Fat Loss

Intensity: Get Some.

This post is written by the legendary Steve Reed You know what's interesting? Let's pretend I'm writing a program for two people that are nearly identical in EVERY WAY. They are of the same gender, carry the same body fat %, have the exact same metabolic rate, same poundage of lean body mass, are of the same biological and chronological age, are equivalent in neural efficiency, possess the same number of high threshold motor units, etc., you get the idea.

The program I write for both of them could be a perfect blueprint for fat loss, mass building, athletic performance enhancement, you name it. Yet, one of them will walk away, sixteen weeks later, looking and moving like a completely different person, while the other will move and look the exact same as they did when they started.

How could this be?

Well, I said that the two people are nearly equivalent. They are the same in every way, except for one key element. This critical difference is in their mindset. Namely, the former follows the plan with INTENSITY. Focus. Passion. Conviction.

The latter, however, follows the plan with the enthusiasm of a gravedigger. There's no light in their eyes as they move the weights around, and it's as if they're performing a chore for their parents before they get to what they really want to do. As Tony Gentilcore put it, their approach to squatting and deadlifting resembles a butterfly kissing a rainbow.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was observing the eclectic training mentalities I see on a weekly basis at my local commercial gym, and even sometimes at SAPT with people who walk through our doors for the first time. Especially when it comes to the accessory work (i.e. the movements after the squat/bench/deadlift portion of the session), you tend to really see a drop-off in focus.

Sometimes, when I show something like a band pullthrough, glute bridge, or face pull, it's obvious the person doesn't care too much, and/or is worried what others may think:

"Man, this looks awkward" "This movement can't really be of any importance" "I wish he'd stop giving me this stupid exercise"

Let's take the band pullthrough and the face pull. This is what it may resemble:

If you go through the motions like this, how do you expect anything to happen?

Now, take Carson, one of our student-athletes. This kid gets down to business on everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Bulldog hip mobility drills, walking knee hugs, broad jumps, band pullaparts, assistance work, and God help you if you get in his way while he's deadlifting.

I saw him training the other day and knew I had to film a few of his exercises. See the video below, and keep in mind he is not acting. This is how he actually lifts:

I mean, look at that face!!! He's thinking about NOTHING ELSE outside the immediate task at hand. He's snapping his hips HARD on those pullthroughs, and even during the sledge leveraging he's eying that hammer like he wants to kill it.

And, is it a surprise that Carson hit a 55lb deadlift personal record in a mere 12-week cycle with us?

Of course not. I wouldn't expect anything less with mindset like his.

It's time to train with some freakin' conviction and purpose when you enter the weight room. In fact, I'd even say become BARBARIC as you approach the iron. Even with your assistance work, take it on like you mean it. Then watch the results pour in.

Look, I do understand that many times there are external circumstances that may tempt to affect your mentality, both in and out of the weight room. And that not all of you feel very comfortable in the weight room, as it may be a fairly alien environment to you. Even if you're new to the gym and initially feel comfortable with just a few goblet squats and then getting on the treadmill, still attack it like you mean it! The faster you learn to "leave it all at the front door," the better off you'll be, and that's a promise.

The weight room has helped me through some of the most difficult times of my life. Sometimes it seems that iron seems like the only thing in the world that remains consistent to us. Two hundred pounds sitting there on the barbell is always going to be two hundred pounds.

So get in there and train like you mean it. Don't make me light some fire under those haunches!

Rely on Strategies, Not Willpower, Part 2

strategies

strategies

In Part 1, we discussed how a major key to success in fueling our bodies with good foods is to rely on strategies. A good plan of action will trump willpower, every time.

While there are many strategies one can use, I'm going to give you seven right here and now. Aren't I awesome?? Let's get right to it:

1. Hold Yourself Accountable.

If things are looking pretty dire, holding yourself accountable to someone may be exactly the kick in the pants you need. I recently wrote about this in detail HERE, so no need to elaborate much for the moment.

2. Pre-chop Your Vegetables.

Pretty self-explanatory, yet astonishingly effective. This blew my socks off when I first tried it and saw how effective it was. I don't know about you, but I find it rather annoying to cut veggies (especially those large broccoli bushes) . This being the case, it's guaranteed I'm not going to chop them when I arrive home, tired and hungry, from work at 9pm.  However, if I've already chopped them, then they're all ready to go to throw on a frying pan, into a pot, or whatever. Tossing in a generous portion of herbs and spices will make them actually taste good, too.

DCIM100SPORT

DCIM100SPORT

On a Saturday or Sunday, simply take a bit of time to chop of a ton of veggies. Onions, peppers, carrots, squash, you name it. Then you can either divide them into separate containers, or just mix them all into one. This makes it a piece of cake to intake plenty of vegetables throughout the week. A personal favorite of mine is to keep a container of sliced bell peppers (various colors), and sliced onions to throw on the frying pan in the morning for egg omelets.

3. Always Have a (Nutritious) Meal Handy.

This takes a bit of planning, but will really help those random bouts of hunger that suddenly hit you. A recent favorite of mine has been to mix chopped carrots, beans, chick peas, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and canned chicken in a big baking dish:

DCIM100SPORT

DCIM100SPORT

Douse the dish with spices (I use cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder), mix in olive oil, and then top with some honey-flavored goat cheese (*the magic maker*) and bake in the oven for thirty minutes or so. I'll then divide up the dish into a bunch of tupperware containers to use on an as-needed basis.

It tastes better than it may sound, and is going to get you much closer to fitting into those skinny jeans than a bagel will.

4. Make Smoothies.

I have at least one of these every day. Super easy to make, and you can toss virtually anything in them. Not to mention, they're a great way to satisfy a sweets craving. Take them with you to work on a car trip and you're good to go. See the video below for one of my favorite recipes. If you have a cat to help you (like I did), even better:

5. Eat a Good Breakfast.

While scientists and dietitians may debate on which meal of the day is really the most important, I'm convinced that what you eat for breakfast will set the tone for the rest of the day. Simply put: If you gobble down a quick bowl of sugary cereal on your way out the door, then you're more than likely going to crave other sugary foods and sweets throughout the remainder of the day. Conversely, if you fuel your body with some lean proteins and healthy fats, then you'll be less prone to cave in to "problem foods" later in the day.

6. Give the Inside of Your Cupboards a Makeover.

If it's in your home, you're going to eat it. Plain and simple.

As such, if you have any "kryptonite" foods (you know what I'm talking about) that you tend to binge on for comfort, throw them away. If it's not in your home, you can't eat it.

7. Plan to Break the Rules 10% of the Time.

This is a staple guideline of John Berardi's Precision Nutrition system. Oftentimes, aiming for 90% compliance will get you much further than aiming for 100% compliance. When we shoot for perfection, we tend to enter a fail-->guilt-->fail-->guilt-->fail further-->guilt cycle that spirals us down to a place worse than where we started.

Achieving 90% adherence to a good plan will still deliver outstanding results, while still allowing ourselves not to be miserable. Going out for a special dinner? Get dessert and don't feel guilty about it. Ate well throughout the week and hit some benchmarks at work? Grab a burger and beer with your buds on Friday and enjoy it.

Just keep in mind what 90% really is. If you eat six times a day (42 feedings a week), this means that 38 of those 42 feeding opportunities can't contain crap. Or, if you eat three times a day (21 meals a week) then that leaves you only two, yes two, opportunities to indulge.

Most people think that they're at 90%, when really, after doing the math, they're only at 80% or so. I remember Rachel Cosgrove saying (paraphrased) that getting from 80% to 90% is one of the toughest barriers to break, yet also the biggest difference-maker when it comes to body composition and health.

Well, there you have it. Athletes can use the above tips to ensure optimal performance on game day and speedy recovery between training sessions. Everyone else can use them to feel better and keep body composition in check. Now get to it! After all, information without action is merely entertainment.

Rely on Strategies, Not Willpower, Part 1

It seems that people are often under the impression that I'm a sort of fearless and incorruptible freedom fighter when it comes to eating healthy and staving off temptation in the food realm. In fact, when I worked in the physical therapy clinic, all the therapists even brought in hard-boiled eggs and/or veggie+fruit platters for my birthday (instead of the typical cake+brownie+muffin celebratory nibbles). This meant a lot to me, as not only did they think of me on my birthday, but it showed that they knew it would mean more to me to eat snacks that "do the body good" than the usual birthday foods. I've been asked on many occasion - be it throughout college, out at dinner, or at the workplace - how I consistently eat well. How I always seem to pack healthy lunches, snacks, and at the same time avoid the belly-busting items on restaurant menus.

  • How do you DO it?

  • Man, I wish I could do that....

  • Wow, you have such great self-control!

  • I want your babies.

But the point of this post isn't to gloat. In fact, it's the exact opposite.

You want to know a deep, dark secret of mine? A skeleton in my closet, so to speak? I do NOT have the best self-control when it comes to food. In fact, it's terrible. Absolutely terrible. In reality, my sweet tooth is larger than the state of Kansas, and it is absolutely no sweat for me to crush a garbage disposal in a race to demolish a pint of ice cream. Not kidding. (To those that know me well, I know this doesn't come as a surprise).

However, despite this sad truth, I do still manage to fuel my body with foods that will benefit it rather than destroy it, the majority of the time. And my struggles to prove victorious in this area can help you.

I don't think any of you reading will deny that whole, unprocessed foods and vegetables will provide our bodies with steady doses of energy, allow us to recover faster from lifting sessions or athletic competitions, boost our immune systems, and keep body fat stores at bay. Nonetheless, many of us fail to act on this truth on a daily basis, right? Why?

Why is that, on a given weekend, we can plan to eat healthy throughout the upcoming week, only to find ourselves having consumed more oreos than antioxidants at the end of the week? I'll tell you why. The answer came to me when I was attending a business seminar put on by Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove. Rachel, while discussing client adherence to nutrition and exercise plans, said something I'll never forget:

Rely on Strategies, Not Willpower.

So true. I mean, how many times throughout the week are we hit with unexpected events that cause to gravitate toward shoving crap down our pie holes? Whether it's being held up at the office for an extra hour (or three), unexpectedly needing to pick up your child at a soccer game, running a few extra errands, getting stuck in obscene traffic (for those that live in NOVA), or saving a vulnerable, homeless kitten from the perils of the wild (if you happen to be a SAPT strength coach), there's no doubt that numerous events can knock us off track.

Countless stressors and time-consuming events are GOING to happen that will tempt you to make a poor decision in the kitchen, and relying on willpower isn't the answer. Willpower is just too fragile for us mere mortals in the crowd. Instead, we need strategies. Strategies are the key to success.

Not to leave you hanging, but I need to stop here. I'm out of time, so I'm going to touch a few critical strategies on Wednesday. Plus, I'm over 600 words for this post so I may have already lost some of you anyway :) Until then, start thinking of some strategies YOU can use - be it related to your nutrition OR training - that can take you where you know you need to go.

Packing a Nutritional Punch

These are my current Top 5 foods that are constantly in rotation in my diet (a diet that also includes a healthy dose of "greens" each and every day). Take a look, hopefully you'll be inspired to try something new and at the very least be reminded that with all the time I/we spend splitting hairs about proper warm-up protocols or speed squats vs. cleans, in the end, if you're diet isn't supporting your training those discussions end up being moot.

  1. Nutritional Yeast: Probably the least appealing name possible, but it is hands-down my number one dietary addition. Nutritional yeast is very light and flaky and tastes like mild cheddar cheese - melts like cheese, too. Anyway, nutritional yeast is a single-cell fungus that is grown on molasses (yum…). It is a complete protein and is prized for its vitamin B12 content (B12 is scarce in the plant kingdom). Finally, nutritional yeast is not active like baking yeast, so those who have issues consuming traditional yeast usually tolerate this magic powder without any trouble.
  2. Avocado: wide ranging anti-inflammatory benefits, increased absorption of carotenoids, supports cardiovascular health, helps regulate blood sugar, and preliminary research supports the avocado’s role in cancer fighting. So, eat some.
  3. Sweet Potato: overflowing with antioxidents, anti-inflammatory properties, and helps to regulate blood sugar. If you want the full benefit of the beta-carotene in the sweet potato then you should pair it with some fat to improve the absorption rate.
  4. Coconut Oil: made by pressing the fiber out of the meat of the coconut, this is one of the few oils that can be heated to high temperatures without converting to trans fat. Coconut oil is near tasteless (so it’s not like you’re eating a coconut everytime you cook with it) and is rich in MCT’s (bonus!). MCT’s – medium-chain triglycerides – are very easy on the digestive system and within moments of being consumed shoot right to the liver to be used as energy. Coconut oil is the fat of choice for those who want to achieve or maintain a lean physique.
  5. Super Protein Powder Blend: That is my name for combining rice (tryptophan) and pea (lysine) proteins with a little bit of hemp (leucine, isoleucine, and valine + edestin) protein. With this combo you can achieve a balanced amino acid profile in what is called a “flatline profile.” This simply means that the amino acids are being combined properly in a way that is complimentary and is providing a “broad-spectrum source of protein.” In fact, this combination is so perfect that it is actually structured better than any single protein source can ever be.

Sweet-Potato Pasta (+ Protein Shake)

Pasta – amount? Whatever floats your carbo-boat for the moment

1 Sweet Potato

1-2 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil

2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast

Sea Salt to Taste

Pretty simple: prepare your pasta of choice (I tend to use brown rice pasta) and bake or microwave a sweet potato. Slice the sweet potato and add to the pasta. Then add nutritional yeast, oil, and sea salt (optional).

I’ve actually added avocado to this in the past and was A-MAZing.

Pair this with a protein shake on the side and you’ve got yourself a powerful meal.

The Fine Art of Team Warm-ups

Designing a warm-up for a large team looks easy if you're watching passively from the sidelines. Unfortunately, this ease is quite deceptive. There are actually several critical aspects that need to be taken into account if you want you're warm-up to go from adequate to Fine Art status:1. Time: how much do you have? I usually try to end a minute or two before I told the coach I would be done (think under-promise and over-deliver, coaches LOVVVVVE that!). 2. Efficiency: you never have much of #1 and you may have as many as 30+ players. So, how do you keep them all moving, engaged, and organized? You gotta be efficient! 3. Effectiveness: Numbers 1 & 2 are components of this, but effectiveness speaks to the QUALITY of what you’re doing. Are you getting the most “bang for your buck” per movement? If not, go back to the drawing board. Be sure to take into account the 3 planes of motion, what the team’s first drill of practice will be, and general fatigue level (where are they within the season and within the training week?).

Beginning this past Saturday, I’ve been standing on a soccer field for about 5 hours a day working hard on the start of, what is certain to be, a legendary sock/farmer’s tan combo. Regardless, that’s just a fantastic by-product of my point: We just started the preseason training time period for women’s soccer and I’ve put together several warm-ups I think are pretty darn good. I’m going to share the two I used on Monday, August 8th and point out a couple important things about the two of them:

AM Session (the 5th practice within 48 hours):

Team Jogs 1 Field Lap in two lines

Upon return have two lines split apart on the 18

(one line on end-line other line on 18, lines face)

65% Builder Sprint to Back Pedal (long reach)

• Walking Spiderman to Overhead Reach

• Yoga Pushup x5

• Skip backwards with Heel Lift

70% Builder Sprint to Gate Openers

• Knee Hugs

• Cross-behind Overhead Reverse Lunge x5/side

• Frankenstein Kicks

75% Builder Sprint to Walking Opposites

• Walking Quads

• Bowler Squat x5/leg

• Skip for Distance

80% Builder Sprint to Alternating Side Shuffle

• Walking Toe Touch

• Split-Stance Kneeling Adductor Rockbacks x5/side

• Cradle Walk

Lateral Broad Jump x3 to Turn & Sprint (both directions)

Stretch on Own

Notes:

• This practice was the tipping point for the team. At the time it started, it was the 5th practice they would be attending within 48 hours – that’s a lot of soccer in a short window!

• The previous two days had a portion of testing (think non-contact) that was significant enough that I knew they would still be feeling pretty good for this session.

• My warm-up “template” typically consists of 3 levels of warm-ups. One is fairly intense and is for pre-match or other situations when the group is fresh, the second is a mid-level warm-up that respects the training volume the team is currently enduring (or the point in the season), and the third is a very low-level warm-up that is appropriate for recovery and respects the teams general level of fatigue but still preps them for the drills to follow.

• The AM Session warm-up was a Level 2.

PM Session (the 6th practice within 54 hours):

Team Jogs 1 Field Lap in two lines

Upon return everyone grabs ball and circles up

Soccer Ball SMR :20-:30/location:

Calves

Hamstrings

Quads

Adductors

IT Band

Glutes

Squat Mobility Series x1

Team Lines up on Sideline:

2 Tuck Jumps to 65% Builder Sprint to Gateopeners

2 Tuck Jumps to 70% Builder Sprint to Frankensteins

2 Tuck Jumps to 75% Builder Sprint to Skip for Height

2 Tuck Jumps to 80% Builder Sprint to Alternating Side Shuffle

Stretch on Own

Notes:

• After a morning training session that lasted a full two-hours and was jam-packed with intense sprinting and full contact, I knew the team would be starting to get very sore and tired.

• I gave them as much time as I could (in this case only 8-minutes) to do some self-massage with the soccer ball and a mobility circuit before we started moving around to get the heart pumping.

• The PM Session warm-up was a Level 3.

Orchastrating an excellent warm-up day after day is certainly one of the less "sexy" aspects to the job of Strength & Conditioning Coach, but it is nonetheless extremely important. Keep in mind a solid dynamic warm-up on a regular basis is the opportunity to improve general fitness and work on power, strength, speed, change of direction, mobility, flexibility, and injury prevention... I think anyone would agree that's a great opportunity to have on a daily basis, so don't waste it by not planning properly!

As a side note, if you train with us in Fairfax, you may soon get to experience warm-ups similar to the AM session - did you hear we got TURF last week?!? If you don't already train with us and wish to experience the excellence that is SAPT, please contact us here for information on in-house performance coaching, distance coaching, Buttkamp, or any combination of the three!

Depletion Pushup Eccentrics

It’s really great how some exercise variations come about. Every once in a while an athlete I work with will misinterpret an exercise in such a creative way that the misinterpretation becomes a new variation in its own right. Here’s an example: for Mason Women’s Basketball I programmed Diminishing Pushups for the team’s very last movement of the week. I wrote about these here a few weeks ago.

Trust me, they’re a pretty punishing way to finish a hard training week, but what one of the girls came up with as her interpretation is a sick and twisted variation. So, sick and twisted that I will likely cycle these into their program in the future.

Diminishing Pushup Eccentrics

***To be done at the end of a training week***

3xAMAP :03-:06 eccentrics in 90 seconds (rest :90 between sets)

 

John was kind enough to finish off his training this morning with this insanity. John did a great job making these look smooth as butter and just as easy! But you should know John just finished his D1 wrestling career and is generally in outstanding condition at any moment in time. He benches close to 300lb and I’d be can rep out well over 100 pushups in a row. But you can see even with the seemingly innocent 25lbs on his back he’s having a rough time at the end of his first set.

Consider giving them a try without using the concentric (the push back up), so just lower yourself slowly to the ground over and over for time.

Good Luck!