In the past two days, over 1,000 people have visited my blog. That’s more than I ever expected to have, and I’m extremely grateful to everybody that has been looking at my past material. Like I noted yesterday, I like to edutain; educate while entertaining. I try to cover a wide array of topics, from nutrition to strength training to why jogging isn’t the answer to life.
I’d love to retain some of the readers that ventured to my little home on the interweb, and I can only do this by providing the best material for my readers. I now present you with a number of tips on a variety of topics, followed by a poll for material you’d like to see more of. To the many readers that are new to my page, thank you for visiting, and I hope you enjoy what you find!
Strength Training – I think that everybody can benefit from getting stronger. Of the many facets of fitness, it is the most universal. We’ve been raised on the concept of an ‘aerobic base’, which is the idea that a foundation of cardiovascular fitness should be developed upon which you can build other factors. As important as cardiovascular health is, I find it to be highly over-rated in regards to dedicate training time. I think that the first thought of people new to a comprehensive training program should be a strength base. Strength is usually the last consideration of beginners. Many girls focus on light weights and high reps, and many guys focus on the all-might 3 sets of 10. However, if we instead focus on developing a basic level of strength, we’ll see benefits across other aspects of fitness. One of the most important things about this is increased control of movement quality. I read about this concept in a interview/blogpost/ I’m not quite sure what it was from Jason Ferruggia. Say we recommend to somebody that they perform 3-4 reps of an exercise in a given set. Due to the shorter set duration, they’ll have a higher level of concentration rep to rep, and it will be easier for them to maintain the exact movement pattern rep to rep. Movement quality will be enhanced, and they’ll be moving a heavier weight. The development of this strength will then carry over to their other activities. Say you’re planning on performing a 95lb barbell complex as a finisher, that consists of 10 repetitions of hang cleans, jerks, front squats, Romanian Deadlifts, and squats. Who do you think will achieve a better conditioning effect, the lifter who can perform each of those exercises with 225lb or the lifter who struggles with 135lb? In this case, the development of strength allows for the development of conditioning, which is our next topic!
Conditioning – The more movement the better. Choose exercises that require the most movement, either for your body or the external load. Examples: The range of motion and distance covered per stride during sprinting is much higher than that of jogging. Obviously sprinting is much more difficult. During the kettlebell snatch the bell moves much further than during a swing. When done properly, the snatch will punish you a lot quicker than the swing. If you’re relegated to a machine during your interval training, which of these would be the best option: using just your hands, using just your feet, using both your hands and your feet. Put that way, the obvious answer is to use all of your limbs. Using machines like a Concept 2 Rower, a dual action elliptical, or a Schwinn Airdyne is going to work a lot better than sitting on the recumbant bike watching Judge Judy.
Diet/Nutrition – This one is pretty simple. Eat real foods. Eat stuff that is green, or that was an animal. I think that most people know what eating healthy means, they just don’t do it. There are few of us with exceptionally clean diets, and I think that a little more attention to detail on this feild can make a world of difference. I’m eating Chobani’s Strawberry Banana Greek Yogurt as I type this; it tastes so damn delicious that I could eat it all day. It’s healthy, too? Awesome!
Exercise Programming – Exercise programming isn’t rocket science, but there is definitely an art to it. I’ll admit I’m no expert on this matter, but I think there are some basic rules to setting up a workout. I think supersetting of exercises is the key to every workout. Regardless of what you’re training for, every moment in the gym should be dedicated to something; eliminate down time. Concurrent exercises usually lead to better results, in almost all cases. Even if you are training for maximum strength and don’t want to take away from the main lift, I still think you can program mobility or flexibility work inbetween your heavy sets. It’s not a strength exercise, but it will certainly pay dividends as far as efficiency goes. If you’re not training with reciprocal supersets already, I’d suggest starting there. There are infinite varieties with exercise selection, and they all provide something different. Here are a few examples of supersets that I’ve used and suggest you do the same with:
- Legs, Push, Pull. – It’s quite simple; pair a lowerbody exercise with either horizontal pushing or pulling. Two of these supersets cover every muscle in the body, and you can acquire a training effect in a very short period of time. The rotation of movements through the body will elevate your heart rate, and you’ll have enough recovery time before a movement is repeated. I think that these work great when one lift is emphasized, say starting with a heavy deadlift, then performing push-ups, then rows. For time efficiency, this is the way to go.
- Strength, Power – This is the concept of Contrast Training that Nick Tumminello discuses. It’s the simplest utilization of post-activation potentiation, and works very well. The rules are simple, to perform a heavy strength exercise immediately followed by an explostive power exercise. I know you want examples, and some of them include: Bench Press followed by a playo push-up, Chin-Up followed by an Overhead Med Ball Slam, Deadlifts followed by Kettlebell Swings/Broad Jumps, Squats followed by Squat Jumps. The list can go on and on, and there are innumerable options. It works well for devleoping power endurance, has a high conditioning factor, and challenges your mental toughness. Give this a try.
- Bilateral vs Unilateral – I like to put together supersets of either bilateral lifts or unilateral lifts, but I seldom put them together. I’ll use bilateral supersets earlier in a workout, and unilateral towards the end. As you know, it’s possible to load bilateral movements heavier, so I’ll use bilateral lifts as the strength enhancing movements at the beginning of a workout, say Military Press and Chin-Ups. Later in the workout, when the CNS becomes fatigued, I like to use unilateral movements that tax ones conditioning. For this, the dumbbell push-press and standing unilateral row work well. You can sustain continuous work if you alternate limbs and movements, and this will send your pulse higher than you expect. By organizing your supersets with strength or conditioning goals, you’ll find the results for each goal are better.
Stupid Stuff I See In The Gym – During my shift in the Adelphi CSR today, I watched two guys performing their bench press…with a modification. They were using 10lb plates, spaced from the collar to the end of the bar. I asked them why they followed this set up, and this is the answer that I received: “It makes you balance the bar more, because you have to worry about the weights, it makes you go slower from the top to the bottom.” Now, Mr. Rocket-Scientist was so excited about this that I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was using a symmetrically loaded barbell. Maybe balance would be more difficult if the bar had more weight on one side or the other. Maybe if a band or chain was only on one side, it would require extra balance. Or maybe if he wasn’t living with his head under a rock, he’d have realized that dumbbells could do that for him. He’d use his stabilizers to actually stabilize, instead of anticipating amazing results from a flawed concept and dangerous idea.
I was talking with this display of broscience with a baseball player who was in the gym, and as we pondered what would drive these lads to do this, his response was simply, “Because they’re frat boys.” Does that mean that wearing letters while you lift counts as a bench shirt? I’m not quite sure. For the record, I didn’t ask this fitness visionary why he wasn’t using dumbbells instead, but I fully plan on doing so the next time I see him.
Now, I leave (some of) the future of this blog in your hands. Let me know which of these topics you’d like to see more of, and I’ll try to adapt my frequency in discussing them. We’ll both be happy this way; I’ll provide material that’ll help you in your world, and you’ll enjoy reading about what’s going on in mine.