Low Reps or High Reps?

It’s a common question: which is better, high reps or low reps? I get asked it often in the gym.

The answer, like almost always, is: it depends.

But, there is most certainly an order in terms of which should be prioritized for a beginner to training. Let’s address this:

Firstly, what is considered a low rep range is anywhere between 1-5 reps. The low volume means heavier weight can be handled and this is generally considered the best rep range to work in to build strength.

A high rep range is considered 15 and above reps in a set, and this is termed best for muscular endurance.

In between these 2 ranges we have the moderate rep range or 6-14, or more commonly 6-12, as it’s rare to find someone doing a 13 or 14 rep set. This is known as the hypertrophy rep range and is deemed best for increasing muscle size.

So, it would seem pretty straight forward that you simply choose your rep range based on what outcome you want, right?

Possibly. But I’m going to make a case here for why everyone, regardless of goal, should begin their training by straddling 2 ranges with low-to-moderate reps, say between 5-10 reps in a set.

See, although these rep ranges have titles indicating the primary result of working in the confines of that range, none of these things: strength, hypertrophy, or endurance, are exclusive to the ranges that bear their names.

If you go from lifting nothing to lifting something you will get stronger, regardless of whether you’re lifting a relatively light weight a bunch of times; if you’ve never lifted before, you will get stronger. That’s not the ideal way though. Imagine you begin bench pressing 40kg for sets of 15. In order to progress to 45kg you have to be able to lift that extra 5kg 15 times, totalling an extra 75kg over the course of a set. Now, if you can bench 60kg for 5 reps and want to increase to 65kg for 5, you have a much greater likelihood of doing so saying as you’re lifting “only” an extra 25kg over the course of the set. This is one of the reasons why lower reps are better for getting stronger.

But, are higher reps the best place to start if you want to build muscular endurance? Maybe not.

Maybe the focus should be on getting strong first. See, jumping straight into sets of 20 as a beginner is a recipe for disaster. Firstly, chances are your form isn’t nailed on yet, so if you’re doing something wrong, even just slightly, that will accumulate over the course of multiple high rep sets and the repetition of poor movement could (and almost certainly will) over time cause injury.

Beginners rarely have the mental focus or the bodily awareness to tell if something is going wrong in a movement, so even if you start out correctly chances are that over the course of the set as fatigue builds and the mind starts to wander that your technique will break down somewhere along the line.

 

breakdown

 

It’s also generally not a good idea to focus on sets with too high of a weight and too low of a rep range in the beginning. Trying to grind out a heavy single with piss poor form is even more risky than shitty high reps. Your connective tissue simply won’t be prepared to handle it either = joint pain.

This is the reason I recommend a low-to-moderate rep range for beginners, and that you stick in this range until you can be considered an intermediate lifter. There’s no official pass mark to tell you you’ve reached intermediate status, but mastering the equivalent of your bodyweight in the big 3 is a good start (think bodyweight squat x10, bw bench press x5, 1.5 bw deadlift x5). If you can achieve these with good form, you’re probably there.

Build up a good level of strength in the 5-10 rep range, and only then think about going higher or lower. High rep sets are only beneficial if you are lifting appreciable weight. Getting stronger will certainly build your muscular endurance while simultaneously having the benefit of getting you jacked and feeling like a bad ass.

Put it this way: someone who can squat 120kg for 5 or 6 reps can quite easily squat 60kg for 15 reps. Someone who solely works at squatting 60kg for 15 reps will have no hope of squatting 120kg. It’s more efficient to do both.

There is simply a greater benefit for everyone in beginning by getting stronger in the low-to-moderate rep range first, then shifting your focus higher or lower, whichever way you be inclined.

Basic strength is your foundation. Hypertrophy, max strength, power, and endurance can, and should, be built on top.

The Key To Success

What if I told you the key to success? That if you could nail down this one little thing, you would be able to achieve anything you want?

Would you be interested?

Of course you would.

What I’m going to tell you is simple, but not necessarily easy.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

I have seen it time and again. The people who see success, are the people who take responsibility for their own shit.

You’re unemployed? Stop blaming circumstance, or immigrants.

You got an F? Stop blaming circumstance, or your teacher.

You’re overweight? Stop blaming circumstance, or Ronald McDonald for opening his restaurant on the corner of your block. Or donuts and ice-cream for being too damn tasty.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself

You can give yourself a million excuses about why you are the way that you are, or why you’re in the situation you’re in, and some, or all of them may be valid. But you know what they’ll do to change things? Jack shit.

Everybody has reasons why they can’t. Some people choose to shelter themselves behind these, and some people use them as motivation to succeed.

I used to be one of the former. I blamed everybody around me for my circumstances, some very vocally, and others more inwardly, but I blamed them.

Truth was, no one was responsible for the mess I’d made of my life other than me.

People may have done some real bad shit to you. I am not downplaying that, not at all. But for every bitter and resentful person out there blaming their past on why they are sad, alone, broke, fat, or whatever, there is another with similar circumstances who is living life with gusto.

What is the difference?

The individual.

 

Put Up Or Shut Up

Of course there are reasons why you are like you are, but there is a single reason why you stay where you are.  You keep giving yourself excuses. So unless you are willing to make a change, to take responsibility and take action, just be honest about it and say you can’t be bothered, or you’re afraid, or other things in your life are of higher priority.

Willingness to make a change is not a single decision. It’s not a one time thing. It is a mindset. It is an attitude. You see something in your life that you’re not happy with and you set yourself about improving it regardless of how you got that way.

Instead of moping and feeling sorry for yourself, you take action.

This can be learned, but it will take effort. It’ll take you to look at the exact same things with a new set of eyes.

You must train yourself to see obstacles not as excuses, but as challenges. I remember hearing that the Chinese had the same word for problem and opportunity. I have no idea whether this is factual or not but the precept is true. The difference is simply in the perspective of the looker.

Donald-Trump

Don’t be a whiner. It seems to be more prevalent than ever nowadays to blame surroundings, upbringing, or Donald Trump on your problems. Take responsibility for your own shit, there is something strangely liberating about it.

 

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training

Sport Specific Training: It’s Not What You Think It Is

I train a guy who is a recreational surfer and kite surfer. He wants his training to improve his sport.

What is one of the primary exercises I’ve prescribed him?

Farmer’s Walks.

Yep.

I could have put him on a bosu ball to simulate the unstable surface of a board on water and had him hold one end of a resistance band while I held the other and played kite by jumping around trying to pull him off balance.

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?

Yet that is what many think when they think “sport specific”. That the movements trained in the gym have to exactly mimic the movements of the sport. Then they want to load these movements with additional weight.

Before we go further, back to Farmer’s Walks. How in the hell do these transfer to kite surfing?

Answer: grip strength and full body stability. An obvious requirement when you think about it.

We also do things like Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats to work on single leg strength and stability, Trap Bar Deadlifts to strengthen the posterior chain, Unilateral Presses, Rows, and Straight Arm Pulldown variations. Strengthening and stabilising, and putting slightly more emphasis on areas related to performance in his sport while keeping his training in balance.

Sport specific training doesn’t mean doing movements that mimic the sport in as close a way as possible. Rather it means doing movements and exercises that will improve the ability to perform in the sport.

Then, to actually get better at the sport in question will require practicing and practicing and practicing said sport.

To give another example:

Another of my clients is a junior competitive alpine skier. I don’t balance him on a stability ball and have him swipe 2 dumbbells back and forth. (We’ve all seen these kinds of videos right?) I’m going to talk further on this later.

Instead we work on Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats for single-leg strength and stability, Trap Bar Deadlifts to strengthen the posterior chain, Unilateral Presses, Rows, and Straight Arm Pulldown variations. Do you see the similarities?

The demands on the body of these 2 very different sports is actually very similar. Both require strength and stability; both require robustness.

Again, improvement in the particular sport will come down to practicing that sport. This is the principle of specificity. To improve at something you have to practice it. You can’t improve your ability to surf by jumping on a bosu ball. Someone could practice that for years so they can jump on blindfolded and land on one foot while juggling fire, then get on a board and wipeout immediately. Proficiency in one doesn’t necessarily transfer to the other, even though the 2 things may look very similar.

The greatest gym example of this is Lat Pulldowns and Pull-ups. You will see guys who can lift the whole stack on the Lat Pulldown machine but can’t do a single Pull-up even though the movements look incredibly similar. The 2 don’t necessarily correlate.

My job is to build a stable and agile body that can better handle the rigours imposed on it and produce more power when necessary. I occasionally throw in things that may somewhat mimic the movement of the sport, but only if it will actually benefit the athletes performance in some way. This can also allow the athlete to connect the training to the sport in their mind. I don’t do it for the sake of looking cutting edge, and definitely not if it puts the athlete at unnecessary risk.

I’ve stated before and I’ll state again that I am open-minded when it comes to training. I try not to judge someone’s training based off short videos without knowing the background. But I hate seeing athletes being put through tasks where there is more risk than reward, or where there is little-to-no reward at all for what they are doing.

One that springs to mind is a video I seen of a top Formula 1 driver standing on a stability ball while turning a weight plate left and right like a steering wheel. He was even doing the gears (lol). I laughed at the absurdity of it but at the same time I cringed.

I fail to see how him balancing on a stability ball is going to benefit his sport. The risk faaaaaaaaar outweighed the reward. In fact I’d like to know what the reward was.

No doubt “bus drivers”, as the exercise of holding a plate out in front and turning it side to side is known, are a half-decent exercise for the shoulders, but if this driver had of fallen off the ball, his season, and maybe even his career, could have been finished.

There is always an element of risk in training, but it is the job of the coach to minimise it, not increase it for their own benefit.

In my mind the stability ball was there for no other reason other than to look fancy. In the minds of some it may have made the trainer look innovative, but it was actually idiotic.

Sport and sport training provide enough risk to an athletes body as it is, complementary strength and conditioning training should not further that risk but enhance the ability of the body to withstand it.

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training 

You Should Be Strength Training

Just for extra emphasis:

You Should Be Strength Training

I’m a proponent of almost every kind of training, to some extent. I can see the benefit in most training styles and believe there is something to be learned from each (for the most part, not the blatantly idiotic stuff).

I try to remain open-minded and often like to experiment with alternative training styles. At various times throughout my training I have ran long-distance, sprinted, done HIIT, calisthenics, body-part splits, agility work, mobility work, played sports, trained specific skills, and probably other things that don’t spring to mind now, but there is one constant throughout my training since I first experienced it years ago: good old-fashioned strength training.

Strength. Moving weight. There is something so satisfying about it. It requires more than just training, it requires a mentality. A mentality that not everyone has, but that can be built.

Because free-weight strength training doesn’t just strengthen the body, it strengthens the mind. It gives you a grit and a confidence that you don’t get from running or solely training on machines.

Without getting overly dramatic, there is a very real overcoming of adversity in strength training. You will not squat down and back up with a heavy weight on your back without a level of mental strength. You must overcome fear and doubt in order to do it.

It will change you. It will change your body and it will change your mind. I don’t hesitate to say it will change your life.

How It Changed Me

After years of substance abuse I found myself in my mid-twenties skinny, malnourished, and weak as shit. Growing up I’d always been relatively fit and even tried maintaining some level of fitness during years of treating my body poorly (an understatement), but after getting sober I decided to join the gym and start training “properly”, which at the time meant bro training.

I can remember going to train with a friend who had been training for a few years and being thoroughly embarrassed by how weak I was in comparison. So much so that I actually quit the gym. Stupid of course, everybody starts somewhere, but it was how I felt at the time. Already being anxious and self-conscious, my ego couldn’t take that hit.

Unhappiness Is The Catalyst Of Change

I didn’t quit training though, instead I started working out at home, which at that time was my mums house (I’d moved back there for the 10th time since I first moved out at 19). I bought a pull-up bar and some push-up handles and started doing bodyweight work.

After a while I dug out some old weights and a fold-away bench my mum had got me for Christmas one year in my mid-teens, and started doing some bench press (working my way up to a majestic 50kg) and squats (hitting the even more spectacular 40kg because I had to clean and press it first) and started doing the “Big 5 55” workout because I read in a fitness magazine that that was what Jason Statham used to get in action star shape.

One day, while at the supermarket, I got a comment from someone I hadn’t seen in a while along the lines of “look at the guns on you”. – Now, since I’d long abandoned my life of crime I knew he was talking about my arms. That felt good and gave me the confidence to enrol again at the local gym.

I knew that strength motivated me. More than being big, more than being ripped, I wanted to be strong. I knew I’d never be the strongest guy about, being small, naturally light, and unwilling to use anabolics, but I wanted to feel like I could hold my own.

Still not knowing much about programming, or writing a training plan beyond the typical bro-split, I started to research a little on strength training programs and settled on Stronglifts 5×5, a simple, straight set, progressive overload system that came with its own (free) app.

This program worked fantastically for me and soon my bench was up to a ginormous 70kg for 5 sets of 5, and my squat and deadlift both cracked 100kg, though looking back now my squat form in particular was horrendous. These were also complemented with things like chins and dips, overhead presses and rows. To this day the greatest and most rapid strength progress I’ve ever made was at this time on the Stronglifts 5×5 program.

This is for a couple of reasons. Of course there was “newbie gains”; the fastest progress you will make in your training, provided you do it right, will be in the beginning, when you go from doing nothing to doing something. But also, this was a no-bullshit program centred around progressive overload and compound movements. For a beginner in particular, this is vital. That’s right, vital. No superlative, just fact. I’d argue that it is vital regardless of your training experience, these things should still be the foundation of your programming.

Have A Strong Foundation

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your training. Don’t be afraid to try new things. But make sure you have a foundation. The base of your program should be made up of squats, hinges, pushes, and pulls. There are exercises in each of these categories that will fit any individual. My client base currently ranges from a 12 year old male competitive alpine skier through to a 75 year old widow, with every kind of human in between, and each and every one of them train these movements loaded. Not always loaded from the beginning, but we work our way there.

Functional Training 

Strength is functional. These are fundamental human movements replicated very much in everyday life and in pretty much all sports. You should be training them. I don’t care who you are, you should be training them, and you should be training to get stronger in these movements.

Strength training will develop strength in more than just your body, it will develop strength in your mind.

There are some good resources and programs out there on this topic, the aforementioned Stronglifts 5×5, Jim Wendler’s 5, 3, 1, and many, many articles on sites like T-nation (I have no affiliation with any of these by the way).

If you have any questions at all regarding implementing strength training, or improving upon your current strength program, hit me up in the comments or via email or social media.

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training

How To Stay Fit And Healthy When You’re Too Busy To Workout

First off, and I say this with love and tenderness: you’re not too busy to workout, so cut the bullshit. Either you don’t want to, or you don’t know how. If you’re the 1st, each to their own, no judgement. If you’re the 2nd, maybe I can help.

There are many ways to stay fit and healthy with limited time. It’s a matter of priority, and trust me, your health should be a priority. You work so hard to have all these nice things; house, car, holidays, satin underwear. That’s good, but you can’t fully enjoy them if you’re not healthy.

The healthier you are, the better life will be.

You can’t perform when you’re giving yourself a million reasons not to. Excuses do nothing but keep you where you are, maybe even run you backwards. (No, that doesn’t count as exercise.)

“I can’t make it to the gym.” – workout at home.

“I have no equipment.” – use your bodyweight or stuff around the house.

“But, I have no time.” – get up half an hour earlier. Don’t plop down on the couch as soon as you get home, bust out some push-ups. Tabata literally takes 4 minutes. Manage your time better and you will have time.

Staying fit and healthy doesn’t have to mean 3 hours of training per day. Set aside 45mins 3 times a week, or 15-20mins 5 or 6 days a week and during that time work-the-fuck-out. No phones, no Inspector Gadget watches. No ass scratching. Do what you set that time aside to do.

I have a push-up/chin-up countdown circuit that I do at home sometimes. It takes me around 15mins and in the time I do 150 push-ups and 75 chin-ups, plus it skyrockets my heart-rate. More on that later when I’ll give you some actual, real life, time efficient workouts for all you busy mofos.

 

But before that…

I am not downplaying busyness, or tiredness, lack of time, or stress. All these things play a factor in many of our lives today.

Your health will come down to more than working out, it’ll be managing all these things better. Luckily, if you love this next point as much as I do then you’ll be very happy to hear what I’m going to tell you to do next…

 

Sleep

Yes, sleep is vital to your health and performance. It’s not a waste of time. No, you can’t “sleep when you’re dead”. You need to sleep now. Possibly right this instant, or at least very soon.

Napping is my favourite pastime, I do it whenever I can. My ultimate ambition is to have a nap-to-work ratio of 3:1 in favour of naps. I have big dreams. (Nap pun for the win.)

Another quite enjoyable factor of health and performance…

 

Eating

Eating has become a huge fucking issue for people nowadays. People are afraid to eat. Or they just eat shit. Or eat too much. Some people are all these in one day.

Thing is, nutrition does not have to be this overly complicated matter that scares the living shit out of you. Food should not be scary, it should be scared of you, it’s the one getting munched.

There is of course an emotional linkage with eating for many, but I’m not going to touch on that here. What I am going to say is: put some thought into what goes into your mouth.

Energy in vs energy out. That’s what you need to know. If you take in more energy than you burn then you will store that extra energy as fat. If you take in less energy than you burn then you will use your reserve stores of energy (fat) as fuel. Simple. (This must be consistent to see any noticeable change in the body.)

If you have a sedentary job, a slow metabolism, and no appreciable muscle mass, you won’t burn as many calories throughout the day as someone who is the opposite. So eat accordingly.

If you regularly have a donut on your coffee break realise that you have to account for those calories elsewhere in your day if you want to lose fat, either by being more restrictive at another meal or increasing your daily activity. (Let me make clear that I’m not hating on donuts, I love them, but they are a high calorie food that offer little in terms of satiety, that’s why I use them in this example. The same of course goes for all calories.)

Even still, with all my love for donuts, I do question the need for an adult to have one every day. Sweets should be treats, not a regular meal. That’s opinion by the way, if you don’t agree you can tell me to go fuck myself and shove that sugary goodness in your face.

 

Sleep, Eat, Train

If you can improve these 3 things to a higher level than you do currently you will get fitter and healthier.

So after covering sleeping and eating here are some simple workouts for busy people. Some done at the gym, some at home with minimal equipment, and some that simply require a body, preferably your own.

This first one is not written by me, but by Pavel Tsatsouline, here it goes:

Day 1

Deadlift

Bench Press

Day 2

Squat

Bench Press

I honestly believe this program could be done as is, just pick a set and rep range and go, but for sets/reps and assistance exercises, Dan John (who is the king of realism when it comes to training), elaborates here: https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/2-times-a-week-for-twice-the-gains

This next one is the one I alluded to earlier and is an upper body conditioning workout that can be done at home only requiring a pull-up bar. You can pick one up to hang in your doorway for next to nothing. Alternatively, go outside and use a tree branch or monkey bars, anything you can hoist your chin over:

Push-ups 10, 8, 6, 4, 2

Chin-ups 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Alternating between push-ups and chins. So begin with 10 push-ups and 5 chins and work your way down to 2 and 1. Do 5 rounds.

What about the lower body? I’ve got ya:

100 goblet squats

There you go. Pick up a weight and do 100 goblet squats in as few sets as possible.

This one requires no equipment whatsoever:

10 rear foot elevated split squats on one side

10 push-ups

10 rear foot elevated split squats on the other side

1 minute plank

Repeat 5 times

Single kettlebell:

Swings 20

Unilateral Press 10 each side

Goblet Squat 20

Unilateral Row 10 each side

x3

And another with a barbell for people who like to hit the gym but don’t have a lot of time to spend once they get there:

Day 1

Front Squat, ramp to a triple, drop the weight accordingly and do 4×8

Day 2

Bench Press, ramp to a triple, drop the weight accordingly and do 4×8

Day 3

Trap-bar Deadlift, ramp to a triple, drop the weight accordingly and do 4×8

Day 4

Chin-ups 3×8

TRX Inverted Row 3×8

Face-pull 3×20

These programmes are nothing fancy, there’s no periodization, no accumulation blocks, no bosu ball back-flips. What there is, is no-nonsense workouts for busy people. If you train hard at them you will see improvements in your fitness. Every training programme, no matter how basic or extravagant, is only as good as your execution of it. Approach any of these workouts with focus, precision, and intent and they will change your body. Half-ass them and they won’t. Consistency is key. Stick at it. And warm-up beforehand, just because I haven’t typed a warm-up doesn’t mean don’t do it, that should be a given.

 

Oh, and drink water,

 
Andrew

Life Performance Training

Be An Athlete: 16 Reasons Why

Being a performance coach, I look at everybody as an athlete. Whether you’re a 15 year old football player, a 31 year old powerlifter, or a 65 year old recently retired shop-lady who has joined the gym to fill the gap in her days, you are an athlete, and you should think of yourself as such.

An athlete is either performing well, or they’re not. Either way it’s my job to improve their performance.

Regardless of what you do for a living, or how athletic you think you are or are not, here are 16 reasons why you should consider yourself an athlete and strive to be one daily:

 

Conditioned

An athlete has a good level of fitness. They train to be ready for every eventuality in their chosen field and have enough stamina to last the distance. Likewise, you should be able to sprint, jump, roll, climb hills, get up from the ground, for these eventualities will appear at some stage in life.

 

Strong

Athletes can hold off opponents, lift heavy loads, and master their own bodyweight. Strength is necessary in life. Daily you will be required to lift things and move things that will require strength. Make sure you have it. It also bulletproofs you from injury. If your strength training is causing your injuries, you’re doing it wrong.

 

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.”

– Mark Rippletoe

 

Agile

Athletes move freely and easily. Sounds nice doesn’t it? Prioritise movement quality in your training and feel the difference. Also, being able to change direction swiftly, move out of the way of flying objects or flying fists can save you some bruises; just me… Ok.

 

Confident

Athletes walk tall. They have complete confidence in their abilities. Having trained for every eventuality they know they are ready, regardless of what comes. So walk tall. Swagger if you want. Fuck it, I do and I’m 5’6″ on a good day. The reason you can be confident is because you know you are prepared.

 

Competitive

Competition is in the very nature of an athlete. They do not rest. They do not settle. And they…

 

Never accept defeat

They refuse to be beaten. Someone or something in life seems to be getting the better of you, how do you react? Do you roll over and give up, or do you fight with everything you’ve got until the end?

 

Focused

Keep your eyes on the prize. What is it you want more than anything? Got it? Ok, then why are you messing about with 100 other things that have nothing to do with your main goal. You want it? Don’t take your eyes of it.

 

“The goal is to keep the goal the goal.”

“If something is important, do it every day; if it’s not important, don’t do it at all.”

“Look at your goals. Look at your behaviour. Does your behaviour match your goals?”

– Dan John

 

Driven

Your sights are set on the target. Go for it. If necessary plot out the steps needed to get you there, but make sure you make the move. Don’t wait, do!

 

Hard working

You have to work harder than your competition if you want to better them. This is not work for the sake of work, but work that will make you better at what you want to be better at. The most successful are often the hardest working.

 

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

– Tim Notke


Persistent

Keep going. No matter what, keep going. Life will get hard. There will be stress. There will be trial. There will be defeats and ridicule and really fucking hard times. That does not mean you are beaten. That does not mean you are a loser. Keep going.

 

Decisive

Make the choice. If you dally too long the choice will be taken away from you. If it turns out to be the wrong one, then you know better for next time. If it’s the right one, you look like a genius.

 

Goal oriented

Know what you want, and go after it. Break down what you ultimately want to achieve into smaller tasks and work to complete each one in a given timeframe.

 

Results oriented

It’s not enough to have your goals, it’s not even enough to go after them. Like it or not, ultimately you will be judged on your results. Did you achieve anything with all that hard work? If you complete each step of your task breakdown, you will have reached your goal.

 

Calm under pressure

When the heat is on, can you keep your cool? Can you still perform when the odds are stacked against you? Can you dig deep? Things won’t always go in your favour. You will have to conquer adversity.

 

Strive for excellence

Aim to be the best you can​ be. You may not be the best in the world but you can do your best.

 

Be humble

Know who you are. Know your flaws. Know your weaknesses. Work hard to improve them. Help others along the way. No one is perfect, but be a decent human being.

These are some of the components of what makes an athlete. Looking back at the list, you’ll see that only the first 3 are physical traits, the following 13 are mental. None of them have to do with appearance.

All of these things are achievable to some extent for everybody. Will you be stronger in some than you are in others? Yes. Will you need to work really hard to see even slight improvement in some? Probably. 

There is much more to being an athlete than physicality. Train your brain bruh.

#braingains

 

 

Andrew

 

Body Composition and Life Performance

Following on from my previous post on fat loss I’m going to tell you a bit about body composition and its importance in life performance.

Body composition, quite obviously, is what your body is composed of: muscle, fat, skin, internal organs, hair, moles, toenails, and pretty much everything inside the various crevices on your body. (Mmm, sexy.)

But, for our purposes, when we talk about body composition, we’re talking about what you want to change when you say you want to lose weight; we’re talking about muscle mass and fat mass and the ratio of one to the other.

What is weightloss?

When you say “I want to lose weight” what you really mean is you want to alter your body composition favourably. You want to adjust the fat to muscle ratio so that fat is lower and muscle is higher than it previously was.

Scale weight then is rendered virtually irrelevant. Yes, that little number on the scale has lost it’s power!

The number that you should be more concerned with is body fat percentage (BF%).

You see it’s possible to lose weight without really changing your body composition, leaving you remaining unhappy with the way you look.

Conversely, it’s possible to maintain or even gain weight while altering your body composition in a manner that has you happier with how you look by increasing muscle mass (which is weight) while decreasing fat mass (which is also weight).

If you increase more by weight in muscle than you decrease in fat, you will weigh more on the scale but look better in the nudie.

Like I said previously, scale weight is virtually irrelevant to most people. Unless you find yourself competing in a sport with specific weight classes.

That being said, it can offer some insight into favourable improvements in body composition if you are very over, or very under weight.

In any aspect of life you will have the capability to perform better the healthier you are.

I am by no means a physique coach. I am a performance-orientated coach. That is the whole point of this blog, to talk about improving your performance in life.

So should body composition be your primary focus in training? Possibly. If your performance ultimately hinges on it.

It all comes down to your life. Does your livelihood somehow depend on it? Are you a fitness model or a pro athlete? Then your livelihood likely depends somewhat on your body composition. Want to perform well in the matter of attracting the opposite sex, or the same sex, or whoever you’re trying to attract? An improvement in your body composition certainly won’t do your chances any harm. It all comes down to what field you want to perform in.

Are you an office worker? A labourer? A taxi driver? A make-up artist? A door-to-door salesman? Then body composition shouldn’t be your ultimate priority. Health should be. In actual fact that should go for everyone.

We will see now how that will have an impact on your life performance:

Health

You need to be healthy in order to perform. Need I say any more than that?

Of course I will anyway because I can’t shut up:

In any aspect of life you will have the capability to perform better the healthier you are.

That includes physical, and mental health.

Your mental health can have an impact on your physical health and vice versa.

If you look good, you feel good.

When you are happy with how you look, you are more confident. That’s why we feel good when we dress up, get a fresh haircut (a distant memory for me), or see your bicep raise it’s beautiful round head for the first time after 3 weeks of curling in front of the mirror.

When you don’t feel confident, you often feel anxious.

As vain as it sounds, for many of us our confidence is irrevocably attached to how we look. Or at least, how we think we look.

Can someone be unhappy with how they look and still be confident? Yes.

But if you then improve their perception of how they look on top of that, that will make them even more so.

This can come both from actual, physical change in your body, and also a change in mindset and belief about yourself.

There is nothing wrong with liking how you look, particularly if you worked damn hard at it.

And the great thing is, often if you work hard with your body, you will feel better in your body. Regardless of whether there is noticeable physical change or not.

We are made to perform, and if you are not performing you will feel a sense of inadequacy.

If you push yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally (within reason), you will find that both your health, and your confidence will increase, and as a result of that, your life performance will increase too.

Me and my man Socrates were chatting about this very subject a few years back and I came out with this gem:

But somehow it got attributed to him.

And by “man” I meant “mankind”, before any crazies come at me.

 
Andrew


Fat Loss Simplified

*This is not a comprehensive article on fat loss. The purpose of this blog post is to simplify what for many has become an overly complicated issue. I will be doing future posts on this topic that will dive further into the issue.


There is lots of information out there on the topic of fat loss.

What is the best diet? Which style of training is best? Is it strength training? HIIT? Steady state cardio? Should I do that cardio fed or fasted?

Sometimes these questions get in the way of the very thing that will get results: action.

Start. Begin. Decide. Do.

Don’t try to have it all figured out beforehand. Honestly, in how many situations does that actually work? You can figure out the best method for you along the way. That’s generally how things work out. If you wait until everything is perfectly aligned, then you’ll be waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

And do you know what waiting doesn’t do?

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Burn fat!
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Sometimes these questions get in the way of the very thing that will get results: action.

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In order to burn fat from the body you have to be in a calorie deficit. That means you have to be expending more energy than you’re taking in. In one respect it really is that simple: Eat less, move more.

If you strength train and are consistently in a calorie deficit, you will lose fat. If you do your cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and you’re consistently in a calorie deficit, you will lose fat. If you do your cardio 2 hours after a huge feed of pasta and you’re consistently in a calorie deficit, you will lose fat. And, if you do your cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and you’re not consistently in a calorie deficit, you’ll not lose fat. And so on, and so on. (*Key word: consistently).

Of course there are ways that are more efficient than others, but there will always be benefits to all kinds of training, benefits to every diet, and fierce proponents of each.

Science may tell us that one option is better than another, and in a controlled environment it is. But science rarely accounts for the human factor, the fact that different people will respond to different stimuli and ultimately it is the training and nutrition plan that someone feels motivated to stick with that will succeed.

This is something that I’ve encountered as a trainer working with people from various demographics, at all ends of the spectrum.

Theory is great, and it is important to have evidence and reason behind what you do, but there is no one thing that works for everyone; physiologically maybe, psychologically no.

Every individual provides different challenges and will respond to different things. It’s important to find a way of eating that satisfies you, and a form of training that you are motivated by.

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Ultimately it is the training and nutrition plan that someone feels motivated to stick with that will succeed.

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“Eat less, move more” – I want to expand on this. When I say “eat less” I mean less calories. Be aware that it is possible to eat less food by portion size but consume more calories due to the fact that some foods are more calorie dense than others.

This is why calorie tracking can be useful. It gives you an awareness of the calorie content of what you are eating. But, for the most part, this should be a short term fix. You should, over time, learn how your body responds to food and how to control your calorie intake without having to record or scan everything you put in your mouth.

As far as training goes, from a purely fat loss perspective, anything that is going to build some muscle and raises your heart rate, serving to raise your rate of energy expenditure, is going to work. Simply: do some form of resistance training and some form of conditioning training.

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I realise this is a very “do what works for you” post so I will be following this up with practical advice in the coming weeks.

Peace, love, and booty to you all,

Andrew

Custard Wisdom, Frightening Furniture, and Enjoying The Process

In my first post I penned the spectacularly enlightened phrase:

I have lofty ambitions, but my focus is always on the next step; lest I fall.

 

Now I know you’re still in awe, but try and gather yourself because we’re just getting started. So, brace yourself to be slapped in the face by another dishful of delicious custardy wisdom.

What was the meaning behind that phrase (apart from making me sound like an ancient monk, or incredibly pretentious, or both)? Essentially what I was saying was “focus on the process”, have an eye on the goal certainly, but don’t focus solely on the stars while you’re walking up the mountain. You’ll trip. Or you’ll feel like you’re never getting any closer.

Have you ever been running on the treadmill and you’ve set yourself a target time or distance to run for, and every time you focus on the clock or the distance it doesn’t seem to go anywhere very fast? You get discouraged, maybe you even give up. But, if you focus on your steps, your technique, your breathing, and appreciating the song you’re listening to, the process doesn’t become so bad. It even becomes bearable; dare I say enjoyable? Still tough, but enjoyable.

 

Or let me give another example: You’re building furniture. You’re in a rush to just get it over with and have the damn thing built already. Every single step frustrates you. You make mistakes, you get pissed off, and you hate walking past that fucking flat pack hallway unit everyday ’cause it reminds you of the worst 7 hours of your life. One time as you’re walking past, you kick it to vent your anger and let it know how you feel, but you forgot you were barefoot and broke your wee phalange. Now you’re angry and a little afraid. You didn’t know furniture could hurt you this way…

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Stop letting the furniture destroy your life!

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Stop trying to just be finished already. Stop trying to jump from A to Z without going through all those other letters first. They’re beautiful. There’s many on the screen in front of you now, forming this work of genius. They’re fun to say too… “G”… “G”… C’mon say it out loud with me: “G”

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If you did that you’re an idiot.

 

Also, do you see my point now?

 

If you have the correct tools, take your time, and follow the instructions carefully, building furniture can actually be quite enjoyable. Then you can walk past that hallway unit each time and smile with pride, pat it on the top and get nostalgic, realising how, by slowing down, taking the appropriate steps, focusing on what you’re doing, and enjoying the process, you are much happier. You’ll probably find you reach your goal much quicker too.

 

When you try to rush ahead, skip steps, and cheat the process, you’ll make mistakes and often have to go back, undoing some of the work you’ve done, to rectify and begin moving forward again.

 

The same applies to improving your fitness, in whatever aspect. Why the rush? You’ve been overweight for 12 years, why all of a sudden do you have to have abs in 6 weeks?

 

Don’t cheat the process, you’re only cheating yourself. Don’t try and starve yourself into submission with 600 calories a day then throw 14 HIIT sessions a week on top of it. It won’t work. You’ll lose weight, yes. But you’ll also lose happiness, fun, and probably all your family and friends ’cause who’s gonna want to be around hangry Hank/Henrietta all the time. Not me, that’s who.

Learn to enjoy the process. Learn how to squat. Learn how to do a proper push-up. Learn how to sprint, jump, stretch, whatever it is you want to do. Learn how to eat, what to eat, and how to not eat 20 biscuits before bed. Get a coach to guide you. Don’t get a coach that tells you pomegranates get rid of belly fat and smooth the wrinkles on your forehead. Get one who will teach you the basics of strength training, effective conditioning, and healthy eating habits. Get one who will encourage you and walk with you and won’t bullshit you.

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The process of a fit and healthy body is a lifelong pursuit. It can be broken down into many smaller steps and each of them should be approached with focus and intensity if you want to see results. You can’t do that if you’re continually looking past them. Focus on what you’re doing now.

 

Focus on the next step.

 

Focus on the next rep.

 

Focus on the next meal. Then the next, then the next.

 

This step by step approach leads to great progress over time.

 

Enjoy the process. Embrace the suck. Love the grind. Or any number of ridiculous motivational fitness quotes. Just do it. There’s another one.

 

There you go: custard wisdom pie in your face. Bam.

 

Blessings from your pretentious ancient monk,

Andrew

(FYI: for those who don’t know HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. And “hangry” is not a typo, it’s a merging of “hungry” and “angry”)

Performance Living

 

Think about it: What do you need to perform optimally in your life?

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Would you benefit from being stronger? Almost certainly. What if you were better conditioned, faster? You’d never miss the bus again. What if you could move better and didn’t have to limber up before picking those dirty socks off the floor? What if you could eat in a way that kept you in shape year round and could go out for a meal without having to worry about whether what you eat was going to add digits to the number on the scale? If you were confident in yourself and didn’t beat yourself up over every minor transgression, that would be awesome, right?

But is this even possible?

Fuck yeah.

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This is the meaning behind Life Performance Training. By balancing your fitness, nutrition, and mindset you can perform to the best of your ability at LIFE. Your life. Whatever that looks like. You are prepared physically and mentally for whatever life throws at you. You are strong enough to walk up the hill with your child on your back and ready-to-bust shopping bags in each hand (drawing on experience here), to cope with unexpected stresses (ranging from car breakdowns to relationship breakdowns), and to lift a fully loaded barbell off the floor. You are conditioned to run for the train, chase after your goals, or sprint high intensity intervals. You can move freely, move on, and perform all manner of gymnastic-karate-hop movements across the gym floor.

Like this cat.

 

This blog will teach you how to do all this. It’ll also tell you about my daily (ok, hourly) struggles and fuck-ups, and my occasional successes and celebrations. You will be advised on how to get stronger, fitter, more mobile, eat well in a way that works for you, and improve your mindset. I say advised, because that’s what this is. The application of this advice is down to YOU. Only you can make this happen, I can’t do it for you. But I can point you in the right direction and walk alongside you for a lot of the way.

I have come a long way from who I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, and even 1 year ago, or to put it another way: my life performance has improved immensely. I still have a long road ahead to get to where I want to be.

I have lofty ambitions, but my focus is always on the next step; lest I fall.

(I’m so profound.)



Join me on this journey, won’t you?

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Andrew

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Yes, this is me with my bongos. Yes, I did flash my nipple at you in my opening post – you’re welcome. And yes, my tattoo does say “bad to the bone”. More on that in a future post.