Thursday, June 15, 2017

Muscle Failure: Developing an Athletic Brain

Muscle Failure
: In weight training, training to failure is repeating an exercise (such as the bench press) to the point of momentary muscular failure, i.e. the point where a repetition fails due to inadequate muscular strength.

Training to failure is a concept every athlete knows well. Whether its bench press, squats, dead lifts, push ups or running stairs, training to failure is what sets the athlete apart from the masses.  Knowing how to push your body to complete exhaustion is a skill acquired only through rigorous training, usually reserved for people who have been involved in sports, martial arts, or military service. In the fitness industry most of the clientele are not athletes. In fact, most have had little to no experience with physical training at all, and even fewer have ever been pushed to failure.

noun  ath·lete \ˈath-ˌlēt, ÷ˈa-thə-ˌlēt\
:  a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina

The first thing I do when I meet a new client is a fitness assessment. I’ll put them through several basic calisthenics, endurance, and strength movements. What I tell them I’m looking for is strength, flexibility, and stamina thresholds. For the most part I am, but additionally I’m assessing what type of person I’ll be dealing with. When I tell an athlete to put 135 lbs on the bar and press to failure, that’s exactly what I’ll get. The athlete will press reps until he/she can absolutely do no more. Once I see that, I can move forward with a training routine tailored to whatever sport or goal they came to me for. On the other hand, when I ask the average person to do the same, I might get 5 reps when I know they could’ve done several more. I have observed over the years that most people have never pushed their muscles to failure, and don’t know what their failure thresholds are. This is not to say that the average person cannot be trained, but that I will have to set the bar lower. We will start at the bottom and work our way up to failure.

Before I go any further, I’ll say definitively that I believe everyone can be taught to train like an athlete. However, the less time a person has had with physical training, the longer it will take. I use the three rules of rhetoric (Ethos, Pathos, Logos) to build rapport to the point that the client will trust me enough to allow me to push them to failure.

 Ethos is an appeal to ethics, and it is a means of convincing someone of the character or credibility of the persuader. I’ll spend our first few sessions going over functional movement, teaching primary and secondary movers, muscle groups, insertion points, concentric and eccentric contractions, etc.…This establishes me as a credible source of knowledge based advice.

Pathos is an appeal to emotion, and is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response. For someone who has never been pushed to exhaustion, getting there can be a scary experience. Sharp Increases in heart rate and respiration are things usually associated with anxiety or panic to the untrained patron. With a new client, I will start easy and light, gradually increasing the workload over time, getting closer and closer to failure each session. This builds confidence and trust, as the client learns to push through barriers they have never tried to break.

 Logos is an appeal to logic, and is a way of persuading an audience by reason. Once its established that complete exhaustion isn’t a scary thing, getting there on a regular basis becomes just another part of their training. Over time the failure threshold gets further and further away as strength, stamina and prowess become more and more prevalent. Then one day, without even realizing it, you’ve become an athlete.

So is it possible for everyone to develop this athletic mindset? Absolutely. Whether you're training for the Olympics or a 5k. With proper training, trust in your trainer and trust in the process, we can all learn what our bodies limitations are, how to reach them, and when to push beyond.
*Did I sound like Morpheus just then?... I was totally trying to sound like Morpheus*

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

30 Day Fat Melting Diet

This diet is meant to be temporary since we'll be cutting back on carbs, and abstaining from alcohol, and all processed food. It's meant to work together with an intense 5-7 day-a-week training program.
This is a modification of the popular 40/40/20 diet.
It's a simple, strict diet that will help you shed fat fast and keep your muscle.

I'll preface this by saying that I am not a dietitian or nutritionist. These are dieting techniques I've used throughout my years of fitness training and bodybuilding.
Lets start with the No's

Alcohol: Absolutely no nutritional value. Someone smarter than me wrote it better here:

Processed food: We'll eat nothing but real food for 30 days. Your body will function better and you'll burn fat more easily. Someone smarter than me wrote it better here:

Dairy: My 12 years as a vegan taught me that dairy is just kinda gross. Cutting it out for 30 days will make burning fat way easier. Someone smarter than me wrote it better here:

Here's all you need:

Protein: Lean meats: Beef, Chicken, Fish, Pork, whole eggs

Carbs: Fruits, Oats, white/ brown rice, sweet or regular potatoes

Fats: Organic peanut butter, nuts, avocado, fish oils

Veggies: Everything (raw or steamed)

Water or Black Coffee only (No fruit juice, soda, etc...)

The rules are simple:

Rule 1: Take in 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight each day.

Rule 2: Take in 1- 1.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight (heavier on training days, lighter on off days)

Rule 3: Calculate your calories! Too low and you wont be able to recover from your workouts. To high and you won't loose weight. Here's the calculator I use:

Rule 4: Take in a protein, fat and carbohydrate with every meal

Rule 5: Never more than one day off on a row!!!

Theses are the basic guidelines for the diet. Clients who are participating in the 30 or 60 day program have access to me personally for tips and adjustments.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gym Rat Rules

1. Hoodie up, head phones in. DON'T TALK TO ME! 
I was at the gym yesterday and this dude was like:
 "Man, are you getting bigger" 
10 mins later "You still vegan?" 
5 mins later "Dumbbells huh, You like them better than barbells?"
I gave one word answers and avoided eye contact. I wanted to say "DAMN!!! Take a hint"
Gyms are social places. I do chat with my friends when I see them. But if you see someone in the zone goin' mad-dog, straight FEELIN' IT! Leave him alone!

2. No curls in the squat rack
There is NOTHING more frustration than walking into the gym on leg day, ready to go H.A.M. on some heavy squats and and seeing some noob on the squat rack curling with 5 pounders on the bar. Most gyms only have on squat rack. They are for squats only!

3. Use proper form
You're not impressing anyone by bouncing 300lbs off your chest, and contorting like Emily Rose to get it up for one rep. You look like an a$$ and your gonna hurt yourself.

4. Keep off your phone!
There's one leg extension a my gym. I watched a girl today do 5 sets without getting up. She checked her phone every time she rested between sets. Three guys walked by and looked at her like "DAMN, YOU DONE?!?"
If you absolutely must check your phone GET UP and let someone work in!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Two-A-Day Training

So, you're on a regular training schedule. You get to the gym 4-5 times a week. You do your cardio and hit the weights hard. You walk out of the gym feeling great. Then what? You go to work and sit at a computer ALL DAY.
Check out this article about how sitting all day is one of the worst things you can do:

This Pic made me laugh today

The Two-A-Day training schedule is one of the best ways to boost your energy, metabolism, stamina, and strength fast!
1 hour of hard cardio early in the morning will jump start your metabolism. But as the day goes on it'll slow down to a crawl, especially if you are sedentary. Adding a weight session at the end of the day will give your metabolism another boost that will keep your body burning all night.

Summer's over and I'm back to bulk up season. I'm taking in a ton more calories and bulking up quick. Here's the Two-A-Day schedule I'm on to pack on size and keep lean.

Monday: 530 am 1 hour indoor cycle/ 6 pm lift (Pecs, Delt, Tri's)
Tuesday: 7am run (4-8) miles/ 4 pm lift (Quads, Hammies, Glutes, Calves)
Wednesday: 530 am group run/ 3 pm lift (Lats, Bi's)
Thursday: 10:30 am indoor cycle/ 4 pm lift (Pecs, Delts, Tri's)
Friday: 7 am indoor cycle/ 1 pm lift (Quads, Hammies, Glutes, Calves)
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Long run (10-14 miles)

Give it a try. You'll see results quick! Be sure not to over train. Try one week of Two-A-Day training on, and one week off (one-a-day).


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Banana Peel

I love running. I do it every chance I get. I run with my personal training clients and with my group classes. I believe its a way to not only improve cardio vascular health, but self-esteem, self worth, and self efficacy as well. That said, many people I meet are intimated by running. Most believe the are too slow, too fat, or too unhealthy to run.  My answer to them is this: You don't have to run fast or far. All you have to do is run. You. Will. Get. Better.

When I started teaching group fitness classes back in 2008 I was surprised to found out the instructors weren't taking patrons out on runs. I immediately made runs mandatory once a week. We started out with 1-2 mile runs once a week before our weights/ calisthenic training.
As the class grew and people got turned on to running, I began to stretch the runs out a bit longer. We got up to 5-6 milers before a tragedy happened.

 Chelsea King was assaulted and killed while out jogging. (NOT IN MY CLASS)
This (understandably) frightened many of the women in my training group. Since on our runs everyone ran at a different pace, and our runs started at 530 am many of the runners were on their own in the dark for up to 5 minutes at a time. The gym asked me (understandably) to discontinue the am runs. I considered it for a bit, then decided that I wasn't going to let fear rob my clients, or ANYONE  of their right to train wherever and whenever the hell they wanted!

My challenge was to come up with a way to  run a group of clients ranging in age and fitness ability from 50+ year old couch potatoes to 18 year old athletes. I needed to simultaneously challenge the athletes and not leave the health seekers (couch potatoes) behind.

The Banana Peel was born! I'm not sure where the name came from. We just started doing it and one day someone said "Are we gonna do that banana peal thing again today?"

I modified an old Army drill "The Indian Chain" Where by a group of people run in a line. The last person in line will sprint to the front of the line (Usually to relieve the Color Guard) until the next person from the back of the line runs up to relieve him or her.

With the "Banana Peel" everyone can run at their own pace. The fast runners run as fast as they want, the slower runners runs as slow as they need to. Once the fasties get 100 yards or so ahead, they loop back to the last person taking everyone they pass on the way back with them. Everyone loops behind the last person and the run starts again. This way no one gets left behind and everyone has as challenging a run as they can handle.

The thing I didn't anticipate was the morale boost the slower runners get from the encouraging words and high-fives given by the fasties every time they go bag to pick up the slowbies!

Try it. It's kinda RAD!!!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Too Heavy, Too Soon.

There has been a rash of new heads in the gyms around town lately trying to move weight that is too heavy. With the rise of Crossfit over the past few years I've noticed more and more kids doing Olympic lifts, kipping pull ups, muscle-ups and other training techniques that only the well informed gym heads and trainers know about. This is great! I love seeing girls do front squats and dead lifts. That's something that you wouldn't see in your average gym 2 years ago.
That said, I'm seeing a lot of bad form and lift attempts with weight that is just TOO HEAVY.
THE STRENGTH WILL COME. Focus on form!!! Work with a trainer. Watching the Crossfit games on ESPN is not enough to prepare you to do a 200lb Snatch!

The old rules are still true: 1. If you're training for strength keep your reps between 8-10 (every set to failure)
                                           2. If you're training for size keep your reps between 10-15 (every set to failure)

Trying for a "Max" or "PR" rep is okay to do once in a while (like 3 or 4 times a year) just to see how far you've come, but that's it! Single rep maxes are good for an ego boost, but there's a high risk of injury especially if your form is bad.
Happy Training!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Training with an Injury

Injuries are an unfortunate part of an active lifestyle. Take all the precautions you like, sooner or later something's gonna pull, strain, sprain, tweak, spasm, break, hyper extend, or tear. For athletes this can be a stressful time. Not training for a person who trains 1-3 hours a day 6-7 days a week  is unthinkable. Fortunately there are tricks that allow you to train around your injury. You may need to take the intensity down a few notches (which can be just as frustrating) but its better than sitting on the couch.
Recently I took on a client whose ankle needed to be completely immobilized for 4 weeks. She went from playing tennis 2-4 hours a day 5-6 days a week, to not being able to run, bear weight on her leg, and only limited walking (with a severe limp).  My challenge was to put together a workout intense enough to challenge her level of endurance without aggravating her injury. Very tricky since most of the high intensity cardiopulmonary drills in my wheelhouse involve sprints and sharp changes of direction.

Super sets are a great way to train opposing muscle groups. They allow one muscle group to rest while you train the other, all while forcing you heart to pump blood to both. Boom! Cardio without running.

 Super-set 1 (Immobile foot)

Heavy rope, double (seated) 60 seconds/ Seated dumbbell curls. 8-15 reps to failure. Repeat 3xs
Since we train 2 days on/ one day off I split our sessions into pushing muscle groups (anterior and medial delts, pecs, tri's) and pulling muscle groups (lats, posterior delts, bi's). This way we avoid over -training.  All super-setted with various 60 second heavy rope drills. It does get a little repetitive, but it's temporary.