Tout dans la vie est une question d'équilibre d'où la nécessité de garder un esprit sain dans un corps sain.


Everything in life is a matter of balance therefore one needs to keep a healthy mind in a healthy body.


E. do REGO

Monday, November 28, 2011

Perfect Pulling Exercises for a Bigger Back

Perfect Pulling Exercises for a Bigger Back

People who understand strength respect a big back. Dave Tate said when he used to powerlift competitively, he never worried about the lifters with big chests or quads – it was the guys with thick lats and spinal erectors that concerned him.
A thick, strong back is a sign of a strong lifter. The erectors, lats, rhomboids, and traps are of paramount importance for both weekend warriors and competitive lifters. We all know guys at the gym that look impressive from the front but resemble middle school kids from the rear. Don't copy them.

Why a Big Back is Important

Training the back is crucial for strength sports as well as overall health and performance. A strong, thick back will bolster your bench, squat, and deadlift as well as support other lifts that help you get big and strong.
A thick upper back creates a nice shelf for the bar to rest when squatting, while strong lats allow a lifter to "lock in" their position on a deadlift and power through to lockout.
Your lats are also the foundation for all pressing movements. The wider and thicker your back is, the bigger the base of support you'll have to press big weights.
Furthermore, the strength in your upper back is crucial for shoulder health. Many people focus too much on pushing movements and neglect their pulling strength. At the very least, you should perform a pulling exercise every time you perform a pushing one to balance out the body.
Shoulder specialists like T NATION's Eric Cressey recommend as much as a 3:1 pull to push ratio when trying to bring up an athlete's strength and correct imbalances.

Enter the Barbell Row

Perfect Pulling Exercises for a Bigger Back

The barbell row (and its variations) is one of the best movements for both back size and strength. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most butchered lifts you'll see performed in the gym, which is a shame, as too much body English completely diminishes the barbell row's potential benefits.
This isn't to say that sometimes you can't work up a little heavier and use looser form, but many take this to an extreme, performing "rows" that resemble a penguin having a seizure. The key is to keep tension on the muscles you're trying to work, namely the upper back. Leave your ego at the door.
Finally, lifters often have horrible shoulder positioning when performing rows. Below is a great method to correct this pattern.

Pack the Shoulders

Safe and effective barbell rowing requires packing the shoulders, or actively depressing and retracting the shoulder blades. First, think of sticking your chest out and pinching a ball in between your shoulder blades. Next, try to pull your left scap to your right hip and your right scap to your left hip.
A very good way to learn this is by performing bat wings, either with your body weight or with dumbbells.
Set up a barbell in a power rack about waist height. Elevate your feet on a bench and perform an isometric inverted row. Keep your chest "proud," while keeping your hips level. Squeeze your glutes, drive your heels into the bench, and keep your neck packed. You're essentially in an upside down plank; learning to keep a neutral spine and packed shoulders.

Dumbbell Chest Supported Row

You can do these with dumbbells or kettlebells. What's great about performing this movement on an incline bench is that it's very hard to screw up. Keep your belly and head glued to the bench and stick out your chest while keeping your shoulders down and back. If your head, chest, or belly come off the bench you're cheating, so it's a self-correcting exercise.
A good idea is adding an isometric hold. These will teach proper shoulder positioning when performing more advanced rowing variations. To accomplish this, simply hold each rep for a one-count and notice the change in muscle recruitment in your back. The difference is quite humbling.

Bent Over Row

When performing bent over row variations, many lifters are too upright and don't sit back enough. You want to try to get your body parallel to the floor so you're completely bent over. This way the resistance directly opposes gravity and allows for much more efficient conditioning of the lats and upper back.
Focus on keeping your core braced to help maintain a neutral spine. Also, keep a "soft bend" in the knee, as too much knee bend will result in the bar crashing into your kneecaps.
You can perform this exercise with a pronated (overhand) or supinated (underhand) grip. With all rowing variations, it's important to stick the chest out while pulling the shoulders down and back.
I like to perform rows with a supinated grip as it allows for more external rotation. Think of performing the movement as the opposite of a bench press and tuck the elbows in towards the body as you raise the weight.

Yates Row

This is similar to how I see most barbell rows being performed, although most times I think it's unintentional. This is a good variation for when you want to hit the back a little differently than a traditional bent over row. Your body will be more upright and you'll pull the bar to the lower part of the stomach. This is a very good variation when you want to move a lot of weight for high reps; just don't use it all the time.

Dead Stop Variations

Perfect Pulling Exercises for a Bigger Back

Rack Row

Many lifters don't have enough hip mobility to keep proper position for true bent over rows. A way to work around this is by performing bent over rows in a power rack using a very low pin setting.
This variation allows the lifter to reset his back every rep to ensure his form and positioning is optimal. I also like this exercise for improving deadlift starting strength since the lifter has to lift the weight from a dead stop every rep. You can play with different heights, but usually around the lower part of the shin works well.

Pendlay Row

This is a dead stop row variation performed from the floor. It requires more hip mobility than the rack row but has the same benefits. You won't be able to use as much weight as a regular bent over row since there's no stretch reflex, and you must lift the weight from a dead stop every rep.
This is another great exercise for improving starting strength. I like to initiate this exercise with my quads as in a deadlift, and then row to my lower stomach. This is a great exercise to perform heavy for pure back strength.

Increase your Grip Strength

Towel Bent Rows

This is a great bang for your buck exercise to work your upper back and grip at the same time. Simply grab two towels and wrap them around the barbell where you'd normally place your hands.
This is also a great variation for people with shoulder issues. The towel allows for a neutral grip, which is a very easy position for the shoulders. It also forces the lifter to grip with more force, thereby activating more stabilizer muscles in the shoulder girdle. Lastly, it will force the lifter to use a lighter weight, which again will be a little easier on the shoulder joint.

Towel T-Bar Rows

This is a great way to perform T-bar rows when D-handles and other T-bar machines aren't available. The towel also allows for a more natural range of motion.
Stick a barbell in the corner of two walls or inside a power rack and wrap a towel over the barbell. This movement can be performed very heavy and is a great exercise for size and strength.
Like the last variation, this will also work the grip and allow for a shoulder-friendly neutral grip.

Unilateral Movements

One-Arm Barbell Row – Staggered Stance

If your gym doesn't have heavy dumbbells, you can perform one-arm barbell rows. This is also going to work the grip since you need to balance the barbell by gripping it in the middle. Perform them on a bench or in a staggered stance. One-arm rows are great for developing each side of the back independently and can help prevent asymmetries from developing.

One-Arm Barbell Row – Neutral Stance

One-arm barbell rows can also be performed from a neutral stance, which will work the core more since you need to resist the side from bending due to the asymmetrical load. This variation can also be performed inside a power rack with dead stop reps to increase starting strength.

Rowing Wrap Up

As you can see, there are many effective rowing variations you can add to your training. Each of these exercises can be used as a supplemental or assistance movement on your strength building days, or as a main back exercise if you're following a body part split.
But to reap all the benefits of rowing, you must be mindful to keep your technique as clean as possible. Start by performing barbell rows with a lighter weight and master your technique before piling on the weight. You'll be surprised how much weight you really need when you perform rows with strict form.

Here's a summary:

  • Make sure to perform a proper hip hinge.
  • Sit back to get the body parallel to the floor.
  • Only bend the knees slightly.
  • Keep the core braced to ensure a neutral spine and to help eliminate unnecessary body English.
  • Keep the chest proud and the shoulders packed to ensure shoulder health and optimal muscle recruitment.
  • When in doubt, lighten the weight and really focus on the muscle being worked. If you feel it in your legs, lower back, and neck, you're using too heavy a weight.
  • Holding each rep for a one-count at the top eliminates most bad technique.
  • Work the lats isometrically from time to time.
These exercises will help you set new PRs in your bench, squat, and deadlift, while making your physique an impressive sight when seen from behind. Start performing these exercises regularly – and properly – and build some wide, thick lats that would make Dorian proud!


Lait de soja, d'amandes… Découvrez leurs bienfaits

Les laits végétaux représentent une alternative aux laits d'origine animale. Lait de soja, d'avoine, de riz, de noisette, d'orge, d'amande…Quelles sont leurs différentes qualités nutritionnelles ? Lesquels choisir pour quels besoins ? Pour le savoir, nous avons interrogé Anne Brunner, auteur de "Laits et yaourts végétaux faits maison".
Chaque lait végétal a des propriétés et des qualités différentes qu'il convient de connaître afin de faire le bon choix de consommation. Le choix est en effet très vaste, surtout si vous faites des laits végétaux vous-même !

Des laits végétaux avec des qualités nutritionnelles différentes

Lait végétalPour commencer, il faut savoir que l'appellation lait végétal est trompeuse… En effet, ces "laits" ne sont pas de boissons laitières mais des mélanges d'eau et de céréales. En somme, il serait plus exacte de parler de boissons végétales plutôt que de lait. En fait, les laits végétaux peuvent être élaborés à base decéréales (avoine, riz, blé…) d'oléagineux (amande, noisette, noix…) ou de légumineuses (soja, arachide…). Leurs avantages ? Ils sont exempts de cholestérol, de lactose et decaséine, riches en vitamines (A, B, C et E), sels minéraux(calcium, potassium, magnésium, phosphore…) et pleins debons acides gras (lipides insaturés).
Ils sont donc intéressants pour ceux qui sont allergiques ouintolérants au lait de vache et pour ceux qui ont du cholestérol. Ils ont ensuite des propriétés nutritionnelles différentes :
  • Le lait de soja, le plus connu, est le lait végétal le plus riche en calcium et enprotéines.
  • Le lait d'amande, lui, est nutritif et antiseptique pour les intestins, il contient des vitamines A, B et E, du calcium, du fer et du magnésium en grande quantité et desfibres.
  • Le lait de noisette se caractérise par sa richesse en fer, calcium et magnésium et en acides gras mono-insaturés (protection des maladies cardio-vasculaires).
  • Le lait de riz est le lait de céréale le plus doux et le plus digeste. Il apporte du silicium, constituant essentiel des os et cartilages, qui permet la bonne fixation du calcium et du magnésium.
  • Le lait de châtaigne est reminéralisant, naturellement riche en sucre et très digeste. C'est un bon produit pour ceux qui souffrent d'acidité gastrique, la châtaigne ayant la propriété d'alcaliniser l'organisme.
Ce qu'il faut retenir ? Alternez les laits végétaux que vous trouvez dans le commerce afin de diversifier votre apport nutritionnel. Si vous les faites maison, le choix est encore plus vaste : à vous les laits de millet, quinoa, orge, pois chiche… !

Laits végétaux : comment les utiliser ?

Choisissez vos laits végétaux selon l'usage que vous voulez en faire. Lequel boire ? "Les laits végétaux ont des goûts différents, il va peut-être falloir que vous en goûtiez plusieurs pour trouver celui qui vous convient comme boisson" indique Anne Brunner, auteur de plusieurs livres de cuisine et bloggeuse culinaire. "Pour moi, le meilleur est le lait de riz thaï, plus parfumé que le lait de riz" ajoute-t-elle. Anne Brunner conseille de tester aussi le lait d'amande et le lait d'avoine, plus discret, tous deux bons au goût.
Vous pouvez aussi choisir des laits végétaux sucrés et vanillés pour le petit-déjeuner. Pour cuisiner, le lait de soja est idéal, "il se comporte presque comme le lait de vache en cuisine" explique Anne Brunner. "C'est vrai également pour les laits les plus gras, comme celui d'amande" précise-t-elle.
En fait, le lait de soja peut être utilisé à la place du lait de vache dans tous les plats. C'est également le seul à pouvoir être utilisé pour faire des yaourts. "Le lait d'amande, lui, est facile à utiliser dans les galettes sucrées ou salées, gratins, purées et gâteaux" indique notre auteur culinaire. Rien ne vous empêche d'utiliser du lait de riz pour faire des crêpes mais elles seront plus cassantes ! Mettez-le plutôt dans les crèmes et flans. "Quant au lait d'avoine, il est idéal dans les entremets et smoothie, tout comme dans les soupes, celle de potiron en particulier" indique Anne Brunner. Enfin, "le lait de noisette a un goût plus marqué que le lait d'amande, il donne saveur et onctuosité à vos plats" ajoute-t-elle.

Laits végétaux : les faire soi-même

Le vrai plus avec les laits végétaux, c'est qu'il est tout à fait possible de les faire à la maison… à condition de prendre du temps ! En plus, cela vous reviendra moins cher que de les acheter dans le commerce si vous en faites des quantités suffisantes. La technique ? Elle se fait en trois temps : broyage des céréales, oléagineux ou légumineuses - vous pouvez aussi utiliser directement de la farine en poudre plutôt que des grains- ajout d'eau puis filtrage.
Pour la réalisation de certains laits, s'ajoute une étape cuisson.
  • Pour 250 ml de lait d'amande, il vous faudra 50 g d'amandes. Faites-les tremper quelques heures, enlevez la peau et mixez-les dans un blender avec deux verres d'eau. Filtrez ensuite le résultat à l'aide d'une passoire à maille très fine ou d'une étamine à confiture.
  • Pour réaliser 2 litres de lait de soja, achetez 250 g de graines de soja jaune dépelliculées. Faites-les tremper une journée entière, en le rinçant plusieurs fois. Mixez-les avec un demi-litre d'eau, puis faites cuire le mélange avec un litre et demi d'eau supplémentaire, pendant 30 mn, à 70°C. Filtrez le résultat. Bon à savoir : vous pouvez garder les résidus du filtrage et les mettre dans des gâteaux et galettes.
Conservez vos laits végétaux au frais, dans un bocal hermétique. La durée de conservation est la même que celle d'un pack de lait entamé. Si vous voulez faire du lait d'amande de façon très rapide en petite quantité, Anne Brunner vous conseille d'acheter un pot de purée d'amandes blanches (en vente dans les magasins bio) et de diluer de façon progressive une cuillère à soupe de purée dans de l'eau afin d'obtenir du lait.
Une fois la technique acquise, vous pourrez faire des laits végétaux plus originaux !

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Fat-Loss 4 Workout Protocol

The Fat-Loss 4 Workout Protocol

My friend and strength coach extraordinaire Alwyn Cosgrove once told me that when choosing a topic for an article to think of what people ask about most often.
Considering Alwyn has an annoying tendency to be right almost all the time, clearly I should start writing more about fat loss.
Some experts want you to believe that losing fat is just a simple math problem: eat less and exercise more. While we all would prefer a simple, concise approach that even Sarah Palin could fit on the palm of her hand, anyone who's been at this a while will tell you that there's a lot more to getting lean than just that.
Food choices matter. Recovery matters. And maintaining, even gaining muscle as opposed to losing it, matters big time.
In this article I'm going to divulge a battle-tested fat loss protocol I developed, one that I've used for several years to help athletes and physique competitors lose fat and maintain muscle.
It's effective but also extremely versatile, and can be used in virtually any setting, regardless of space or equipment limitations.
However, it's not easy – and if you apply yourself accordingly, you may catch yourself wondering why the heck you're putting yourself through this.
The answer of course, is that if getting ripped were as easy as Grade 4 math, everyone in junior high and beyond would have a six-pack.

What is the Fat Loss 4 Workout Protocol?

The name "Fat Loss 4" isn't just a catchy tagline. It also represents the most important aspects of this workout formula.
A Fat Loss 4 workout is four exercises, performed back-to-back in a circuit style, for a total of four minutes.
There are two basic components to the FL4 protocol: three strength (local muscle conditioning) exercises and one total-body cardiovascular (central conditioning of the heart and lungs) drill.

Fat Loss 4 Exercises

The Fat-Loss 4 Workout Protocol

The four exercises making up a Fat Loss 4 (FL4) circuit are:
  • Upper body pushing or pulling
  • Lower body quad or hamstring dominant (squat, deadlift, lunge, etc.)
  • Torso/core
  • Cardio drill
The beauty of the FL4 protocol is its simplicity and versatility. You can plug in virtually any exercise you like, provided it fits the category.
That said, I've found that certain exercises seem to work better than others. You'll find some of my favorites later in this article.

How long is a FL4 circuit?

A FL4 circuit consists of four minutes of work with one minute of rest, for a total of five minutes.
Each strength exercise is performed for 30 seconds, with 15 seconds rest between exercises.
For example:
Upper body (pushing or pulling) exercise
Lower body exercise
Core/torso exercise
Cardio exercise (That's 1:30 – 1:45)
Ideally, you'll only rest 15 seconds transitioning from strength to cardio, which would put you at 2:15 when starting the cardio drill (and leave you with 1:45 to do cardio).

Sets and Rest

After you've completed a full four-minute circuit, you'll rest for one minute. We typically perform 2-3 rounds of a given FL4 circuit for a total of 10-15 minutes. (Two rounds is a total of 10 minutes; three rounds is a total 15 minutes.)

Intensity of an FL4 Workout

There are two intensities to consider in the FL4 protocol:
  • The total intensity of the entire circuit.
  • The working intensity of each exercise within a given circuit.
During the strength exercises within a circuit, you should be able to complete the entire 30 seconds of work with good form and a consistent, controlled tempo.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being working very hard), you should be at a 7 or 8 at the end of each strength exercise.
On the cardio exercise, we're after a pace that gets you to about 80% of your max heart rate.
By the time you're about to begin the next round of an FL4 circuit, you should feel mostly recovered. Basically, if you can get out a full sentence without huffing and puffing, you're good to go. But if you're still sucking wind after your 60-second rest between circuits, you need to reduce the intensity of the cardio.

Sample FL4 Workouts

The Fat-Loss 4 Workout Protocol

Designing a workout is easy once you understand the formula.
I've found it works well to change the strength movements every 2-3 rounds, although as mentioned earlier, I like to keep the cardio drill the same throughout the workout. So although the strength moves may change, the cardio remains constant.
Here are a few sample FL4 circuits.

FL4 Circuit #1

Lower body: Torso/core:
Cardio: (Run pace – between a light jog and all-out sprint.)

FL4 Circuit #2

Lower body: (alternate legs)
Cardio: (Run pace; between a light jog and all-out sprint.)

FL4 Circuit #3

Lower body:
Cardio: (Run pace; between a light jog and all-out sprint.)

Varying your FL4 Workouts

After performing 2-3 rounds of the same exercises, change the strength exercises and perform a new circuit for another 2-3 rounds while keeping the same cardio drill.
Sticking with the same cardio drill helps develop a consistent workout rhythm, while changing the strength moves every so often creates variety while serving to minimize localized muscle fatigue.

What exercises work best to use in an FL4 workout?

The great thing about FL4 is that it's "plug and play." You can insert just about any appropriate upper body, lower body, core, or cardio exercise you like and get great results.
However, there are a few movements I've found work exceptionally well with both my athletes and general fat loss clients. Here are my top five moves to try when designing your FL4 workouts.

Top 5 Pushing Exercises

Top 5 Pulling Exercises

The Fat-Loss 4 Workout Protocol

Top 5 Lower Body Exercises

Top 5 Core/Torso Exercises

Top 5 Cardio Exercises

Although this methods works, I've found circuits run smoother with either purely bilateral actions or with alternating limb actions like lunges, where you switch legs on each rep.
I also recommend sticking with compound strength movements instead of smaller, single-joints actions. This should be obvious, but compound strength movements create a better metabolic training response than single joint actions as they involve more muscle mass.

Why Does the FL4 Protocol Work?

There are four reasons why this protocol works so well for losing fat and keeping muscle:

1. It's total body.

The more muscles you work, the more energy you must use, meaning the more calories you burn both during the workout and for several hours after through Excessive Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC).

2. The sequencing creates a cardiovascular effect.

FL4 blends local muscle conditioning (through strength moves) with central conditioning (heart and lungs) to create a comprehensive metabolic workout.
During any strength exercise, your body pumps more blood to the working muscles. By following an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise and then a torso/core exercise, you're constantly changing where your body must increase blood flow. Doing this creates a cyclic blood flow effect, forcing your body to increase its cardiovascular output.
Finishing each sequence of upper/lower/mid-body exercises with a burst of total-body cardio exercise extends this cardiovascular effect even longer.

3. The sequencing allows for intensity.

Along with using your total-body, the other key to maximizing metabolic cost is working at a consistent high intensity. The F4L is sequenced so that when fatigue begins in a specific muscle group, the exercise is switched to train a different group of "fresh" muscles. By the time you return to the original muscle group on the next circuit, it's been several minutes, giving your body time to recover sufficiently.

4. You won't lose muscle when you're using muscle.

Since there's a heavy component of strength training involved in the FL4 Protocol, we haven't seen any losses in muscle size or strength. Although you're not using maximal weights, you are training with higher volumes, another effective way of creating intensity.
I also don't suggest using FL4 as your only training method. Blending it with some basic strength training and bodybuilding helps ensure the muscle you've worked so hard to achieve is maintained while focusing on losing fat. You'll see how this is accomplished in the sample weekly training splits below.

Weekly FL4 Training Splits

The Fat-Loss 4 Workout Protocol

Here's a few sample three, four, and five-day training splits showing how to incorporate the FL4 protocol with other strength and bodybuilding methods.

Three-Day Split

Monday – Push & FL4

ABench press (dumbbell or barbell)4-56-8
BShoulder press (dumbbell or barbell)4-56-8
CFL4 circuits6-8 rounds*

Wednesday – Legs/Hips & FL4

ADeadlifts (Trap bar or barbell)5-64-6
BSingle-leg squat (Bulgarian or free standing)3-46-8*
CFL4 circuits6-8 rounds**

Friday – Pull & FL4

AChin-ups or pull-ups4-56-8
BSingle-arm dumbbell row (dumbbell or barbell)3-46-8*
CFL4 circuits6-8 rounds**

Four-Day Split

Monday – FL4 circuit workout

FL4 circuits9-12 rounds*

Tuesday – Push/Pull strength workout

A1Bench press (dumbbell or barbell)4-56-8
A2Bent over row (dumbbell or barbell)4-56-8
B1Shoulder press (dumbbell or barbell)4-56-8
B2Pull-ups or lat pulldowns4-56-8
C1Skull crushers (dumbbell or EZ bar)310-12
C2Biceps curl (dumbbell or EZ bar)310-12
DDumbbell farmer's walk4-51 min.

Thursday – FL4 circuit workout

FL4 circuits9-12 rounds*

Friday – Legs/Hips/Abs strength workout

A1Deadlift (trap bar or barbell)4-56-8
A2Stability ball weighted crunch46-8
B1Lunges or step-ups (alternate legs)3-46-8*
B2Band rotations3-415-20**
C1Leg extension310-12
C2Hamstring curls (seated or lying on Swiss ball)310-15
DDumbbell farmer's walk4-51 min.

Five-Day Split

Monday – FL4 circuit workout

FL4 circuits9-12 rounds*

Tuesday – Push/Pull strength workout

A1Bench press (dumbbell or barbell)4-56-8
A2Bent over row (dumbbell or barbell)4-56-8
B1Shoulder press (dumbbell or barbell)4-56-8
B2Pull-ups or lat pulldowns4-56-8
C1Skull crushers (dumbbell or EZ bar)310-12
C2Biceps curl (dumbbell or EZ bar)310-12
DDumbbell farmer's walk4-51 min.

Wednesday – Legs/Hips/Abs strength workout

A1Deadlift (trap bar or barbell)4-56-8
A2Stability ball weighted crunch46-8
B1Lunges or step-ups (alternate legs)3-46-8*
B2Band rotations3-415-20**
C1Leg extension310-12
C2Hamstring curls (seated or lying on Swiss ball)310-15
DSled or tire drag4-530-40 yards

Friday – FL4 circuit workout

FL4 circuits9-12 rounds*

Saturday – FL4 circuit workout

FL4 circuits9-12 rounds*


Is the FL4 protocol the only method of losing fat while keeping the muscle? Absolutely not! But in my business it's proven to be a safe and effective way to get virtually any client in record shape, fast.
The beauty of FL4 is its elegant simplicity. In my experience, when clients can easily wrap their heads around what they're being instructed to do and why, they "commit" more and as such, get superior results.
On the other hand, excessively complex systems filled with pseudoscientific strength training jargon just yields the dreaded "deer in the headlights" look and subsequently, sub-optimal results.
This powerful fat loss weapon is now locked and loaded in your training arsenal. All you've got to do is use it!


Monday, November 21, 2011

9 Random Training Tips

9 Random Training Tips

I have a random mind. Maintaining focus on any given task can be a real challenge for me, much to the chagrin of many of my old teachers. My plan for this article was to examine several of my favorite training tips that you can implement today in your own training, but my ADD-saddled brain would have nothing of it.
Two ideas became three, then four, then five, and so on. I finally put a cap on the damn thing at nine, which is fitting, as this is my ninth article for T NATION to date.
See? There is a method to my madness.

1. Strong Side First with Unilateral Exercises

9 Random Training Tips

One of the many benefits of unilateral training is that it helps even out imbalances between limbs. Conventional wisdom says to do the weaker limb first to avoid exacerbating the imbalance, and then match that number of reps with the strong limb.
I've never been a fan of this method. While it may help create balance, it's selling the strong limb short since you aren't working it to its capacity.
Instead, try doing the strong limb first and then force yourself to match it on the weak side. You obviously won't be able to do it all in one continuous set, so do as many as you can with good form, pause for 10 seconds and take a few deep breaths, then continue on until you match the reps you got on the strong side – plus an extra 1-2 for good measure.
So a typical set might look like this:
This provides the best of both worlds because you can even out imbalances while continuing to get the strong limb stronger.

2. Learn the Hip Hinge

The importance of developing a technically sound hip hinge can't be overstated. You'll need it if you want to get strong on deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, Olympic lifts, kettlebell swings; basically all the moneymakers for the posterior chain.
It will also go a long way in keeping you injury-free on those exercises. If you can't hinge properly at the hips, you'll often compensate by rounding at the lower back, a recipe for hobbling through the office like the accounting Quasimodo.
It's a simple movement pattern, yet many lifters just can't seem to get it right, which is a big reason why so many get hurt.
Starting with your knees slightly bent, think about pushing your butt back as far you can without further bending your knees, all while keeping your back neutral or slightly arched. Dan John does a great job explaining it in this article. Look it over.
Still not quite getting it? Try this cue: Imagine yourself trying to take a no-handed morning piss with a boner. Voila, you just did a hip hinge. (Ladies, you should try this too, if for nothing else than to see what your man has to contend with.)
Now go do that in the gym. Just make sure to put some pants on first.

3. No Matter Your Goal, Do Pull-ups

Barring certain injuries, I think pull-ups should be a staple in almost every lifter's program.
There's much to be gained from getting good at them. There's no better exercise for building the lats, which play a huge role in virtually every major lift. Try benching big weights, or front squatting, or deadlifting with weak lats. Not gonna happen.
During a mass-gaining phase, pull-ups will not only build huge amounts of muscle, they'll also help keep you in check to avoid excessive fat gain. While pull-ups are definitely easier the lighter you are, if you're gaining good weight, your pull-up performance shouldn't suffer too much. If it does, there's a good chance you're getting fat.
Likewise, pull-ups act as a great incentive during a fat loss program because the leaner you get, the better you'll be at them.
Make it a goal to be able to do at least 10-12 clean reps with your own bodyweight.

4. Do Upper Back Work Every Workout

9 Random Training Tips

This is an extension of number 3.
I've never looked at a person and thought, "Wow, that guy needs to lay off the upper back work." I'd go so far as to say that I'm not even sure there's such a thing as too much upper back work. We could all probably use more.
Strengthening the upper back will help offset all the horizontal pressing (i.e. bench press) and slouching we do on a regular basis, which will go a long way in improving posture and warding off shoulder injuries.
If you don't care about that and just want to look better and lift more weight, you should still pay attention. Improving your posture will instantly make your chest look bigger. Fact is, if I were given a week to bring up the appearance of your chest, the first thing I'd probably do would be attack your upper back. It's that profound.
The upper back is also often the weak link in many other key exercises. If you've ever struggled with your deadlift form (especially the lockout) or had trouble holding the bar for front squats, you know exactly what I mean. Strengthen the upper back and your other lifts often immediately skyrocket.
So what should you do?
The upper back can handle a tremendous workload, and in my experience, responds best to a higher frequency. The key is choosing the right exercises and modulating intensity and volume. As mentioned earlier, pull-ups are fantastic, but I'd limit them to twice a week at most to avoid shoulder and elbow issues.
On the other training days (2-3 days a week), I'd opt for horizontal pulls that don't stress the lower back, since the lower back is much slower to recover and gets slammed during most lower body training.
Good choices include inverted rows, dumbbell rows, chest-supported rows, band pull-aparts, Batwings, and face pulls. If you have suspension straps, one of my personal favorites is inverted face pulls.
Three sets of 8-12 reps should be sufficient. Don't worry so much about the weight, and don't go overboard to the point where it starts to affect the rest of your workouts. Focus on doing the movements correctly and using the right muscles to do the work. This leads me right into my next point.

5. Learn Proper Form/Video Yourself

The best thing I ever did for my lifting career was to get a logbook. Luckily, I did that pretty much right from the start, saving me years of wheel spinning.
The next best thing I did was to get a video camera. My only regret is not getting it sooner.
I never had a coach or a trainer to show me the ropes when I was first starting out. I learned by reading and watching other people in the gym and then trying to mimic what they were doing. Trouble is, most gym goers have their heads firmly lodged up their rectums when it comes to training, so it was really a case of the blind leading the blind.
I was well intentioned, but misguided. I never missed workouts, ever, and I worked my ass off every time I stepped foot in the gym. I knew the key to success was progressive resistance, so I fought tooth and nail to beat the logbook, and I did most of the time. I paid attention to the little details, like sets, reps, and rest periods.
What I neglected, however, was good form. It's not that I didn't care about it, it's that I didn't really know better. I honestly thought my form was good – that is, until I watched myself. That was a rude awakening. You name it, I was doing it wrong. The harder I pushed, the more my form deteriorated.
I had to drop the weights way down and start over from scratch. Talk about humbling. You never realize how much harder a full squat is than a quarter squat until the first time you have to strip it from 365 to 135.
Learn from my mistakes and nail down good form from the start. If you've let it slide, suck it up, lighten the load, and take the time to get it right. Until you do, nothing else matters. Fancy programming is useless if you can't execute the exercises correctly.
If you're fortunate enough to have competent lifters in your gym, ask for help. If you're like I was and have to go at it alone, invest in a camera and film yourself on all the major movements. With websites like this one, you can get solid form critique in a matter of minutes.
You don't need anything expensive either. I've used the same little digital camera for five years and it's been fine. Trust me, besides your two-dollar logbook, it'll be the best money you ever spend.

6. Hammer Your Weak Points

9 Random Training Tips

It's human nature to gravitate towards the things we do best and avoid the things we suck at. In the gym, this often manifests with us prioritizing our strengths and neglecting our weaknesses.
While it may be normal human behavior, it doesn't make it right. This is a recipe for creating imbalances, which sets us up for stagnation and/or injury. I say "us" because I'm guilty of it too, and it's something I consciously have to work on.
Now I'm certainly not advocating that you give all parts of your training equal priority, and there will always be some things that are more important to you than others. I'm suggesting that you look for the glaring weaknesses and attack them head-on, even if you don't see the immediate benefit.
For example, I went through a phase where I stopped doing any specific core training. I justified it to myself by saying that "abs are made in the kitchen" and "the core gets enough work from heavy compound exercises," but really I was just being lazy and didn't like doing it.
I was fine for a while, but over time, some of my lifts began to stall and my back started to bother me. Eventually I broke down and decided to add some core stabilization work back into the mix. Within a few weeks, my front squat went up and my back pain went away. Funny how that works.
The takeaway point is, don't just do what you like.
I'll bet that you know exactly what your biggest weak point is. Maybe it's your core strength, upper back, glutes, hamstrings, mobility, whatever. Now it's just a matter of taking action and making a conscious effort to improve it.
That may mean putting it first in the workout to ensure that you give it full attention, or it may mean devoting an entire extra day each week specifically to that weak point. Just get it done. No excuses.

7. Walking Lunges 2.0

Walking lunges are one of my favorite single-leg exercises. It's also very advanced, so before you try to tackle it, I suggest you take some time to master split squats, Bulgarian split squats and regular lunges first.
You'll often see walking lunges loaded either by holding dumbbells at the sides or with a barbell on the back. While there's certainly nothing wrong with either method, I rarely see it done correctly.
Instead, I see a big tendency to lean way forward, sometimes to the point of falling over. I don't mind a slight forward lean when it's being performed unloaded (forward lean has been shown to increase glute activation,) but when you add heavy weights into the mix, it's putting the lower back in a precarious position. Part of the problem is simply going too heavy, but the placement of the weights exacerbates the issue.
Enter the front-loaded version.
9 Random Training Tips
Start by holding a dumbbell in the goblet position until you run out of weight before progressing to using a barbell with a front squat grip.
I like this style of loading better for a few reasons:
  • It forces you to stay upright, putting less stress on the spine and more stress on the quads, where we want it.<
  • There's a built-in protection mechanism against your own ego. It keeps you honest because you'll need to go much lighter than you would if you were to hold dumbbells at your sides or put a bar on your back, and you can't cheat or else you'll drop the weight.
  • Loading the weight anteriorly provides an added core stability benefit as you must fight to resist flexion, giving you more bang for your buck.
Just make sure to start conservatively and follow the progression I laid out above to avoid being riddled with DOMS. Don't say I didn't warn you.

8. Don't Skimp on Mobility Work

Mobility work is to training as vegetables are to diet.
We may not enjoy eating vegetables, but we do so anyway because they're good for us. We know that protein acts as the building blocks for muscle, but if we just ate meat and nothing else we might be off the charts on the Awesomeness Scale, but we'd be leaving a lot on the table nutritionally. Veggies provide fiber and nutrients and help us feel good, so while they may not contribute directly to building muscle, they certainly assist indirectly.
The same goes for mobility work. It's certainly not as sexy and fun as weight training, but it's still vitally important. It likely won't contribute directly to gaining muscle (I've yet to see a jacked yogi, nor would I ever particularly care to), but it can augment the muscle-building process by helping us feel better, move better, and recover better.
We aren't necessarily looking to reach Gumby status, but a certain level of flexibility and mobility is essential to train hard and avoid injury. I could sit here all day chewing up bandwidth preaching about how you must squat to at least parallel and give you all the great cues and drills to do so, but if you're locked up in the hips and ankles, none of that stuff will matter.
As much as it might suck (trust me, I don't like it either), make it a priority. In the beginning, it'll take a lot of work. I've found that, just like with veggies, the key is consistency. I'd rather see you spend 15 minutes a day, every day of the week, than 30 minutes 2-3 times a week.
I recommend doing a bit before and during your workouts, and then spend a good 10-15 minutes of devoted stretching at night at home before you go to bed. I find doing it at night helps me to relax and alleviate some of the soreness caused by lifting, and I can do it in front of the TV so it's not so boring.
Do it while you watch Jersey Shore and stretch every time Ronnie and Sam fight or Snooki says something moronic. You'll be cured in no time. You'll also be significantly stupider, but at least you'll be more flexible.
This article is a good starting point for some stretches to do, and here are some quick and easy active mobility drills to try.
The good news though is that once you develop good mobility, it doesn't take much to maintain it if you consistently train through a full range of motion. Until you reach that point though, make this stuff your best friend.

9. Believe in Yourself

9 Random Training Tips
Nothing pisses me off more in the gym than someone asking me for a spot and then saying, "I'm not sure I can get this."
My response is always the same, "Come get me when you're sure."
I don't say this to be a dick or because I'm lazy and don't want to spot them, I say it because to be successful, you absolutely must believe in yourself. If you go into a set thinking you aren't going to get it, chances are you won't. You should be fully committed and have a distinct (and realistic) goal in mind, and there should be no doubt in your mind that you can pull it off. If you aren't confident, you shouldn't even be trying it.
I'm a big believer in positive self-talk (note the "self" part of self-talk; nobody wants to hear you tooting your own horn). I'm not talking about some fruity feel-good thing. I'm talking about getting in the zone where you're in attack mode and nothing can stop you. Whenever I step up to take a weight, I'm absolutely convinced that I'm going to dominate it. That's not to say I always do, but getting in the right mindset at least gives me a fighting chance.

End of Randomness

I warned you this was going to be random. Some of it may be new to you, while some may simply serve as a reminder of what you already knew but may not be putting into practice. Either way, I hope you can glean a few useful tips to take your training up a notch.


How to Build Any Muscle Group

How to Build Any Muscle Group

When you hear the word "science," what does it mean to you? My guess is that word probably makes you conjure up images of a nerdy looking dude in a lab coat who's hovering over a Petri dish that's filled with bacteria.
And when it comes to building muscle, we all know that science often falls short of giving us the best solutions. That's because there's very little funding for studies that elucidate the best methods to turn little Henry into the Hulk.
Computer technology has progressed at an astonishing pace because there's so much funding and because the potential financial rewards are enormous. Not so in the world of muscle building.
Yep, if you've got a burning desire to add muscle to a stubborn body part you'll have no luck finding your answer on Pubmed, even if you pull an all-nighter.

So Where's the Answer?

While I was in graduate school one of my professors made a profound statement that has stuck with me over the years. To quote the good doctor, "Science is about observing the world around you."
For example, if you want to cure Alzheimer's it makes sense to study cultures where the disease is virtually nonexistent. Then you try to figure out what they do that the rest of the world doesn't do.
And if you want bigger quadriceps, it makes perfect sense to look for a sport where the athletes have proportionally large quadriceps development and figure out what they're doing that you're not doing.
That's smart science.

Gut Check

How to Build Any Muscle Group

Before I get to the details of how to add muscle where you need it most, it's important to understand what truly deserves the title as a stubborn body part. Your proportionally challenged biceps might not be stubborn at all, and that's why you should first consider two points.
1. Be honest with yourself. Is the muscle group in question too small simply because you haven't been training it more than once every week or two? Many guys have puny calves because they rarely train them. No big mystery there.
2. Understand that muscle growth takes months. If you just started lifting weights three weeks ago and you're frustrated with your lack of upper arm development, join the club that every guy has been a member of. No one ever complains about building muscle too fast. You must be patient, even if you find the training method that's best for your body type.
Now that those two points are out of the way, if you've been training the stubborn body part consistently for a few months without noticing any results, it's time to do some problem solving.

30 Reps to Bigger Muscles

First, consider the training parameters you've been using. Three sets of 10 reps isn't an ideal way to build muscle, even for muscle groups that welcome growth. Therefore, the best initial approach is to train a stubborn muscle group with a less traditional method that works awesome to build muscle.
– this is a more effective twist on the 10 sets of 3 reps method that I've been advocating for a decade. Instead of doing 10 sets of 3 reps, you'll start with a load you can lift no more than six times for the first set.
Next you'll perform a second set of as many reps as possible (usually it'll be less than six reps). Then you'll perform a third set of as many reps as possible.
You'll continue performing as many sets as it takes until you reach 30 total reps.
You'll use the same load for all sets and the reps will decrease with the sets. This is an ideal way to train since you'll never miss a rep, and it's the way I approach muscle building in my book, Huge in a Hurry.
Here's a sample exercise pairing for the upper arms:
1AHammer curl******30 sec.
1BLying dumbbell triceps extension******30 sec.
This is an example for one workout. You'll use only one exercise per muscle group and you'll put all your energy into that lift until you reach 30 total reps. Perform the 30-Rep Method three times per week with a different exercise in each workout throughout the week. You can use those same three exercise pairings for all four weeks.
Of course, the 30-Rep Method can be used for any muscle group that needs more mass without sacrificing maximal strength. You can perform straight sets with 60 seconds of rest between each set, but I've found that it's more effective and more efficient to alternate between exercises for different muscle groups.
You don't have to use an antagonist pairing. For example, if your calves and triceps need help, you could alternate a calf raise with a triceps exercise. The options are endless.
Here's an overview of the parameters for the 30 Rep Method.
The 30-Rep Method is my first line of attack to build a lagging muscle group. Try it for four weeks and I bet you'll like what you see. Importantly, you don't need to perform an entire workout with this method, even though it's an excellent way to train.
For example, you might be content with your current program, but you feel it's neglecting a muscle group that you want to make freaky enough to scare the neighbors. Use the 30-Rep Method three times per week for four weeks to fire things up.

Back to Real World Science

How to Build Any Muscle Group

At this point you might be wondering what all my rambling was about in the beginning of this article when I talked about the relationship between science and real-world observations.
Let's look at the deltoids and quadriceps. They're two muscle groups that are sometimes outliers. They can be problematic for many good muscle building methods, even the 30-Rep Method. Yep, sometimes you've got to break the rules and look around for guidance. Sometimes multiple sets of heavy reps isn't the best approach.
Indeed, if there were ever a muscle group that thrives on high-rep training with lighter loads, it's the deltoids. You only need to look at the shoulders of professional boxers for proof.
The quadriceps can be tricky for a different reason: it's extremely draining to perform 30 total reps of a heavy multi-joint quadriceps exercise three times per week. Elite Olympic lifters might have the best quadriceps development of any power athlete but we all know how impractical and time-consuming it would be to work up to their frequency and volume while keeping your joints in tact.
So we need to keep looking around. Which other athletes have quadriceps development with proportions that even Tom Platz can envy? Professional cyclists.
When you think about professional boxers or cyclists, it's easy to hypothesize that any muscle group can grow if you stimulate it with enough volume and frequency. While that might be true sometimes, it doesn't appear accurate in all cases.
Take the biceps, for example. If the amount of volume from boxing or cycling could carryover to head-turning biceps proportions, elite rowers would have the best biceps on the planet. But they don't.
Gymnasts who perform the rings events hold the title of best pound-for-pound biceps on earth. That's because the biceps need high-tension exercises for growth, unlike the deltoids or quadriceps which are made up of a higher proportion of fast fatigue resistant (FFR) motor units. Those FFR motor units love high-rep training like a fat kid loves cake.
If you need to add more muscle to your deltoids and quadriceps so you can finally hit the beach without ridicule, here's your solution.

5 Minutes of Hell

How to Build Any Muscle Group

The two exercises I use to build the quadriceps or deltoids when traditional training doesn't work are the hill climb and boxer drill. Both of these exercises induce a lot of fatigue so perform them at the end of your workouts or on a day when you're not lifting heavy.
As an added bonus, the following two exercises will help you burn more fat!
Hill Climb: adjust the seat on an exercise bike so your knee joint can only extend to 160 degrees as you pedal. Basically, just make sure your knees can't completely straighten during each revolution to keep tension on your quads. Next, crank up the resistance so you can't perform more than 60 revolutions per minute (RPM) when you're pedaling with maximum intensity.
Continue pedaling with the most effort possible for five minutes. As you fatigue you'll need to decrease the resistance on the exercise bike. The ideal range to stay within is 45-60 RPM. Don't let it drop below 45 or exceed 60 RPM throughout the five-minute climb from Hell.
Perform the hill climb exercise every other day or three times per week until you've added enough muscle to make the effort worthwhile.
Here are a few tips for the hill climb exercise.
  • Stay seated throughout the exercise! If you stand up and pedal it takes stress off your quadriceps (since your body weight can push the pedals down).
  • Don't grip the armrests or handles because it will accumulate unnecessary fatigue. Keep your hands relaxed. It's best to have your arms hanging down at your sides or interlock your fingers and place your hands behind your head.
  • Keep your chest held high throughout the exercise. It's easy to slouch while you're grimacing in pain but this can lead to disc problems.
  • If your cardiovascular system isn't accustomed to high intensity training, start with three minutes and add 30 seconds every other day until you reach five minutes.
Boxer drill: the boxer drill is very straightforward and tough to screw up as long as you put out five minutes of continuous effort. Just grab a pair of 5-pound dumbbells and do your best to mimic Arturo Gatti against the ropes. Throw straight punches, hooks, and upper cuts for five minutes without resting.
Perform the boxer drill every other day or three times per week for as long as you desire.
Here are a few tips for the boxer drill:
  • Keep your hands up throughout the entire drill. You should never drop your hands in a fight and you should never drop your hands in this drill either, since it will take stress off the deltoids.
  • Move around as much as possible while you're throwing punches and switch your stance from right to southpaw every 30 seconds to keep your T-spine mobility in balance.
  • If 5-pound dumbbells are too heavy, start with three pounds.
  • To get the most out of this drill you should be able to throw decent punches. So if you're completely at a loss for how to throw a hook or uppercut, ask a qualified person for technique tips.
  • If your cardiovascular system isn't accustomed to high intensity training, start with three minutes and add 30 seconds every other day until you reach five minutes.

Final Words

One of the best ways to build up a lagging muscle group is with the 30-Rep Method. It can work for any muscle group. However, if you want to mix things up, or if a traditional approach hasn't worked for your quadriceps or deltoids, now you have a couple of solutions that will also help you burn more fat!


Monday, November 7, 2011

The Fat Loss Hierarchy

The Fat Loss Hierarchy

The Fat Loss Hierarchy

"Well, it depends on the rest of the diet."
That's been my answer for most of the questions I've received. It's not because I'm being lazy or blowing people off, it's just the honest truth.
It seems as if our information-overload era has caused beginners and advanced athletes alike to focus way too much on the extras of dietary programs and not enough on the basics. This isn't good.
Tweaks and theories and out-of-the-box dietary protocols might make for interesting LiveSpill discussion, but they're all just the proverbial icing on your gluten-free cake. You must first understand – and then implement – the major steps necessary if you're ever to achieve your "get shredded" goals.
Let's take a step back from the fine print and look at the bigger fat loss picture – the fat loss hierarchy, if you will.
The order goes like this:
  1. Food choices
  2. Total calories
  3. Essential nutrients
  4. Supplements - Part I
  5. Energy nutrients
  6. Meal frequency
  7. Food/macronutrient distribution
  8. Supplements - Part II
A very successful friend of mine often quotes the slogan "Productivity in 11 Words":
In that spirit, let's start with step one to help you become more efficient with your fat loss approach.

#1 Food Choices

The Fat Loss Hierarchy

Notice I said food choices, not macronutrients, because infinitely more important than the low carb versus low fat debate is the refined food versus real food debate.
If people just cut out refined stuff, ate real foods (animal proteins, vegetables, whole-food fats, natural starches), and paid attention to absolutely nothing else, they would improve their health profile and lose body fat. Would it be enough to get them T Nation-style ripped? No. But it would take them a good percentage of the way.
Let's say making this change would get them inside the Red Zone. Virtually every other nutritional topic is about whether you make that extra effort to get the touchdown or just settle for a field goal.
I place food choices ahead of total calories for two reasons:

I care about achieving physique enhancement goals, but I also care about health.

These goals do have to be mutually exclusive, as many uninformed athletes or non-athletic scientists would have you believe.
It seems that there are two extremes in our industry. On one end, you have many bodybuilders and fitness girls who will follow extreme training, diet, and drug protocols to achieve a freak physique, unknowingly (or knowingly) compromising their long-term metabolic, hormonal, mental, and overall health.
On the other end, you have many "life-extensionists" who obsess over improving every decimal point in their biomarkers of health, but leave any thought of physique enhancement behind.
I don't care if I make it to 120 years old if I have to live and look like a goblin to do so.
It's not an either-or situation – you can improve your health and improve your physique at the same time. The food choices we make can merge those two goals. You might not end up looking like Ronnie Coleman or living as long as Yoda, but you'll do okay on both fronts.
If total calories are controlled, you can lose body fat while still eating Ding Dongs and Ho-Ho's, but what's that doing to your internal health? As the late, great Serge Nubret once said, "Every sickness comes from food."
The average American male now has a fat ass, a limp dick, low T, and ten risk factors for CVD due to shoving refined garbage into his cake-hole every day. It's not typical, nor desirable, to require a laundry list of prescriptions to turn the little mushroom into a big mushroom for four hours or longer, let alone live and function normally. How does that make any logical sense?
The answer to America's health problems and obesity epidemic – and the majority of your fat loss questions – is quite simple: cut out refined foods and just eat nature's foods, in their unaltered state. Nuts (fat) are better for you than high fructose corn syrup (carb), but equally so is a potato (carb) better for you than refined vegetable oil (fat). That's my stance, and I'm sticking to it.

I care about the sustainability of a plan.

Any plan can work for the short-term when motivation is high. However, it's virtually impossible to stay in the relative calorie deficit necessary for fat loss (step #2), at least for any meaningful length of time, if you're making poor food choices.
In other words, you can't cut calories while eating crap and expect to stay the course.
This is where point systems or other calorie counting diets fail. You're not going to be able to stay on a diet plan for long eating low-calorie lasagna, fudge cake, or "snack packs." Fake foods like this are just empty calories with no functional nutrients. They have no effects on satiety or hormones that regulate appetite and energy intake.
You'll feel constantly hungry, deprived, and miserable dieting on these foods. Eventually, you'll wake up next to a few empty doughnut boxes left over from an uncontrollable binge. As motivation declines, the time between these binges will get shorter and shorter until one day you realize that you're eating crap just about every day and completely give up on your fat loss plan.
That's why people yo-yo on and off these plans. They're not sustainable.
On the flipside, it is almost impossible to overeat if you're consuming only real foods. I've had clients struggle to net 2000 calories a day when they cut out all refined foods (including oils) and ate only lean proteins and vegetables (including potatoes and yams).
Nature's foods are nutrient dense, high satiety foods, and you'll have a much easier time maintaining a calorie deficit if you emphasize them. You'll also get more nutrients out of 2000 calories of real food than 4000 calories of manufactured food. This is extremely important when operating in a calorie deficit.

#2 Total Calories

The Fat Loss Hierarchy

In the Great Macro Debate, the second most important step in the fat loss process seems to have been completely lost amongst physique dieters everywhere – total calories. No miracle combination or drastic cutting of any macronutrient can circumvent the law of thermodynamics.
Did we not learn this lessen in the Low Fat era? You can cut your fat intake to zero, but if you're eating above your total calorie limits with refined carbs, you're going to get fat.
Today's low-carbers are making a similar mistake. I don't care if you haven't touched a carb since Brigitte Nielsen was hot, if you overshoot calories by eating unlimited fat, you won't get lean.
This brings me to something every low-carber needs to understand: being in a state of ketosis itself does ensure fat loss.
Ketosis is simply an altered physiological state in the human body. When carbs are extremely low, glycogen becomes depleted, The body will then use a greater percentage of fatty acids to fuel the body and use ketones to fuel the brain. It's merely a shift in fuel dynamics. The body is running on fat metabolism, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to burn more body fat, although that's what you might infer.
The rules of body fat loss still apply, not just the metabolic condition your body is in. Ensuring you're in a relative calorie deficit is still the most important step in winning the fat loss war.
In low carb, unlimited fat and protein diets, you can still enter a state of caloric excess. And even though your body has shifted to burning a greater percentage of fatty acids as fuel, it will simply obtain fatty acids and ketones from the abundance of dietary fat you're taking in if you're in caloric excess.
It will be forced to tap into internal body fat stores as a reserve fuel. Instead, the excess calories will be stored as body fat, regardless of whether insulin levels are constantly kept at a low level.
Why then, do people so easily dismiss total calories and cling to low fat, low carb, or low common sense diets?
Telling people to make proper food selections and control calories is boring. There's nothing sexy about it. There's nothing innovative or cutting edge in it. In a world full of technological advances, to tell someone to follow sound, sensible, and basic principles almost seems archaic and uninformed. There has to be a new revolutionary way that's easier, more efficient, and pain-free, right?
"Macro-bashing" plays to people's desires. These plans seem like they require more discipline – you have to eliminate certain food groups. "No carbs today, Dude." But these diets actually require less discipline. They demonize a certain nutrient and point to it as the cause of all of our body fat problems. Eliminate that nutrient, and you can eat as much as you want of everything else.
That's what people really want to hear, isn't it? You can eat as much of "X and Y" as you want, as long as you don't eat "Z." Eat vegetable oil, cream, and cheese to your heart's desire as long as you don't have that carb gram from a carrot stick. In a world of overindulgence, the lazy want to be able to gorge on something.
I'm not saying it can't or won't work, but for the majority I've seen, it doesn't. If you've banished carbs to the Underworld, yet are still struggling with fat loss and are looking for answers, now you have one – controlling calories is still king.

#3 Essential Nutrients

The Fat Loss Hierarchy

The food we take in can be broken down into two broad categories: essential nutrients and energy nutrients.
Essential nutrients are necessary for normal metabolic, hormonal, enzyme, and immune system functioning. They provide the base ingredients necessary for building and maintaining the body's structural components, including skin, hair, and muscle tissue.
Essential nutrients can't be produced by the body and must be obtained through the diet. Thus, their intake should never be compromised regardless of your efforts to cut calories for fat loss. We'll be cutting energy nutrients, essential nutrients.
The foundation of any complete diet plan should be lean, animal-based protein foods and vegetables, not "zero carb pizza" or "low calorie cookies" or any other BS food that makes you feel like you're doing something good for yourself.
Animals and plants provide us with the essential nutrients and micronutrients we need, in the right amounts and ratios that Mother Nature intended. They were the basis of the diets we evolved from. It makes sense that they should be the foundation of a modern diet geared towards optimizing health and improving body composition.

#4 Supplements Part 1

You need to worry about covering your essential nutrients before you worry about the extras. In other words, before you worry about fat burners and hormone boosters, you need to make sure you're not deficient in any essential nutrients. In my mind, this is the best use of targeted supplementation – more so than looking at them as miracle pills or magical cures that can make up for a crappy diet.
I want to be clear, you can obtain all the essential nutrients you need from whole, unrefined foods. The problem is in today's modern, fast-paced, on-the-go society; it rarely works out that way.
If you struggle to meet your essential amino acid/protein needs because you're not in the fitness industry and don't live by a kitchen, it's much smarter to down some BIOTEST BCAAs or a Metabolic Drive® Low Carb protein shake than eat fast-food junk. If fish isn't your thing, Flameout™ is a fantastic way to cover your EPA/DHA needs.
On a side note, flaxseed oil is a scam. It has to go through several inefficient chemical conversion processes in the body to yield the beneficial EPA/DHA. Stick with cold-water fish or fish oil supplements.
Plant foods supply our bodies with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. If you're a carnivore, Superfoodmay help you fill in the gaps.
There is a hierarchy for everything, and the theme is to take care of the basics first. Otherwise, the extras are meaningless.

#5 Energy Nutrients

Beyond accounting for essential nutrients, all other food intake is simply a source of energy.
Changing your body composition comes down to varying your energy nutrient intake. We set essential amino acid and essential fatty acid needs and never go below these base levels. All other food intake is just a source of energy. Dietary fat is an energy source just as carbohydrates are an energy source.
There's no mystery to fat loss. We need to reduce energy intake enough to create the calorie deficit necessary (step #2) to force our bodies to tap into an internal reserve fuel source, namely body fat. This can be accomplished by reducing carbohydrate intake, reducing fat intake, or both.
In other words, protein and vegetable intake remains constant, carbohydrate and fat intake can go up or down as needed. We simply manipulate those macronutrients based on our current status, body type, and physique goals.
Many obese, sedentary, and insulin resistant patients have improved insulin sensitivity, blood sugar control, biomarkers of health, and lost a large percentage of body fat on low-carb/Paleo plans.
However, many bodybuilders and fitness athletes step on stage peeled to the bone following carb-based/sports nutrition-type plans.
Who's right? The fact that people have achieved outstanding fat loss results with such different methods suggests that they're right. Scientific research and anecdotal evidence can be found to back each one up as well.
I've recommended both approaches to different types of clients, based on the situation, as I'm a staunch believer that various diets have worked for various athletes.
I know it seems earth shattering in today's anti-macronutrient climate, but even a balanced diet (i.e. Zone or Isocaloric Diet) can work.
Anyone who tells you differently is either selling you something or is so caught up in the dogma of a system that they can't see outside of it.
Now I do believe that each one is more than the other for specific demographics, and I think that's where the confusion comes in. The reasoning behind my belief has to do with exercise physiology and fuel dynamics.
I think sedentary and insulin resistant/obese populations respond better to low carb diets, and anaerobic athletes respond better to carb-based diets.

Tapping Out!

The Fat Loss Hierarchy

There's more to talk about, but alas, time is money and I've had a triangle choke on your computer time. I'll be devoting future articles to meal frequency and food distribution, because there's so much to talk about.
But remember, those are lower down on the hierarchy for good reason. Meal frequency doesn't matter until you take care of rules #1-4, starting with making optimal food choices that nourish your body. Everything else is subordinate to that, and for good reason.
Start with Step #1.
The Samurai Diet: The Science & Strategy of Winning the Fat Loss War
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