Monday, February 23, 2015

Why would you require a unique, custom training program but accept a generic diet plan?

One of the weirdest things to me is that people have been convinced that they require a unique approach to training, but will accept a generic eating plan. People in the business believe this as well, which I guess is where the public get the idea from. Everyone who walks in the door wanting to not be overweight anymore, to trim up around the waist, or whatever... gotta build something brand new just for them, from the ground up. Can't give 'em the same set of excerises as anyone else, because they're individuals with unique needs.

Diet though? Just print off another copy of the same generic "these foods good, those foods bad" meal plan. Right?

The opposite approach would really be a lot more helpful to most people. 

Start with a training strategy that we know is effective, and fine tune it as much or as little as is necessary to suit each individual. Depending on their goal, their confidence and ability level, and other factors as well, they might need to start with a different selection of exercises than another person, with a view to progressing to the more advanced options. A competent trainer can do this while still working to a pre-existing strategy that he or she knows will produce the desired physical results in due course.

As to diet though, this is where people really are unique individuals with very unique, individual requirements. Now, all people are similar enough in that they require a certain amount of total energy which we can calculate accurately, and they'll require a certain amount of protein, fiber and other nutritional resources within that appropriate total energy range. The amounts will vary from person to person, but where the real individual uniqueness comes into play is with which choices of foods will best suit each person to meeting these requirements.

There is no point in dictating "these are the best choices that you'll find easiest to adhere to" to someone who just isn't feeling at all enthusiastic about that list of foods. It is even worse still to be a disciplinarian with a "who says you have to enjoy it?" approach that makes it about willpower and strength of character.

The bottom line as I say over and over again practically every day in every conversation on the subject is that people can and should be empowered to meet their energy, macro and micro nutritional requirements from whatever choices of foods best suits their tastes. A certain selection doesn't imply that they want it more, deserve it more, are better people or any other such nonsense. Results from training are facilitated by a suitable provision of energy and other nutritional resources, regardless of where they come from.

Therefore in my opinion, if you are shopping around for a Personal Trainer or for Online Fitness Coaching, what you should be looking for is someone who has an approach to training that they believe in, which has produced results for the people they've coached previously. Ideally you should also be able to learn enough about what that approach entails that you can make an informed decision before you sign up as to whether that approach is suitable for you as an individual.

If you really want to achieve a result through training, what you need a combination of "what it actually takes" plus "what is most suitable for you as an individual". Which isn't to say that you can choose literally anything you fancy doing and expect it to to be effective in producing a specific result. There may be any number of effective approaches to choose from, but that is not to say that every approach, program or product has the same potential for efficacy. Many of them have none whatsoever, others might be better suited to a different goal or a different set of personal circumstances. What we need is something that is actually suitable to both our goal, and our circumstances.

That's an important point that bares repeating and rephrasing. There might be any number of possible approaches from which to choose the most suitable, but the problem most people have is that they believe as long as they make the effort to do "something" then they should be rewarded with the result that they want. Unfortunately, that isn't the way things work.

If you follow an effective strategy, fine tuned a little as best suits your needs, you'll see results provided your nutrition is also appropriate. Regardless of how many other people have already used the same strategy. If you really insist on brand new, custom program built from the ground up, just for you, excluding anything that's been used with anyone else... you're not going to end up with a lot of good stuff in that program.

So the weird part is that we've some how been conditioned to believe that we can earn an athletic physique by eating the same foods we might be told an athletic person would eat, but that actually training with a serious program is optional.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bench Press with Controlled Explosive Velocity

I filmed some of yesterday's training session to demonstrate a little of the "Controlled Explosive Velocity" I've been talking about recently.

This applies in particular to the Barbell Bench Press, but it's much the same if you're using dumbbells or even machine press. Tempo is important, and you really want to make both the eccentric and the concentric movements count if you want to make this exercise as effective as possible.

Now, I managed to screw up somehow and the first caption in the video should say "Warm Up Set: 60kg".

You really want to make that warm up set count. Don't just take a light weight and blast out a bunch of reps at light speed with no control or resistance.

Perform the warm up set the way you would like to perform your work sets. Obviously, as you go heavier and as you become fatigued... the bar won't go back up in the air so quickly, and it might come down a little faster too... still, your intention should be to control the rate of decent by maintaining muscle activation, and then explode back up again with the most powerful muscle contraction you are able to produce.

Therefore what I suggest is to think of "explosive velocity", and for that matter think of a "controlled explosion" if you could imagine such a thing. For the PUSH we should be aiming to move that weight up in the air with as much (controlled) explosive velocity as possible. Now for working sets the weight should be sufficient that it doesn't just fly up in the air, but that's what we should have in mind to force the most powerful muscle contraction we can produce. We don't want to lock out at the top of the movement... stop perhaps a half inch short, then very, VERY slowly lower the weight back towards your chest. Slowly as if you're a little scared of letting it get too close, and them BOOM explode up again.

Do not neglect the negative portion by just letting the bar crash back towards you with no resistance. You should be applying an amount of resistance that is only just short of what would be required to hold that thing up in the air.

 Try this first for a warm up set of up to 16 reps. Then 4 work sets of 10 - 12 reps. You'll find it particularly demanding and notice a real difference in the hard, powerful muscle contraction you produce in those pectoralis muscles you are targeting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Discipline vs enthusiasm, part 8 million.

I have a bunch of ideas on this topic.

I'm half way through a feature post on my official site talking about the "Fair World Theory" and how that relates to people's ideas about fitness, dieting, and health. This is a little story I thought of that's related but won't fit into that entry which is already too long and not even finished.

I've covered this a few times in the past as well. According to the captions on "fitspiration" type images you might see on facebook or tumblr, or certain people's blogs or instagrams or where ever else, it's all about discipline, or commitment, or will power, and so on.

Basically, the suggestion would be that if you're a great person with all of these positive character traits that make you an achiever in life, that's why you have a nice athletic physique, too. People who haven't been so successful? They must be undisciplined, weak willed, lacking in commitment.

Well, I think that is such a load of narcissistic, self aggrandising nonsense.

I will tell you a story.

Back in my days as an aspiring / serious musician, I would often do about 6 hours a day of solid technique work on the guitar. Not including / not talking about jamming along with cds, practicing the songs, rehearsing with the band, etc... just flat out technique work with an unplugged electric guitar and a metronome. I'm trying to remember right now how I managed this around a full time job...

Now THAT takes discipline.

Or does it? Really?

Something that's not actually unpleasant to do, that you take satisfaction in, and you have reason to believe is taking you towards a goal that means a lot to you. Sure, you have to make the effort and many people wouldn't have it in them. Still though, that effort comes out of enthusiasm more so than anything else. Doing it even though you didn't really want to, that would take discipline.

I was trying just now to think of an example of why you might put in all of that effort if you were not enthusiastic about it and didn't care about progressing towards a meaningful goal. I couldn't though. Really, you just wouldn't do it if you weren't enthusiastic about it.

This is analogous to training.

Training is similar. In fact now that I think of it, I'm sure I can remember an interview or two with European bands who used the phrase "band training" rather than "rehearsal". I always liked that translation.

Unlike personal practice on your instrument + band practice though, training for a sport or body condition goal might take perhaps an hour of your day most days, unless you're really looking to excel at an advanced, competitive level.

That might take some discipline while you're new to training, still trying to establish good habits, and schedule them into your routine... and especially if you're still not overly optimistic about your chances of seeing results. I feel like many people especially in the beginning might be quite pessimistic and not terribly enthusiastic, but somewhat reluctantly decide "I suppose I need to show people that I'm trying, at least".

That does take discipline.

People in the business though? People who run fitness blogs and so on? Talking about how you need to be more disciplined and use your will power, just like them? What a crock. Those people are in shape because they are very, very enthusiastic about training. It doesn't take discipline to show up and do something you're really enthusiastic about for as little as an hour a day. That's not a chore, it's a highlight. Marketing and book keeping and things like that are the chores, training is the good stuff.

I suppose there are some exceptions which for example are the "business owner" types who got into the industry at some point when they were told there'd be a lot of money to be made as the obesity epidemic got out of hand. Usually the ones who "don't have time" to actually train themselves, right?

Everyone else though... they don't show up to training every day because of "discipline". Maybe there's a particular routine on the program that's a "you gotta do what you gotta do" type of thing, but generally speaking they love, are enthusiastic about, and look forward to training and that's why they show up and get it done.

Nutrition though. That's the hard part right? 

That's the challenge, where you gotta be disciplined.


Well maybe just a little.

Making effective, strategic training a part of your daily routine is one part of the equation. Getting your nutrition right is the other, and either one on it's own is only so much use. This not to say that you need to be "disciplined" and force yourself to eat foods that you don't like and avoid the ones that you do like at all times.

The bottom line is that people are successful because they have found one of many possible approaches and become enthusiastic enough to get stuck into it. Now as a fitness blogger or instagrammer or whatever else, you can take any approach that is sensible and healthy and try to get other people enthusiastic about it too, and that's awesome. No doubt you will inspire many to make a positive change in their lives.

Promote enthusiasm though, not discipline. And especially, let's not kid ourselves that doing something that we enjoy and eating the foods that we like to eat makes us "disciplined" and that people who aren't enthusiastic about eating the same foods need to "harden up" or whatever.

People will get results from any effective training program so long as their total intake is not inappropriate. It is down to providing both the physical stimulus and the energy and protein resources required to build your healthy goal physique, and people can achieve this with whatever selection of food choices best suits them.

Getting back to this "Fair World Hypothesis", it is fair enough to take pride in whatever success you've had in training or in other aspects of life that have been the result of consistent effort. However, results from training do come from putting in the effort and providing the right amount of energy, not by proving your moral worth by avoiding certain foods in favour of others.

People who have not yet been successful simply have not been given a plan that they can get enthusiastic about that is based on effective training and ensures appropriate energy intake.

In the real world, this is all that it comes down to.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Any Diet: How does it work? What are the rules?

The first question a lot of people want to know about any given diet is "how does it work?" Or perhaps that's the second question. The very first one is likely to be "what foods are you allowed to eat?"

When people are trying to explain how a certain diet works either because they're selling it or because they want you to be their dieting buddy, usually there are only a few variations.

Variation one might be something like: "you cut out these here foods, which are bad. These are the foods that make you fat. When you stop eating those you lose weight".

Consider this though: whatever foods are on that this, I guarantee that you know some people who do eat them but are in quite good shape.

Similarly you have the "only eat these here foods which are good foods that help you burn fat" variations. Again though, you know some people who do eat those foods and aren't losing weight, and you know some people not eating those foods who are in good shape. Don't you?

Still, the people who sell these diets and their victims are always quite convinced, "this is the only way to lose weight. Anyone not doing this will be overweight". I'll say it once again though, you know any number of people who aren't doing that diet, who are eating some or all of those "banned" foods, and they're in perfectly normal or even quite athletic shape all the same.

So that isn't true. What else though? What about the "prove that you really want it and earn weight loss karma" type explanations? That's the only way I can think of to try to decipher the logic behind these explanations.

You know the ones I mean. A whole bunch of rules. What foods you're allowed to eat, what foods you're not allowed to eat. These things only at these times, those things only at those times. Never these things and those things at the same time. Nothing at all before this time or after that time. God knows what else. And if it doesn't work, it's because of that one single solitary time you broke one of the rules, meaning that you don't really deserve it or whatever. Right? You didn't do it hard enough and you should try again. Properly this time.

I've questioned a few people promoting these sort of approaches along the lines of "but why though?" and the response is usually something like "to show they have discipline, to prove they want it bad enough" and so on. What a load of nonsense. It's as if the Tooth Fairy has a cousin or something, who rewards all the good boys and girls if they can stick to all the rules for a month, but only if you're especially good and never break the rules.


Whatever diet it is, if the question is "why would I expect this to work?" the only real answer is "because it is the appropriate amount of total energy, and the appropriate balance of energy from the different macronutrient groups."

Some choices of foods certainly are more conducive to ending up at the appropriate amount and balance of energy sources, which means in theory at least that you can just eat those foods until you're satisfied without bothering with the maths. Which is great if you happen to like those foods, but regardless, if you do lose weight on a particular diet it is because at the end of the day your total energy intake has been less appropriate, not because of any magical properties of the foods you did ate or evil properties of the foods you avoided.

Now depending on how you look at things, that might lack a bit of the "wow I never thought of that" factor that inspires people to give something a try. Hopefully though, the wow factor is there because really... for a lot of people this is like awakening from illusion and walking into reality for the first time. Weight management comes down to maintaining an appropriate activity level and an appropriate energy balance.