Sabotaging Your Strength and Power <–Click Here!!!
How to Optimally Warm Up for Lacrosse
We are often asked about an optimal warm up routine for the lacrosse player.
While the optimal warm up for each athlete would need to be more individualized to the athlete’s specific needs, using certain principles and methods in general will produce a more effective warm up.
And this is important as one of the best ways to ensure enhance performance and decrease the risk of injury for lacrosse players is to complete a quality warm up before training, practice and competition.
A warm up that is designed to specifically address the demands of lacrosse is the key to optimal results and success in sport.
With that, there are 5 components to a quality warm up for lacrosse players. The first three components are important but we know that it may not always be possible and practical for an entire team to go through it, especially on the field.
So, at the very least completing steps 4 and 5 is absolutely necessary to helping lacrosse players warm up properly, enhance performance and decrease injury.
If you can, taking 5-10 minutes to go through the first three components will have a dramatic positive effect on the outcome of the rest of the warm up, as well as the subsequent performance during practice and competition.
To prepare the lacrosse player for an optimal warm up the first consideration is to make sure the muscles are not too stiff. This is best accomplished by using a foam roller, tiger tail or lacrosse ball to complete self myofascial work.
The most important muscles to target are the quads and hip flexors, IT band, hamstrings, adductor (groin), glutes, calves, lats and bottoms of the feet.
2) Flexibility and Mobility
Now that the muscles are “reset” from the self myofascial work, for a lacrosse player to maximize acceleration, change of direction, top speed and rotational power, the muscles and joints must have adequate range of motion to safely and effectively maximize these qualities.
This is best accomplished with targeted stretching and mobility work.
The areas to focus on include the hip flexors and quads, adductors and thoracic ribcage (upper back rotation).
With flexibility and range of motion addressed, it is time for the lacrosse player to turn on the muscles that many times are less active, but are extremely important for maximum performance and injury reduction.
These include the core, hips and glutes.
4) Movement Preparation
Now that the lacrosse player has activated the desired muscles, it is time to use them in more integrated movements that are specific to sport.
These bigger movements will prepare the lacrosse player for the upcoming dynamic and speed movements.
Included in these movements are spidermans, reverse lunges, forward lunges, lateral lunges and inverted hamstrings.
5) Dynamic Movement
Now it is time to expose the lacrosse player to higher speed movements that more specifically resemble those of sport.
This will help to prepare the athlete for the forces they will encounter in sport as well as warm the muscles up even further.
Dynamic movements such as high knees, lateral shuffles, butt kicks, carioca, A skips, straight leg skips, straight leg runs and straight leg marches are first.
These can then be followed up by short distance sprints, change of direction lateral shuffles and lateral bounds.
CNS Activation Video <–Click Here
When a lacrosse player and team complete a warm up that addresses all of the components above they will not only be better prepared to maximize performance, but they will be less likely to experience injuries that result from an underprepared state for sport.
To stay healthy and enhance sport performance is the key for lacrosse players and a quality warm up is a critical factor to achieving these results.
For more specific help with your warm up, and for a document with all of the exercises and videos in this article simply reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and we will help you out and send the document your way.
To your health and performance,
A Quick Core Training Tip for a Chiseled Midsection and Injury Prevention
The crunch, it was the king of abdominal exercises for years, and for good reason, it makes the rectus abdominus muscles burn, which we all like.
But in recent history the crunch has been removed from many training programs, also for good reason.
With the works of Dr. Stuart McGill among others, the world of training has shifted away from dynamic core exercises as they have shown to place unwanted stress on the spine that can lead to pain and injury.
Instead, isometric core exercises have become the staple in the majority of programs as they produce more stability throughout the system, and do not place the shear forces on the spine like many of the dynamic exercises do.
So to prevent unwanted injuries, or when you are training your core around an existing injury or pain, these isometric exercises such as planks, side planks, anti-rotation presses, chops, lifts, etc. are the better choice.
It is hard to find exercises that beat dynamic exercises like crunches and oblique crunches when it comes to creating the abdominal burn we all like, as well as making it feel as if your abs are going to rip apart…which again, we all like for some reason, including myself.
And because of this, I know many of us will still use these exercises even if research suggests otherwise.
So what can you do to get the best of both worlds?
By supersetting isometric and dynamic core exercises.
At the end of your training sessions, complete 3-5 supersets consisting of one to two of the isometric core exercises listed below, and one of the dynamic core exercises.
Side Plank Switches
Slow Tempo Russian Twist
Cable Chop with Trunk Flexion
Two of my favorite pairings are crunches with plank rows and oblique crunches with side planks switches.
The options are plenty, and these lists are in no way exhaustive.
Keep the principle of performing at least one isometric for every dynamic and you will be setting yourself up for a ripped midsection while reducing the risk of unwanted back pain or injury.
What do you think? Have you tried this approach?
Building Explosive Core Strength and Rotational Power for Lacrosse Players: Part II
If you haven’t yet read part I of this series I would encourage you to first check it out HERE.
The exercises and principles in part I set the foundation from which lacrosse players can start to implement more sport specific exercises to further enhance their rotational strength and power. This is how we establish a great base to build our athletes from at TOP Fitness.
Once the lacrosse player has demonstrated their ability to control their spine and hip position from more basic positions such as with planks, birddogs and dead bugs (part 1), it is now time to challenge their ability to control them through various positions.
First getting into more sport specific positions, positions that transfer more to sprinting and running are the next step. Doing so while completing diagonal patterns help to more closely mimic the forces they will experience and produce when shooting for example.
The following two exercises are great to teach the lacrosse player to control their position when one hip is flexed and one is extended as it is when they are sprinting, as well as when they have a force coming across their body as when shooting.
1/2 Kneel Chops
Starting in the 1/2 kneeling position allows the athlete to better understand what he/she is looking for in this position.
This diagonal chopping pattern also more closely resembles the angle of shooting.
2) Split Stance Chops
The split stance position further challenges the athlete to control position as they now lose a contact point with the ground.
This position is directly related to that of a sprinting or running pattern, and also continues to utilize the diagonal pattern as with a shot.
Once the athlete demonstrates that they can control the position and rotational forces during the previous exercises we can now work into producing rotation!
3) Rotational Cable Chops w. Cook Bar
Optimal rotation for lacrosse players starts with the lower body and is transferred through the core, and finishes with the upper body.
The rotational cable chops simulates the sequence that must occur to optimally produce rotation from a more controlled stance.
4) Rotational Cable Chops w/ Step (emphasize hip separation)
Now comes the more specific rotational pattern, directly mimicking the sequence that occurs with a shot.
This exercise allows the athletes to utilize the previous strength and control work and now exploit it to produce specific rotation.
This is also where the lacrosse player can emphasize what is known as hip separation, or the ability to generate power from the lower body, transfer it through the core and finish with the upper body in a “sling shot” fashion.
Perfecting hip separation is key as it creates an “elastic band” effect that allows the athlete to produce the most explosive rotational power possible.
Coming Up in Part III: The “Fun” Stuff
With the work that was completed in the first two phases of creating explosive core strength and rotational power, the lacrosse player is now ready to implement the “fun” stuff.
The last phase more specifically trains the hip separation and elastic effect that will allow the athlete to produce the most rotational power possible through more explosive actions with cable work that is even more specific to shot positions, as well as with med ball throws.
The last part of this series will also touch upon the other factors that lacrosse players need to train in order to develop maximal core strength and rotational power and be able to use it on the field.
Building Explosive Core Strength and Rotational Power for Lacrosse Players: Part 1
**Please note, while this article series relates to lacrosse, all athletes can follow this sequence to achieve greater performance and injury prevention…now lets get to it!
At TOP Fitness we work with a lot of lacrosse players, so naturally we are focused on helping our athletes build the qualities most crucial for their success in lacrosse.
One of the most important athletic qualities for lacrosse players is their ability to generate explosive rotational power.
When an athlete has greater rotational power, not only will they be able to sprint faster, change directions quicker and react more effectively, but they will be able to rip off a high speed shot that will be tough to stop…and there will always be a spot for this athlete on the field!
So building explosive rotational power should be a goal of any lacrosse player who is looking to achieve the greatest amount of success in sport.
Explosive rotational power can only occur when an athlete is first stronger and more explosive through their core.
Being stronger and more explosive through the core provides a solid base to transfer force from the legs through the upper body, which allows for the improvements in the athletic qualities mentioned, as well as decreases the chance of injury.
The explosive strength we are talking about is not achieved through thousands upon thousands of crunches, Russian twists, or hours worth of plank holds (although planks will play a role).
The type of explosive strength necessary to be the greatest lacrosse player possible is multifaceted.
It is achieved through a specific sequence of concepts and exercises that are layered on top of each other, to optimally build and express the explosive strength, as well as keep the athlete healthy and resilient.
How to Build Explosive Core Strength and Rotational Power: The Sequence
First, the cores primary responsibility and action is to stabilize the hips and spine and transfer force throughout the body.
Stability is an ambiguous term for many of us. The simplest way to think about stability when it comes to movement and performance is the ability to resist change from an optimal position.
This is especially key when it comes to the hips and spine because it is through the hips and spine that the lower body is connected to the upper body. When their positioning is solid, energy can be created and transferred throughout the body.
If your goals include accelerating the fastest, cutting the quickest, jumping the highest, rotating with the most speed, etc. it is critical to have hips and a spine that are in a solid position at all times.
Therefore, the first consideration when training for explosive core strength is to solidify the position of the hips and spine, especially when the arms and legs are moving.
Exercises to Solidify Hip and Spine Position: Your Base for Explosive Core Strength
- Static Plank
The first exercises to execute and progress are the static plank positions.
Planks help to build the isometric strength in the core necessary to stabilize the hips and spine. But like anything else, they must be performed correctly!
Too often a plank is performed with sagging and/or rotated hips, a rounded upper back and a head that is protruding way out in front of the body and almost contacting the floor.
Instead think about keeping the hips from sagging down and rotating forward (you can envision pulling your zipper up towards your ribcage), and keeping your spine as long as you can from the tip of your tail bone through the top of your head.
Hold the position for 15-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
2) Static Side Plank
Side planks, just like the regular plank, build isometric strength. This time the target is the lateral (or side) core and hip musculature.
Also like the regular plank, you want to keep the hips from sagging or rotating as you envision keeping your zipper up towards your ribcage to prevent the low back from excessively arching. And keep the same thought of staying long from your tailbone to the tip of your head.
Hold each side for 10-20 seconds.
The deadbug is used to help you understand how to work around a fixed core (as well as its many variations). The goal is to keep the back flat to the floor, and the hips from rotating as the opposite arm and leg reach out long.
This now takes a static strengthening exercise like the planks and challenges the athlete to keep the same optimal core position while the arms and legs are moving as they will be when on the feet playing lacrosse.
Try performing 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps per side.
Flip the deadbug and you have the birddog. This exercise is more difficult to keep the core, spine and hips solid as the arms and legs extend as you are now working against gravity.
The action at the legs is especially key because this is the same action as sprinting (hip extension) and if the hips rotate forward and low back arches when this happens, not only will the athlete lose power, but they will also be at a greater risk for injury.
Part II is Next!
The concept of keeping the core stable is only the beginning to building explosive core strength and rotational power for our lacrosse players (and all rotational athletes).
The next step is to challenge this stability with more complex positions that are specific to sport.
In part two we will cover how we can further challenge the lacrosse athlete to stabilize their body and optimally transfer power from the lower body to the upper body.
Carb Cycling: Eat What You Want, Build Muscle and Lose Fat…What?!!
Carbohydrates have received a lot of attention over the past decade, and for good reason.
Carbohydrates, especially those that are refined and overly processed, have become a staple in the American diet. And hell, why not?
They taste good, are easily accessible and they make you feel good when you eat them (at least initially).
The problem becomes when your nutritional intake is heavily biased towards these carbohydrates.
When this happens you have a greater chance of becoming insulin resistant, you flirt with diabetes, you are likely to gain excess body insulation (fat!) and your overall health and performance is likely going to plummet.
So of course the solution is to remove these from your diet…right?
Well, if you told me that I could not have pasta, rice, cereal, bread, cookies, hamburger buns or the occasional extra frosted, gooey glazed, cavity causing donut, I would politely ask you to take your suggestion and shove it between your left and right gluteus maximus.
I, as anyone else who is human and enjoys life, like to eat carbohydrates.
But, I also know that the negative consequences of eating these on the reg is going to destroy my health and performance goals, and make me look more like the pillsbury dough boy than Leonidas.
So, I say no to them…
Restricting yourself from these pleasures in life not only a terrible way to walk around on this earth, but it will likely lead to the occasional binge, which is just a vicious cycle.
You restrict, you binge and then you feel defeated.
You restrict again, binge again, tell yourself you are a loser once again, rinse and repeat.
This not only leads to a miserable psychological state, but it will lead to the same negative physical and overall health consequences as when you are eating them on the reg.
So what can you do??
Use carbohydrate cycling.
What is carbohydrate cycling?
Carbohydrate cycling (carb cycling) is most easily defined as cycling through days where you have a higher carb intake and days where you have a lower carb intake.
What this does is it allows you to have some of those carbs that you want and love, while giving you days without them to drop overall calories, help you increase insulin sensitivity, and keep your health and performance on the right track.
I have found the best way to do so is to match your higher carb days with your higher physically demanding days (when you train, have a competition, etc.).
Your body is in a physiological state where it is more primed to use the carbohydrates for energy and restoration. The body is ready to “soak them up” which prevents you from storing them as fat.
Then on the days when you are not training or exerting at an intense level, back off on the carbs as your body does not need them as much for energy and recuperation.
This also helps prevent taking in to many calories and it helps keep you from becoming desensitized to the insulin response (which happens when blood sugar is constantly elevated from consistent carbohydrate consumption, and is no good!).
Throughout both higher and lower carb days you will keep your protein and fat intake relatively constant to ensure adequate nutrients for health and muscle growth.
A Few Examples
High Carb Day Option 1: 1 cup oatmeal, 1/2 banana, 1/4 cup berries, 1 scoop protein powder, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (cook oatmeal and stir in the other ingredients to it).
High Carb Day Option 2: 2-3 eggs, 1-2 slices of Ezekiel bread, 1 slice cheese, 1 banana (make an egg sandwich, or open faced sandwich and have a banana on the side).
Low carb day Option 1: Shake: Add 8oz of almond milk, 1 handful spinach, 1 cup frozen berries, 1 tbsp peanut butter, 1 scoop protein, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste to blender and blend to desired thickness.
*Low Carb Day Option 2: 1 cup chopped veggies (whatever you want), 1 thin slice ham, 2-3 eggs, small amount of cheese, 10 baby carrots (make an omelet and have carrots on the side).
*To make this a higher carb option you could also have a side of potatoes or slice of Ezekiel bread for example
High Carb Day Option 1: Turkey Sandwich / Wrap and Apple with a little desert: construct a turkey sandwich or wrap and have an apple as a side and have a small amount of desert (this is where I usually have a small cookie, piece of a muffin of anything else I want…but it is small!)
High Carb Day Option 2: Stir Fry with Rice with a little desert: Cook your your favorite veggies and fruit with a protein of choice (chicken, steak, shrimp, etc.), add 1 cup of rice and some soy sauce and enjoy with a small desert.
Low Carb Day Option 1: Protein and salad: Construct a salad with your favorite veggies, a little dressing, a sprinkle of cheese and top with a protein of choice.
Low Carb Day Option 2: Grilled/Baked Protein with a vegetable side: Grill or bake a protein of choice and enjoy with a side of broccoli, green beans, carrots, etc.
High Carb Day Option 1: Pasta, Veggies and Protein: Similar to the stir fry, cook up your favorite veggies and protein, add a small amount of sauce of choice (try to stay away from the processed, fatty cream sauces) and place it on top of a bed of pasta.
High Carb Day Option 2: Grilled/Baked Protein with a baked potato and veggie side: Grill or bake your favorite protein and enjoy it with a baked potato and a side of veggies!
Low Carb Day Option 1: Grilled/Baked Protein with a veggie side: A piece of fish with asparagus for example.
Low Carb Day Option 2: Bunless cheeseburger with a side of mixed veggies.
Really the options are endless when it comes to constructing your high and low carb days. The thing to remember is that a low carb meal eliminates the bread, rice, grains, pasta, etc. and replaces them with low carb options such as veggies.
Will this approach work for everyone with every goal??
I would never say that something will work for everyone, especially with every goal.
What I will say though is that carb cycling can be tailored to better achieve certain goals, and in my experience it works very well for the majority of people.
With various goals there are slightly different modifications with carb cycling that can maximize results.
If you are looking for fat loss, during your high carb days, only your meal following intense physical exertion should be higher carb.
When you place an intense physical demand on the body, muscle glycogen (muscle sugar) is used for energy. Carbohydrates help restore muscle glycogen, and immediately following intense exertion your body is more primed to soak up these nutrients and store them as muscle glycogen.
With this, timing your high carbohydrate meal after this exertion helps guarantee that more of the carbohydrates go towards muscle glycogen replenishment rather that fat.
So I would encourage those seeking fat loss to have one higher carb meal during their high carb day, and this meal should be following the intense physical exertion. The rest of your meals should follow the lower carb template (protein and veggies without starchy carbs).
If you are seeking to maintain the amount of muscle to fat ratio you currently have, I suggest having two meals with a higher carb count during high carb days.
Again here I would suggest those meals being the two meals following intense physical exertion.
For the rest of your meals follow the low carb day template.
This helps to ensure that you are consuming enough carbs to maintain muscle mass, but not so much that you are going to accrue fat mass.
If you are looking to gain weight (mainly muscle mass) you need to create a caloric surplus in order for your muscles to grow optimally.
Because of this goal I suggest having three meals per high carb day that have a higher carb count.
This helps to ensure that you are consuming enough carbohydrates and calories for continuous muscle growth.
Of course if you start to notice too much fat accumulation you will want to dial back the amount of carbs little by little.
**A side note: You may have days that I would consider moderate training and carb days, such as days when you are doing some intense conditioning such like sprints, prowler pushes or other high intensity interval work. I would suggest eating a moderate amount of carbs during your post training meal, no matter what your goals are.
Portion Size Still Matters!
While carb cycling is awesome as it allows you to consume some of your favorite foods throughout the week, this doesn’t mean that you can go buck wild on high carb days / meals and expect an optimal result.
Portion size still matters, and when it comes to starchy carbs sticking to one to two cupped hand size portions for men, and one cupped hand size portion for women is key.
Sticking with these portion suggestions helps to maximize glycogen replenishment without going overboard and switching to fat accumulation.
Also, if you are going to have desert try to have only one to two bites…I know it sounds crazy but take your time chewing it, savor the flavor (<–like that one!) and then walk away!
And remember, we are talking about a normal sized bite, not a Hulk sized bite!
Get to Cycling
Hopefully by now I have convinced you that carbohydrate cycling is the easiest nutritional strategy to continue to eat the foods you love, prevent yourself from feeling deprived and maximizing your results from training as well as enhancing you overall performance.
It will not only result in the body composition shifts you want (more muscle and less fat), but it will drastically improve your psychological connection with food…you will not feel consistently deprived, depressed and angry as you will have the high carb days to mitigate the low carb days.
The keys to carb cycling are:
-Consume your higher carb days on the days your train or physically exert at a high level.
-Lower your carb intake on days you are not exerting physically by removing starchy carbs (rice, pasta, bread, etc.) and replace them with veggies.
-Keep your protein and fat consumption relatively constant each day.
-Stick to the carb portion control parameters of 1-2 cupped hand size servings for men and 1 cupped hand size serving for women.
Lastly, I thought it would be helpful to give you a look into how I am currently implementing carb cycling. At this point I am trying to maintain my muscle and fat ratio for the most part…if I gain some more muscle and lose some more fat I won’t complain 🙂
Monday: Higher Carb and Training Day; Higher carb breakfast and lunch, lower carb dinner
Tuesday: Lower Carb and Moderate Training Day: Lower carb breakfast, higher carb lunch, lower carb dinner
Wednesday: Higher Carb and Training Day; Higher carb breakfast and lunch, lower carb dinner
Thursday: Lower Carb and Moderate Training Day: Lower carb breakfast, higher carb lunch, lower carb dinner
Friday: Higher Carb and Training Day; Higher carb breakfast and lunch, lower carb dinner
Saturday: Higher Carb and Training Day; Higher carb breakfast and lunch, lower carb dinner
Sunday: Lower Carb and Off Day: Lower carb meals all day
Try out this approach and let me know what you think. Share it with friends and family, and if you have any questions or thoughts let me know!
To your health and performance,
[fusion_text]Whether you are a competitive athlete looking to gain the edge on the competition, or you are a general population athlete looking to feel better, look better and have more confidence, gaining lean muscle mass and losing some excess fat is most likely going to benefit you.
In order for this to occur you must challenge your body past it’s current condition and threshold.
If you do not, your body has no reason to change.
So the key to continuing progress and transforming your body is what is known as the principle of progressive overload.
You have to continue to challenge your body with a stimulus that surpasses that of its current condition.
The most common way to do so is to add more resistance to the exercise. It is a quantifiable measure that is easy to see progress with…the more weight you are moving = the more your are progressing.
While this is a good and something I do encourage (so yes the title of this article is not completely true), it is not the only way. And I would argue that for some of us, it is not the best way.
Gaining strength and adding weight to the bar will never hurt…until it does!
Many times we are so focused on increasing the amount of resistance used that we lose focus of the quality of movement, especially for beginners, or when we are trying a new exercise.
And if you are more veteran to the training game, you will reach a point where the resistance added to the movements will begin to plateau and you will find it very difficult to continue to add weight to the exercises.
At this point there is a greater risk of injury as you will be working more and more closely to your max effort.
So, instead of always focusing on adding more and more resistance to an exercise, what are some other ways you can progressively overload your body to entice more muscle growth and burn more fat without increasing the risk of injury??
Glad you asked!
**First a disclaimer: this doesn’t mean I am condoning slinging around pink dumbbells and doing reps of 25+ for all eternity.
You will find these efforts unrewarding. Being strong, lean and athletic takes more than tricep kickbacks and thousands of bodyweight squats.
OK, now let’s get to it…
Use tempo and isometric pauses
One of the best ways to learn new movements as well as increasing the intensity of an exercise, and therefore challenging the body to progress, is to slow the movement down.
Slowing the movement down gives you more time under tension, or time when the muscles are working. More time under tension results in a greater metabolic environment and hormonal response for muscle growth and fat burn.
Let’s take a squat for example.
Instead of lowering at a regular speed, slow the decent (eccentric contraction) down using a 3-5 second count, or tempo.
You can also add an isometric hold at the bottom of the squat. Let’s say a 2 second hold.
Lastly you can return to the top of the squat with a slower tempo as well (3-5 seconds) or you can explosively return to the top position.
Using tempo and performing a rep over a longer period of times places the muscles under tension for a longer duration. This increases the challenge of the exercise without adding resistance.
You can add tempo work like this with pretty much every exercise, slowing down the eccentric, pausing at the bottom of the range of motion and then returning to the beginning using a slower tempo, or explosively.
Use rest pause sets
Rest pause sets allow you to move more weight overall and increase volume without adding weight to the bar, or adding an additional set.
Using the trap bar deadlift as an example, let’s say you can perform 6 reps with 225 before you reach technical failure.
(Here is a video where I am using a double rest pause with 335 pounds)
Using a rest pause set you can hit 225 for 6 reps, rest 20 seconds and hit another 1-2 reps.
Or you can use a heavier weight such as 235 or 245 pounds for example and break the 6 reps up into hitting 3 reps, resting 20s and hitting another 3 reps.
Both approaches allow you to move more weight overall than one straight set of 225 for 6 reps.
The extra weight moved again challenges the body more and results in an environment that is more conducive to furthering progress.
Use drop sets
Drop sets, like rest pause sets, allow you to do more work without adding another full set.
A drop set consists of hitting an exercise for the prescribed reps (let’s say 6 reps of a squat) and immediately reducing the load by 10-30% and then completing as many reps as possible with the reduced load…keeping perfect form of course.
This again allows you to increase the intensity of the set, and add more volume without increasing the resistance or adding another set.
One of the easiest ways to increase the challenge without adding resistance is to reduce the rest period.
If you usually take 45-60s in between exercises, try to rest for only 30s. With the reduced rest you are increasing the amount of work done in a shorter period of time.
Completing the work in a shorter period of time results in more favorable metabolic and hormonal responses for muscle growth and fat loss.
You do have to be careful though as you don’t want to reduce the rest period so much that the movement, or the desired outcome becomes compromised.
This consideration is most critical when you are working with heavier loads (6 reps or less).
If you are working on gaining strength you will want to take adequate rest…but adequate means just that, ADEQUATE! That doesn’t mean sitting around for 3-5 minutes in between each set.
You Don’t Always Have to Move More Weight To Progress
A few years ago I would have told you that you must move more and more weight if you want to make progress towards your training and fitness goals.
Building more muscle and burning more fat does not rely solely on moving more weight, especially for beginners and those of us who are more advanced or have a previous injury history.
By utilizing tempo work, isometric pauses, rest pause sets, drop sets or a reduced rest period you will experience continued progress and a reduced risk of injury as a result of not needing to add more and more weight to the bar. [/fusion_text][three_fourth last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””][/three_fourth][three_fourth last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””][/three_fourth][four_fifth last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””][/four_fifth][four_fifth last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””][/four_fifth][four_fifth last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””][/four_fifth][four_fifth last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””][/four_fifth][four_fifth last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””][/four_fifth]
To achieve a higher level of health, performance and overall fitness all you need is 10-30 minutes, and something that you can never go anywhere without…your
This is evident when you look at one of the most badass, physically fit populations known to man, the US military.
When we think about the members of the US military it is hard not to envision a strong, lean and resilient individual who can run for miles, bang out 100+ push ups and pull their chest to a bar 20+ times…without a kip!
And when you look at the traditional training methods of the US military you will find a large majority of the exercises built around calisthenics. Calisthenics is defined by dictionary.com as “gymnastic exercises designed to develop physical health and vigor, usually performed with little or no special apparatus.”
Basically, calisthenics is bodyweight training.
With this in mind, and to show my gratitude for everything that I am able to do as a result of the ultimate sacrifices that too many of our veterans have made, I wanted to provide you with a brief discussion on the benefits of bodyweight training and how you can easily incorporate it into your training to experience the awesome results.
Why Use Body Weight Training?
- It is always accessible
I guess there really isn’t much to explain with this one, but it is likely the biggest benefit of bodyweight training.
You don’t have to go anywhere, invest in anything or wait for someone taking there sweet time in a squat rack trying to blow up their biceps while you actually want to get some real work done.
All you need is a little space and a general understanding of how to move without killing yourself…which leads me to…
2. It is a great way to learn / solidify movements
The very first thing you have to control before you can add resistance to any movement is your bodyweight.
When we put a bar on our shoulders, dumbbells in our hands or strap some other crazy implement to our body, we challenge our capacity to move efficiently to a greater degree.
While this challenge is necessary for continuing progress, if you do this before you have mastered your bodyweight you are likely setting yourself of for future problems and injury.
You can use bodyweight with numerous different approaches to continue progress and solidify a quality movement before you even need to think about adding external resistance…which is the next benefit!
3. You can make it harder without external resistance
With bodyweight training you have less forces going through your joint as a result of a lower external load.
When you use implements such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. we typically fall into the thought process that the best/only way to progress is to add more weight.
I have many times fallen victim to this thought process (and sometimes still do).
The problem is that constantly pushing/pulling more and more weight will inevitably result in cranky joints, and possibly overuse injuries.
With bodyweight training, because there is no added external load, you have to manipulate other factors that will lead to an increase in intensity.
These methods include slowing down the movement, speeding up the movement, doing 1.5 reps, performing single leg or single arm vs. double leg or double arm movements, increasing reps, decreasing rest between sets and more.
We can definitely use these same methods with loaded exercises, but again, many times we focus on adding resistance than taking a look at these other factors.
4. You feel athletic
The most athletic movements are those that manipulate your bodyweight.
Sprinting, jumping and cutting are some of the most athletic movements you can perform and they all are centered around manipulating your body.
And feeling athletic is AWESOME!
How Can You Incorporate Body Weight Training?
There are many ways you can utilize body weight training to fit your training program, schedule, goals, etc.
While you can incorporate them into an existing resistance training program as we do a TOP Fitness and as I do with my online clients, I wanted to give you a program and exercises you can complete with your bodyweight alone.
The routines are ordered by intensity, starting with the least intense first.
Standard Full Body Session
1a. Plank Holds 3×20-30s
1b. Squats 3×10-12
1c. Push Ups 3xAMGRAP (can elevate your hands depending on level of difficulty)
1d. Side Plank Holds 3×15-20s/side
1e. Reverse Lunge 3×8/side
1f. Chin Up Holds 3xAs long as possible
2) EDT Session or Beat Your Time Session
There are two ways you can complete this one. One being set the clock for 10-20 minutes and complete as many rounds as possible of the following. The second is to assign a certain number of sets (say 3-5) and go through the following exercises for that many sets trying to complete them as fast as you can keeping good form. Record your time and try to beat it next time.
1a. T Plank Switches x8/side
1b. Squats x15
1c. Push Ups x8-10 (can elevate your hands or feet depending on level of difficulty)
1d. Mountain Climbers x20/side
1e. Walking Lunge x8/side
1f. Chin Ups or Eccentric Only Chin Ups x3-6
3) Power Session
1a. Plank Row 3×8/side
1b. 40 yard Sprint 3x 1 Sprint
2a. Side Plank March 3×8/side
2b. Squat Jumps 3×6
2c. Explosive Push Up 3×6 (as quick as possible, hands can leave the ground)
3a. Mountain Climber 3×20/side
3b. Split Squat Jump 3×6/side
3c. Chin Ups (pull up as quickly as possible) 3×3-6
3d. Continuous Lateral Bounds 3×6/side
All of these sessions will target strength, conditioning and will help you build muscle and burn fat.
And when performed quickly, you can complete them in 10-30 minutes no problem.
Of course these are just three types of sessions you can perform with your body weight, and according to your current level of conditioning and overall fitness you can taylor the session.
Lastly, if you do have some equipment such as bands and/or a TRX suspension system you can include many more exercises that will target some more of the pulling patterns that are essential for health, performance and looking damn good.
Just the other day I completed a full body, high intensity session of 20 bodyweight squats, 20 feet elevated TRX rows and 20 feet elevated push ups for 5 rounds. It took me 9 minutes and 35 seconds and I was smoked and feeling good.
The Wrap Up
Having a program that is the most specific for your needs and goals is the optimal approach, but the templates above are a good start. If you want more help developing a program that takes into account your schedule, equipment, current level of fitness and goals just go HERE.
Besides nutrition, supplementation and how to become the strongest, leanest most badass version of yourself, the most common topic I am asked about is at home training.
Many of the athletes we work with at TAW are, just like anyone else, extremely busy. This makes it difficult for them to come in and train more than 2-3 times per week.
And for my online athletes, they are in the same boat…making it to the gym more than 2-3 times per week can get tricky when you have a job, a significant other, a newborn baby and your favorite TV waiting for you on Netflix.
***I can’t wait for April for Season 8 by the way!!
Fortunately, most athletes ask about what they can do while at home, and I am always happy to help. So I find myself discussing, designing and implementing at home programs quite regularly.
While it would be nice (and easier on my end) to design an at home program where the athlete has access to a full arsenal of training equipment, it is usually not the case.
More often than not an athlete may have a stability ball, a pair of dumbbells and a bench (if lucky).
Although I can make a killer program for them with just these few basic pieces of equipment, I always ask them if they are willing to acquire a few low cost pieces of training equipment that have a huge return on investment.
Most of the time they take out their smart phone, open up their amazon account and are ready to throw down the digital paper…and I am happy as hell because I know I can then design them an even better program.
So with that, I wanted to provide you a list of my favorite at home training equipment.
The following list has been compiled with the thought of getting your biggest “return on investment” and therefore takes into account the price you pay and the value you get.
Foam Roller / Tiger Tail
Since many of the athletes who are inquiring about an at home program train 2-3 times per week at TOP, another training facility or classic big box gym, the days that they are looking to add at home should exploit recovery.
This doesn’t mean that they can not train at a high intensity at home, but they should focus on getting their body ready to train hard during their main training days.
For this reason I always suggest a foam roller, tiger tail or other piece of equipment that will help address soft tissue quality.
I really like the tiger tail as you can throw it in a gear bag and take it anywhere, or use it while you are chilling out at night with the wife (or other significant other.), kids and the families favorite fur ball.
2) Various Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are an amazing tool, not only for overloading movements and adding resistance in a “classic fashion” (think adding a resistance band to a squat), but they can also be used to add resistance to target different, and often more specific, directions of force.
Mini bands can be used to help engage hip musculature by placing them around the knees/ankles during exercises such as glute bridges, side lying clams, lateral band walks, squats, etc.
Power bands are great to overload exercises utilizing accommodating resistance (the resistance gets harder in the phase of the movement where you are stronger) such as squats, split squats, push ups, rows, etc.
Power bands can also be used to challenge accelerative and declarative forces to a greater degree and more specific direction of force during exercises such as forward lunges, reverse lunges, lateral lunges, etc.
Lastly, power bands can be used to assist in movements that have not yet been solidified and strengthened to a sufficient degree. These can be every exercise mentioned above by using the band to help, or assist the movement rather than resist it.
3) Pull Up Bar
The pull up bar is a classic, and today you can pick them up for cheap and throw it up in a door jam at home and have a great piece of equipment.
Not only would you be able to work on the obvious (your pull up…or other vertical pulling variation), but you would also have a nice anchor point to attach bands for various exercises.
And if you have the power bands you can also use them with the pull up bar with the bands to for a little assistance if you cannot hit a pull up/chin up.
I would argue that the pull up is the single most challenging upper body exercise there is, and is the upper body exercise that provides the most bang for your training buck.
Working towards achieving your first solid pull up, or increasing your strength with your pull up is one of the best ways to further progress your results, transform your body and enhance your performance.
4) Adjustable Dumbbell
You can attack this one with a couple different options.
First, you can go the classic adjustable dumbbells where you can add or subtract weight by putting more metal plates on the dumbbell handles.
Or, if you are more of a space (and time) saving individual you can look into something such as the power blocks.
Either option is a good one…it all depends on your preference and whether or not you want to be able to throw traditional steel.
5) TRX Suspension System
I guess it doesn’t have to be a TRX, but any suspension system would work…I just prefer TRX for it is the most user friendly system I have come across.
The great thing about the TRX is that you can use it pretty much anywhere, as long as you have a door or other point to anchor it from.
And the number of exercises you can complete on the TRX are pretty much endless. Not only does it provide you with the ability to complete numerous exercises, but it also provides a stability challenge that is not easily reproducible with other pieces of equipment.
So for the price (around $200 brand new), the TRX is another piece of equipment that can transform an at home program (and a program performed at a facility or on the road).
6) Half Rack w/ Bench
Ok, time to pull out some of the big guns.
The only problem with the big guns is that they will cost you a little more money than the previous pieces of equipment…but they are worth it!
I know it was forever ago, but my parents decided to make a semi large investment when I was a freshman in high school.
We went to our local bulk discount store (Sams Club) and my dad told me we were going to pick up part of my Christmas gift.
We walked over to the training equipment and he told me that it was time to get some real weights…I had been using a Bowflex, which was awesome at the time, but my dad was always partial to free weights so out went the Bowflex and in came the half rack.
At the time we picked up the half rack, 350 pounds of olympic weight, a bench with leg extension and curl attachment and an olympic barbell for just under $400…It was a steal!
This isn’t the same rack from my childhood, but this is what we use at TAW…the wall mount rack from RogueFitness.com
If you can get your hands on a set up like this, it is an absolute game changer when it comes to at home training. Essentially, you will have everything you need to continue to progress for a long, long time.
7) Assault Bike
Easily one of the most effective ways to condition, the Assault Bike is absolutely the best piece of “cario equipment” you can pick up for home use.
It is relatively compact and is a full body attack as you use both the pedals and handles.
And compared to other bikes, treadmill, ellipitcals, etc. it is relatively cheap, durable and if it does break there are not too many parts to work through.
It is an absolute beast when it comes to conditioning and super easy to use.
There is no resistance to set, no speed to set and is all dependent on how hard you want to work. The faster you go, the more resistance as the wind resistance created by the fan is the central component to the bike.
Not only is the fan a great way to provide resistance, but the breeze it creates is HHYYUUUUGEEE when your heart is about to explode and you are spewing sweat from every gland in your body.
So forget about the gigantic, ridiculously expensive treadmills, ellipticals and bikes and opt for the basic, ass kicking Assault Bike…we also get this at RogueFitness.com
Pick and Choose…You Can’t Go Wrong
So there is my list of the best equipment for your at home gym.
Depending on your fitness level and finances available, start at the top of the list and work your way down.
Even if you start with just the foam roller, you can do a lot of great training with your cheapest and most readily available resource…your body. All you need is some creativity and a progressive program (if you want some help with this just shoot me an email … firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you have any other equipment that you like (or hate) leave them in the comments to help everyone out…and send this along to those who can use it!
It is too bad that probably the most commonly asked question goes something like this…
“Which supplements should I use to get stronger, shredded and make me more invincible than Hulk jacked up on PCP”
The real Hulk…
And this is not a bad question because you are interested in trying to progress your body to the next phase of performance and fitness.
Rather, it is too bad as the majority of the time those asking about supplements generally have bigger concerns to address before worrying about which supplements will help them shed fat faster and cause explosive muscle growth.
Before we venture into the supplement rabbit hole, which is deeper than deep by the way, supplements should be just that…SUPPLEMENTS!
As defined by Merriam-Webseter.com a supplement is, “something that completes or makes an addition”.
Supplements are not (and should not) be considered the main focus of whatever it is that we are talking about, in this case our nutritional regimen.
If you are scarfing down two bowls of Cap’n Crunch (my childhood favorite) and a Pop Tart for breakfast, a chicken finger platter for lunch, a pizza for dinner, and refusing to even consider a vegetable or fruit, the best supplement in the world is not going to help.
And on top of that, most of the supplements you find at stores or online make crazy claims about results whether that be the amount of fat it burns, the pounds of muscle it will cause you to grow or the endless energy it will provide you throughout the day…all without scientific proof or FDA approval.
But hey, they make an absolute killing on tricking people into spending hundreds of dollars per month so I guess they get the last laugh.
I personally hate being tricked (and get pissed) so I’m not into that.
So with that out of the way (sorry for the mini rant), this article IS about supplements as this is a question I find myself answering often.
What follows are the supplements I take, and I will explain why.
I am not saying you should take them, especially since I don’t know your current situation. So it would be a good idea to ask your doc before venturing into them (I have to say that).
What I am saying is that I take these and have found them to be beneficial for ME.
So what are the supplements you will find in my cabinet (or fridge)?
The reason I take a multi-vitamin is simply to make sure that I am hitting all of my bases when it comes to vitamins and minerals.
I consume a significant amount of vitamins and minerals from all of the whole foods I eat on a daily basis such as veggies, fruits, meats and quality grains.
But even with a pretty solid diet, many of us are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, especially if you regularly exert at a high intensity (i.e. training, practice, games, competition).
Like anything else you want to look for a quality vitamin, not one that is thrown together by some big name company looking to just make a buck.
Personally I take Men’s One Food Based Multivitamin by Rainbow Light
As the name implies it is a food based multi that contains quality ingredients.
And don’t worry ladies, there is one for you too!
2. Vitamin D
After completing a 60+ page paper and an accompanying presentation on vitamin D for my senior thesis, I was sold on the benefits of making sure that my vitamin D levels were adequate.
Studies have found that vitamin D (also known as the sunshine vitamin) can do some pretty damn good things for you ranging from protecting you against certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, to enhancing muscle function and helping you build and maintain stronger bones.
But if you are deficient, well, those things can be negatively effected.
While spending as little as 20 minutes in the sun wearing shorts and a cut off can result in a sufficient amount of vitamin D, in certain climates this is not always doable (especially the Northeast during the fall, winter, and early spring months). And for those of us that like to wear layers of clothes year round, you are not getting the exposure necessary.
Plus if your skin color is of a darker tone, it is harder to absorb the rays necessary to stimulate vitamin D production.
Lastly, studies have shown that it would take a massive amount of vitamin D supplementation to actually result in detrimental side effects.
For this reason, I take Carlson Vitamin D3
It helps to ensure that my vitamin D levels are sufficient all year round. A great thing for optimal health and performance!
3. Fish Oil
The benefits of fish oil and the omega 3 fatty acids found within them have been reported for years.
The part that is tough is that you have to eat fish regularly to attain the amount of omega 3 fatty acids necessary to help improve health parameters.
So unless you live near the ocean and your diet consists of a regular intake of fish, then you will likely need another way to obtain that level of omega 3 fatty acids.
This pic is beautiful, but I can guarantee there are no fish around there!
This is where fish oil supplementation comes in.
I use Carlson Very Finest Fish Oil in liquid form. It comes in lemon and orange flavor and you don’t experience any of the fishy burps.
4. Protein Powder
Easily the most talked about supplement, protein powder, is a staple in most competitive and general population athletes nutritional regimen, myself included.
On average I have about one scoop of protein powder per day. But this scoop is not meant to replace the quality proteins I am consuming from whole food sources such as chicken, beef, dairy and fish.
Instead, I use it as an addition to foods to boost the protein content. These foods include shakes, greek yogurt, oatmeal and a delicious pumpkin snack I have 2-3 times per week at night (just ask for the recipe).
Every once in a while I will have a scoop of protein in almond milk if I can not get a meal in at that time and have to wait a little later.
So in no way in protein powder a huge component of my nutritional intake, and it shouldn’t be. It does not provide the other nutrients, vitamins and minerals that the whole food sources mentioned above do.
Protein powder should be used to enhance foods and provide you with a little more protein that you may not be getting with the whole foods you are eating.
The only time I would recommend that you use protein powder as a main component to your nutritional intake is when you are trying to lose fat. You can use it to replace a meal.
For example, you can have a scoop of protein in almond milk, some veggies and a Tbsp of peanut butter as a meal instead of a piece of chicken, serving of rice and a salad if you are trying to cut back a little on calories.
Lastly, protein powder in itself will not make you jacked (dudes) and it will not make you look like a man (ladies).
Protein is just one macronutrient along with fats and carbohydrates, that is necessary for growth, health and performance. It is not a magic substance that will result in you blowing up like the hulk when he pissed off (second Hulk reference, I know).
But protein is extremely important for optimal health and performance, as well as achieving the lean and athletic body that many of us are working towards.
It is a combination of whey protein (faster digesting) and casein protein (slower digesting), both of which are dairy derived. So if you have a sensitivity to dairy then you will want to look for another alternative protein such as a plant based protein powder.
The second most talked about about supplement in the strength and conditioning and performance training world is Creatine (in my experience anyway).
Creatine is a major player in your explosive energy system, and when you are more saturated with creatine your energy system is able to replenish quicker which allows you to continue to put out a high effort for a longer period of time.
Putting out a higher effort for a longer period of time allows you to accrue more quality work and therefore allows you to achieve greater results when it comes to high intensity physical work.
This is an advantage when it comes to sports that have a high intensity component to them such as sprinting, throwing, jumping, etc.
And the same goes for resistance training at a high intensity (heavy weight or explosive movements).
So it is easy to see why it is a supplement that is pretty popular. And the good thing is that there is a large amount of research to back up these claims.
Not only has it been shown to help improve performance, but there have been links to other health benefits as well as enhancements in cognitive performance.
This is why I take creatine, and the creatine I take is Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine.
If you search for creatine you will find a million gazillion different types, all claiming to be the purest, highest absorbing creatine.
Don’t fall for the claims and the higher dollar sign. Go with the basic creatine monohydrate and you will have the best results and save a TON of money in the process.
To Supplement or Not to Supplement
So there you have it, the only supplements I use and why I use them.
I am not saying you have to use them.
They may not be for you, and if you are looking to add them to your regimen I would encourage you to talk to your doc and get their input as well.
What are your thoughts? Do you take any supplements?
Go ahead and leave some comments and pass this along to help out your buddies, family and loved ones (or those you might like only a little).
To your health and performance,