Move Weight to Lose Weight

"Strength is a glass." a common phrase I have adopted when I discuss the importance of strength training. What this phrase communicates is the stronger you are the bigger your proverbial glass. In other words, regardless of my goal, if I get stronger it will be much easier to achieve my goal. This being said, the means to get stronger can sometimes be intimidating.

For instance, I remember when I was in middle school, I wanted to get more fit, but I was actually scared of free weights. I would explain myself away thinking I do not need them, and in fact, they are just more dangerous than they are good for me.

Truth is free weights such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and other implements are amazing tools truly helping individuals get strong. However, the fear of moving heavy weight has led to a trend of only using cardio and aerobic-esque type classes in order to improve body composition. 

 

I am hear to say, that if body composition improvement is desired, than you must be willing to push yourself. For some of us this takes courage and it forces us outside of our comfort zone. But when you do step out you will be awakened to a wonderful world you may not have ever known.

Without going too in depth with the science, lifting weights and getting stronger has some key roles as it pertains to changing your body composition. An older study performed by Campbell et al. (1994) found that resistance training and the increased muscle mass that comes from it increase the bodies energy requirements. In other words your body burns more calories when it has more muscle, even if you're not doing anything.

Stiegler and Cunlife (2012) looked at resistance training for individuals when they were following a weight loss nutrition plan and found that resistance training helped preserve their muscle mass. This is huge, because once the diet is over, the better preserved your muscle mass the easier it will be to maintain the changes you have made for yourself.

Suffice to say, the key ingredient for increasing lean mass, specifically muscle, is strength training. However, there are some caveats to remember. THESE ARE IMPORTANT.

  1. ONLY COMPARE YOURSELF TO YOURSELF - Are you doing something better today than you did yesterday? Are you stronger today than you were yesterday? Great that is all that matters. Even if strength for you is not the same as someone else. Even if you it seems like you are weaker than someone else, this is OKAY! They are not you, rather than look at them spend some time looking in the mirror. Focus on yourself, be better than yourself, and do not worry about what others are doing around. I promise they are not judging.
  2. NUTRITION IS KEY - To paraphrase a popular quote, "the road to a six pack is not filled with doughnuts and beer." This does not mean you have to forsake this stuff forever, but what this does mean is you need to be conscientious of what you are eating. A couple of keys are to make sure you eat lots of protein, lots of veggies, and drink lots of water.
  3. EMBRACE THE PROCESS - I cannot say this enough. The biggest mistake people make when trying to change their body is they get hung up on the outcome they desire. The goal of body composition is not a straight path, rather its like a walk through a meadow. If you are too focused on getting out of the forest you will miss the beauty and nature around you. 
  4. ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY - This old adage holds true for anything. Those super fit models on instagram? They did not get like that over night. A lot of major overnight success stories did not actually occur over night. Same with achieving a body that you are happy about. Back to my earlier point, it is a process.

If you want meaningful lasting change in both health and your body, you need to be willing to get stronger, but most importantly at your own pace. Take my words to heart, and take the above four points to heart, and you will find yourself not just achieving your goals, but maybe even having a little bit of fun in the process. 

- Dave

References

Campbell, W. W., Crim, M. C., Young, V. R., & Evans, W. J. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition60(2), 167-175.

Stiegler, P., & Cunliffe, A. (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports medicine36(3), 239-262.

Foam Rolling 101

A trend that has grown in the fitness industry of recent years is called foam rolling, or as some people might call it self-myofascial release (SMR). However, what it does is still a question we must explore. 

There are a couple of schools of thoughts regarding SMR. The first school of thought is the idea that SMR is a way to help break scar tissue. The other school of thought is that SMR stimulates proprioceptive organs within our soft tissue called Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles to tell essentially tell our brain that a muscle is overactive, and, for lack of a better term, needs to be turned off. 

For myself, I used to think that the first school of thought was the correct one. However, I have come to learn that to break up scar tissue and fascia the amount of pressure and force needed to be applied is not something that can be achieved through foam rolling. However, the idea that foam rolling can help inhibit muscles that are chronically "turned on" is something that is truly valid. 

You see our daily living makes some muscle groups more active than others. For instance, sitting here writing this up, my hip flexors are turned on, my pec minor is pulling my shoulders forward, and my neck is craning forward. If I do not take care of these muscle groups, eventually I will find these muscles become very tight and affect my quality of movement.

This is where foam rolling, and SMR becomes the most valuable, inhibiting these muscles, so that I may activate the right muscles and thereby improve my movement.

The following are videos demonstrating areas I find are key to foam roll:

The Foot - You can use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball.

Calves - This is best when using a foam roller and one leg. 

Quads

Hips/Piriformis

Lats 

 

Finally, when you are done foam rolling the essential part is to get moving. If you foam roll an area and do not then seek to use your new found ranges of motion, then you may as well not even be foam rolling.

Suffice to say, foam rolling is helpful, especially as it pertains to helping us enjoy the subsequent workout and movement that follows.

Thanks,

Dave

What to do When Progress Stalls, the Dreaded Plateau

There is a theory we are taught where the quickest direction from point A to point B is a straight line. Such a theory is all well and good, but the issue I have with theories is that they rarely honestly apply to the real world. For instance, in theory, Superman would never lose to Batman. In theory, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit would be a great addition to the Lord of the Rings Saga. However, as we have learned, Batman is just too awesome, and the Hobbit was, to put it lightly, a disappointment. Ever go on google maps? Ever notice that google maps rarely takes you in a straight line? Yea that theory is busted too.

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However, in the training world, it is easy to prescribe to straight line theory and assume that progress will be linear. What I mean by this, is that if you lost added 5 pounds to your deadlift last week, or lost a pound last week, then you should continue to lose a pound every week or add 5 pounds to your deadlift every week. If either were the case, we would have a lot of 1000 pound deadlifters. 

The issue is our bodies. Our bodies are designed in such a way that they adapt to a given stimulus. For my fellow nerds, this adaptation is called allostasis. The goal of the body is to be in the most balanced state possible. So eventually our body hits something dreaded by many gym goers, called the plateau. Essentially, our body stops making progress and stalls; sometimes it might go backward a little bit. It can be discouraging, it can be deflating, and it may even make you want to stop working out. 

The beautiful thing is, there are steps we can take to avoid plateaus. I want to lay out the most important things you can do. 

1.) Keep perspective - Think back to when your fitness journey began, where were you when you started. I guarantee you are far better now than you used to be. Yes, the plateau may have hit, you may have even gone backwards a little bit. This is natural, and it only means that your body has gotten fitter and stronger. Keeping the perspective that you are far ahead of where you started is crucial to keep you motivated. The worst thing you can do when you stall in progress is to stop. 

2.) Remain calm - One of the worst things you can do when a plateau hits is immediately start changing everything to find a solution. I've been there, and it only makes the plateau last longer. Ever notice that when you are stuck in traffic, no matter what lane you jump to you never seem to go faster? Instead go back to my first piece of advice, and remember that you are far better than where you once were at, and then move on to my next bit of advice.

3.) Remain consistent - For my NBA fans out there, I quote the 76ers, "trust the process." Many times the best thing you can do is keep doing what you were doing. This, of course, means that while you're training, you can still aim to do more reps than last time, in fact, I encourage it. Remember that while motivation may be waning, discipline is what will get you to where you want to be. You can have discipline without motivation, and in many times you will need this discipline. There will be days where you do not want to train or eat right, but stick with the process and continue to be consistent with what is laid out before you. 

Most importantly, whatever your goal may be, embrace the process. There is a quote I like that says "life before death." Mostly, what this quote is saying is that all of us have a point B of death; however, rather than focus or get hung up on that we must embrace and enjoy life. The same goes for training; when you embrace the process and enjoy the discipline of training, you will find yourself far more disciplined and far less discouraged when plateaus happen.

Progress stalls, and it sometimes goes backward, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is true, and it is inevitable. However, if you follow my advice, you will find yourself coming out on the other side, and more importantly, your mind and character will be all the better for it.

Thanks,
Dave

Becoming More Dense...

In this series about homeostasis and disruption of homeostasis, we have talked a lot about the exercises themselves. From changing the amount of volume done in a workout to changing the exercises up. However, another way we can change things up in our workout is by manipulating time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that we can change time itself, but we can change how we utilize the time we have available to us. For instance, what if you timed your workout? Measured how long it took you to complete from the end of the warm-up to the start of the cooldown. Then the next workout you don’t do anything different except try to do everything you just did in a shorter amount of time? Right there you have just manipulated training density.

Training density can be defined as what we do in a certain amount of time. To increase density, we either have to do more in that same amount of time or do the same in less time. Definitely a viable way to disrupt homeostasis and force our body to adapt. 

Some people will say density can especially be useful for those who want to lose body fat. I agree, to an extent. However, I would say that increasing density can be beneficial no matter your goal. By forcing yourself to do more work in less time you are tapping into energy systems, you may not have been previously using. More specifically you are building your general work capacity or General Physical Preparation or GPP as all the cool kids call it.

What this means is your building a base from which your body can physiologically grow and improve. The bigger the base, the more effective you will be at progressing. Improving density is one such way that we can build this base. 

One of the fundamental ways to improve density is to decrease your rest between sets. Another method is to lift weights faster during the set. Finally, if you’re nerdy like me, you can try to get the same amount of volume in less time. But that also requires a lot of math and calculations.

Just like any of the other variables we’ve discussed, there is a minimum effective dose to density, and we don’t want to do too much at the start. We also don’t want to rely on density solely, but it is simply another tool in the toolbox to disrupt the homeostatic balance. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when this is all said and done I will provide a snapshot of what all of this might look like in one comprehensive program.

What Does Variation Even Mean?

This has been a beast of a series, but in case you missed the following posts I encourage you to check them out before we delve into variation:

The Rocking Chair of Homeostais

Volume

Intensity

I do not know about you all, but I remember when I was a kid rainy days were the worst. I mean they started out awesome, but went downhill fast. After a while I just wanted to go outside, my video games, books, all that stuff just got boring. I mean this may sound preposterous but there is only so much Super Smash Bros a kid can play in one day. Inevitably boredom sets in and the all too popular complaint, "I'm bored". 

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Although, to be honest, I was a little frightened to use this phrase with my mom, because such a phrase meant I had no where to escape to from chores...

This "I'm bored" phrase tends to be prevalent in our society. However rather than blame it on the "microwave mindset" or the "instafit" mindset I think it is more important to see how this might relate to our body, our workouts, and the notion I have been talking about regarding the disruption of homeostasis. 

Quite frankly, our body, in order to adapt, does need variety in the workouts. We cannot do the same thing every single time all the time. Why? Because our body will stop feeling the need to adapt, and as a result our progress stalls. 

In previous posts I have talked about mixing up volume and intensity for variety, but we can also mix up the exercises we are doing, and that is the key point of today's post. Movement variation. 

Before I go any further I want to make one point clear. This does not mean do completely random workouts every single day. Such a strategy is as effective in the long term as trying to drain the ocean with a teaspoon, good luck. Rather it means being smart about your programming (which I will get into in a future post) and giving your body enough time to adapt before changing things again. 

This is where movement patterns come into the discussion. (If only I got 67 cents every time I discussed movement patterns). Understanding movement patterns and creating variation within the movement patterns can go a long way in creating the type of movement variety that is not just effective but sustainable. 

Take a look at the 6 basic movement patterns, I will provide 3 exercises for each:

  1. Hinge (Deadlift, Hip Bridge, Hex Bar Deadlift)
  2. Squat (Front Squat, Back Squat, Goblet Squat)
  3. Single Leg (Split Squat, Reverse Lunge, Step-up)
  4. Upper Body Push (Push-up, Bench Press, Overhead Press)
  5. Upper Body Pull (Prone Row, Pull-up, TRX Row)
  6. Core (Bear Crawl, Farmer Carry, Plank)

As basic as this may seem these 18 exercises could allow for enough variety to keep your body adapting for probably a good couple years and then some.

We have now discussed volume, intensity, variety, all that remains is frequency and density. I hope you are prepared, because at the end of this I will show you how to use this information to create your own programs that will constantly keep you moving forward. 

- Dave