This is for the Ladies

For the record, I didn’t write this article. Since I think this is an important topic and something that needs a little more run and needs to be hammered home to female trainees, I’m just going to post the article that Matt Skeffington wrote for his blog and also for EliteFTS. I couldn’t agree more with everything Matt speaks on and couldn’t have written it better myself.

This is for the Ladies

Every time I hear women talk about resistance training, they talk about using light weights with a lot of repetitions. I think this huge misconception should be blamed on the millions of enormous bodybuilders and men who lift to be half man half monster. I can see a girl going to the gym for the first time and seeing a bunch of meathead men completing heavy exercises. She thinks to herself, “I do not want to look like them.” So she does the opposite—lifts light weights.
Now that seems like it would make sense, right? Except it makes zero sense. You see, there is a common misconception that women will “bulk up” if they lift heavy weights. I’ll say this only once—building muscle is an extremely difficult thing to do. If your body had to choose between breaking down muscle and building it, you’d look like a bag of bones. Genetically, you won’t and can’t bulk up unless you want to compete in competition and take some illegal injections if ya know what I mean.

Females want to get “toned,” right? I hate to burst your bubble but there isn’t any such thing as toning or shaping a muscle. Muscles can only get bigger (hypertrophy) or smaller (atrophy). Now to make those muscles look better, you need to shed the fat around the muscle and make the muscle bigger. This can all be done by taking a leap of faith with me and changing what you have always done. Stay with me. You may think I’m crazy, but the research is out there and I have been in the trenches seeing women transform their bodies by simply…lifting heavy weights!

Lifting heavy weights is a beautiful thing and it does so many wonderful things to your body. First, let’s talk muscle. I bet most of your training career, you’ve done mostly endurance exercise (running, biking, swimming, high repetition weight training). What if I told you by doing only endurance activity, you’re only tapping into a portion of your muscle potential?

Your body is made up of both type I (aerobic/endurance) muscle fibers and type II (anaerobic) muscle fibers. Type I fibers are used for endurance activities and don’t have great potential for growth. Type II fibers are those used during sprint and heavy resistance training activities. (In my opinion, those activities are harder and better.) Type II fibers have a much better potential for growth and strength improvements when trained. That means train intensely and with heavy weights and watch strength and muscle size shoot through the roof. (See ya later flabby arms!) In addition, research shows that strength is related to life expectancy. Increase strength and live a longer life!

Metabolism, metabolism, metabolism. As we all know, losing weight is about calories in and calories out. What if I told you that the leaner you are, the more calories you burn doing nothing? That’s correct. You can sit on the couch and watch Dancing with the Stars and blast calories. In fact, every pound of muscle you pack on takes 50 calories a day to maintain. So long story short, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day.

It doesn’t end there. We can all agree that high intensity exercise such as heavy resistance training or sprinting is harder than steady state cardio or high repetition resistance training. (Everybody nod yes.) This means we are surely burning more calories during the exercise, which is all good, but what about when the training is complete? With aerobic training or light weight, high repetition lifting, our metabolism doesn’t stay elevated for very long after our training.

There is something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is a process your body uses to repay metabolic debt after anaerobic training. This includes repaying oxygen debt, repairing cells, refilling energy stores. This is a great thing because this elevates our metabolism for 12–24 hours and beyond. So when you’ve finished your heavy training, you continue to burn calories for hours on end.

Which leads us to progressive overload…simply put, we need to constantly increase the weight and intensity of our training. Our body does an unbelievable job at adapting. So if we continue to lift those five-pound dumbbells, we will only be as strong as those five-pound dumbbells. You lift children over your shoulder and pick up fifty-pound suitcases, so why lift tiny weights and get tiny results? To get stronger, look and feel better, add muscle, and burn fat, we need to continuously increase our training. Without the increase, we are all just five-pound pink dumbbells. Now throw some weight on the bar!

So what should you be doing at the gym? I’m not talking about going to the gym and spending an hour doing fifteen chest or bicep exercises. I’m talking two to three days a week of total body, multijoint, compound movements. (Those bang for your buck exercises!) Check back for some sample exercises and training sessions that will surely kick your butt!

Article written by University of New Hampshire Strength Coach Matt Skeffington.

Metabolic Finishers

Lets face it, we all hate cardio. I don’t know if I have ever heard a single person excited about their upcoming cardio session. As a result people skip cardio or just coast through it and end up wasting their time. There is good news though, whether you are a newbie gym goer or a lifetime lifter that’s spent hundreds of hours on a gym floor. You can hammer out your cardio session in a matter of minutes, you heard me right, and watch the fat melt off your body and improve your cardiovascular health. Enter metabolic finishers.

Metabolic finisher are a series of exercises that are performed at the end of a workout that will make sure that you’ve completely emptied the gas tank. I warn you though, metabolic finishers are not fun! But trust me, once your done with your metabolic finisher you’ll have a sense of accomplishment and even though they are tough when you are in the midst of them, you’ll feel great when you get back into the locker room and sit down.

Here are a couple of my favorite metabolic finishers. These finishers can be used by anyone, whether your goal is to drop some bodyfat, increase your level of conditioning so you outlast your competition or if your just looking to increase your work capacity. I personally will grab a stopwatch and try to beat my previous time on each of the finishers to constantly improve my conditioning.

     

1. 100 Yard Gassers

This is one of the finishers that I find myself doing a lot. It’s pretty straight forward, brutal and to the point. Gassers will improve your lower body power, speed your metabolism and increase your level of conditioning.

How to perform Gassers

  • place two cones about 25 yards apart
  • sprint as fast as possible from one cone to another until you’ve sprinted back and forth 4 times for a total of 100 yards (thats 1 Gasser)
  • touch each cone as you approach it
  • rest 45-60 seconds between each Gasser
  • perform a total of 10-12 Gassers depending on current conditioning levels
  • puke
Usain Bolt knows a little something about sprinting

Usain Bolt knows a little something about sprinting

 

2. Prowler Pushes

In order to perform Prowler pushes you obviously need access to a Prowler. If you do have access to one and you don’t perform Prowler pushes on a regular basis your missing out on some fun. Prowler pushes will increase your lower body and core strength as well as increasing shoulder, chest and arm endurance, not to mention an increase in overall body conditioning.

How to perform Prowler Pushes

  • maintain a straight back as well as straight arms, drive the Prowler with long, deep strides
  • drive the Prowler 20-40 yards depending on your current conditioning level
  • complete 5-10 sets with anywhere between 1-2 minutes of rest depending on desired intensity levels
  • pass out

 

**Prowler Pushes at Cressey Performance

3. Tabatas

A tabata complex can be done anywhere and at anytime making them ideal. You can do Tabatas at home, at the gym, or in your hotel room while your away on a business trip. Tabatas are also great because of the tremendous amount of variety they allow. If your creative you can literally do hundreds of different Tabata Complexes without ever repeating them. Like previous finishers, Tabatas will help increase overall body conditioning, increase metabolism and increase your functional ability.

How to perform Tabatas

  • pick any number of exercises ranging from 1 to 8 (psuh up, burpee, bodyweight squat, mountain climbers, split squats, chin ups, squats…)
  • perfom an exercise for 20 seconds non stop
  • rest 10 seconds
  • perform an exercise for 20 seconds non stop
  • rest 10 seconds
  • repeat this cycle for a total of 4 minutes (8 20/10 second intervals)
  • rest 2-3 minutes after the full 4 minutes
  • perform a total of 2-3 full Tabata Complexes

 

4.  Bodyweight Complex (courtesy of Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning and San Jose Sharks Strength Coach Jamie Rodriquez)

The bodyweight burn is another challenging finisher. The bodyweight complex will improve overall body conditioning, boost metabolism, and straight up kick your ass.

How to perform the Bodyweight Complex

  • Chin Ups for 20 seconds
  • Burpees for 20 seconds
  • Split squats for 15 seconds per leg
  • Lateral Crawls for 20 seconds
  • Straight Leg Sit Up for 20 seconds
  • Single Leg Glute Bridge for 15 seconds per leg
  • Push Ups for 20 seconds
  • rest 60-90 seconds
  • repeat 4-5 times depending on your conditioning levels

 

 

5. KettleJack Countdown (courtesy of University of New Hampshire Strength Coach Matt Skeffington)

 First and formost, if you aren’t familiar with kettlebells and how to use them you may want to pass on this one. With so many metabolic finisher options there is no need to perform a finisher that could potentially injury you with bad form. That being said, the KettleJack Countdown is tough. Like all other finishers, it will improve overall body conditioning and boost your metabolism. It also adds a little variety to your program by encorporating kettlebells into your training.

How to perform the KettleBell Countdown

  • alternate between kettlebell swings and jumping jacks
  • perform 10 kettlebell swings, ditch the weight and perform 10 jumping jacks
  • immediately perform 9 kettlebell swings followed by 9 jumping jacks
  • repeat without rest until you have reach 0 kettlebell swings and 0 jumping jacks
  • rest 1-2 minutes
  • repeat 2-5 times depending on your current level of conditioning

 

**Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning and San Jose Sharks Strength Coach Jamie Rodriquez crushing the KettleJack Countdown

Sit back and watch the fat melt off your body. Good luck!

Train Like An Athlete

Ask yourself why you go to the gym or workout in general. I’m guessing the answers running through most of your heads is either to drop so bodyfat/weight and become stronger or to perform better by running faster and staying injury free during your beer league softball season or mens league hockey season. So if your goal is to be leaner and stronger why wouldn’t you train like an athlete? Last time I checked, athletes sport some of the strongest and leanest physiques around. If your goal is to perform better in certain athletic settings (or in general) and stay healthy while doing so, why wouldn’t you train like an athlete? Get where I’m going with this?

Maria Sharapova trains like an athlete

Maria Sharapova trains like an athlete

That begs the question, how exactly does an athlete train? Obviously it depends on the sport, but one thing I can guarantee you is that they don’t train like a bodybuilder and have a “shoulder day” or a “chest and triceps” day. Bodybuilders tend to perform single joint exercises that target a specific muscle like doing a leg extension to target the quads or a lying hamstring curl to target the hamstrings. Athletes on the other hand train the body as an entire unit, not single muscles. When we are out on the field, ice, court, or living our everyday life, our bodies function as an entire unit working together, so why on earth would you train your body in any other way?

For further evidence, step into any strength and conditioning center at a college or university and then go back to your normal gym. You’ll be quick to notice that the athletes in the strength and conditioning center will have more aesthetically pleasing, leaner, and more powerful looking bodies than the normal gym goers and this isn’t because it they work harder…they work smarter. Athletes train movement patterns, not specific muscles.

The next obvious question is what movement patterns should someone be concerned with. To be simplistic, here are the movement patterns that you should familiarize yourself with:
You won't catch UFC fighter Nate Marquardt doing leg extensions

You won't catch UFC fighter Nate Marquardt doing leg extensions

  • Hip dominant exercises (deadlift, hang cleans, good mornings)
  • Quad dominant exercises (squat, front squat, split squat)
  • Horizontal pressing exercises (bench press, floor press)
  • Horizontal pulling exercise (1-arm row, barbell row)
  • Vertical pressing exercises (military press, push press)
  • Vertical pulling exercise (chin up, pull up, pulldowns)
  • Core exercises (planks, medicine ball slams, Pallof press)

It should also be noted that athletes train with heavy weights. When you stepped into that strength and conditioning center I’ll bet you didn’t see any of the athletes doing high reps on many exercises, if any. For example, if an athlete is performing the bench press, they’ll perform the movement in the 3-6 rep range on a typical training day, not the 10-15 rep sets that you’ll see at your local gym (I’m talking to you ladies). Moral of the story, TRAIN HEAVY!  

Furthermore, athletes are known to incorporate soft tissue work either before or after a training session. But before you get all worked up and claim that you can’t afford soft tissue work (massage) there is a very simple way of getting soft tissue work via a foam roller. Athletes will foam roll, working out any trigger points (areas of the muscle that are sore/tender) for 5-10 minutes on a daily basis. In my opinion, it probably doesn’t make much of a difference whether you foam roll prior to working out, after working out, or while watching your favorite television sitcom at night just as long as you allocate that 5-10 minutes of tissue work at some point during the day.

University of California Pole Vaulter Allison Stokke trains heavy

University of California Pole Vaulter Allison Stokke trains heavy

Another key piece to the puzzle that separates athletes from the typical gym goer is the dynamic warm up and mobility work. In short, a dynamic warm up is a form of stretching that prepares the body for physical exertion and sport performance. Because dynamic stretching prepares the body for physical exertion and sport performance, it only makes sense that the dynamic warm up should be performed prior to a workout or event. The dynamic warm up can increase the range of movement as well as increasing blood and oxygen flow to the working muscles all while reducing the risk of injury. A quick dynamic warm up could look something like this:
  • Knee Hugs
  • Quad Walk
  • Inverted Hamstring
  • Lateral Lunge
  • Inchworm
  • World’s Greatest Stretch

The final ingredient that athletes use is conditioning. However, an athletes conditioning program looks nothing like the typical gym goers cardio program. Chances are you won’t catch any athletes on an elliptical or treadmill for an extended period of time performing “traditional” cardio. What you will see is an athlete performing interval training, short bouts of high intensity exercise followed by bouts of lower intensity exercise, which only makes sense when you think about it. Lets look at a normal football game or tennis match. During both events the athlete goes all out for a short period of time (~6-8 seconds in football, ~10-12 seconds in tennis) followed by a longer period of rest (~45 seconds to a minute). With that, why would an athlete perform longer duration of “traditional” cardio, it doesn’t translate to the performance needs of their sports? They wouldn’t and they don’t. This form of conditioning trains the athlete from a cardiovascular perspective as well as producing a lean, muscular physique it a shorter period of time, making it ideal for everyone. For further information on this subject check out my previous post of LSD cardio.

Terrell Owens performs intervals

Terrell Owens performs intervals

Putting it all Together

Here is a sample 4 day program that would be ideal for anyone looking to build a leaner, stronger, injury proof, athletic body.

Day One & Three

Foam Roll & Dynamic Warm Up (~15 minutes)

Strength Training (~45 minutes) performing:

  • Hip dominant exercise ( 3 sets of 3-5 reps)
  • Horizontal pressing exercise (3 sets of 3-5 reps)
  • Horizontal pulling exercise ( 3 sets of 3-5 reps)
  • Core exercise

Conditioning (~15 minutes)

Traditional Static Stretching (~10 minutes)

 
 
NBA star Dwight Howard trains to maximize athletic performance

NBA star Dwight Howard trains to maximize athletic performance

 

Day Two & Four

Foam Roll & Dynamic Warm Up

Strength Training (~45 minutes) performing:

  • Quad dominant exercise (3 sets of 3-5 reps)
  • Vertical pressing exercise (3 sets of 3-5 reps)
  • Vertical pulling exercise (3 sets of 3-5 reps)
  • Core exercise

Conditioning (~15 minutes)

Traditional Static Stretching (~10 minutes)

 

Now get out there and train like an athlete!

LSD…My Thoughts

With spring and summer approaching and the weather finally becoming better than terrible its time to see people doing everything they can to shed those extra pounds and tighten things up a little bit. In doing so, most people take to the track, the roads, a treadmill, or an elliptical and perform 30, 45, even a full hour of LSD (long slow distance) steady state type cardio. But the question is, does LSD steady state cardio really help you drop those extra pounds and tighten things up, and if it does, is it the most effective way to do so?

To answer the question, I’d say yes and no (I know, sounds like I’m riding the fence on this). Does LSD shed those extra pounds and tighten you up…yes if its coupled with a healthy diet the long 30-60 minute sessions on the treadmill or track will indeed help you to drop some unwanted weight. However, in my opinion, as well as results of current research, LSD steady state is NOT the most effective way to drop those unwanted pounds and tighten up. Enter interval training.

Simply put, interval or HIIT (high intensity interval training) trumps LSD steady state on so many levels with research supporting these claims. Bouts of high intensity (sprinting) followed by bouts of low intensity (walking) at a 1:4 or 1:3 ratio for 10-15 minutes is all you need. Head out to a local football field, track, or even treadmill during the cold winter seasons and sprint, all out, for 15 seconds followed by a 45 second walk or even just waiting for the next interval. After 10-15 minutes, you’ll a) be completely gassed, b) done with any cardio training while everyone else is still humping away, and c) think your heart is going to jump out of your chest.

I do however want to stress that I don’t think LSD cardio is bad or wrong, interval training is just more effective and much less time consuming. Would performing LSD a couple times a week be a bad thing, no. If you decide that after work on a nice spring/summer day you want to go for a jog, do it. It’s not going to hurt you and it gets you up and burning some calories as opposed to sitting and watching tv and stuffing your face. But, if your performing LSD cardio 4-6 days a week, I’d tell you that your wasting your time. If your goal is to live a stronger, healthier life, I just encourage you to add some interval training to your workout to see even greater results both from a cardiovascular/health standpoint and a body compositional standpoint. If LSD is something that you want to continue to do, I would recommend 2 days at most coupled with another 2 days of interval training. I personally perform 1-2 LSD steady state sessions a week for about 20 minutes while performing 2-3 HIIT sessions a week that last anywhere from 10-15 minutes.

In ending, I leave you with this, a little anecdotal evidence for those that are still a little skeptical. Forget any of the research, forget my opinion and let your eyes do the work. Here is a side to side picture of a typical marathon runner who performs primarily LSD steady state cardio and a sprinter who would typically perform primarily interval (HIIT) training workouts.

You tell me…who looks like the stronger, healthier athlete?

Its Only the Beginning

Since this is my first post I am going to keep this short and to the point. I’ve started this blog to offer all my professional advice to my friends, family and whoever else ends up reading this on a daily basis. I plan to offer up some of my opinions on the world of strength/fitness training I encourage people to send me emails and ask all the questions they want and I’ll offer up my opinions as well as up to the date research to support my opinions.