This is the follow up article to the last, which described the easiest way to get more from your warm up. If you didn’t yet read it, check it out here… The Easiest Way to Get More From Your Warm Up
A brief recap though: The goal of the warm up encompasses a few components, but one that is often overlooked is actually physically warming up the core temperature and tissue temperature of the body.
The easiest ways to do so are to drink a hot beverage (one that contains caffeine is best), wear a sweatshirt and pants to start, and hit some low level aerobic exercise for a few minutes.
And if you really want to take it up a notch, try saving a gazelle from the dangers of the safari.
Once your core and tissue temperatures are elevated, you are ready to move into the meat and potatoes of the warm up.
And while I do believe that a warm up should have a heavy emphasis placed upon it, I also feel that many of us spend way too much time on the warm up.
By the time all is said and done it may take 20-30 minutes for us to finish the warm up. For that reason, below are the steps to an effective and efficient warm up that will leave you ready to dominate your training session.
SPECIFIC soft tissue and static stretching work.
While I always show every athlete how to foam roll the whole body, and use the lacrosse ball on several different spots such as the bottom of the feet, glutes, pecs and shoulder girdle, the best approach is to attack the areas that are the most problematic before training.
If you foam roll the entire body as well as utilize the lacrosse ball, etc. you are likely to spend upwards of 10-15 solid minutes working on soft tissue.
Instead, dedicate 3-5 minutes and attack the 1-3 most problematic spots.
For example, if you have stiff hip flexors, foam roll both hip flexers and then use the lacrosse ball or tiger tail to go over them one more time afterwards.
Do the same for any other body part that is the highest priority.
Then move on to one static stretch for each problem area, such as a half kneeling hip flexor stretch for the hip flexors.
If your entire body feels like you have to spend a significant amount of time on it, you have a bigger issue than worrying about warming up.
2. SPECIFIC mobility and activation
Just like the soft tissue work, if we are not careful we can end up spending 10-15 minutes trying to mobilize joints and turn on certain muscles.
While this is important, not every joint needs to be mobilized, and not every muscle needs to be activated.
Again, attack the joints and muscles that are of highest priority to you. Typically the stiff muscle is accompanied by an inactive muscle on the opposite side of the joint.
Staying with the hip flexor example, completing a half kneeling hip flexor mobility followed up by a single leg glute bridge is a good approach.
It is typical to find glutes that are not as active as they should be when the hip flexors are stiff. And if you know anything about me, I am obsessed with getting the glutes to work.
Not only because they perk up and look nice when they are they main player in lower body exercises, but because they are extremely important for optimal lower body function and injury prevention.
So getting back on track, by mobilizing the hip joint and more specifically the hip flexor, you have a greater chance of activating the glute by immediately following it up with a glute activation exercise (glute bridge).
Again, this is just one example but this principle can be applied throughout the entire body and should take 3-5 minutes. For more help with this just reach out to me on Facebook.
3. SPECIFIC and COMPOUND movement preparation exercises.
Staying with the specific theme, you don’t have to go through every big movement each and every session.
If the focus of your training day is the squat and chin up, make sure that your squat pattern and vertical pull pattern is addressed.
This could be some squat mobility work into a body weight squat. You can then follow this up with some forward facing wall slides and pike push ups to get the shoulder girdle moving for you.
And even better, make it more efficient by combining some qualities. Try the spiderman with rotation and hamstring to get the hips mobilized and upper extremities going for you.
There are endless options with this combination method. You just need to know what you are trying to attack and go from there.
This should take another 3-5 minutes
4. Dynamic Movement.
Lastly, you want a dynamic movement component that gets the body moving with a little more speed and intent.
This could be a series of high knees, lateral shuffles, butt kicks, carioca, skips, crawls, etc.
The goal is to get the body moving with a bit more speed, and to further increase temperature as well as range of motion of the joints.
Putting It All Together
Taking just touched upon you can create a simple template to use for an effective and efficient warm up.
- Soft Tissue (foam rolling, lax ball, tiger tail, etc.) and Static Stretching (3-5 minutes)
3-5 areas that are of highest priority for soft tissue
1-2 areas that are of highest priority for stretching
2 .Mobility and Activation (2-4 minutes)
1-3 exercises that are of highest priority for each mobility and activation
3. Movement Preparation (3-6 minutes)
3-5 specific exercises that prepare the patterns of the main training program. Best to try
and combine some movements for a more efficient flow.
4. Dynamic Movement (2-4 minutes)
5-10 higher speed movements such as high knees, shuffles, skips, etc. done in a quick
As you can see, at the very most this type of warm up should last no longer than 19 minutes, and hopefully more towards the lower end of 10 minutes.
Of course if have been training or playing sports longer and your body has more mileage on it, you will likely have to spend a little more time warming up.
But if your warm up and program are solid and both are allowing you to progress appropriately, you should notice that the warm up doesn’t need to be as long as your body is better able to recover and not being so broken down.
Attack your warm up with specificity and not only will you have a more productive training session, but you will spend less of your precious time trying to prepare for the main work of your program.
What does your warm up look like? Do you even warm up? Do you take 30+ minutes to get going? Let us know, and pass this info along!
To your health and performance,
The warm up…
Many think it is unimportant and skip it all together, others tout it as the most important part of your training program and end up spending 30 minutes on it.
While I am in the camp that a training session is either set up for success or failure based on your warm up (this doesn’t mean a 30 minute warm up though), we often overlook and fail to achieve one of the most basic purposes of the warm up.
What is it?
One of the main goals of the warm up is to increase your core temperature as well as the temperature of your tissues.
I mean it is called “The Warm Up” for a reason, so we should get warm!
While quite a few athletes explain to me that they are always hot (I’m looking at you ladies 🙂 ), just because you feel like you are never cool enough does not mean that your core temperature and the temperature of your tissues is as the optimal point for training and performance.
When your core and tissue temperatures are elevated it makes it easier for your muscles and joints to move more freely.
When they are not, getting in to positions such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc. are much more difficult. And if you are trying to prepare your body for sprints, jumps, cuts, etc. cold, stiff muscles and joints are not going to work out too well.
So with this in mind, what are the three easiest ways to ensure you are elevating your core and tissue temperature to a sufficient level?
Eat or drink something hot (and with caffeine if you can tolerate it).
When you consume warm food or liquids, the temperature of the food/drink helps to increase core temperature. Seems pretty simple, and well, it is!
But I know that many of you cannot eat directly before training because you feel that you will definitely become reacquainted with it a few minutes into training (I on the other hand can eat a whole cow and be fine…weird I know).
Even if you cannot eat before training, most of us are pretty good with liquids.
So try some hot coffee, tea or other drink you enjoy hot.
Just try to refrain from the sugar laden cookie flavored hot chocolate or whatever ridiculous beverage is available nowadays.
And if you can tolerate caffeine, opt for the caffeinated version of coffee or tea as the caffeine will transiently increase metabolic rate. This will also help increase core temperature.
2. Put on layers.
Maybe another “Duh” statement (I make them a lot), but the more clothes you have on the warmer you will be.
Try starting by putting on a sweatshirt and athletic pants that you can strip off as you warm up.
You don’t have wear a snow suit, hats and gloves…even a long sleeve shirt and pants will suffice.
And you don’t have to wait until you are pouring sweat, just long enough to get a little “clammy” so to speak.
This may be the easiest way to help you increase your core and tissue temperature, but it is one that is often overlooked, especially during the warmer times of year.
Just remember that most facilities have some sort of air conditioning. So you don’t have to wear your gear to the gym, just throw it in your bag for when you get there…it is likely pretty cool inside.
3. Go “old school” warm up first.
While science has shown time and again that a dynamic warm that utilizes more specific patterns such as high knees, butt kicks, lateral shuffles, etc. is superior to simply jumping on a bike, treadmill, elliptical, etc,, getting on the bike (or other equipment) for a few minutes prior to the start of your specific warm up can help.
Getting your temperature up before getting on the foam roller, stretching out and doing some mobility drills helps to enhance the outcome of those drills.
To reiterate, going from the machine of choice directly into your high intensity working sets is not suggested, but getting a few minutes in before a more specific warm up is warranted.
Combine all three of the tips above by sipping on some coffee on your way to training, throwing on a sweat shirt and pants and jumping on the bike before you get to your specific warm up and you will be well on your way to a more productive training session.
Stay tuned for the next article where I will go over what constitutes a quality warm, and how to consolidate the warm up so you don’t spend the first 30 minutes of your session warming up.
Help spread these simple steps to a better warm up by sharing it with your friends, family and everyone else you care about!
To your health and performance,
Your goals are what is actually holding you back!
Or at least the way you think about your goals.
There was a study done a while back (1979) where Harvard students were asked if they had clear written goals for the future and a plan to achieve them.
84% didn’t have specific goals at all
13% had goals but they were not written down on paper
That leaves 3% who had clear, written goals and a plan to achieve them.
10 years later the researchers again interviewed the students and discovered some astonishing findings.
The 13% who had goals but had not written them down made, on average, twice as much income as the 84% who had no specific goals.
And even more incredible, the 3% who had clear, written goals and a plan to accomplish them, well they were earning 10x…that’s right 10 freakin’ times more than the other 97% combined.
Well not really.
This study shows is that when we write our goals down, and are specific about them, we have a greater chance to reach those goals and be successful.
The reason is, when you set a vague or broad goal such as “I want to lose weight,” “I want to gain muscle,” “I want to sprint faster,” or even something such as “I want to make more money,” we do not have a strong connection to that goal.
When we get specific about our goals, we have a much stronger connection and are more likely to keep those goals in the forefront of the mind throughout our day.
Not only that, but having broad goals is like trying to hit a moving target at 100 yards with a spit ball.
You know that the goal is to hit that target, but you are far from the target and your weapon (tools and plan of attack) is less than optimal.
And worse, even if you got Uncle Willis to supe up your spit ball gun, right when you are about to fire, the target moves!
Good luck with that!
The point is, the more specific your goals are, the more Chris Kyle like you become when trying to hitting your target…warning: some swearing, some blood, but one of the best movies ever.
And it is not just that the goal is specific, but that with a specific goal you can then reverse engineer a specific, actionable plan on how to get there.
Once you lay out the plan, the path to your goals gets that much easier.
Let’s take a look at a common example.
“I want to lose some fat” vs “I want drop my body fat percentage from 20% to 15% by December 1st”
Fat loss is an extremely common goal, and also a commonly vague goal.
You can see that the latter goal is much more specific, and gives a defined deadline to reach the goal.
In this case you can reverse engineer a plan to reach your goal, and be able to “chunk” down the process. When fat loss in general is the goal, it is much harder to do this.
So in this case, you could say you have 12 weeks to reach your goal. That would equate to a little over a .5% (.42%) drop in body composition per week.
Some weeks will be less, some weeks will be more but on average it should be a little under .5%.
In order to create an environment for fat loss, you have to create a caloric deficit (consume less calories than you expend).
In general I like to go between higher calorie days and lower calorie days so it doesn’t feel like you are always hungry and being deprived.
I suggest 4 low calorie days and 3 high calorie days for fat loss.
For the low calorie days you would multiply your bodyweight by 10-11 and that would be your caloric intake for that day.
For the high days you would multiply your bodyweight by 12-13.
For example, lets say you weigh 180 pounds.
Your low calorie days would be between 1800 and 1980 calories.
Your high days would be between 2,160 and 2,340 calories.
If you don’t notice the changes you are looking for you can manipulate up or down accordingly.
It would be best to make your high calorie days the days in which you train and your low calorie days the days that you condition and or rest.
And it is easy to track your calories using an app on your phone. You shouldn’t have to do that for ever, but it is always a good start until you start to better understand what a portion looks like.
In order to stay within your calories necessary to reach your goals it would be best to choose high nutrient low calorie foods such as quality meats (chicken, beef, pork, turkey, etc.), veggies (spinach, broccoli, asparagus, peppers, onions, carrots, etc.), fruit (apples, bananas, kiwi, peaches, etc.), quality carbs (rice, potatoes, quinoa, sprouted grain breads, etc.) and if you are not allergic, high quality dairy (cheese, greek yogurt, whey protein, etc.).
These foods will help you feel full for longer and stay away from the overly deprived feeling that many experience when trying to diet and lose weight.
Also, sticking with low calorie drinks such as water, tea and coffee as your primary sources is key.
So you if you have a specific goal of 10 pounds and 2 inches in 8 weeks, you can then relate that goal to every choice you make when it comes to your nutrition.
Having these specific numbers to remember will make it easier to say no to that double fudge brownie that grandma made you.
And when it comes to your training and physical activity there are certain methods you need to consider making your focus.
If your goal is to lose fat, trying to become the next world’s strongest man likely will not be the best and quickest way to do so.
Don’t get me wrong, you still need to strength train in order to make the best progress, but if your goal going into the gym is to be the strongest S.O.B. around, it is going to take longer to reach your fat loss goal.
Your overall volume will need to be lower than what is optimal to create a high caloric expenditure, and your rest periods would need to be longer…too long for an optimal metabolic response.
Strong as hell, but not so lean…just don’t tell him that!
Instead, I would encourage a couple sets of strength sets followed up by a metabolic focus.
This may look something like this:
1a. Plank Holds 3x30s
1b. Trap Bar Deadlift 3-4×5
1c. Flat DB/Barbell Bench Press 3-4×5
2a. Side Plank x20s/side
2b. Goblet Squat x8
2c. TRX Row x10
2d. Push Up x10
(go through 2a-2d as many times as possible in 15 minutes)
3a. Sled Push x30s on 30s off for 5 minutes
So again, just as with nutrition, if you have a specific goal with a specific deadline, you are more likely to choose the training method that is more conducive to get there.
You are less likely to go to the gym and do what you feel like doing that day.
And when it comes to being physically active, knowing that you have 8 weeks to reach your goal will help you get up, go for a walk, play with the kids, etc. rather than sit down on the couch when you have free time.
Those specific numbers, with a specific deadline, will help keep you accountable throughout the day.
No matter what your goals are, whether that be in health, fitness, finances, relationships, etc., take a few minutes to write them down.
And not just any vague goal.
Put a deadline on it…just make sure it is realistic (please don’t think you will lose 20 pounds in the first week of any program, unless you are doing it the wrong way).
Every decision throughout the day you can always think back to your specific goal. If the action you are about to take doesn’t help you move closer to that goal, then think again.
If it does, then hell yah, you are working towards that goal.
When you have definite goals, the target does not move and makes it much more likely for you to succeed and hit that target.
And if your goals include losing fat, the above plan and tips are a good place to start.
If you enjoyed what you just read and found it helpful, please pass it on!
To your health and performance,
When you are physically active, train and/or play sports, you unfortunately have a greater chance to experience pain.
And no, pain is not “just a part of it,” or at least it should not be!
One of the goals of training is to reduce the risk of pain and potential injury, not exacerbate it.
But if you are training in suboptimal positions, and/or placing too much stress on a specific joint or tissue, you are setting yourself up to experience an overuse injury.
One of the most common areas to experience an overuse injury is at the hips. More specifically, the anterior hip (front of the hip), which becomes compromised and is often the site of pain.
Many times it feels like the front of the hip is just “wicked tight” and that it simply needs to be stretched out. But no matter how much stretching you do, the front of the hip never seems to be able to “loosen up.”
And further, it is common to experience a pain or pinch in the front of the hip (and many times into the groin region) when performing squats, lunges, step ups or any other movement that requires good a deal of hip flexion (when the hip is folding and the upper leg is moving toward the chest).
So really, what the hell is going on?
It would be nice to sit here and tell you exactly what the cause is, but as with almost every situation, it really depends.
But there are a couple big players that may be causing you to experience a decrease in performance, hip discomfort, or worse, set you up for an unwanted injury…so ya, even if you are not in pain yet this is a must read!
Hip Pain Reason 1) Sorry, you were born that way!
When we look at the hip joint, you can see that it is a ball (head of the femur) and socket (acetabulum). And when we observe the hip move into flexion, you can see how the neck/head of the femur moves up in the socket.
Well for some of us, the socket is rotated more to the front (anteversion) or the back (retroversion). In either case, when we descend into hip flexion with our feet pointed straight ahead as most of us are coached, we run out of room in the socket and the neck/head of the femur bumps into the top of the socket.
This bone to bone contact impinges (or pinches) the structures between them causing them to degrade. Over time the structures can fray or tear and result in injury and chronic pain.
But in the short term, we are likely to feel a pinch or “tightness” in the front of the hip.
So does that mean that if we are born with hips that are not completely “normal” or not “aligned normally” that we can not train or play sports?
No, of course not!
But it does mean that we must be aware of our position when doing exercises or movements that require deep ranges of motion into hip flexion.
The best way to know whether or not you need to implement a modified position or depth is too have a professional assess your hips. This is something we do at TOP Fitness and I do with my online clients when we hear of pain or discomfort at the front of the hip.
But what happens when you don’t have access to a pro?
Well this is a “Duh” statement, but the biggest thing you can do is to move according to how it feels at the hip…if it hurts don’t do it that way!
If you squat with your toes straight ahead and it pinches in the front of the hip, try squatting with your toes pointed out slightly (retroversion), or you may have orient your foot more towards the midline of your body (anteversion) for example. One way will feel worse than the other.
Whichever direction feels better and you can achieve a greater depth without the pain, then that is your new stance. Obviously if it feels worse, don’t squat that way (or lunge, or step up, etc.).
And for some of us, we may have to squat to a slightly shallower depth…we just might not be built to squat to a low position.
Just because you can’t hit an ass to grass squat, doesn’t mean you are weak and worthless.
Better to reduce the range of motion a little than crutch yourself around after going under the knife (and surgery is no fun, I promise).
Hip Pain Reason 2) You are starting in a bad position!
Thinking about the hip, you can imagine that if the hip socket was tipped forward (anteriorly tilted) that the neck/head of the femur would not have much room to move before it came into contact with the socket.
Yet this tipped forward position is exactly where many of us live, play and train from.
Our “normal” position is one that is tipped forward, shutting down the hip socket before we even begin to move.
So when we do squat, lunge, step up, sprint, etc. it is much easier for us to run the neck/head of the femur into the brim of the socket, and impinge the structures between them.
So the goal is to achieve a neutral position at the hip before we do anything else.
For those of us that walk around with the anterior tilt, this means that we must rotate our hip backwards slightly (posterior tilt).
This is achieved by the contraction of the deep abdominal muscles (obliques for example), and is a huge reason why you will always hear us coaching up the core before anything else.
You can think about it as if you were to pull your zipper up towards the ceiling.
If we do not set our hip in a good position, and keep it there via our core, we will end up more easily impinging at the front of the hip.
The key here is setting the hip in a neutral alignment. We have to be careful not to over correct and end up looking like your 80 year old Grandpa Steve (no offense to any true Grandpa Steve out there).
An easy way to help you understand where you should be is to turn sideways to a mirror and rotate your hip forward and backward until your hips (waistband) are level and your low back has a slight curve to it. This position is what you need to try and achieve throughout the day, as well as with training before and during every movement.
Hip Pain Reason 3) Your ass isn’t working.
Lastly, a very common reason for the anterior portion of your hip to be bothering you is the fact that your ass isn’t doing the work that it should…you have a lazy ass!
OK, so maybe not a lazy ass, but an ass that doesn’t turn on at the right time and with enough force to do its job.
During hip extension (straightening of the hip…think standing up from the bottom of the squat) you have muscles that are working to produce the hip extension. These muscles include the glutes (your ass), hamstrings and adductor magnus as the prime movers.
While all three need to work to produce optimal function and force, many times we rely on one or two over the other. And commonly, we use our hamstrings and adductor more than our glutes.
The issue is that the glutes are not only a huge force producer which will allow you to squat more weight, run faster, jump higher, etc., but they are also a stabilizer for the head of the femur in the hip socket.
The action of the glutes actually provides a “suctioning” force on the head of the femur which keeps it centered in the socket…a good position and very good thing when it comes to moving!
When we are not firing our glutes at the right time and with enough force, our hamstrings are likely to take over.
And while the hamstrings can do a pretty good job of producing force, they also create a pull on the femur that results in the head of the femur gliding forward out of the hip socket (anterior glide).
You can imagine this is not a good thing as the front of the hip has structures such as the anterior hip capsule that should not be pressed on, or worse, through.
This produces the tight/pressure feeling in the front of the hip that many of us think is do to a tight hip flexor, when in fact, it is actually our femur pressing forward out of the joint.
Overtime this can result in degradation of the anterior hip capsule and chronic pain.
Your goal needs to be to focus on using your glutes, or in everyday terms, your ass, to help you get up from the bottom of the squat, deadlift, lunge, step up, etc.
If you can create and strengthen the pattern by which you utilize your glutes like you should during training, this is more likely to cary over to sprints, jumping, etc. and will help you not only stay away from hip pain and other injuries, but will also help you perform at a higher level.
Some simple exercises to help with this are glute bridge variations, and this is why you will find many of these variations within TOP Fitness programs as well as my online clients’ programs.
The glutes are not only nice to look at, but they are a huge factor in preventing unwanted hip pain and injury…so get your ass to work!
Hip Pain…No Thanks
There is no question that training is essential for health, fitness goals and performance.
But in the same token, when training is performed without consideration for structural limitations (if there are any), performed from a bad starting position or performed using faulty movement patterns (wrong muscles as the wrong time), training can easily lead to more issues than positive outcomes.
The above concepts should be understood, and the tips should be implemented in order to continue to progress your fitness and performance without running into hip pain and injury.
Pain sucks, believe me! Train hard, but first and foremost, train smart!
Pass this info along and reach out for any questions.
To you health and performance,
Should I have eggs or oatmeal for breakfast?
A protein shake sounds good too.
Even Greek Yogurt and berries would be really good this morning.
But wait, how about pancakes or waffles?
Or maybe one of those frozen baked goods I have in the freezer.
And after breakfast maybe I’ll do some sprints.
Or maybe I’ll lift some weights.
Do some yoga?
That Crossfit thing down the road seems like something I’d be in to…maybe.
Or maybe I’ll just stay right here and finish the 101st season of The Walking Dead.
When it comes to your health, fitness and performance goals, it is not a lack of information or lack of options that is holding you back.
If fact, it is usually the exact opposite that causes the problem.
When we have too many options (and no plan), we run into what has been termed decision fatigue.
What happens is when there are too many choices, there is a longer sessions of decision making and we may experience decision fatigue.
When this happens have a greater likelihood of choosing something that is less than optimal for our goals.
Decision fatigue plagues those of us that have too many choices and no plan.
Because I hate getting caught in this trap, I have limited my choices when it comes to meals, and to a lesser extent, training.
Sometimes I catch quite a bit of flack for this, and sometimes I can (and should) be a little more flexible with my food and training, but the majority of the time this has served me well.
You may get made fun of for “having the same thing every night” or “training at the same time every day.”
“Dude, that is so boring!”
But believe me, if you limit your choices it makes it much easier to stay on task with your nutrition and training. I’ll take someone calling me boring when I am one of the more athletic guys in the crowd, and knowing I won’t scare off the ladies when beach season rolls around.
With that in mind, I wanted to share how I approach my meals and training to limit decision fatigue.
On 95% of the days during the year you will find me consuming 1 of 3 breakfasts. Each of the three provides me with the nutrients necessary to support an intense training regimen, an active lifestyle and my performance and aesthetic goals.
Oh ya, and each are delicious and something I look forward to every day and never get sick of…maybe I’m just weird.
Option 1: Veggie omelet with baked sweet potatoes, 1 medium banana, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 cup of coffee with a splash of whole milk.
Cut up 1/2 green/red pepper, 1/4 sweet onion, 1/2 cup mushrooms and sauté them in a pan. Scramble 2-3 eggs and add to pan. Let eggs cook until you can flip and cook the other side. Add a pinch of shredded cheese and salsa if you desire.
For the sweet potatoes I cut up a sweet potato, add cinnamon and bake at 400 degrees for 23-25 minutes in the beginning of the week. I then reheat a portion of the potatoes at 350 for 5-10 minutes while I am cooking my omelet.
Plate the omelet and potatoes and have a banana and peanut butter on the side if desired and it fits your caloric intake for the day.
**I cut my veggies the night before and cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge so all I have to do it the morning is throw them in the pan…another way to avoid decision fatigue.
The total time it takes me to make my omelet is roughly 10 minutes once the veggies hit the pan.
Option 2: Protein Shake (mainly whole food)
Using a blender (a personal blender such as the Ninja single serve cups works great), add 1/2 to 1 cup of frozen berries and 1/2 frozen banana to the blender cup.
Add 1-2 handfuls of spinach, 1-2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 scoop of protein and cinnamon to taste.
Add your liquid, about 8oz of almond milk, regular milk, green tea, water, coffee, etc…I prefer unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
Blend until desired consistency…if you want it thicker add a few ice cubes or reduce the amount of liquid next time. If you want it thinner add more liquid.
For many of us this will be enough for the meal. Because my goals are to gain quality weight I need a few more calories. Therefore I have a piece of Ezekiel bread, 1/2 cup of green beans with hot sauce and a handful of mixed nuts on the side.
**I know the green beans with hot sauce sounds weird! One day I didn’t plan very well and all I had left to have with my shake were green beans. I didn’t want plain green beans so I added hot sauce and voila, the sweet and spicy back and forth between the green beans and shake got me. Ever since then this has been my combo.
Option 3: Loaded Oatmeal
For my oatmeal I pretty much take what I put in my shake and throw it in oatmeal. Recently though, my wife has introduced me to carrot cake oatmeal and it is definitely my favorite. A little more involved so it is usually a treat for me on the weekends.
For the oatmeal, cook 1/2 to 1 cup of old fashion oats…the serving depends on your goals. I use 1 cup so you may want to go a little less to start.
Once the oats are cooked, add 1 scoop protein powder and cinnamon to taste. If you are using chocolate protein powder you can also add a little cocoa for enhanced flavor. Stir in evenly.
Next add 1/2-1 cup of berries, half a banana chopped and a small handful of mixed nuts.
Stir in, dump into a bowl and enjoy!
On days where I know I have a heavier resistance training session planned I typically lean more towards the oatmeal as it provides me with a little more carbohydrate for energy.
On my lighter days and off days I will go for the omelet or protein shake.
For training it is more about the time of the session, and the overall plan for that day/week.
If you have the choice to train at 6am, 12pm, 5pm or 7pm, and don’t plan on which time you are going to train, the day could easily go something like this:
5am: Alarm goes off in time for you to get up and get ready for 6am session and work…you push the snooze button and training is put off until lunch.
12pm: Instead of training you decide to go out for lunch with a co-worker…so you will train at 5pm after work.
4pm: Your significant other (or your kids…or both!) want you home for dinner. This is not a bad thing but pushes your training off until 7pm after everyone is fed and settling down for the night.
6:45pm: Not only are you tired, but you have to get ready for work/school for the next day, and therefore, training is pushed off until tomorrow…where your schedule is the same as it was today!
Now I know life is busy, but if you have chosen to train at a certain time every day, it is much less likely that you will fall into this trap.
Also, the mode of training is a key choice as well.
If you could resistance train, hit a bodyweight ciruit, sprint, jog, play some basketball, or simply go for a walk each and everyday, you may find yourself spending an entire week walking the dog.
This isn’t going to be enough if you want to get stronger and more defined…and could lead to some other problems ↓
Or you may find yourself throwing heavy amounts of iron around the weight room every day…a quick way to burn out or get injured.
Having just one (maybe two) choices per day as to the mode of training you are going to perform limits your chances of picking a suboptimal choice.
With that, a couple things you can do to prevent decision fatigue from working its way into your training:
- Choose a time of day to train, every day!
This doesn’t mean you have to train at the same time on every day of the week, but each individual day should be the same, 90% of the time.
Maybe that is 6am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 12pm on Tuesday and Thursday and 9am on the weekends.
Whatever time works best for that day, but make sure to stick to that choice.
2) Choose your training method for each day.
Like the first point, choosing which training method you are going to perform on each day helps you stay on track.
That could be resistance training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then sprints on Tuesday and Saturday. And on Thursday and Sunday you could perform a light circuit, go for a jog or enjoy a long walk.
Of course depending on your level of fatigue you can (and probably should) modify the original choice to prevent any unwanted injuries.
The point is, when you have an overall schedule that you have chosen, you are more likely to see greater progress.
You could say that this is any good program that is drawn up, and I would agree, but I am saying that you still have to choose to follow that program.
If you want some more help with your program, fill out the online coaching application if you are not in the Nashua NH area.
If you are in southern NH, stop by TOP Fitness in the Conway Ice Arena and we can help you out.
Make the Easy Choice
We all have choices to make, and each choice we make has a direct effect on our health, fitness and performance goals.
By limiting the available options, you have a greater chance to select a choice that helps you move closer to your goals…not further away.
Not only this, but when you don’t really have to decide on something each and every day, you reserve more energy (predominantly mental energy) to use for other areas of your life (school, work, relationships, sports, etc.).
Prevent decision fatigue from plaguing your nutrition and training efforts by implementing tips above.
And don’t worry when someone wants to call you “boring” or “predictable”…they are just mad and tired of fighting decision fatigue so they are taking it out on you!
Share this with your friends and family, and anyone else you think could use this info to help enhance their life and performance!
To your health and performance,
One of the most common questions we are asked is what is the difference between in-season training and off-season training for athletes.
While our training philosophy doesn’t change much, what does change are the constraints on our athletes.
They have less time to dedicate to training as they are practicing or playing 5-7 days per week.
In playing 5-7 days per week, they also have less time to recover and energy reserves available.
Lastly, and most importantly, when our athletes are in-season they are usually also in school and overly stressed.
With many of our athletes taking Advanced Placement classes, participating in the student advisory board and being captain of math team, stress levels are at an all time high, exacerbating the lack time and recovery.
Also, many of our athletes will get into (or stay in) the habit of staying up all night long
watching Netflix doing homework , and lack of quality sleep becomes a big issue.
With these factors in play, we can not place as much volume, intensity, frequency and overall demand on our athletes during the in-season as we can during the off-season. If we do, it will likely result in decreased performance, and even worse, can place them at a greater risk for potential injury.
The goal is to keep them as healthy as possible, moving well and to maintain strength and power output throughout the season (although with proper programming we have seen many of our athletes continue to improve strength and power as well!).
While we are talking about competitive athletes in the middle of a season, this is not unlike our everyday athletes who work a full day, worry about paying bills, taking care of the kids (if they have them) and who are training to be healthy, strong and look damn good naked.
The following tips for training in-season athletes apply to the competitive athlete as well as the everyday athlete…let’s do this!
Maintain tissue quality and proper movement.
When high loads of similar patterns are placed on the body the body adapts to those patterns, likely decreasing the efficiency with other movements.
The stiffness in certain tissues (muscles, fascia, etc.) is lost while the stiffness in other tissues is gained, which is most of the time going to cause problems down the road if left unaddressed.
Let’s just take a look at a quick example: the calves.
During the off-season most athletes will not compete at the level they will during the in-season and will not do so as frequently. For most this means less overall volume with jumping, sprinting, cutting, etc.
While we address these components in our off-season training, there is just no way to truly mimic the demands without actually playing the sport.
So once the in-season rolls around, more frequent stress is applied to the calves via increased jumping, cutting, sprinting. Therefore the tissue is likely to become more stiff. A stiff calf can lead to decreased ankle range of motion and/or an achilles that is pissed off…and a pissed off achilles is never a good thing.
In case you don’t get this reference, that is Achilles in the movie Troy…a must see!
If this happens, overuse injuries to the calf or achilles itself, or unwanted movement compensations can occur, leading to overuse injuries further up the chain.
So the number one goal is to maintain tissue quality and range of motion within the calves and ankle complex. We can do this via placing an even greater emphasis on foam rolling or other soft tissue work paired with some ankle mobility work.
Again this is just ONE example and one area that we need to be aware of with our athletes…there are many others.
Certain segments of the body are more at risk for different sports, or even within the same sport in different positions, so an individual approach is warranted.
And putting this into an everyday perspective, if we are spending increased time at the desk because we have a big project to complete at work, or are taking part in a video game weekend tournament, we are will experience tissue changes in our hips, upper back, pecs, neck, etc. that will all have to be addressed.
Once tissue quality and range of motion are taken care of, we then work on maintaining quality movement through an extended warm up that targets all of our major patterns: squat, lunge, hinge, lateral movement, rotational movement, etc.
This is goal number one, which allows our athletes to stay healthy and work more efficiently with the next goals.
2. Prioritize your strength and power
While we all want our athletes to be the biggest, strongest and best conditioned athletes this planet has ever seen, if we train our athletes for all of these qualities during the in-season you will burn them out.
When energy reserves are low and recovery is likely to be compromised, the goal is to reduce the volume of training first and foremost.
While we can also reduce the intensity if necessary (amount of resistance used), keeping the intensity high and dropping the volume is the best approach. This allows the athletes to obtain the training effect we are looking for without completely draining their bodies.
This means placing a heavy (pun intended) emphasis on strength and power.
Strength and power movements such as squats, deadlifts, pull ups, bench press variations and heavier single leg movements such as RFE split squats and front squat grip reverse lunges are the big players for strength.
When it comes to power development, we want to reduce the amount of impact stress as athletes are undergoing high volumes of impact forces in sport. This means replacing jump variations with movements such as KB swings, DB push presses and utilizing bands as a form of resistance with the intent to move quickly and explosively.
Completing 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps with a few of these exercises should make up the bulk of the lifting program.
Although putting a number on total sets will vary, staying at or under 20 total sets for a session is usually enough stimulation for the athletes. A quick example would look something like this.
1a. Plank holds 2x30s
1b. KB Swings 3×6
1c. 1 Arm DB Push Press 3×5/side
2a. Side Plank Holds 2x25s/side
2b. Trap Bar Deadlift 3×5
2c. N. Grip Chin Up 3×5
3a. Face Pull 2×15
3b. Lateral Lunge Plate Press 2×10/side
While quality over quantity is always the goal, for in-season athletes whose time and energy reserves are limited, this becomes even more paramount.
3. Hit only a couple key accessory movements.
After the strength and power work are taken care of, finishing the session with a couple key accessory movements, not 4,5 or 6 movements is best.
These movements will change depending on the athlete’s needs, but if an athlete is moving well and pain free movements such as face pulls, lateral lunges (these are the two listed in the example above), single arm rowing exercises, KB bottoms up pressing exercises, hip bridge exercises, single leg deadlifts, push ups and even some arm work (those bis and tris) are good choices.
The goal is to work through movements that the athlete may not experience much during sport in order to balance the body as much as possible. And doing this in a fashion with few sets allows the athlete to work through the exercise without accruing too much volume and damage.
Again, these exercises are meant to assist with the main lifts of the program so 1-3 sets is all that is needed.
4. Switch the focus of conditioning.
When we have our off-season athletes our goal is to get them as conditioned as possible before the season starts.
We progress them accordingly and work them up to high intensity repeat conditioning sessions to help them get closer to “game shape.”
With that we sprinkle in some lower intensity sessions to help them recover for the next training day, as well as increase their aerobic base.
When it comes to in-season conditioning, we are not sprinting our athletes. We are not completing interval work or asking them to repeat any other high intensity efforts.
The goal with conditioning is to encourage recovery by increasing blood flow throughout the body as well as maintain a solid aerobic base.
This is accomplished by lower intensity outputs for 10-30 minutes.
This can be a light jog, bike ride, row machine work or swimming. This can also be a lower intensity circuit of lunges, push ups, sled pushes, sideboard touches, etc. The key is to make sure that the effort is appropriate and not to turn this session into a “grind” where they are left fighting for oxygen in a puddle of your own sweat.
I always remind the athlete that a session like this should be a 4-6 on a 10 scale. Above 6 and you are going to hard. Below 4 and you are likely not getting the adaptations we are going for.
And for the most part, these conditioning sessions are performed outside of their training sessions at The Athletic Way. We advise them and give them the conditioning program to complete on off days.
5. Education, education, education…oh and education!
This could (and probably should be) the first point as it is the most important of all, but this is a good “wrap up” point.
If our athletes simply come to training sessions during the in-season (which at most is usually 1-3x/week if we are lucky) and don’t do anything the rest of the week to stay healthy, strong and helping them to recover, the season is going to be very, very long for them!
We have to help our athletes understand that they can and should work on tissue quality (foam roll, lax ball, tiger tail, etc.) and mobility exercises outside of training. A couple 3-5 minutes sessions per day will make a HUGE difference.
We also have to help them understand that the weight room and training program overall is not to “grind them out” as it may be sometimes during the off-season.
We have to educate them on the fact that training during the in-season is meant to help them maintain (and improve) performance, but most importantly keep them healthy and free of injury.
And we must emphasize the hell out of recovery!
Placing an even greater emphasis on sleep, nutrition, hydration and strategies to decrease stress is critical!
Although we do this as much as possible throughout the entire year, athletes have to be reminded even more during the in-season about the importance of recovery and all the components that go into it, and the fact that in-season training is first and foremost meant to keep the injury free and maintain performance outputs.
The Final Word
Hopefully any of my online athletes or the athletes we work with at The Athletic Way realize that in-season vs off-season training (for competitive athletes and everyday athletes) is not that different after all.
The principles are still the same, but certain components get more attention during different parts of the year.
The goal of anytime during the year should be to improve health, performance and to prevent injury. But when time, energy reserves and recovery capacity are limited, the program must be adjusted accordingly.
There is absolutely and individual factor that we take into account, but the principles above are key in each program.
If you want more help in building a program that works around your “season” whether that is in-season or off-season simply reach out and fill out the ATHLETE APPLICATION.
And if you are in southern New Hampshire and want to train with the best athletes and coaches this side of the universe (I may be a little biased), stop by The Athletic Way.
To your health and performance,
“You need to eat less fat”
“Cut out the carbs and you will be just fine”
“Don’t eat past 6pm…the food will be stored as fat”
“You don’t need a lot of protein”
“Don’t eat dairy…it is bad for you!”
If you are into your health and fitness, or have not been living under a rock for the past decade, chances are you have heard one of the above statements…if not all of them.
And if you are like most of us, you will take what you hear (and read) and at least wonder if what you are told is true. This is especially the case when the information is the result of a “new study.”
The unfortunate fact is that many of the studies conducted, and the information shared from the studies, is influenced by the underlying wants of those sponsoring the studies.
This means that most of the nutritional studies we hear of are biased towards the results that will most benefit the companies sponsoring them.
If there are some new “low fat” or “no fat” food products that a company can make a killing on selling, it will be to their benefit to sponsor (and influence) a study that finds that fat is bad for health and performance.
Do to this, there are many nutritional myths that are still circulating throughout our society that have very little evidence backing them, or are downright wrong!
Below I will go over 5 myths that have been out there for a while, and still proceed to have many of us question what we need to do to keep our bodies healthy, muscles growing and prevent ourselves from becoming a real life “Klump.”
Fat is bad and makes you fat!
The “fat is bad for you” statement has been around since the 1980s and has gone back and forth many times since then. One year fat is the worst thing you can consume, the next it is a godsend your health and performance.
So you may have heard, fat is the number one thing that will make you fat!
Or on the other side, that you should eat tons of fat, crush bacon and put loads of butter in your coffee.
Well like most nutritional extremes, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
First, fat is an essential part to a healthy diet as fat plays a major role in many bodily functions. Saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are all useful.
Foods such as nuts, olive oils, avocados, fish, animal meats, seeds, etc. contain fats that will help us obtain the healthy body we want.
The one fat to stay away from is trans-fat, as it is a man made variation that has been linked with many health detriments.
Any product with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils is something to stay away from, so check your nutritional labels.
But just because fat is necessary for a healthy and high performing body doesn’t mean that you should consume extreme amounts of fat day in and day out.
Not because fat makes you fat, but because too much of anything can result in unwanted side effects.
Staying with that thought, fat does not make you fat, but too much fat will make you fat!
Gaining or losing fat, first and foremost, comes down to total caloric intake.
If you eat too many calories you will gain fat. Eat less calories than your body requires and you will lose fat (and muscle if you are not careful).
But the thing you have to remember about dietary fat is that it contains 9 calories per gram. When we compare this to carbs and protein which each contain 4 calories per gram, we can see how it is easy to draw the conclusion that fat makes you fat.
Again, fat does not make you fat…too much fat makes you fat. And with 9 calories per gram, we have to be aware of how much we are consuming because it is extremely easy to eat more than we need and end up too high on the calorie count.
Oh how easy it is to eat more than 1 serving…
Lastly, low fat options, are always talked about…either good or bad depending on who you are speaking with.
The nice thing about low fat options is that they do typically provide less calories than the full fat options. The bad thing is that the fat is typically replaced with sugar so that the food doesn’t taste like straight butt.
Too much added sugar can also be detrimental to you health, performance and looks, so just beware of low fat options. There are some low fat options that are decent, so just make sure to check the nutritional label and if there is a metric crap ton of sugar, keep looking.
All in all, fats are not bad and are not the direct cause for you being a little jigglier than you want to be.
Just make sure you are consuming the proper fats (from the examples above), and make sure to keep the quantity in check.
2. Carbs are bad and making you fat!
Similar to fats, carbs have been demonized as the nutrient that causes you to take your tubbiness to the next level.
The main reason we have pointed to carbs as the perpetrator of fat gain, is that when we consume carbs, our insulin levels rise and cause us to store energy in our cells. One form of storage is fat.
The problem is that it is not the rise in insulin that causes us to store fat, it is the rise in insulin plus a caloric surplus that results in the storage of fat.
In fact, we want to store energy in order to perform at a high level. This energy storage is referred to as muscle glycogen, which is utilized during high intensity efforts…training or sports anyone?
If the calories taken in are slightly higher than maintenance levels (the amount of calories it takes to maintain weight), at maintenance levels or below maintenance levels, we will not store fat, even if insulin spikes.
Our first form of storage will go in as muscle glycogen, especially when we are depleting glycogen during training and sport (another great benefit of being active and training!).
If we do not train and deplete glycogen stores in our muscles (and liver), and/or we consume too many calories, we are likely going to store those extra calories as…you’ve got it, FAT!
So just like fat, carbs are not the issue for many of us, but too many carbs…there is the problem!
The hardest part is that carbs are EVERYWHERE!!!
Much of the food available to the American people (and many others around the world) are highly processed carbs that contain lots of calories and little nutrition.
Not only that, but because many of these foods are simple carbohydrates (think crackers, cereals, most fruity bars, breads, muffins, etc.) they do not result in a feeling of fullness…ever wonder why you could eat the whole box of rice krispies and feel like you had room for another?
So not only are they high in calories and low in nutrients, but they also do not fill you up…the perfect recipe for continued crushing of carbs.
Carbohydrate sources such as potatoes, rice, ezekiel bread, whole grain pastas, fruit, veggies, oatmeal and the like are more complex carbs that fill you up and also provide some more nutrition…so opt for those instead.
With that, the reason that many of us do well when we cut back on our carbs is simple: In doing so, we are likely to cut back on our total caloric intake.
Take that with removing highly processed foods that contain loads of sugar and you will also likely experience higher levels of energy, less systemic inflammation and a new feeling of being a badass…all good things that will lead to more activity and a healthier, higher performing and better looking body.
But beware, if you cut carbs from your regimen all together, you will likely experience decreased performance, lethargy and irritability…ya you will turn into a complete A Hole!
Eat the higher quality carbs most of the time, and make sure to consume proper amounts and you will be just fine chomping on some carbs.
3. Don’t eat past 6pm…it will all go to fat.
When you are sleeping you are typically not moving much (unless you are one of those sleep walkers) and therefore your body does not use calories.
Do to this thought process, it seems logical that food consumed later in the day would go directly towards fat storage as the energy is not being used.
But, the fact is that when we are sleeping we are repairing and many bodily functions are occurring that require energy (calorie) utilization.
Not only that, but hopefully by now you realize that the most important factor when it comes to weight/fat gain or loss is the total amount of calories you consume daily.
So it is not the fact that eating past 6pm is the reason you gain fat, but more because of the total amount of calories you have taken in throughout the entire day. Again, if you consume more than you use, you will gain weight.
The reason many have done well with this tactic is because basically they are cutting off 3-5 hours of the day where they don’t eat. This typically results in less calories taken in throughout the day, and voila, they lose fat.
The only other consideration is that some of us do not sleep well when our stomach are full. The digestive process may interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep…but in my experience that is on an individual basis.
I personally crush a nighttime snack, and I promise you it has not resulted in fat accumulation. Not only that, but a full belly puts me to sleep.
But, I make sure to stay within the daily calories necessary for me to achieve my goals while I enjoy a little snack past 6pm.
4. You only need .8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight
If you look up the RDA for protein you will find that the guidelines suggest an intake of .8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, or .36g per pound of bodyweight.
Putting this into an example, this would mean that a 150lb person would need around 54g per day.
What the recommendation does not highlight though, is that this amount is to ensure that you are not protein deficient.
Just because you are not protein deficient does not mean that you have the necessary amount of protein to support training, sport or a body that will not fold in half when the wind blows too hard.
Protein is a key player not only in repair and the assimilation of muscle, but also in many bodily functions including hormone production, immune system function, digestion and more.
And even more, those of us who are consistently challenging our bodies physically demand more protein as these activities breakdown structures that require protein to help repair and build back up.
Next, protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning that you will feel full for longer. This is critical to staving off hunger.
Lastly, it takes roughly 30% of the energy from protein to metabolize it…meaning when it comes to calories you are using 30% of the calories from protein to simply break it down and get it ready for absorption.
Because of the many benefits to protein, I suggest intaking 1g of protein per pound of desired bodyweight. That means if you are 150 pounds and looking to gain 10 pounds, you should consume 160g of protein per day. On the other side, if you are 220 pounds and looking to lose 10 pounds you should aim for 210g per day.
Protein is critical for health and performance and the RDA is too low for the active individual…most of us reading this!
5. Eat dairy and all kinds of bad crap will happen!
When someone told me that I was not meant to eat dairy and that it was in fact poisonous to human beings, not only was I giving them the middle finger in my head, but I had the WTF are you talking about look all over my face.
They will argue that because our ancestors did not consume dairy that human beings are not meant to have it. They say that it decreases health, performance and overall well being.
There is something called adaptation and evolution and we as humans have been pretty good at it.
So stating just because our ancestors didn’t consume dairy is like saying we shouldn’t brush our teeth because our ancestors didn’t have soft bristle tooth brushes and Crest.
Although there are some of us that are lactose intolerant and will negatively react to consumption of dairy, those of us that are lactose TOLERANT can handle dairy just fine, and in fact, can experience many benefits of the nutrients that dairy provides.
If you do a quick PubMed search you will find many studies have found correlation with dairy consumption and positive outcomes in markers of health.
So if you are not lactose intolerant, go ahead and consume dairy. You will be A OK and you will likely benefit from the nutrients dairy provides.
The Take Away
From the beginning of nutritional awareness time (made that one up), we have heard that certain foods are good, bad or purely toxic.
While some of these statements hold merit, many times when there is an extreme stance one way or another there is usually an outside influence trying to influence you for their own benefit.
Hopefully going through the above myths has helped you better understand that when it comes to nutrition, you can’t always listen to the big media stories…hell, you don’t even have to listen to me.
Just stay curious and ask questions. And if you have any thought or comments let me know.
Pass this on to those you care about, or even if you don’t care about them, you can show them that they have been fooled by these nutritional myths.
To you health and performance,
Two of the most common talked about topics in the fitness world are yoga and stretching. While there are different camps describing the good, the bad and the ugly of both, I do not subscribe to any one camp.
I feel that yoga can be good, and extremely beneficial for some. And at the very least, yoga attire is among the best…in my opinion anyway.
I also feel that yoga can be bad for many who are already lax (loose) individuals who need more strength and stability, and not the last couple inches in order to scratch the top of your head with your big toe.
Both yoga and stretching can be good, bad or, when improperly executed, it can leave you more messed up than The Weekend’s hairstyle.
The issue is that many times we are unaware what proper execution actually is, or we are instructed to perform the positions or stretch in a way that is going to cause more harm than good.
Let’s take a look at the principles that must be taken into consideration, and applied, in order to optimize yoga (if you are into it) and stretching…and to prevent what could be a nice addition to your training from becoming a form of self sabotage.
Position is first and foremost
Whether you are striking a yoga pose, or trying to stretch out your hip flexor, the position of your joints is the number one consideration.
The goal of both yoga and stretching is to attack the muscles (as well as the nervous system), but when joints are not in a neutral position to start, the muscles that surround the joints can not be targeted the way we intend them to be.
Instead, we are likely to place more stress on the passive structures of the joint including the ligaments, cartilage and the bones themselves.
For example, lets look at the cobra pose and the common hip flexor stretch.
When the lumbar spine and hip are too far from neutral (both in extension), the pose and stretch are placing stress on the spinous processes of the spine and the anterior hip capsule (respectively). This can be seen in the pictures above.
So rather than targeting the rectus abdominus and hip flexors, the pose and stretch are now placing stress on the passive structures and joints themselves. Over time these stresses on the joints can lead to degradation of the ligaments and cartilage, and can also lead to fractures of the bony structures.
2. Joints are meant to stay within certain ranges of motion
Closely related to the first point, the joints of our body are meant to stay within certain ranges of motion.
The issue is that the mindset of “more is better” is a very common belief when it comes to poses and stretches. When this approach is implemented, the joints travel too far from their neutral position and again, this will place stress on the surrounding structures.
It would take an entire book in itself to describe the proper ranges of motion for every joint in the body, but lets take a quick look at two common joints that are put into excessive ranges of motion “on the reg.”
Many of us like to stretch out the shoulders, but if you are forcing the shoulder into a position where the hands can almost touch behind your back, or you are taking a stick and “dislocating” the shoulder (just the name implies there is a problem with this one), you are more than likely forcing excessive forces through the front of the shoulder.
Again taking a look at the common hip flexor stretch, if your goal is too simply push the hip as far forward as you can, you are actually taking the head of the femur and causing it to glide forward in the hip joint. This places forces through the anterior hip capsule that will likely lead to hip instability.
The point is that if you are focused on trying to drive as much range of motion possible, you may be putting joints through a “danger zone” when it comes to tissue health and passive structure integrity.
Understand where a joint should be, and shouldn’t be, and try to avoid pushing into extreme ranges of motion.
3. Relative stiffness is key
I first heard the term relative stiffness when investigating Shirley Sahrman’s work of the human movement system.
She explains that human movement occurs over a series of joints, and are influenced by the surrounding musculature.
Since different muscles act on the same joint/joints, if one muscle is more stiff than another, it will have a greater influence/pull on that joint.
Sahrman uses the analogy of two springs hooked together, one thicker than the other, to demonstrate this point.
When you pull on either side of the connected springs, the smaller spring will stretch and the larger spring will hardly change.
Putting this back into terms of the body, when one muscle is more stiff than another, the smaller muscle will stretch more easily and the joint that both muscles act upon will shift in the direction of least resistance.
This issue with this occurs when the joint should not shift/move when there is a certain movement that is taking place.
For example, taking another look at hip flexor stretch, when the hip flexor is more stiff than the core musculature, both of which pull on the hip, the hip flexor will pull the hip down into an anterior tilt and the lower back will fall into hyperextension.
Now if the core musculature is stiffer than the hip flexor, the core will hold the hip in a good alignment while the hip flexor elongates, taking stress off of the back and executing the stretch where it is meant to take place (in the hip flexor).
So stiffening up certain muscles should be a focus of our training programs, along with desensitizing muscles that are too stiff (this is where yoga and stretching play a factor).
This principle of relative stiffness must be taken into account for every joint, during every movement, including yoga and stretching.
This principle also begs the question, do we actually need to stretch, or should we focus on stiffening certain muscles instead?
To Yoga/Stretch or Not to Yoga/Stretch
My thought is that if you can already contort yourself into a human pretzel, you likely will not benefit much from the movement aspect from either yoga or stretching. In fact, you will be more likely to end up pushing into the ranges of motion that can result in more harm than good.
No Stretching Required…
It would behoove you to focus on strengthening/stiffening certain muscles to create a better base of stability from which to move, rather than working to become more flexible.
Yoga and stretching have another huge benefit other than simply addressing the physical extensibility of a muscle(s).
Many times the focus on breathing that comes with yoga, and the systemic relaxation effect of both yoga and stretching can help you shift from a sympathetic state (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic state (rest and digest).
Anything that can help you “shut it down” a bit will help with your recovery and overall health.
So because of this, I would say that both yoga and stretching can be beneficial for everyone, but only when the above principles are taken into account!
Go ahead and practice yoga, and stretch out as it will likely help you chill out a bit and return your system to homeostasis more effectively.
But only do so making sure that every pose and stretch is performed with joints in neutral positions, avoiding extreme ranges of motion and taking the concept of relative stiffness into account.
The Wrap Up
I wish I could provide an entire breakdown of every joint, taking relative stiffness into account, but that would be hundreds of pages.
If you are taking a yoga class, or performing stretches, just make sure you understand the points discussed in order to optimize both, and prevent them from destroying your progress.
If you have any questions or comments, shoot!
And help us out and pass this along to friends and family who you know would benefit from this information.
To your health and performance,
When an athlete, whether a competitive athlete, recreational athlete or everyday athlete is looking to further their health, performance and/or looks, the most common question is, “What else can I add to my training?”
Or they may make a statement such as, “I just need to work harder!”
While I would not argue that there are some of us that do need an additional stimulus, or to simply get after our current program with a bit more savagery, I would say that for the majority of us it is not a fact of working harder, but actually the opposite that will help us get even closer to our goals.
For most of us, we do not need to work harder (although we still have to work hard), but we have to recover better.
A simple statement that has become very popular in the performance enhancement world is…
“IT IS NOT HOW HARD YOU TRAIN, BUT HOW WELL YOU RECOVER”
This statement is spot on as it doesn’t matter how much you can squat, deadlift, bench, etc. if come practice or game day you are overly sore, fatigued or so broken down that you would be more likely to catch a cold than the ball.
Or if you are an everyday athlete who has the goal of feeling and looking better, if you are not recovering well it will be hard to consistently put in the effort it takes to lose fat, gain muscle and feel great.
When recovery is lacking, energy stores are not optimal for intense training or activity (required for success in sport and to lose fat and gain muscle).
Your cognition is sub par making it difficult to react quickly or solve issues at work/school.
Hormonal levels make it difficult to build muscle and lose fat.
You are more likely to be, for lack of a better word, a complete A-hole…and no one wants to be around an A-hole!
So with that in mind, and the fact that many pre-seasons have or are about to begin, lets cover some quick points to help you better recover from the rigor of sports and life.
1.Go to friggin’ sleep!
The one thing that most of us can do better (much better) is get enough quality sleep.
Notice the two words, enough and quality.
The first part is to get enough. This may be stating the obvious, but you have to go to bed sooner!
Thanks to Netflix and DVR, you don’t have to watch an entire marathon of your favorite show in one night…so turn off the TV.
You also don’t have to chase Pokemon past 8pm, especially if you are over the age of 9 and would like to have someone actually be interested to be more than just a friend someday…so turn it off and rack out for the night.
So simply, plan on getting to bed earlier. Select a time and stick to it, shooting for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
When it comes to quality, a few things you can do to help you fall and stay asleep is to:
- Turn of electronics and lights an hour before bed.
- Make the room as dark as possible.
- Keep the temperature around 67 degrees fahrenheit (give or take a couple of degrees).
- Reduce noise as much as possible and/or use white noise such as a fan or a white noise machine/app.
This is by no means a extensive list, but it gives you a few key points to consider.
2. Eat adequate amounts of protein!
In order to repair and build bodily systems, including your skeletal, hormonal and muscular systems (pretty damn important for those of us who are placing a demand on our bodies), you need supply your body with the nutrients necessary for repair.
The key nutrient is protein.
Protein plays a major role in repair, maintenance and growth of nearly every system in the body, so having a plentiful supply is key for recovery.
While the RDA recommends .8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, my suggestion is closer to 2g of protein per kilogram, or 1g per pound of bodyweight.
So make sure to pay attention to the amount of protein you are consuming as for many of us we are likely not consuming enough.
3. Make sure you are also getting your quality carbs, veggies and fruit, and fats.
While adequate protein is the first key to promoting greater recovery, we can’t forget about quality carbs, veggies and fruit, as well as healthy fats.
The quality carbs will help to replenish energy stores as well as help increase satiety. Potatoes (regular and sweet), rice, quinoa, oatmeal, 100% whole grains, etc. are all good options along with veggies and fruits.
And like protein, healthy fats play a major role in the production, transport and absorption of certain structures and nutrients within the body. Consuming fish, nuts, olive/coconut and other oils, etc. help to achieve levels of healthy fats that are conducive to recovery.
4. Limit processed “poopy” foods.
As an adult male who has a little bit lot of pride and likes to be thought of as a pretty manly dude, I find it hard to use the word poopy. Unfortunately my wife uses the word a lot, and I have now found myself considering certain things, well, poopy.
And when it comes to the processed food that many Americans find themselves inundated with (breads, cereals, baked goods, crackers, flavor additives, etc.), poopy is best way describe them.
The artificial ingredients result in a less than optimal environment for the body to recover. Systemic inflammation and hormonal imbalances are only a couple of ways the body is affected, and both decrease our ability to recover.
Limiting the amount of processed foods is key when trying to promote the greatest recovery possible…so try to say no friggin way no thank you.
5. Monitor stimulants.
In todays world we are constantly busy and on the run. And we need to be alert and have energy to complete our days. For this reason many of us turn to stimulants to help us do so.
Caffeine and other stimulants found in energy drinks can help us to “rev up”, but when over consumed and/or consumed too late in the day, they can have a detrimental effect on our sleep and overall recovery.
By consuming them we are putting ourselves in a state of “fight or flight” which is good for training, but when we are done we want our body to transition to a state of “rest and digest” in order to recover.
Unfortunately for many of us, we consume too much stimulant and can not transition to our “rest and digest” system. We stay wired for far too long, many times late into the night when we should be sleeping.
Monitor your consumption of stimulants and try to stick to 1-2 cups of coffee/tea early in the day if you feel like you can’t “shut it down” at night.
Also, try to stop the consumption of stimulants by 1-2pm at the latest.
Lastly, consider decaf options to replace some of the fully caffeinated options.
One of the best things you can do to promote recovery is to relax, or whoosah!
I know this is another “Well, duh!” statement, but it is astonishing how many of us do not relax at all during the day.
We are busy professionals, moms, dads, students, athletes, etc. and we don’t have to time relax.
Every second of every day we are on the go. And when we are constantly on the go, we don’t give our body a chance to simply “chill out” during the day.
When you invest a short amount of time (15-30 minutes) during the day to relax, you assist your body in recuperating the systems which will inevitably allow you to “go hard” once again, and with greater effectiveness.
I suggest trying to catch some shuteye by taking a quick nap, but even if you can’t actually fall asleep, simply staying still, being quiet and just breathing in a calm manner will help.
Block out a period of time to decompress and recover with a nap, reading fiction, meditation (or just sitting still), taking a bath, etc.
During the middle of the day is best, but if you really can’t find that time then, doing it at night works too…just dedicate that time, no matter when it is.
7. Get someone to touch you…or touch yourself.
Having some soft tissue work done by a professional (massage, ART, Graston, etc.) can help the muscles and other tissues of the body to recover more efficiently.
If you don’t have the ability to get the work done professionally, using a foam roller, lacrosse ball, tiger tail, etc. is a good way to do it yourself.
Although doing it yourself is not as effective, self myofascial work (self soft tissue work) will aid in recovery and is a good supplement to professional work.
Using both a professional and self myofascial release is ideal.
8. Use ice and elevation.
Acute inflammation is a natural process that will help us recover, but when inflammation is chronic or excessive, recovery will be compromised.
To reduce chronic/excessive inflammation you can use ice as well as elevation of the extremities.
Use ice accordingly, making sure not to apply it for too long or directly to the skin.
Use the tips above to create a more favorable environment for recovery. Without recovery, you will not only be compromising progress with your performance, but your overall health and fitness as well.
If this information helped you out, be that good dude / dudette we all want to be and send this article along to your friends and family…and always remember to ask any questions or leave comments below!
To your health, fitness and performance.
If you missed part I of this article where we discussed why more muscle is a good thing, check it out HERE before continuing on.
Since you read part I, you now know that building muscle is almost always a good thing. The only exception can occur when someone needs to stay within a certain weight class for competition, and the extra muscle makes it impossible to stay within that limit.
Other than that, gaining more lean, functional muscle will help with pretty much every fitness, performance and aesthetic goal.
And now, we answer the big question…
What is the best way to gain muscle?
You could easily follow a progressive training program (adding weight and/or volume over time) and eat a metric s@*t ton of calories from sources such as pizzas, burgers, creamy pastas, etc. and you will gain muscle mass. The problem is you will also likely gain an excessive amount of fat mass.
Since I will assume that most of us want to gain as much muscle as possible without accruing significant amounts of body fat, we must approach training for muscle gain (hypertrophy) intelligently.
There are a few main components to hypertrophy that you will want to consider in order to optimally increase muscle mass, while limiting fat accumulation.
- Overall calorie is king, quality of food is queen
When it comes to gaining muscle mass, the easiest way is to be in a caloric surplus. But this doesn’t mean going way overboard.
You will want to be roughly 200-500 calories over maintenance level (the amount of calories it would take to maintain your current weight).
For many of us, calculating our maintenance caloric level is as easy as taking our bodyweight and multiplying that number by 14-16.
For example, for a 185 pound male, a good ESTIMATION of the calories necessary to maintain weight would be 2,590 to 2,960 per day.
For someone looking to gain quality weight, I would recommend adding 200-500 calories past your maintenance level.
Again, these are estimated numbers so if you notice that you are not gaining muscle, or if you are gaining muscle but also too much fat, you can add or subtract 100 calories accordingly.
And although the common understanding is that you must have a caloric surplus to gain muscle (or weight in general), if you take in close your maintenance calories, or just below, and train correctly, you can lose fat while gaining muscle.
The key with this is that the quality of your food needs to stay high.
No matter if you are going into a caloric surplus, or you are trying to stay at or just below maintenance levels of caloric intake to lose more fat, different foods will have a different impact on your body.
250 calories of lean meat will not have the same effect on your body as 250 calories of Boston Cream Donuts…sorry.
So calories are king, but you need to make sure your intake is made up primarily of whole food sources (not processed sources) such as meat, eggs, fish, veggies, fruits, low processed grains (quinoa, oatmeal, etc.), potatoes, rice, etc.
2) Focus on protein
Piggy backing on the first point, you want to make sure that you are taking in an adequate amount of protein.
Recent research has found that the recommended RDA amount for protein is likely too low for those of us who are putting our bodies through stressful training.
For this reason I recommend that you take in a minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
Taking this into your caloric consumption, lets use the 185 pound male athlete example.
Being 185 pounds this athlete would want to shoot for a minimum of 185 grams of protein per day.
Protein has 4 calories per gram, so this athlete would be consuming 740 calories worth of protein per day.
If we take the numbers mentioned from point one for maintenance, let’s put a nice even number of 2700 calories for maintenance. That would leave this athlete with just under 2000 calories from other sources such as carbs and fat to make up the rest of his calories.
For this reason, I would say you can bump up your intake of protein to 1.2-1.5g per pound of bodyweight.
Having a significant amount of protein in your diet will help you build muscle as protein, more specifically amino acids, are responsible for many critical components of bodily processes such as repair and maintenance (this is where hypertrophy fits in), energy, hormones, enzymes, transport, etc.
So if protein levels are not sufficient, not only will building muscle be extremely difficult but sufficient energy levels to train, and hormones to signal anabolism (growth) will be in short supply.
For this reason, I recommend focusing on consuming enough protein. Take a look at your current diet and determine whether or not your are taking in enough protein (at least 1g per pound of bodyweight).
If not try adding in more meats, eggs, fish, milk, cheese, nuts, and protein powders for convenience.
Just remember to keep overall calories at a good level.
3) Don’t forget about carbs and fats.
Although we just spent time discussing how important protein is, we can’t forget about quality carbs and fats.
Carbs will help provide the energy necessary to continue to put in a consistently high effort with your training, and fats are key to many bodily functions that are critical for health, performance and growth.
Good sources of carbs include veggies and fruits, potatoes, rice, quinoa, low processed grains such as Ezekiel bread and pastas.
Good sources of fats include fish, nuts, avocados, olive oil, etc.
Once you make sure you are taking in enough protein, fill in the rest of your diet with quality carbs and fats.
4) Spend the majority of your time between 6 and 12 reps.
It has been hypothesized that hypertrophy has three main drivers. Those being mechanical tension (lifting heavy stuff), muscular damage and metabolic stress (the “pump”).
While completing exercises through various rep ranges is recommended for optimal growth, performance and health, placing a heavy emphasis (pun intended) on reps between 6 and 12 will spur the anabolic responses within the body to a greater degree.
The key is to make sure that you are approaching technical failure during your sets. You will want to finish your last rep in the set knowing that you could complete one more perfect rep.
If you can complete more than one rep you are likely not going to obtain the stimulus needed to maximize anabolic responses, as well as other wanted adaptations (strength gain, fat utilization, etc.).
So focus on placing 70-80% of your program within the 6-12 rep range to entice greater hypertrophy, and going to near technical failure with your sets.
5) Don’t forget to get strong and feel the burn.
Although the rep range of 6-12 has beens shown to be the sweet spot for the 3 components of muscle hypertrophy (discussed in last point), there are other rep ranges you will want to hit.
Just like carbs and fats are to your diet, working within strength and “pump” rep ranges is to your training.
Since you will be placing 70-80% of your training within the 6-12 rep range, you have 20-30% to allocate to lower and higher reps.
Start your training session off with a few (2-4) sets of strength/power work that takes place in the rep ranges between 1 and 5 reps.
Finish off your program with a few sets (2-4) of higher “pump” work to engorge your muscles with blood and nutrients.
This will allow you to better emphasize the mechanical tension and metabolic stress part of they hypertrophy equation.
Here is a quick full body example:
1a) Deadlift 3×4
1b) Bench Press 3×4
2a) Reverse lunge 3×6/side
2b) Chin Up 3×6
3a) Goblet Lateral Lunge 3×8/side
3b) Single Arm DB Row 3×10/side
4a) Single Leg Squat 1-2 x 12-15/side
4b) Push Up 1-2 x 12-15
6) You must progressively overload the system.
In order to progress training, and your results, you need to progressively overload your body.
Really what this means is that in order to spur further adaptations (growth, strength, fat loss, etc.) you need to continually challenge the body past the point it is currents threshold.
The most basic way to do this is to add intensity (resistance via weight to the bar, etc.) and/or volume (more reps and/or sets).
Make it a point to not continuously use the same weight or sets/reps week after week, as without more of a challenge the body will not adapt any further.
There is no set amount you should try to increase every week (such as 5 lbs each week). The bigger consideration is overall workload, which can be calculated by taking your resistance x reps x sets.
For example, if you are deadlifting with 100 pounds (easy number to use) and you complete 3 sets of 6 reps, that would be a total workload of 100 x 6 x 3 = 1800 pounds. Trying to progressively increase that total workload over time is the key, so you can manipulate weight used, reps or sets to do so.
While increasing weight/reps/sets is the easiest way to overlaod, there are other ways to challenge the body such as tempo (the speed of movements), different exercises, different grips, manipulation of rest periods, etc.
These come into play when increasing resistance or volume is no longer possible (or recommended) and will be covered further in a future article.
7) Condition high or low…not in the middle.
When it comes to maximizing muscle gain, and losing body fat, conditioning at either a high or low intensity is key.
This means that prioritizing high intensity intervals (sprints, bike sprints, row sprints, etc.) in conjunction with longer slower conditioning (easy 20-60 minute jog, bike ride, etc.) is the best approach to lose body fat while sparing muscle mass.
When you spend too much time in the “middle zone,” such as consistently trying to beat a 1+ mile time, you are more likely to start degrading your muscle mass for energy.
When you are training at a higher intensity you are more likely to prioritize muscle glycogen, and when you are at a lower intensity you are more likely to prioritize fat. Both will help you spare muscle mass while you work on burning through non functional energy storage (fat tissue).
Try completing intervals (sprints) 1-2 times per week and a longer slower session 1 time per week.
This may in fact be the most important point of this article, although it is the last.
The fact is that many of us do not sleep!
Well, we do, but we don’t sleep long enough, or well enough.
Making sure to get at least 7 hours of high quality sleep each night is key to maintaining optimal hormonal levels that will help you recover.
When you recover well, you can train harder, you spur greater adaptation and experience greater results.
It would take another article alone to cover all of the benefits of sleep and how to entice a better night’s sleep.
But here are a few quick tips…
- Avoid too much caffeine throughout the day, and stop drinking caffeine around 3pm. Any later and you are flirting with caffeines effects when trying to shut it down at night.
- Go to bed early(ier)…get to bed well before midnight whenever possible!
- Stay away from the light…turn off the lights and electronics including your phone at least an hour before bed.
- Black out…your room! Making your room as dark as possible will help stimulate a deeper sleep. This includes getting rid of your clock, or at least covering it.
- Block out the noise. Try using a white noise app / machine, or if you can get through a couple weird nights, try using ear plugs. Less noise will also stimulate deeper sleep.
Questions, comments or random thoughts? Leave them below. And if you found this information useful, be a boss and send it along to your friends and family.
To your health and performance,