Monday, January 31, 2011

The Majority = FAIL

"Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively." ~Dalai Lama XIV 

As briefly discussed in the previous post, the majority of people are extremely misguided when it comes to fat loss, athletic performance enhancement, muscle gain, and nutrition.  If you want to know what NOT to do, walk in any commercial gym in look at what 95% of the people are doing.  It's not that everyone is intending to do it wrong, of course; it's that they're receiving direction from the wrong sources. 

Example #1:  Just about every commercial gym will place all of the treadmills, ellipticals, and machines immediately beyond the entrance.  This is obviously a strategic move from a marketing standpoint, as gym owners have figured out (sadly) the first thing people want to see is the "cardio" equipment.

Disastrously, people think that slugging away on the treadmill/elliptical 45-minutes a day, 3 times a week, is the answer to the body transformation they're looking for.  However, take a look at the same people an entire year later, and I guarantee that 95% of them will look the exact same and - in fact - possess WORSE movement quality than they did one year prior.

Without further ado, here is a brief list of how NOT to fail like the majority:

#1: Stop it with the non-fat drinks already!  This is what originally launched my idea for this post (when I was in Starbucks and the woman in front of me ordered a non-fat chocolate mocha).  

Come on people!  Are you seriously kidding me!

Is a "non-fat" drink going to make you "not fat?"  Fat or non-fat beverage, it is not going to spare your waistline (and health) from the 59 grams of sugar in that drink, regardless of what type of milk you order!  

This goes for salad dressings, too.  In fact, almost any "non-fat" ANYTHING is loaded with sugar.  Please remember this.  If you do order a non-fat X, at least do so with the knowledge that it it's not going to help you see your abs.

Sugar is the enemy of your waistline, not fat. 

#2:  Warm Up.  Your 4th grade gym instructor was actually on to something.  It amazes me how many people "get right to it" upon arriving for their workout.  In fact, if someone is short on time, they would often be better served cutting out the back-end of their routine as opposed to omitting the warm-up.  Spending 10-15 minutes on a high quality warm up of foam rolling, mobilization drills, and corrective exercise will make your training sessions far more effective and set you up for long-term success.

For the ladies: Yes, it will make your fat-burning sessions five times more worthwhile.

For the gents: You know that shoulder pain or low back pain that has been bothering you?  Perhaps you'd be better served warming up before sprinting to the bench press or squat rack.  The equipment isn't going to run away from you.  And you'll be able to move more weight, which is what you're after anyway.

#3.  Lift with correct technique.  I've been on the verge of purchasing horse-blinders for quite some time now.  For myself.  To wear when I enter the average gym.  The majority of people's exercise technique is horrendous.  And it's no wonder why people think lifting weights will lead to injury.  It will, if you use the technique that most people do.

Let's begin with the basic pushup.  The PUSHUP.  It's like most guys learned how to do pushups from watching a fish flop up onto dry land.

Synonymous to most pushup technique out there.

When I first began working in the training industry, I was shocked at how few men could do good pushups.  You know the pushup-success-rate for a member of the male gender walking into our doors for the first time?  0%.

And this is O.K.  Almost everyone is bad when they try something for the first time (or, in this case, tries something correctly for the first time).  And that's why most people walk through our doors anyway.  Heck, I did pushups incorrectly for years.  My point is that if people have awful form on something as basic as a pushup, it makes me cringe thinking about something like a squat or deadlift.

And women can do it to.  We have many females in SAPT who put the guys to shame with their pushup technique.  Exhibit A:  Below is Jenny, a full-time employee and mother.  She is over 50-years old, and destroys men with her ability to do pushups.  Here she is performing perfect, tempoed pushups with 15lbs of weight on her back (I also added a quick clip of her executing a near-flawless "Move-the-Mountain" plank):

Keep those elbows locked at a 45-degree angle, get your upper back involved by "pulling" yourself to the ground, and keep that chin tucked (no forward head posture) allowing your chest to reach the ground before your face.

I'm not even going to go into the deadlift and squat form I see whenever I travel and enter a commercial gym.  I'm surprised there aren't lumbar discs shooting out of spines as these people deadlift, or connective tissue tearing all over the place in the knees of those squatting.

Lifting doesn't create pain.  Lifting incorrectly creates pain.  Peformed correctly, you'll feel like a new man or woman.

#4.  Utilize progressive overloadThis mostly applies to females, as the boys often attempt to lift something that their ego can handle but their body cannot.  In other words, if you can lift a weight "X" number of repetitions, it's time to try something a little heavier. 

In fact, failing to use progressive overload (among other things) is one of the critical reasons why most females have such a difficult time achieving the results they're looking for.  You know that 5lb dumbbell you've been doing tricep kickbacks with for the past 6 months?  That may be a good place to start with regards to body transformation (read: lose the 5lb dumbbell along with the tricep kick backs, it's not going to "tone" your arms).  

Most of the high school and college girls we coach at SAPT have "the look" that most females aspire to attain.  How?  Utilizing progressive overload on the compound lifts: pushups, squats, deadlifts, lunges, row variations.

And NO, you're not going to turn into a "she-man" if you lift weights (see the video of Kayleigh I posted last week).  In fact, this is going to get you to your goal far faster than slugging away on that elliptical. 

For the girls who don't believe me (I understand, I am a male) visit Rachel Cosgrove's website.  I had the pleasure of meeting her at a seminar last year; she is an AWESOME woman aiding many females in positive body transformation and helping them feel more confident.  (Her most recent article is titled "14 HOURS OF CARDIO, 1400 CALORIES = NOT A LIFE!")

Rachel Cosgrove. 

#5.  Stop using 3 sets of 10 on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  It's one of the most archaic loading protocols ever, and yet still the most popular.  And guys wonder why 225lbs is still burying them on the bench press....

#6.  Have someone else write your program.  Yeah, yeah, yeah....I'm sure you are the most objective and unbiased person, especially when it comes the subject of yourself (note sarcasm).

I admit: I'm more biased with regards to myself than any other topic.  In my mind, I'm as swift as a gazelle and I move on land as fluid as a dolphin swims in water.

Which is why I rarely write my own training program.  This may come as a surprise, as I help people every day in performance enhancement.  However, if I wrote my own program, I would - in all likelihood - give myself the things I am best at and ignore the things I need to improve upon.  In the past 3 years of training (36 months) I have followed my own plan for roughly 5 out of those 36 months.  And you know when my progress was the least?  When I was following my own program.

Why?  No one is worse at writing his or her own training/exercise plan than his or her self.  You will almost always favor your strengths, and not give yourself the things that are going to be the difference-maker in your progress.  Sure, I'm extremely confident in coaching other people, leading them right to the goal he or she is looking for.  However, when it to my own plan?  No chance. 

Stop writing your own programs, and seek out a qualified professional in the area who can take you to where you want to be.  Only someone else can view you through a completely objective lens.  (Ex. That's why siblings are so great.  To inform you of your flaws).  

#7:  "Agility Ladders."  Any strength coach who runs your child through ladder drills for 30 minutes is stealing your money.  Plain and simple.

Does it look fancy?  Sure.  Does it look like your child is increasing his or her speed or agility?  Probably.

However, I'm sorry to tell you that these drills aren't going to do a thing for your speed or agility when used inappropriately.

Do ladders make a good warm-up, waking up the central nervous system and giving the child something fun to do?  Absolutely.  For increasing speed: look elsewhere.

That's all for today.  Now set yourself apart from the majority!


Anonymous said...

Can you recommend a good book or DVD for learning good form the exercises we should be doing?

Stevo said...

@ Anonymous: First and foremost, the best way you can learn good form is to have someone qualified watch you. I improved my technique the most when I had the VT strength coach watch and provide feedback. If there isn't anyone you can trust in the area, consider having someone look at some video clips of your exercise execution.

As for books, I'd recommend the New Rules of Lifting (by Schuler and Cosgrove) and the Men's Health Big Book of Exercises. I was fairly impressed with the amount of detail the authors went into in describing proper technique. Start there.

Email me if you have any other questions. Hope this helped.

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