Browse Category: Exercise and Equipment

SURVIVING THE APOCALYPSE (OR AN OBSTACLE COURSE)

levi clampitt obstacle course

Shit will become cray-cray.

Regardless of how you think it will go down (or *if* it even will), we will need to prepare for it.

The truth is, we will all have our own personal apocalyptic moments far before the zombie insurrection or nuclear holocaust. While mine might be a grizzly bear encounter, yours might be something as common as just having to rush to the hospital.

We can call these “obstacles to life”.

Having completed 2 actual obstacle courses this summer, I can honestly say these simulate “when the shit hits the fan” moments pretty well.

My team and I recently ran the Dirty Donkey Mud Run. We registered for the elite category (Kick Ass) and our captain donned a go pro to capture the footage.

 

This isn’t a post to sell you on why you should run these, however, but rather on how to prepare for when you do.

THE 2 SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES

Obstacles courses are generally 5 km in length, have anywhere from 10 – 20 obstacles, and are a great tool to uncover your weaknesses.

If all you do is run for preparation, however, these will suck. Along the same token if all you do is strength train, once again, these will suck.

Here’s how not to suck:

BALANCE STRENGTH AND CARDIO

To run an obstacle course without dieing requires us to not only have good control of our own weight but be able to lift external weight as well. For the former, I am referring to relative strength (i.e pushups, pullups, jumping, running) and for the latter, absolute strength (carrying logs, pressing pipes and such, and pulling things such as crates).

To develop this strength, following a program that is a hybrid of gymnastics and strongman will yield the most results.

While you will need strength to bypass many obstacles, it is actually your levels of cardio that will make or break you (and by “cardio”, I mean simply how well you can breathe).

Like I discussed in How to Win a Race (Without Running), we don’t necessarily need to run long distances to develop our cardio. In fact, I haven’t ran further than 400 meters this year yet I took 4th in this last race (despite wearing a #20 pound vest). I credit this to 3 things:

  1. My training consists of short, very intense workouts
  2. ZMA supplementation
  3. Using stimulants pre-workout

Note: I explain these more fully here.

The one exercise that will stress both these attributes beyond belief is hill sprints. Not only are these a great upper-body and core exercise (surprisingly), but they will give you insight into whether your lungs are up to par or not.

LEARN HOW TO SHIFT GEARS

When we do high-intensity exercises such as sprinting, an all-out set of pushups, or we are simply excited / nervous before a race, our heart rate increases.

It does this in large part so that it can pump more oxygen to our cells. This is a good thing. It becomes a bad thing, however, when it is allowed to stay high. When this happens, we can overheat.

With regular running (see: steady state) we typically don’t have to worry about this since we run at the same pace and our HR tends to mirror that. And with strength training, our heart rate sky rockets, but since we rest a lot more, it is allowed to recover. With obstacle courses, however, we don’t get this rest since we are doing both running and strength exercises.

2 ways we can face this:

#1 Ignore it

The faster you can address your high heart rate, the better (and more comfortable) the rest of the race will be. You don’t, however, even have to pay attention. I have ran many races where I allowed it to stay high and didn’t focus on my breathing. Did I feel like crap afterwards? Absolutely. I think I probably even killed some brain cells.

#2 Calm yourself

Obstacle courses are largely stop-and-go. It is when we are at “breaks” (the slower parts of the race), that we will want to slow down our breathing as well. This will become especially important sometime near the start of the race. During this time, we naturally run faster and may or may not be hyped on caffeine.

 

As you can see, I started the race like a bullet. If I wanted to survive the next +4 km, however, I needed to take a moment to steady my heart rate. I did this once I hit a straight stretch of running and by simultaneously slowing down my speed (slightly) while focusing on big, slow belly breaths, I was able to shift to 2nd gear (or “second wind”) within a a minute.

This isn’t anything new but once we become stressed out and totally embroiled into what we’re doing, we tend to forget about this little breathing aspect. Even as I write this, I notice my breathing is shallow. Breathe, Levi, breathe…

The best workouts to practice this “shifting” will be Crossfit as many of their workouts combine running, high reps, and strength exercises with little or no rest.

 

DID YOU SURVIVE?

Have you already ran an obstacle course?

What helped (or what didn’t)?

GYMS: Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!

Having to decide on appropriate clothing to wear…

Driving there…

Waiting for machines and exercise areas to open…

Battling off interruptions and distracting behavior…

Driving back….

Traffic (shit!)….

AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!

THE “SECRET” ABOUT IMPROVING WITHOUT A GYM

It’s a no brainer: We are in this for results.

If we want to keep the “results train” running, however, we will need to find ways to up the intensity. We don’t need a gym for that, just creativity.

This creativity opens up once we realize it’s about Making Things Harder (some secret, huh?) and not about the gym itself (there is nothing inherently awesome about a treadmill or machines).

Here are the 3 ways I  (and my clients) do just that:

1. MASTER THE BODY WEIGHT EXERCISES

These include:

  • Legs: Squats, lunges, step ups, and others
  • Pushups, planks, and other core exercises
  • Chinups/Pullups
  • Running and jumping

To make more challenging: tweak  grip/stance, use more ROM, and go unilateral.

2. MAKE THEM HARDER WITH A WEIGHTED VEST

Vests are an ideal option as the weight is distributed closer and more natural on the body which will help produce LESS injury-producing shear stress.

 

3. KEEP PROGRESSING BY UTILIZING THE IRON

Add more resistance in the form of pipes, water jugs, tires and sledgehammers, or more traditional weight to up the intensity. This will open up the exercise toolbox and allow you to do:

  • Pressing
  • Deadlifts
  • Farmers walks and carrys
  • and arm work ( curls and extensions)

If results stagnant it’s often because our body has adapted to the exercise. To prevent this (and keep your body guessing), make them harder.

=> More weight, more reps, more sets, less rest, faster, quicker, better, BETTER!

And please, stop searching for the latest new diet pill or fad diet. We know the secret. We’ve known it for centuries. What’s left now is action…

HOW TO POOP IN CHINA

Could you poop in that toilet?

If you are like most North Americans, probably not. To be able to would require us to squat.

But you we can’t squat. Unlike the Chinese, we don’t do it anymore. We have lost contact with “all things squatting“. And because of this, we are getting terribly immobile (which makes getting fat really easy).

Thankfully, we can (re)learn…

HOW TO SQUAT

Squatting, essentially, is what happens between our legs.

So how to do it?

  1. Take a comfortable stance (for most, this means shoulder-width apart).
  2. Keep feet forward (or slightly outwards depending on how wide you go) and pressure on the outside of the foot.
  3. While lowering down, show your crouch (use your elbows to push knees out if you need to).
  4. Keep chest up and be proud.
  5. While coming up, squeeze your butt. HARD.

That’s it. Here is a video to show what it looks like as well.

If you are like most people, however,  you were all sorts of funked up.  That is, you probably couldn’t sit back on your heals, your feet were turn way outward, and your upper body was horribly rounded.

2 REASONS WHY YOU STILL CAN’T SQUAT

1) You are too tight

Most people squat as if they are wearing snow boots (the “boots” are their stiff and inflexible ankles). These people simply don’t have the flexibility to get low on their heals so if they do manage a squat, they end up on their toes and with their feet turned way out. The solution is here is simply more ankle mobility exercises like these HERE.

If your ankles are not tight and you still cannot squat, it is probably a problem with your hips.

Let’s face it, we sit a lot. That is, we spend a lot of time in hip flexion. Now if we don’t balance out this hip flexion with hip extension (standing and walking), they become tight and our hip extensors (like our butt) fall asleep. The solution here is to stretch our hip flexors (video) and start activating/waking up our booty (video) .

If you still do not know what is your limiting factor, this may help:

2) You are too tall

First off, many tall people have seriously tight ankles/calves so this right here is a big limiting factor.

To add insult to injury, tall people have much longer levers than short folk so this means they have to go a further distance to achieve the same end goal (which is popping a poop squat).

For tall people and those with disproportionate long legs, they will need not only need to do more mobility, but find ways to shorten their levers as well. This generally means widening the base of their squat and in some cases, using box squats or placing their heals on weights or boards until they reach enough mobility to do it without.

RECAP

Let’s make this simple:

  1. For mobility, put your ankle and hips into positions every day that they are not used to. Use the sources in this post as a solid place to start.
  2. Implements tools (boxes, chairs, heal board, and other stuff for assistance) to help you squat with good form in the meantime.

You may not be able to poop in China right now, but you’ll be well on your way if you follow these 2 pieces of advice.

WARM UP OR DIE

running zombies

Okay, well, not really.

You won’t die if you skip the warm up, but your results will.

And your goals will.

And your joints and muscles and performance will.

And if you skip it long enough, you’ll no longer be able to work out.

Wouldn’t that suck?

sweet jesus yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

So please don’t skip it.

And here are 3 ways on how to do it correctly:

 

1. HONOR YOUR JOINTS

The joints in our body alternate functions. The two functions are Mobility and Stability. Mobility means to produce a desired movement while stability means to resist an undesired movement.

Each joint then serves a purpose. When a joint (such as the ankle) cannot perform it’s purpose (mobility), it gets passed off to the nearest joint(s) (in this case, the knee).

When joints are forced to take over functions that they are not meant for, injuries occur. So take someone with stiff ankles. When they squat, their knees are taking over more of the movement. With time, this will cause wear and tear on the knee and most likely an injury.

So what should we stretch/mobilize to prevent this?

==> The joints meant for mobility.

They are primarily:

  • ankles
  • hips
  • thoracic spine (ie upper back)
  • shoulders
  • wrists

2 other critical areas that we have to activate (or wake up) are the glutes and the scapulae. When we “turn on” the glutes they help save the lower back and when we do scapulae work, they in turn become more stable, which then allows the shoulder to do its job (move through full range of motion).

Here is a youtube playlist to help with all of this.

2. GET THE BLOOD MOVING

Increasing blood flow to our muscles is actually where the term “warming up” came from. You can do this by doing any of the following aerobic activity: walking, jogging, jump rope, jumping jacks, etc.

or….

You can foam roll.

 

A foam roller is a simple bar of elastic foam.

When the body lies on it, it pushes against the body and provides resistance. When the user rolls up and down on the foam roller, they experience a kind of pressure-facilitated massage. When the pressure is applied, it works to temporarily push blood through the various avenues of the body.

More blood to muscles =  better transport of oxygen and nutrients = MORE ENERGY!
Note: You can use medicine balls and PVC pipe as rollers as well. And with this exercise, pain is actually good.

3. PRIME THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

dubstep

If we are planning to do a high-intensity workout or want to set a personal best, our results lie in our ability to “get up“. This “getting up” or ability to get excited leads the way for how fast and strong we will be in our workout.

Contrary to popular belief, becoming strong and resilient to fatigue isn’t a muscular thing; it’s a neurological one.

That is, it’s in our brains.

So how do we bring our brain up to speed for a workout?

  1. Drink coffee
  2. Turn on exciting music (dubstep anyone?)
  3. Start your sessions heavy

This last one is critical. Even if we are planning a high-rep bodybuilding type workout, we want to start our workout lifting heavy singles  and greasing the proper movement patterns.

When it comes down to it, we can only do 1 rep at a time. If we can make that 1 rep better, then that whole 20 rep set is going to improve.

Note: You do not have to lift external weight to achieve this. Complex gymnastic moves such as hand stands and static frogs work just as well.  Resistance is Resistance.

RECAP

  1. De-stiff your joints
  2. Feel the pain and get the blood flowing
  3. Practice before you go “bawlz out

It should not take longer than 15 – 20 minutes and the workout itself should be no more than 40 (on average).

In the end, failure to address the warmup will cause just that: FAILURE.

Skip at your own demise.

THE SCIENCE OF AWESOME

1

Knowing about myelin changes the way we see the world.

The Talent Code

In short, talent (and inherent awesomeness) is bogus and research into myelin (pronounced just like it reads) is proving that.

Myelin, insulation that wraps neural circuits, is showing us that when this grows (such as with practice), our skills grow as well. When it shrinks (such as with disease and age), however, we become less capable and our skills (or talent) are diminished.

Myelin is showing us that, in large part, what we want to achieve is NOT fixed and who want to become IS possible.

This is what it looks like:

  1. Every human movement, thought or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons – a circuit of nerve fibers.
  2. Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal, strength, and accuracy.
  3. The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.

So the more we fire a circuit (say practice a cartwheel), the more myelin is created to make that movement smoother and natural.

This reaffirms something we already know: Practice makes us better.

Just practicing something, however, is not enough to become awesome at it.

It’s not about how many pitches we can throw, how many reps we can do, or how far we can run. We have to take into account the quality of our action as well.

Did you know every time we do a deadlift with horrific form, we are growing our myelin (to make that bad form more natural)? And every time we check facebook, we are growing our myelin (so that next time it will be easier to log on)?

We are training ourselves, both in good and bad action. Because of this, we have to be smart about how we grow our myelin.

IN STRENGTH

You want to become a strong mofo? When in doubt, practice the methods of olympic lifters and gymnasts. By this, I mean follow a high frequency program (every or every other day) of exercises that are quite heavy (70 – 90% of 1rm), high in sets ( 20 +), but low in reps (1-3).

This is how I managed a body weight military press, a #140 turkish get up, +25 consecutive pullups, and how I am currently training my handstands.

To ensure that the myelin growth is the growth you want, use a video and/or a coach for feedback.

IN THINKING

Love, gratitude, empathy, and other forms of positive thinking are a skill. And in today’s world, this is not a natural skill to have as it often goes against our “dog eat dog” capitalist attitude.

For this, surround yourself with positivity: Read books, watch documentaries, and listen to people as they share their own love and passion.

It’s contagious. :)

IN MENTAL PERFORMANCE

Are we really bad at math? Or have none of us really made an effort to become good at it?

I thought I was bad, that is, until I started doing math problems in my head (on long drives and just for fun). Now I am pretty damn good (…because of pretty damn good practice).

Challenge yourself in reading, writing, speaking, and arithmetic.

Our mind needs exercise too.

IN COMMUNICATION

How well we are able to sell ourselves (both as a human being and a business person) as well as our ideas will have a phenomenal impact on our life.

Whenever you hear someone say something such as “It’s political” you can guess that someone got passed up, didn’t win, or (insert whatever) because they were not able to sell themselves as effectively as the other person. Now obviously this “selling” can go beyond interpersonal matters ( like money or connections), but communicating still has a large say on it.

So learn how to communicate (understand our shared psychology and human nature) and apply ( talk 1 on 1, groups, different mediums, etc.).

To neglect either one could result in a failure to sell.

RECAP

  1. Nerve firings grow myelin => myelin controls impulse speed => impulse speed is skill
  2. We decide how good of form we are using and if this myelin growth is for our exercise habit or for smoking.
  3. We know how to do it. It’s on us now.

Struggle is not optional – it’s neurologically required. In order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit suboptimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to these mistakes; you must slowly teach your circuit.

Note: All the science and the quotes are from chapter 2 of The Talent Code.

THE AUTODIDACT WAY OF LEARNING ANATOMY

[Autodidactism means self-directed learning. As an autodidact, you teach yourself. In learning anatomy and physiology, no where else will this be more needed.]

The way we typically go about learning Anatomy and Physiology (i.e. in a school setting) is, and I don’t mean to offend anyone with these words, funking retarded.

It’s all-theory and all-mind.

And because it’s usually “learned” through cramming, it is information that is easily forgot.

If we want to train ourselves (and everyone does), however, we have to learn these symbols (words like “internal rotation of the humerus” and “latissimus dorsi“) that we are playing with.

Failure to do so will not only have us being the person 20 years down the exercise road who still points to muscles and mimics movements when discussing their program, but also still has to rely on trainers (to design proper programs) and physios (to repair thesmelves from following unbalanced ones).

The truth is, no one is going to be a better trainer than you or I. We all have an innate intelligence that only we can tap into. Dipping into some objective science, however, will be required first.

HOW TO LEARN ANATOMY

Step 1: Exercise

Our brain was built for movement. Need I say more?

 

Step 2: Buy an anatomy book

First and foremost, our best companion will be Dr. Google. After we feel a little comfortable with terms, however, buying an anatomy book and/or poster will be recommended. I like the books of Frederic Delavier.

 

Step 3: Ask Questions

The key to learning is not so much learning for the sake of learning, but learning because we need to learn (more emotion = more retention). How we start this process is simply by asking about that which we must know.

Here are some examples of the “down the rabbit hole” process I use.

#1 – You may notice that you have a tight muscle on your back:

  • “What muscle is that?”
  • “How can I stretch it and relieve the pain?”
  • “What is the function of this muscle and why might it be tight?”
  • “What muscle(s) are it’s antagonists (i.e do the opposite action)?”

#2 – You may suddenly want a bigger booty:

  • “What muscles make up the glutes?”
  • “What muscles are it’s antagonist and may be preventing the glutes from firing?”
  • “What exercises work the glutes and how do they grow best?”

Make Your Butt Bigger Intro

#3 – You may have a grand dream to do a deep squat:

  • “What muscles and movements are involved?”
  • “What typically prevents someone from doing a squat and what are the fixes?”
  • What exercises (regressions) can I do that will help me squat while I work on my limitations?”

 

You probably won’t care until….

I received high 90s in my A & P courses, but I can’t say I really learned anything. It wasn’t until I got hurt and worked with those that were hurt, that I had real motivation to learn. It will probably be the same for you.

When we are fit and healthy we take this movement thing for granted. When we lose the ability to move pain-free, however, than that is when the questions start. Rather than defer those questions to someone else, I challenge you to take them on.

Good luck.

HOW I LOSE FAT (THE FUN WAY)

I like to keep things fun. When things are fun, they are also sustainable.

This means when I want to maintain (or lose more fat), I don’t do it by cutting calories or doing more exercise sessions ( I already like the way I eat and train).

Instead, I walk.

3 – 5  times a week for an hour or longer.

WHY WALKING?

Unlike running, walking is so low intensity that we are primarily burning fat for fuel. And because of this, we do not feel the need (the hunger) to replace the fuel we burned (ie carbs).

I can burn a total of 1000 calories in a 2 hour walk and not be ravenous afterwards.  Try doing that with long-distance running.

So walking, as we can see, is an optimal choice for exercise. Not many of us do it, however, because it can become boring.

So how do we make it more fun?

Walk with others, in lovely areas, or listen to podcasts/ books on tape (these all keep the mind engaged). Here are two of my favorite podcasts: Joe Rogan Experience  and I Love Marketing.

And  more challenging?

Wear a weighted vest (#20 and #40 lbers are great for this), speed walk, or do hiking.

In the end, walking is dummy proof. This is why I like it the most. You can overdiet and overtrain, but you can’t really overwalk.

To want to walk the fat away, however,  you will probably have to  find a way to make it fun.

Podcasts work for me. What works for you?

THE RISE OF THE EXERCISE MACHINES

The 2 most common complaints/excuses I hear from people who know they should exercise but don’t are:

  1.  I have no time.
  2.  I am in pain.

A close third is “I don’t know what to do”.

Just subscribing to one of these beliefs is enough to derail someone, but a lot of us actually have all 3.

Because we were never taught to move properly, our bad movement caused wear and tear on our joints which now have become painful ( ps – if they aren’t, they will be). And because we lack mobility and pain-free movement, it’s not like we can just drop to the floor to do some pushups or some squats for a quick workout when we have no time.

It takes time to address pain and learn how to move properly.

Don’t let this discourage you. We don’t have to wait till we are pain-free/can move properly before we can start reaping the benefits of exercise.

ENTER THE MACHINES

With exercise, our goal is to significantly increase strength, increase muscle mass, improve fitness, increase bone density, substantially affect appearance, and slow down or even reverse some of the natural physical declines with aging.

And we want to do this without causing injury (and pain).

What matters most in exercise is not a specific weight we are lifting or a movement we are doing, but the amount of tension our muscles create. The more resistance, the more tension, the more our muscles break down, and if we let them rest, the more they overcompensate and grow back stronger.

We can do this with machines.

We don’t need to learn any special skills. Nor do we need a personal trainer. And if we have a bum shoulder, that doesn’t mean we still can’t train (we can still do exercises such as leg press).

The best part is that we don’t need to be in the gym 3 or 4 times a week. We can accomplish this “muscle damaging” in one session a week.

The only bummer is that you’ll have to find a gym that has machines (which is not hard) and you’ll have to have sort of a clue of what you are doing. For the latter, I recommend reading Body By Science or checking out reviews (like this one) on the web.

In the end, it’s never too late to start nor is it possible to do “too little” exercise when we are currently doing nothing.

If you never got the habit to stick with anything else, maybe it’s time for machines?

Stimulus + Recovery = Adaptation

This is the master equation.

This is the formula that sums up what we trying to achieve in our efforts to LOOK, PERFORM, and FEEL the way we want.

Our world lives in a fantastic balance of growth and destruction, and this formula lies at the heart of it.

Worded a different way, it looks like this:

EXERCISE + (SLEEP + NUTRITION) = BODY RECOMPOSITION

What’s it all mean?

Starting with the end product, if body composition refers to the proportion of muscle and fat we carry, body recomposition means to change that relationship. For most people, a successful “recomp” would mean adding more muscle while subtracting fat.

The signal that our body listens to for that to happen is exercise.  With this, there are essentially 2 different forms: One that sends a signal to our body to build (ie maintain or grow muscle mass) and one that sends a signal to break down (both fat and muscle).

In order for our body to hear that signal, however, we need to cut out outside noise (other stressors) and provide the means for our body to recover. During sleep is when our body gets to work repairing damaged tissue and making the hormones needed for us to thrive (both in fat loss and muscle growth) and food/nutrients is what our body uses as its building blocks to do that with.

So, as you can see, it’s pretty simple.

==> Provide a stimulus. Provide time and building blocks for recovery. Then reap the adaptation. <==

Let’s get more specific.

END GOAL >>> FAT LOSS

I am NOT talking about weight loss (this is easy: just go to the bathroom). What we really want is not to see the number on the scale move, but for the fat in the mirror to disappear.  So how do we that?

We have 3 variables to work with: Exercise, Sleep, and Nutrition.

A        +         ( B    +    C)     =   Fat Loss

We can improve all 3 for optimal fat loss, but we don’t have to.

Here are the options:

OPTION A: MOVE MORE

So before I was talking about the 2 forms of exercise: One that builds and one that destroys.

Well, cardio and aerobic activities are the destroyers. Biking, running, walking, and swimming all fall into this group.

They send a signal to our body that in order to survive and become better at these activities, we have to get smaller. To do this (and depending on the intensity and length of the activity) they will break down both fat AND MUSCLE for fuel.

Most aerobic activities are not body-friendly for this reason, but they can still be used correctly.

Here is a guideline:

  • The less intense they are, the more we can do them and the more likely that a large % of the breakdown will be fat. An excellent example of this is walking.
  • The more intense they are, the more we should limit them as they will target a lot of our muscle for fuel. An example of this is training for a marathon or running 5+ times a week.

Another side effect of high-intensity aerobics is that they give us cravings in an effort to replace lost fuel. So this is why running to lose weight will literally leave us running in circles (as we run long distances and then gorge on food).

A better alternative is walking every or every other day and doing 1-2 runs a week (if you must).

OPTION B: SLEEP MORE

If you are sleeping less than 6 – 7 hrs a night on average, by increasing sleep to 8 – 9 hrs, your cravings will decrease, your energy will improve, and other aspects of health (such as digestion) will significantly improve.  This will all lead to fat loss.

Note: If sleep needs are not met, then exercise is out of the question.

OPTION C: BETTER FOOD

Dieting is the typical approach to fat loss. This is hard to do right as far too many people feel that if they are going to diet than they got to do it hardcore. What’s hardcore?  Taking what you used to eat and dropping it by 500 or more calories a day.

This sucks because:

In chronic calorie deficits, our body is going to eat up fat AND MUSCLE for fuel, positive hormones are not going to be made in sufficient amounts, and our metabolism is going in the toilet. In short, life (and your energy) will suck.

A smarter approach is to just eat better foods. With this, we will be getting the right nutrients so cravings will naturally diminish. Fat loss will be slower but so will be muscle loss.

OPTION D (BEST): RESISTANCE + ENOUGH SLEEP + GOOD FOOD  

A big problem with losing weight is the chance that a large % of that could be muscle.

We care about this because it is muscle that gives us our shape and curves.

If we lose 50 lbs of total weight (25 of that is fat and 25 of that is muscle), we are just going to become a smaller version of ourselves. But if we can manage to make that 40 lbs of fat and 10 lbs of muscle, we are going to come out with a sleeker, trimmer, tonier look.

So how do we tell our body to lose more fat while keeping the muscle?

  • =>> Lift heavy weights
  • =>> Sleep 8 hrs
  • =>> Eat Better (and slightly less) food

For the first one, we do not have to do anything extreme. Simply lifting weights 2x a week for a full body workout will be enough. Keep the reps relatively low (2-10) and keep the workout short ( within 50 min) and the signal will be sent.

We also want to tell to our body to lose fat. For this to happen, we need to create a teeny weeny caloric deficit. To create this, eat better food (of course) and try going to bed slightly hungry every other night.

Lastly, SLEEP. This is obviously crucial for any positive goal.

 

 END GOAL >>> MUSCLE GROWTH

With muscle (and unlike fat),  there is a limit to how fast and how much we can create. Once we evolve past the “noobie gains” stage where putting on 10 – 15 lbs of muscle in a year is feasible, muscle growth can slow to 1-2 pounds a year (if we do everything right) or maintenance (if we don’t).

And as far as the whole “I don’t want to get bulky” debate goes: fat is what makes us bulky. If you are afraid of getting too big. spend time getting lean first (with what I mentioned for fat loss).

Now, when it comes to muscle growth, we have less variables to play with.

Sleep is super important for muscle growth, but by itself, it is not enough to tell your body “to grow“. Eating will do this  but without a proper stimulus, the excess calories will just be stored as fat (and not help make muscle). And if we train “bawlz out” but neglect sleep and nutrition, we won’t be going anywhere either.

So, as you can see, muscle growth can be hard.

THE ONLY OPTION: PROGRESSIVE RESISTANCE TRAINING

Muscle Growth for Dummies:

When we lift something heavy (could be a barbell or a fridge), the muscles that we used tear” and become damaged. This is the stimulus. It is telling your body “Hey bro, we need bigger muscles“. So with enough sleep, calories, and time, your body will allow for that to happen. For those same muscles to grow again, however, the resistance has to become greater. Our body needs a new reason. So we either have to lift a heavier weight or lift that weight more times (sets and reps) to accrue the proper amount of damage (ie another stimulus).

It really doesn’t have to be harder than that.

  1. Progressively add weight to the bar and attempt to do more sets or reps to continually give your body reasons to change.
  2. Sleep (8-9 hrs for intense trainees).
  3. Eat slightly above your caloric maintenance.

For this last one, you cannot grow muscle if the building blocks are not there. Or to put it another way, a construction site can have all the workers in the world, but no building will be built if the bricks are not present.

Now what is slightly above? In terms of calories, 250 – 400 more a day should be enough. In terms of feelings, don’t go to bed hungry.

Also something worthy to mention is the fact that people tend to chase feelings/physiological states in the gym such as making sure they get a pump or making sure they are completely pooped after their workout.

This type of training is only reserved for those that have the ability/capacity to recover. A key question to ask yourself is, “Are my numbers going up?”. If the answer is no, scale back the stimulus.

Stimulate, Don’t Annihilate.

Confucious

That’s it.

That’s all I have.

Hopefully this article will have left you pondering the stimulus’s you are currently sending with your own training and lifestyle.

And if you can probably imagine, it just doesn’t end with fat loss and muscle growth.

:)

BASICS OF FAT LOSS

SIG·NAL

Transmit information or instructions by means of a gesture, action, or sound.

At the heart of our efforts to transform lie signals.

These signals (or behaviors) are what make our mind and body what they are.

When we lose fat or gain muscle, it is because not only did we send the signal(s) that corresponds to that outcome but we allowed our body the opportunity to process that signal (by cutting out other noise, confusion, and competing signals).

There is a formula for this process: Stimulus (signal) + Recovery = Adaptation

Worded a different way, it looks like this:

EXERCISE + (SLEEP + NUTRITION) = BODY COMPOSITION

Let’s break it down.

Starting with the end product, body composition refers to the proportion of muscle and fat we carry. For most people, improving their body composition means adding more muscle while subtracting fat.

The signal that our body listens to for that to happen is exercise.  With this, there are essentially 2 different forms: One that sends a signal to our body to build (ie maintain or grow muscle mass) and one that sends a signal to break down (both fat and muscle).

In order for our body to hear that signal, however, we need to cut out outside noise (other stressors) and provide the means for our body to recover. During sleep is when our body gets to work repairing damaged tissue and making the hormones needed for us to thrive (both in fat loss and muscle growth) and food/nutrients is what our body uses as its building blocks to do that with.

So, as you can see, it’s pretty simple:

  1. Send the signal.
  2. Cut out outside noise so body can hear signal (through proper nutrition and recovery).
  3. Then reap the adaptation.

Let’s get more specific.

SENDING THE FAT LOSS SIGNAL

Now I am NOT talking about weight loss (this is easy: just go to the bathroom). What we really want is not to see the number on the scale move, but for the fat in the mirror to disappear, right?  So how do we that?

We have 3 variables to work with: Exercise, Sleep, and Nutrition.

A        +         ( B    +    C)     =   Fat Loss

We can improve all 3 for optimal fat loss, but we don’t have to.

Here are the options:

OPTION A: MOVE MORE

So before I was talking about the 2 forms of exercise: One that builds and one that destroys.

Well, cardio and aerobic activities are the destroyers. Biking, running, walking, and swimming all fall into this group.

They send a signal to our body that in order to survive and become better at these activities, we have to get smaller. To do this (and depending on the intensity and length of the activity) they will break down both fat AND MUSCLE for fuel.

Most aerobic activities are not body-friendly for this reason, but they can still be used correctly.

Here is a guideline:

  • The less intense they are, the more we can do them and the more likely that a large % of the breakdown will be fat. An excellent example of this is walking.
  • The more intense they are, the more we should limit them as they will target a lot of our muscle for fuel as well. An example of this is training for a marathon or running 5+ times a week.

Another side effect of high-intensity aerobics is that they give us cravings in an effort to replace lost fuel. So this is why running to lose weight will literally leave us running in circles (as we run long distances and then gorge on food).

A better alternative is walking every or every other day and doing 1-2 runs a week (if you must).

OPTION B: SLEEP MORE

If you are sleeping less than 6 – 7 hrs a night on average, by increasing sleep to 8 – 9 hrs, your cravings will decrease, your energy will improve, and other aspects of health (such as digestion) will significantly improve.  This will all lead to fat loss.

Note: If sleep needs are not met, then exercise is out of the question.

OPTION C: BETTER FOOD

Dieting is the typical approach to fat loss. This is hard to do right as far too many people feel that if they are going to diet than they got to do it hardcore. What’s hardcore?  Taking what you used to eat and dropping it by 500 or more calories a day.

This sucks because:

In chronic calorie deficits, our body is going to eat up fat AND MUSCLE for fuel, positive hormones are not going to be made in sufficient amounts, and our metabolism is going in the toilet. In short, life (and your energy) will suck.

A smarter approach is to just eat better foods. With this, we will be getting the right nutrients so cravings will naturally diminish. Fat loss will be slower but so will be muscle loss.

OPTION D (BEST): RESISTANCE + ENOUGH SLEEP + GOOD FOOD  

A big problem with losing weight is the chance that a large % of that could be muscle.

We care about this because it is muscle that gives us our shape and curves.

If we lose 50 lbs of total weight (25 of that is fat and 25 of that is muscle), we are just going to become a smaller version of ourselves. But if we can manage to make that 40 lbs of fat and 10 lbs of muscle, we are going to come out with a sleeker, trimmer, tonier look.

So how do we tell our body to lose more fat while keeping the muscle?

  • =>> Lift weights
  • =>> Sleep 8 hrs
  • =>> Eat Better (and slightly less) food

For the first one, we do not have to do anything extreme. Simply lifting weights 2x a week for a full body workout will be enough. Keep the reps relatively low (2-15) and keep the workout short (within 50 min) and the signal will be sent.

We also want to tell to our body to lose fat. For this to happen, we need to create a teeny-weeny caloric deficit. To create this, try focusing less on numbers and more on eating better food (of course) and going to bed slightly hungry.

Lastly, SLEEP. This is obviously crucial for any positive goal.

If you are still really skeptical of strength training while attempting to lose fat, try just training the areas that you wouldn’t mind enhancing. For most females, this means the booty.

That’s it.

Now some pro advice: If your goal is fat loss, then focus on fat loss only. Trying to build muscle or train for a marathon will be competing signals that will only confuse your body (and take you further away from fat loss).

There is a reason runners don’t look like body builders and body builders do not look like athletes.

That reason is signals.

 

[When you have lost all the fat you wanted to lose, it will be time for building muscle (shape and curves). Read Part 2 of this series to find out how.]