It’s easy to criticize lack of effort

It’s easy for us that are within fitness to criticize people who are sedentary and/or overweight.   The fact that we train, gives us a subconscious superiority regarding health. We’re healthy (at least healthier) than them. I make the sacrifice, and they don’t. I work hard and put effort. They don’t.   However, I believe in many cases, that’s a lie you tell yourself. You don’t actually sacrifice that much. You do it because you enjoy it. Either you enjoy the process, or you enjoy the benefit. You put effort because that gives you results you like independent of health (getting stronger and/or bigger).   The point is, you like what you do. You like powerlifting, bodybuilding or whatever.   A problem with these people that are overweight and sedentary, is that they don’t enjoy it, and that makes things infinitely harder. You are healthy because you train, but you don’t train because you want to be healthy, it’s a convenient by-product.   If training didn’t make you healthy, but something else did that you didn’t enjoy. Would you make ballet or zumba part of your routine, if that’s what it took for you to be healthy? I think all of us in the fitness industry would like to say we do. But would we really? Maybe not.   So while this word has an extremely negative connotation, you have the “privilege” of liking a type of activity that improves your health. Some people may not have that luck, and what they need to do is not pleasable to them.   I think this is important to think about...

The most common newbie mistakes in the big 3 and how to fix them

There are a few mistakes beginners tend to make when doing the squat, bench and deadlift. This doesn’t mean everyone has these issues, but just they just seem the most common based on my experience. This is obviously a bit biased, and may be specific to the population I work with. Also in this context, I define beginners by people who have received basic instruction on how to execute the lifts, but have little experience and practice doing them. Squat Squat is usually a tough movement for beginners. People are not used to the movement pattern and being in a seated position most of their lives certainly doesn’t help. The most common mistake is usually leaning forward on the way up. This may indicate a quad weakness, however, with beginners it’s usually not the case, it’s simply a matter of technique. It usually occurs because people aren’t tight enough on the bottom, and easily lose posture when coming up. This often happens from rushing the descent. There’s no rush, take your time, brace your core as hard as possible, and sink in. After coming up, maintain that tightness. It helps to consciously think about not letting your chest collapse. A common cue is “chest up”, although I’ve found “driving the bar back” to be more successful. Pause squats and pin squats may be a good tool for reinforcing maintaining tightness and proper position.   Bench In the bench, I was unsure if I should put tightness at the bottom or flaring/tucking the elbows. Since I’d say it’s about 50/50, I chose the latter so the entire article isn’t about tightness. When...

What shoes should you wear for strength training?

This is far from being a revolutionary post, but I wanted to address it regardless, since this topic arises often with clients. What shoes should you wear for lifting? Do you need any special shoes? First, it depends on the type lifting you’re doing. For this context, I’ll assume you’re doing heavy compound movements for the sake of general strength and hypertrophy. In general, you don’t need any specific shoe. However, you want a shoe that is compact, tight, and most importantly, non-compressible. The latter being very, very important. So any shoe that meets this requirements is fine. You don’t want a running shoe. They compress with weight, which is bad. It makes you unstable and leaks power. There’s also a specific type of shoe, called “Olympic lifting shoes”. They have a raised wheel, and allows you to stay more upright and go deeper in your squat. But that’s the extend of their use, unless you do Olympic Lifting, and they’re usually not cheap. If you want to get them, feel free to, but they’re not a requirement. It’s an extra if you want to give your squat a little bonus. Some people even prefer to squat with a flat heel, and dislike olympic shoes. But I’d say they’re a minority. If you’re looking for specific recommendations: If you want a shoe to workout overall, you don’t need anything special, as long as it’s non-compressible and with a flat sole like mentioned. But the “Converse Chuck Taylor All Star” is a popular choice. It does the job well and it’s very cheap. You can also get the Reebok Crossfit...

How many days should you train per week?

I feel this topic is hugely misunderstood. When people think about how many times you train per week, they usually associate it with how much progress they can make, and the recovery associated with it. For example, most believe going to the gym 5 times per week is better than 4, and 4 is better than 3. But if you go 5 times per week, it will be harder to recover than 4, and 4 being harder than 3. In a practical sense, it’s close, but when creating a program, there’s more than meets the eye and it’s important to understand the implications of it to make sure we have a good training frequency adequate to the situation. The amount of training sessions per week is largely dependent on 3 factors: 1) Training age 2) Commitment 3) Preference 1) Why training age? Because of diminishing returns, the more you train, the harder it is to progress. In order to continue to make progress, overtime, your overall volume is going to have to increase. And the more volume increases, the more frequency is needed, to split that volume. For example, if Bob needs 6 sets of squats per week to progress, he can 2 sessions consisting of 3 sets each. However, John, who is more advanced than Bob, might need 15 sets of squats per week to progress. He can still do 2 sessions, for example 1 with 7 sets, and another with 8. But it’s a lot easier to add another session, and now he only has to do 5 sets per session. This is a HUGE over-simplification, but...

Is strength training safe for children?

As long as proper technique is used, lifting weights is completely safe. The belief that it might stunt growth is completely false. As children age, their bones lengthen. In-between the bones, is where the growth plates are located (called epiphyseal plates). When signaled by the brain through a hormonal process, the epiphyseal plates extend the bones overtime, until puberty is finished. At that time, with the hormone estradiol, the growth plates are closed, and the height of the individual is set. For this reason, height growth is purely hormonal. The only way strength training could affect growth would be if the bone itself would break, which is almost impossible, and far more likely to happen with more common sports. Health care and fitness professional groups – including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association agree that a supervised strength training program that follows the recommended guidelines and precautions is safe and effective for children [1-5] If a child is interested in strength training, it should be encouraged. Children of all ages can safely exercise in the weight room, as long as it’s supervised and the training program is individualized. Proper exercise progression should be used, and there’s little benefit to having a program with high volume, high frequency, or sets taken to failure. Proper technique should be emphasized, and the goal should be adherence above everything else. Weight-lifting has many benefits for health and wellness, such as improved coordination, strength, bone density and even cardiovascular fitness. Therefore, it’s of high importance...