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“I want to get stronger! I don’t want to get bulky” F**k!! What you need to know about Strength training.

By | Strength Training | No Comments

“I want to lift weights, but don’t want to get bulky.

Okay so you want to get stronger? No,no,no I don’t want to get big.”

This was a quote from a conversation I had the other day at the gym with a member. She then went on to explain she wants to be able to lift a bit more weight and reduce knee and back pain when lifting boxes at work.

She wanted to get strong.

But she thought strong meant looking like Arnie.

The confusion between muscular strength and muscular size is still evident within the general population. In the media strength is often associated with bodybuilders and The Mountain from Game of Thrones.

giphy 1

The Mountain is not impressed with your lack of strength.

In the fitness space, strength is often associated with how much you bench or squat.

What is strength? What’s the difference between improvements in strength and muscular size?

Muscular size: also known as hypertrophy, is the increase in the volume of an organ or tissue due to the enlargement of its component cells.

Muscular strength: is the increase in the efficiency and power of the muscle to produce force. Or simply, your ability to push/pull more weight in a maximal effort.

So now that we have some definitions on strength and hypertrophy, how would our training change? Can you be strong and not have slabs of thick muscle?

Training for hypertrophy is relatively straightforward, there’s three main factors required for muscle to grow in size.

  1. mechanical tension (very simply put is the process of placing the muscle under both passive and active tension)
  2. metabolic stress  (build up of metabolic byproducts such as a lactate or the occlusion/pooling of de-oxygenated blood in the muscle)
  3. muscle damage (not to be confused muscle strains and tears, muscle damage is the accumulation of tiny micro-tears which then promote muscle growth and repair)

Strength training requires similar stressors, characteristically though strength is heavily influenced through our CNS (central nervous system). Lifting with heavy loads such as 80% 1RM and above elicits predominantly neuromuscular adaptation. By performing multiple repetitions with heavy loads we start to accumulate volume through the 3 factors for hypertrophy mentioned above.

Over time individuals who are training with heavier loads become more adept to recruiting muscle fibers more efficiently than someone who is not training. This has multiple benefits such as:

  • Shock absorption when jumping/falling
  • Developing power in sports
  • Strengthen soft tissue ligaments and tendons around joints

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Can you train for both strength and hypertrophy?

Yes.

Follow these simple guidelines.

Choose 3-6 barbell lifts to periodise (%1RM, RM Max) as main lifts (Squat, deadlift, bench press etc.)

Perform 2-3 main lifts per day

Choose 6-12 secondary/assistance exercises to round off your development and ultimately improve your main lifts. (think isolation exercises eg. bicep curls, isolateral exercises eg. lunges, machines eg. hack squat and leg press)

Perform 2-4 accessory lifts per day.

Across the week aim for:

~20 reps between 70-85% 1RM for each main lift (mid-band)
<10 reps between 90-95% 1RM for each main lift (high-band)
~30-40 reps  for each muscle group for each session (for hypertrophy)

The above guidelines will provide you with the increases in strength and enough volume to accumulate hypertrophy.

I hope that’s cleared up a few things and will now provide you with some clarity between strength and muscle size (hypertrophy). They’re similar, but different!

Regards,

Chris

 

You can burn fat without cardio

By | Fat Loss, Strength Training | No Comments

 

And you don’t have to starve yourself either.

Its almost the first thing most people think about when they think about burning fat. Long sessions of running, images of treadmills and jogging around a park for hours.

Often when I meet a new member at the gym and they tell me they just want to lose weight they almost immediately request I show/instruct them on which piece of cardio equipment will do the trick.

Now are they wrong? Of course not. Any exercise done consistently with garner results. But what about those of us who just dislike cardio and want to still drop the kilos without having to succumb to a diet that resembles that of a rabbit.

Quite simple. Get stronger, build some muscle and focus on dietary change.

Lets briefly go over why.

1.You’ll burn more calories over the course of the day (kinda)

As you get stronger, your body will start to develop more muscle. You’ll slowly require more food to keep up with your exercise routine (to fuel recovery etc.). Is this due to increased muscle mass? eh, kinda. You’ve probably heard somewhere that gaining muscle will increase your metabolism and allow you to eat 100’s of extra calories per day. Yeah – no. The real reason why you’ll burn more calories over the course of the day is more likely due to the fact that your body requires energy to rebuild muscle after a workout. See doing cardio doesn’t result in much muscle damage, weights training however does, and the process of rebuilding our muscle takes hours (24-36 hours in fact).

2. Look better naked.

Acquiring more muscle and focusing on dietary improvements will lead to a reduction of fat and increase in muscle mass. This is called is a change in body composition. What this will result in is a change in how you look but possibly little movement on the scales. And boy will you look better naked. Increasing your strength and improving body composition will leave you looking more firm and masculine than your cardio only counterparts.

3. Won’t have to starve yourself.

As mentioned earlier, an increase in strength and muscle will also increase the amount of calories your body requires to maintain it. What this means is that you’ll be able to eat more food than regular dieters. Traditionally this is the method of weight-loss advocated by misinformed individuals: “exercise lots, reduce your calorie consumption, and keep reducing it”. But what ends up happening is that an individual will reach a point where they reduce their food consumption so much that it will become very difficult, mentally, to maintain adherence. By participating in regular strength training you’ll get to eat more food whilst changing your body composition and looking better. Lock it in Eddie!

What if I really want to do cardio?

So if you really do want to do cardio, I’d suggest H.I.I.T (high intensity interval training) purely based on time efficiency. You can read more on HIIT cardio in a previous blog post. Click HERE

Or better yet, participate in sports. I’m a big advocate for sport participation wherever possible due to the team aspect and sense of belonging it develops. Oh and I guess the fitness component of it.

Hope you’re having a killer start to the week.

Peace,

Chris ‘all weights, no cardio’ Watts.

giphy

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Taper?

By | Strength Training | No Comments

And when do you need to put one into your training?

If you’ve been training consistently for a few weeks, you may have come across a point in time where your body feels a little beat up. Your sleep is unchanged, nutrition unchanged but yet feels like you’ve just been through a workout from hell. Have you ever experienced any of the following:

  • Feeling tired even when you’ve had 7-8 hours sleep
  • Taking a little longer to recover from work outs
  • Failing to hit old personal bests

It might be your body telling you to take a break.

But when I say break, I’m not giving you permission to drop everything and watch YouTube video’s all day (unless they’re from my channel! Subscribe HERE). A taper/deload doesn’t mean a complete break from training.

A taper or deload is simply a period in your training where we reduce our training to allow the body to rest.

Tapers and deloads are utilised in athletic performance all the time. A 100m sprinter will often have very hard training sessions, then one week out from competition their coaches will drop their sessions in various ways. Maybe a reduction in number of practice sprints, number of gym sessions, or maybe the intensity of the overall session. There is a method to this and it has to do with periodization and adaptation to training.

During the weeks leading to the race, the sprinter would be undergoing a heavy and intense training program. His/her body is being pushed to the absolute limit in order to get stronger and more explosive. But we don’t get stronger in the gym or on the track, we get stronger during our rest period. During our rest the body is going through a process of growth and repair, but also adaptation. By the next session it’s hoped that the sprinter has adapted and become accustomed to the intensity of previous sessions and can now work at an even higher intensity – to continue growth.

A deload would be required when training volume (the total amount of workouts as well as the intensity) has increased so high that the athlete is starting to break down or plateau with improvement. A deload can vary in duration but traditionally it lasts for about a week. This will give our sprinter enough time to recharge the batteries, give the nervous system a bit of a break, focus on recovery – all of which will help with adaptation and improvement in the future.

During the deloads for my clients, we simply reduce the sets or reps for their workouts in that week. So if they were doing 4 sets of 8 reps for bench press, we’d deload to 2 sets of 8 reps. Same weight, just a reduction in sets. This allows them to still lift ‘heavy’ but the decreased volume will allow the body to not take too much fatigue from that week and can focus on recovery. During this week we also spend lots of time on foam rolling and relaxation techniques.

So to wrap it all up, a taper/deload is a period of time (about a week) where we reduce the volume and/or intensity of our training to allow our body to recover fully and in turn – adapt and grow. Try adding one in every 4-6 weeks, focus on your nutrition and recovery methods during this period and see the results!

Also guys I just wanted to quickly tell you that registration for my next 16 week Challenge opens soon! If you’re looking to not only get stronger and leaner but also smarter along the way visit the Coaching Page and fill out an expression of interest form.

Reality is that I don’t take on everyone – this is because coaching is a relationship and we need to gel well. So successful applicants will be contacted. To stay in contact and ask me any questions why don’t you join my VIP Facebook Group? I guarantee you’ll learn something new in 6.71284 seconds upon entry. Request access HERE

You’re not lacking in motivation. You’re lacking in direction.

By | Uncategorized | No Comments
fitness

Staying motivated and adhering to the plan will lead to results.

 

Maybe you don’t want to make a change, and the only reason you come to the gym is due to a friend or family member dragged you a long. If that’s the case then that’s cool… You need to WANT to make a change.

Motivation is a funny thing. It can drive us to complete tasks that we thought we could never, like hike up a mountain or win a competition. When motivation is low, it can lead to us feeling beat and just sitting on the couch or laying in bed all day.

In training and health though, I don’t believe you just ‘lose’ motivation – in my opinion you’ve just lost sight of your goal. You’re lacking clarity.

Now you can be heavily motivated and have no clarity on your goal. An example of this is the enthusiasm to lose weight at the start of the year when people join a gym. They’re motivated to lose weight and exercise so they start exercising. But chances are they lack clarity on their goal.

  • A well thought out and structured training plan tailored to their goal
  • realistic dietary changes and calorie targets
  • the daily and weekly tasks they need to complete in order to garner success

What eventually happens is due to the sporadic and rather intense start, the individual suffers burn out and drops off from their enthusiastic attempt at a health change.

See, as human’s we’re motivated by two things which I’ve named: the Recognition and Results Framework. If you’re recognised for an achievement, your motivation improves. You’re belief in yourself to complete a task increases – we call this self-efficacy. If you’re seeing results, well that’s rather obvious – up goes the motivation adherence.

For example with my clients, I use a training software called Trainerize – at the end of each workout if they’ve achieved a new PB (personal best) a nice little notification at the end of the workout appears saying ‘Congratulations! (insert number) new PB(s) Today!’. That small piece of recognition of their hard work that session helps keep them motivated and adhering to their exercise program.

Results are acknowledged via the weights lifted, graphs, scales, photos, the list goes on.

But all of the above wouldn’t be possible if my clients didn’t have clarity on their goals. Clarity on what they needed to do on a daily and weekly level.

You need to know what to do on a daily and weekly level. Failure to do so will lead to you ‘flying blind’ or training with no focus. If you have daily and weekly tasks/goals to tick off, they add up and you can then apply the recognition/reward framework. For example you can set up a 30 day challenge. Every day complete 2-3 tasks that will help you move closer towards a long term goal.

Example: Drop 5kg in 8 weeks.

Daily tasks:

  1. Drink 2.5 litres of water daily
  2. Consume vegetables with every meal
  3. Stretch for 15 minutes every morning

Weekly tasks:

  1. Train with weights 2 times a week for 45 minutes
  2. Perform cardiovascular training (cardio) 3 times a week for 45 minutes
  3. Every Sunday bulk prepare 2 healthy snacks for the new week

Complete the daily and weekly tasks for 30 days. Acknowledge that you’ve stuck with something for 30 days, pat yourself on the back, tell yourself that you can fucking do it if you put the work in and have some clarity.

Do it again for 8 weeks. You’ll start to see results; take photos, record your weight, track your strength – acknowledge your progress. Pat yourself on the back again.

youre-doing-a-great-job

Before I wrap it up,

Another aspect of motivation, beyond clarity that is important for you to address is complete honesty with yourself.
What are you trying to achieve? Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you need to lose 10kg?

Every guy between 18-50 likely wants to gain some muscle. But I assure you there are going to hundreds of different reasons why guys wants to pack on the mass. Some do it for aesthetic reasons, some do it to defend themselves from a bully at school whilst others may want to do it to reduce pain and strengthen joints and bones.

Be honest with yourself – makes no fucking sense lying about what you’re trying to achieve and why you want/need to.

Maybe you don’t want to make a change, and the only reason you come to the gym is due to a friend or family member dragged you a long. If that’s the case then that’s cool. Take your time and go through the above. You need to WANT to make a change.

Take home points.

  •  Create the desire to change
  • Be completely honest with why and what you’re trying to change
  • Plan and develop clarity with what you need to do
  • Apply the recognition/result framework.

And fucking just kill it. Do not give up. Do not lose sight on why you started. Keep at it!

Peace.

bring-it-on-bike

Body Composition vs Body Weight – F**K the scales.

By | Fat Loss | No Comments

You weigh yourself day one – 79.5kg.
You weigh yourself day two – 79.2kg (cool!)
You weigh yourself day three – 80.9kg (what the fuck?!)
You weigh yourself day four – 79.8kg (yay!)

Fluctuations like that would drive you crazy right? You’re working so hard in the gym and on your nutrition yet the scales are going crazy in your eyes? What’s up with that?

emotional-rollercoaster

Over any given 24 hour period – our body weight can fluctuate from 200 grams to 1kg roughly.

If you weigh yourself sporadically every day, you’ll be putting yourself through a frustrating experience.
There’s a few reasons to this:

1. The environment you weigh yourself in.

No I’m not talking about weighing yourself in hot or cold climates. I’m talking about the time, what you’re wearing, what you’ve eaten and even the type of scales you use. If you weigh yourself one day first thing in the morning after you’ve gone to the toilet, then the next day you weigh yourself at the gym after a day of eating and wearing clothes – your weight gonna change bro. Think about it, you got a stomach full of food or at least digesting, you’ve got water in your system, and up to a kilo of clothes on. You’re gonna be heavier.

How to fix this? Weigh yourself the same time, same place, same conditions. Ideally: first thing in the morning, butt naked, after a number 2 in the toilet. Digital scales as well guys! Those old needle scales rely on outdated technology with pressure plates and rubber bands that lose tension over time – some can be 2-4kg off.

2. An increase in body weight does not always mean body fat.

youre-not-fatOkay so this is assuming you’ve been training and eating well for a period of time. Then we have one blow out with our friends on a Friday night. The next morning the scales say we’ve increased by 0.8kg. Relax you haven’t gained fat. You’re experiencing possibly a variety of things; water retention, bloating or maybe it’s toilet time.

Next situation also assumes that you’ve been training and eating well for a period of time. You’ve been tracking your body weight in the same conditions as mentioned above. Steadily you watch your number on the scales decline. But then suddenly your numbers stalls or you even start to see an increase on the number presented on the scales. Have you just gained fat?

Look, the likelihood is no. Whenever we begin to make a health and fitness change, simply changing our eating habits and getting off the couch is going to elicit some drops on the scales. You could say this is body fat. You start running on a treadmill, lifting some weights, ultimately building muscle. Over time your body has begun to adapt and improve its physical condition due to exercise, if you’re lifting weights you’re likely to see some increase in muscle mass. This increase in muscle mass will offset the decrease in body fat that has also come from exercise.

 Body Composition versus Body Weight

Body composition can be looked at as how much of your body is fat and lean muscle mass. It can tell us more about our training and nutrition.

Our body weight is basically just a product of gravity. It tells us very little except what our body weighs right now.

If we increase our lean muscle mass by 1 kilogram and reduce our body fat by 1 kilogram – expect our body weight to stay the same. If you didn’t know this and saw your scales not budge after a month of killing it in the gym – you’d be pretty pissed off right? Well now you know so now you can prepare.

Now to measure body composition there are various methods. Skin calipers are a manual tool for assessing body fat – tiny clamps that will grasp onto skin folds around the body and then using calculations can provide your body fat %. The accuracy of skin folds depends on the tester doing it so I suggest a coach or trainer do it. If you find a coach who is good, pay him/her. Its a skill less and less trainers have now a days.

The GOLD standard for body composition testing for the general public would be a DEXA Scan (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry). You lay down on a x-ray machine and get scanned head-to-toe and then are presented with a nice report indicating what your body composition really is.

Credit: http://www.measureup.com.au/body-composition/

Do weight scales serve a purpose at all then?

Definitely, I use them as one part of a list of tools for evaluating the effectiveness of a nutrition and training program. Use weight scales in conjunction with accurate food tracking (food diary) and regular body composition tracking. Record your daily weight on the scale and note the average weight every 7 days. Compare that number instead of comparing daily numbers. Reason why I use multiple approaches is due to the fact that multiple factors contribute to the number on the scale. If you track your food and your weight is steadily going up – check your training program. If you’re training hard but your average weight is not going down – check your nutrition/food diary.

Take home points:

  • There’s a difference between body composition and body weight. Understand it.
  • Weigh yourself in the same conditions to get a more accurate understanding of body weight.
  • Use the scales in conjunction with a food diary and regular body composition tracking for a more well rounded/accurate insight.
  • Take a poo before you weigh yourself – instantly lose a kilo!
scales-smash

Not what I mean when I say “you smashed your results!”

 

STOP EXERCISING, START TRAINING

By | Strength Training | No Comments

STOP EXERCISING, START TRAINING.

Someone’s just given me the ‘what the?’ look.

What’s the difference? Let’s paint a picture:

You, or someone you know has been exercising for as long as you could remember. You go to regular boot camps at your local park, attend spin classes and take your dog for a run along the bay. You do 25-30 minutes of weights training twice a week at your body pump class.

But she doesn’t look very different. Has dropped little body weight, and still complains about pain in her right knee – see’s a physio once a week to try and fix it.

Does this sound familiar to you? or do you know someone who could fit this mold?

Basically what we have here is a classic example of an exerciser. An exerciser is rather motivated, enjoys a sweat and loves to move. An exerciser doesn’t believe he/she has had a great workout unless they are either about to die immediately post workout or the next day wake up with sore legs that are so weak he/she resembles a new born calf.

Now, exercising is still better than doing shit all and sitting on a couch. Exercise is acceptable for beginners but when we start to get towards the 6-8 week period a few things occur. Suddenly the body doesn’t respond as well to sporadic intensities or varying duration of exercise.

Instead, she needs to train:

Structured physical activity designed to reach a long term goal.

That is the basic one line definition of training.

SO LETS LOOK A LITTLE MORE INTO WHAT IS TRAINING.

Generally if someone is training they’ll possess the following:

A plan, a training program, a schedule – call it what you like, the trainer is organised with their exercise. They know what they need to do, why they’re doing it and what the goal is with the program.

Patience – they understand that their goal won’t come overnight, and that achieving a goal in health or fitness is a result of controlled motivation and discipline.

Knowledge – this all wouldn’t be possible if they weren’t educated or informed on what to do. They’ve either done the time to read and educate themselves or they’ve sought out the help of a professional. A coach to help them with the design of a program and the understanding on how it works.
Running.

Think about an athlete, to get better at their sport they need to train in a way that is geared towards improved performance – this may be increased strength, decreased body fat or increased aerobic endurance, all of which are similar goals to most of the general public. You’ll find that training in a structured, patient manner will eventually lead to body composition changes.

So from here, the trainer is now more efficient with their time. They enter the gym or training field, they know what they need to do. They do what is needed that workout, then they are done. And they know that they are slightly closer to achieving their goals. The trainer is done with his/her workout all the while the exerciser is still figuring out “Should I train chest today or legs”

Take home points

Have a plan or a schedule that is geared towards achieving your goals.
Seek out a professional if you aren’t able to create one yourself.
Short term investment (in a coach) will pay off in the long-term when you realise how much time you saved not just ‘exercising’.

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Supplements 101

By | Nutrition | No Comments

Okay so this is another really common topic I cover on a weekly if not, daily basis. Supplements are heavily marketed to those who are making a health and fitness change. But with the supplement industry a multi billion dollar beast with millions put into marketing – the information out there on their efficacy can be misguiding.

Hopefully I can make this super simple.

Out of all the supplements on the market, three have stood the test of time regarding scientific research.

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) – milk based protein source. It’s recommended due to having a near complete amino acid profile (lots of proteinz).

Creatine Monohydrate – naturally occurring substance found in mostly meat, fish and eggs. Supplementation of creatine monohydrate has been shown to aid in power output and high intensity exercise. So it’s a popular supplement for those looking to improve strength.

Caffeine – a stimulant that is derived from coffee beans. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain which are designed to promote feelings of relaxation and tiredness. The result of caffeine is increased alertness and improved concentration. Strength training performance has been shown to benefit from caffeine supplementation.

Final Thoughts

When to start taking supplements is another question I get. The answer is, it depends.
It will depend on your diet, your goals, your exercise history and most importantly your lifestyle. I recommend sticking to a few healthy nutritional changes for a few months whilst training. Have 95% of your nutrition come from whole foods. Then maybe slot in a supplement or 2 to make up the 5%.

Because that’s all supplements will do for you. Improve performance by the very maximum 5% (it’s probably even less in all honesty).

Protein powders come in many labels and claims. Go for trusted brands (look up reviews on www.amazon.com).

Also check out www.examine.com it’s a free site that provides unbiased reviews and easy to read scientific information on supplements. If you’re unsure on a supplement or ingredient – search it up. If there’s information on it – read and review. If there isn’t – well then that should worry you.

Between these two sites, spending a couple minutes before making a purchase could save you hundreds of dollars.

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What’s the best Cardio for Fat Loss?

By | Nutrition, Strength Training | No Comments

In this video I give my two cents on this frequently asked question regarding cardio and fat loss.

If you haven’t yet – be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I record things and like to educate with fancy stuff here and there.
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Weightlifting Belts: Do you need them? When and how do you use them?

By | Strength Training | No Comments

 

Nice Belt Bro,

Weightlifting belts are a popular training aid for many gym goers. But too often people misuse them in their training.

There is a common belief that using a belt whilst lifting heavy will protect your spine. This is part true.

Belts are used to give you something to push against, to help with bracing of your core muscles. When you brace your abdominal muscles (imagine preparing to get punched in the stomach) you’ll start to use your deeper muscles that you can’t see in a mirror. Mainly the transverse abdominis.

This particular muscle when contracted helps stabilise the spine – mainly around your lower back.

Keeping a neutral (natural arch) lower back when performing movements like squats, deadlifts or standing shoulder presses is important for safety. Also for transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body (help you pick up things).

BELTS WILL NOT HELP IF YOU HAVE SHIT FORM

If your technique during a movement is poor, a belt will not help you.

Belts should also be delayed and used when performing heavy exercises for sets of 1-4 reps. There is no logical reason that a belt should be used from the minute you walk into the gym. Granted you are using an appropriate weight for the exercise, your bodies in built ‘belt’ is more than enough to handle.

Relying too much on a belt can develop a crutch mentality; where you begin to feel like you cannot exercise or train with a moderate intensity without a belt.

So,

Hopefully we can begin moving away from wearing a belt for the entire workout or wearing a belt just to bicep curl.

Peace.


TAKE AWAY POINTS

– shit form will not protect your back
– belts are used to push against as a way of bracing your core muscles (deep abdominals)
– use belts for heavy compound strength exercises between 1-4 repetitions (no bicep curls)

References

Bauer, J.A., Fry, A., and Carter, C. The use of Lumbar-Supporting Weight Belts While Performing Squats: Erector Spinae Electromyographic Activity.Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1999;13: 384-388.

Miyamoto K1, Iinuma N, Maeda M, Wada E, Shimizu K.Effects of abdominal belts on intra-abdominal pressure, intra-muscular pressure in the erector spinae muscles and myoelectrical activities of trunk muscles. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 1999 Feb;14(2):79-87
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10619094