Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Purpose of Personal Training

Personal training does not give you results. It gives you the best chance to get results.

I endeavor to provide the following two things:

Accountability

Once you sign up for training sessions, you're accountable to someone else. If you have a scheduled workout, it's on two people's schedules. You can't just skip - generally, if you just skip, you're paying for that session and getting less results and letting someone else down.

Just for that, having someone else there to train with and train for makes you externally accountable. You have a check against skipping. You have a check against failure. And you have someone else there to make you feel like you have something to live up to.

Adaptability

This is answering, "What now?" - what is the next thing you need to do to get your results? If your goals change, how does your training need to train?

That can be as simple as, "again, faster" or "again, heavier." But it can (and often is) more complex than that. "Again, but lighter." "This new movement instead of that." "This approach instead of that." "These movements you hate to do but need instead of that one you like but don't benefit from." Again, the best chance to succeed.

Expertise

This is making sure you are doing what you intend to do in a safe, effective, and efficient manner. Expertise helps you learn to move well, load properly, and do so in the dose you need.

And that's it - personal training is giving you three tools, in the form of an external coach, that gives you the best chance to succeed. You still have to do the work, and do it with consistency, but you've multiplied your results by getting someone's help. That's the service personal trainers like myself provide.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Single-Leg Squat video

I'm up on Instagram putting a client through an eccentric single leg squat exercise:



This is one I swiped shamelessly from Mike Guadango at Freak Strength. Controlled descent with weight on one leg, standing up with both legs. So you get a relatively heavily loaded eccentric (sitting down) portion of the exercise, with a safe landing if there is any issue with the rep, followed by a light two-legged standup. This worked wonders for own my knee issue, and conversations with Mike about why led me to bring it over from the athletic training environment to the more general health-and-healthy-movement training that I do.

You can generally perform an eccentric movement - lowering a weight - with a heavier load than you can perform a concentric movement. Therefore you can use a little heavier load with this than someone could easily use for standing up on one leg, allowing for a better strength improvement. You also tend to get strength in a slightly large range of motion than the one you use. So I can put a box-and-pads at a height just at the level that someone can perform the exercise and get them stronger there and at a lower height as well. If necessary, I can slowly work up and then remove a pad (or put a smaller one on) and work them up there, until we reach the desired height.

That's not a complete explanation of the whys and hows of the exercise, but it's one of the main reasons I find this exercise so useful for knee issues. I've also found it's useful for clients with large side-to-side leg strength differences. Nothing irons it out like slowly lowering to a box under a load.

Monday, February 6, 2017

When Clients Say Thank You

The other day, one of my clients thanked me for his results.

That's not that uncommon. It's happened a few times.

I used to say, "You're welcome." But honestly, I'm not doing the work.

What I am doing is not nothing - I am providing expertise. Equipment. A safe and productive training environment. A degree of motivation and a lot of accountability.

But I'm not lifting the weights.

I'm not passing on the treats.

I'm not cooking and eating those vegetables and healthy protein sources.

I'm not pushing the Prowler or dragging the sled or sitting deeply into that stretch to clear up your issues.

That's all my clients.

I'm providing direction, but all the work is theirs.


Yet, at the same time, I've thanked my own coach. I know all too well the difference between my results training myself and my results under his watchful eye. As a client it seems like the trainer is the reason you're succeeding. As the trainer, it seems like the client is the reason the client is succeeding.

So for all I do, when someone thanks me for the results, it's hard not to say, "You did it, not me." I'm not being self-effacing. I'm telling the truth. I'd have lifted those weights for you if that would get you results . . . but it's you lifting them that got you what you wanted to get.

It's the client, not me. And that's what's so great about this job.

Monday, January 30, 2017

From Skinny to Muscled - post roundup & expansion

I've written a number of posts on going from skinny to muscled. I needed to round them all up for a client who is on that journey himself. So why not share out that round up with some additional advice?

There are three essential posts on this blog on the subject:

Three Easy Ways to Add Calories

Eating to Gain for Skinny Guys: Part I

Eating to Gain for Skinny Guys: Part II

Here is some more general advice that will help skinny guys.

Training Frequency and Intensity Errors

Don't do too little . . . or too much.

Too little means missing workouts. Skipping out on half of what you're supposed to do because you don't like that. Substituting things you like for things you hate. Rationalizing swaps ("The elliptical is legs, so I can do that instead of Bulgarian split-squats!) or skips ("I'm still tired from last workout.")

Too much is the opposite approach - adding in more and more reps, more and more exercises, more and more frequency. Doing "active recovery" that somehow involves 100 pushups and high-intensity cardio. Training every day, no matter what. Skipping sleep or meals to lift ("I need to lift and I can't eat right before I lift, so I won't eat!")

You want something in the optimal middle range for frequency and intensity. Ideally:

- You lift hard 3x a week. You can do as little as twice and as much as four times a week if you're going hard and have a program designed around it. But your goal is mass gain and strength gain over the maximum amount of time you can sustain it. Don't get hooked in by a high-frequency approach that's meant for short-term use (a squat-every-day program meant for a 3-4 week cycle, say) or for fat loss (heavy lifting combined with frequent low-intensity cardio and fast days, for example).

- You do your postural and mobility work frequently. Rehab/prehab exercises, pull-aparts, chin tucks, stretches, mobility drills - you almost certainly need these. This is the stuff you need to do often. Instead of sneaking in some extra biceps curls or pushups or a set on the leg press, sneak in hourly band pull-aparts or planks or glute activation drills. No client I've ever had broke down, stayed weak, or ruined their progress because they did too many deep-breathing exercises or scapular retraction drills on their off days. And all of that does add up to more strength and more muscle.

Eat a Baseline, not a Maximum

The most common error in skinny guys wanting to get muscled is not eating enough. That's hammered into the posts above. Eat, eat, eat. It's homework. It's a job. That food being outside of you instead of inside of you is the obstacle to success.

Track your food - for 3 days a week at least - with an app or a journal. Set a minimum and make sure you hit it. Try to exceed it with as much quality food as you can stand.

Especially if you use an app, expect to get nagged to stay under your calories. Consider the "attaboys" you get as black marks against you. When your app says, "Wow, you ate so little today! Congrats!" read it as "Wow, you've sabotaged all of the work you did! Why did you do that?"

One particular approach I used with success was to eat a minimum every day, and one day a week try to exceed that by as much as possible without getting sick. Packing in 4000 kcals a day? Try for 6000-8000+ one day (and I'd let the quality go a little on the extras).

Finally, be willing to adjust the number upward. If you set yourself at 2500 a day and gain, great. If you aren't putting on weight week to week, up to to 3500. Then 4500. Keep going until you gain. Yes, this is a lot of food. Yes, this is work.

People will say, "I wish I could eat all of that, it must be great!" or "That must be nice to be able to eat so much." They're wrong. It's work. It can be enjoyable work, but you have to eat even when you're not hungry and spend money on food even when money is tight. You have to shop even when you don't feel like it because you rip through a fridge worth of food in no time at all. Do it, and muscle awaits you.

Food Quality and Quantity

Think meats and fish and vegetables and fruits over sugar and sweets and things that in bags with serving sizes written on the labels. The advice I gave in those posts above is basically drink milk, eat a lot of meat (it could easily be fish), drink a quality protein powder - put good food in you.

If you have to choose between bad food and no food, eat the bad food. But endeavor to make it good food as much as possible. People have gotten bigger, stronger, and better on cruddy institutionalized food supplied by the lowest bidder - but I'd bet they didn't get healthier on it. Good food, in large quantities.

By all means live it up - now is the time to enjoy those treats, eat a piece of cake, have that breaded chicken in sauce from the buffet, etc. etc. You'll look back fondly on the time you could eat half of a pie as dessert because you needed it. But put that on top of the good foods you eat.

Sleep

You'll grow and gain when you rest, not when you train. Your training and eating is the stimulus for your body to grow and add muscle, but sleep is when you'll realize those gains. Sleep as much as you can.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Saturday Kickboxing

I've been teaching kickboxing basics on Saturdays at CR Fitness. Here is a picture from this Saturday:

Peter teaching kickboxing on Saturdays at 11 #crfitnesswyckoff #kickboxing

A photo posted by CR Fitness Wyckoff NJ (@crfitnesswyckoff) on



If you're interested, contact us about our drop-in rates and trial sessions.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Joel Jamieson interviewing Buddy Morris

Joel Jamieson (8weeksout, author of Ultimate MMA Conditioning) has recently started a series call "The Smartest Coach in the Room." Today his guest is Buddy Morris of the Arizona Cardinals.

The Smartest Coach in the Room: Buddy Morris

It's a short (17 minute) but good conversation covering a few different areas of strength and conditioning.

Best takeaway? It's fluctuating overload, not progressive overload. It's not loading you more than before, it's loading you appropriately for today. Do what you can of what you need to progress.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Evaluate, Achieve, Load

An easy way to sum up the basic process I use with clients is EAL.

Evaluate Movement, then Achieve Good Movement, then Load Good Movement.

The basic cycle works like so:

Evaluate Movement

For any given movement that a client does, evaluate it. Is it good, functional, balance movement? Does it cause pain, reveal imbalances, or otherwise function poorly? An example is a bum knee - is it a bad knee or the symptom of a hip or ankle problem? Is the weight more on one side or the other? Does the person's gait or squatting or pushing or pulling reveal a series of compensation patterns that are eventually going to lead to the former two issues?

Evaluation can be a formal process, but it should be an ongoing process. Watch everything your clients do and ask, is that good movement? If not, what could be causing that? Test and evaluate.

Achieve Good Movement

Once you know what's holding the person back, you have to improve it. Break down movements they can't do into individual bits you can correct. If someone can't squat without rounding at the spine, use your evaluation process to find out why. Then use movements they can do, or ranges of motion they can achieve, to start to correct the issue. Weak rear deltoids causing problems with pulling and pressing? Use direct training on those rear deltoids to bring them up to speed. Knees collapse in because of poor strength in the quadriceps and hips? Band walks, slow static lunges, isometric holds, and squatting with bands might help improve this. And so on.

This stage also involves teaching. It's not always a weakness that drives poor movement - it's just not understanding what proper movement is. If you've been taught that your spine moves like a slinky in a pushup and that's okay, then you may have weakness but you've also been allowed to train in bad movement. Teaching the client occurs here - showing how to move in a way that's more efficient for life and/or sport.

Load Good Movement

You improve strength and musculature with load. But load works counter to good movement. It's a challenge to move well under a heavier load than you moved under previously. That's a normal and expected part of the process. You will hit your limit of your ability to do the movement correctly (aka technical failure) before you hit your limit of your strength to do the movement.

Load gets added once you get someone moving well. It will reveal limitations, and it may reveal poor patterns concealed by overcompensating - bad back position on a deadlift that's okay under low weights because your back can take it but not under heavy ones. Squats that look okay without weight but which collapse under your first significant load. And so on. You can't fix a bad movement by loading it. You fix a bad movement as above - by directly addressing the issues by training the movements and ROMs you can do and improving them, and by imparting proper movement and form. Then you load it.

I call this EAL cycle a cycle because it's iterative. You keep doing it. Evaluate, Achieve, Load, and Evaluate again. When movement goes from "good" to "bad" you apply the cycle again to find your next step.

This is not a very basically worded post, but this is an underlying foundation - a true basis - for how I train clients.


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