Eat This Not That!


Easy food swaps to keep you fit.

Is there anything like a piping hot slice of pizza sliding out of the oven? How about a heaping mountain of nachos in front of you during the game or a tall stack of pancakes for weekend brunch?

As you look to improve your diet you may have struggled to give up certain foods. Knowing how to make a few simple ingredient changes can have a major impact on your nutrition and health. The best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice any of the delicious foods you love. Whether you are an athlete, a mom, a busy working professional, or maybe even a combination of all three of those, making healthy diet choices easier is something you can benefit from. Try these a few of these easy switches to make any meal healthier!

“You are what what you eat eats.” -Michael Pollan

A twist on pasta

Spaghetti dinner is a staple in many American diets but if you are focused on eating healthy you have to tread lightly. The calories and carbohydrate content of pasta adds ups quick. Even alternative pastas that are gluten free are still calorie dense foods to keep an eye on. A better choice is to try veggies like spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini. Combined with a low sugar tomato sauce and a healthy serving of lean protein pasta night can take on a whole new meaning of health.

A new slice on pizza

Pizza can be tough to navigate as your range of options is so vast. Some local joints may use great quality ingredients but still pack a caloric punch. National chains should be totally avoided with the processed ingredients and additives that make up their knock-off pies. Since most of us would love to keep pizza in our lives it is important to develop a system of eating it that supports your diet and lifestyle goals. Gluten free has become a buzzword and marketing tool used to attract new customers. I’m not here to have the GF debate about whether or not your body can digest it, I’m saying that a pizza crust made from processed starches that happen to not have gluten does not make them any healthier. Luckily you have a few options…

One method is to limit total intake, order a pizza with as many veggies and proteins on it as possible and limit yourself to one slice of the crust. Or you can try finding a restaurant that has or making your own cauliflower crust pizza. This is a great low carb alternative that lets you reach for another guilt-free slice.

Flip what you sip

It’s easy to forget the calories that are found in drinks. A study conducted by Harvard found that women who consumed sugar sweetened drinks daily tended to consume more calories daily and gained weight. Meanwhile women who eliminated sugar sweetened beverages tended to consume fewer calories and demonstrated better body composition. Scientists believe that drinking calories doesn’t provide the same signaling mechanisms in the body as food does. Basically our body doesn’t recognize it has consumed calories and the subsequent insulin spike can leave you feeling energy depleted and hungry.

Soda, juice, and alcohol don’t really belong in your diet if you are trying to build muscle or burn fat. If you are looking for a fun drink try reaching for a juice made from vegetables like kale and collard greens, powerful nutrients like ginger root, and maybe a dash of lemon or lime juice. Kombucha, a fermented tea beverage, can be a great option as well provided you find a low sugar variety (always read the label) and of course there are many great flavored sparkling and seltzer water options out there.

The Burger Swap

One of the toughest foods to give up can without a doubt be the hamburger. Before you part ways with this American classic let’s figure out a way for you to still enjoy your cheeseburger in paradise…

There are two ways to clean up this delicious food. One way is to eliminate the bun. Replace it with a collard greens wrap or two pieces of fresh romaine lettuce. Two large portobello mushrooms can also do the trick if you have them available (Pro tip: Grill the mushrooms for 2 minutes on each side with a little oil, salt, and pepper).

The second way to clean up your burger is to make sure you have a patty made from high quality grass fed beef or organic ground turkey. Balance the fats you use as topping and try swapping out the cheese for some fresh avocado slices.

Pancake, stacked to jacked

Fluffy buttermilk pancakes or belgian waffles are a staple of weekend brunch. Instead of shooting for the white flour varieties though try a cleaner approach next time. Start with the batter. Substituting bananas and ground flax meal, almond, or coconut flour are a much better alternative. Keep an eye on the fat content if using nut flours as they are very calorie dense. Make sure you have a ratio of at least one egg per pancake or add a scoop of protein powder to the mix to keep the macro-nutrients balanced. Top with fresh berries and grass fed butter and avoid the powdered sugar and whipped cream. Also be sure to spring for real maple syrup over any of the high fructose corn syrup versions. It is packed full of antioxidants and so sweet that just a teaspoon will go a long way in terms of flavor.

If you want to learn more about eating healthy and getting in shape then ask your coach.

We can develop a plan for you to help you achieve your goals!

Check Your Ego at the Door


“Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room—until you change that with results.” -Ryan Holiday

As an athlete you know how to work hard.

You show up day in and day out. You keep track of your training, nutrition, and recovery. But do all your actions truly align with a deeper goal. The one you say you want to accomplish but still feel hesitant towards. Are you truly on the path to mastery?

In his book Ego is the Enemy, author Ryan Holiday tackles the difficult topic of the place of ego in success. So often we become impatient on our path to success. We get caught up in what is unfair. We want to boast or show off and show the world our best side. All the while neglecting our weakness. Avoiding the work truly necessary to get better.

Can you think of a time in the past few weeks when you let ego get the best of you?

In this moment you were probably not taking the best course of action. Not focused on your values, who you want to be, or on taking action toward your goals. This can be problematic if you consistently let ego get the best of you.

Wanting to be the best will make you train hard toward your goals. Thinking you are the best can even have its place. If you are an athlete and need to go into every contest or event with confidence that you can win. But when you begin to act and treat everyone else like you’re the best…well that’s when you start running into problems.

The danger of ego is directly related to the reality distortion field it creates. You have seen examples of this in those who have achieved some levels of success. In business, music, and certainly in sport there are countless men and women who have made fatal blunders due to unruly egos. Often times they think themselves invincible and surround themselves with a team of people who only feed the ego and let it grow out of control.

Compare this to an individual who has their ego in check. By getting out of your head, detaching from the internal dialogue, emotional language, and most importantly outcomes of a situation you will be in a much better place to decide and act.

Winston Churchill says, “facts are better than dreams”. If you can be realistic with your current standing or status it sets you up for true success. You will know where to leverage your strengths, how to attack your weaknesses, and a realistic view of the challenges and competition that could get in your way.

How about in the gym-are you checking your ego when you train?

Working with a coach is one of the best ways to get a reality check. They can hold you accountable when you try to skip the warmup you should be giving more effort toward. They make sure you get deep enough on every rep of your squat.

They’re not just fitness police though. They’ll tell you when it’s time to put more weight on the bar. To tell you exactly the strategy you need to execute in competition. They may not always give you the answer you want, but always the answer that you NEED.

If you have a health goal you want to achieve don’t let ego get in the way. Reach out to a coach at your next class.

Maximize Your Macros:


A Consumer’s guide to Fat, Carbs, and Protein…

Diet and nutrition are a highly individual journey and no one answer is true or right for everyone. The simple fact of the matter is that when it comes down to it, you have to figure out what works best for you. However there are some overarching philosophy that can channel your approach to healthy eating. When you figure out a style and frequency in your relationship with food that works well you will notice improvements in energy levels, focus, mood, and of course physical performance.

Fats

Paleo, Ketogenic, and Atkins diet have helped change many of the negative perceptions of fat in the diet. As Americans, a far bigger threat to our health is a diet that contain high sugar and processed foods. Fats are not only not bad for you but are an essential source of fuel and micronutrients that make us healthy. It’s important to choose the right types and amounts of fats in your diet that let you operate at your best.

The chemical structure of a fat or fatty acid determines what role it will play in our bodies. Based on this structure we are able to classify fats in certain classes that share similar characteristics.
Fats can be divided into saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

Saturated fats are found in red meat and coconuts and up until recently have gotten a bad rap as culprits of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats are found in plant foods like nuts, avocado, and olive oil. Polyunsaturated fats include Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s which can be found in fatty fish, flax seeds, and walnuts and are associated with a variety of health benefits.

Fats are essential for energy requirements, hormone production, and make up the wall of every cell in your body. They are also directly related to our immune system and having the right ratio of fats is very important for a healthy inflammation response.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are found across a wide variety of foods and depending on the structure of the molecule our body will respond to eating carbs in very different ways. Carbohydrates have a direct relationship with the glucose levels or blood sugar in our bodies. When our blood glucose levels become elevated our body releases a hormone called insulin to store this extra energy for later when we might have a greater need for it. This glucose is stored in the muscle and liver in long chains known as glycogen or the glucose can be stored in adipose tissue to be utilized later (aka fat storage).

Your goal should be to optimize the amount of carbs that are being stored as glycogen and minimizing excess carbs that would contribute to fat stores. Selecting the right types of foods like vegetables are beneficial because they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and have a low glycemic index. The glycemic index measures how much a food increases our bodies glucose after consumption. High GI foods include white bread, white rice, and cereals. These foods can be very bad for your waistline, because if your body is not prepared to receive fuel and store it as glycogen they will immediately be stored as fat.
Our bodies can become insulin resistant and requires higher and higher amounts of insulin to store the glucose. Resistance training however, can increase our insulin sensitivity. That means that our cells are highly responsive to storing glucose when insulin is present. Focus on consuming low glycemic carbohydrates that provide key nutrients and avoid high sugar or refined ingredients.

Protein

Protein is found in and comprises most of the cells in our body. It is found in a variety of animal and plant sources. Protein is important because it contains amino acids, tiny molecules that are the building blocks of muscle and also used for the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters. Some of these amino acids are considered essential meaning they must be provided from a dietary source. Without these essential amino acids we will not be able to repair our tissues and certain vital processes will cease to happen.

Since protein helps us recover from and perform optimally during our workouts it is important to consume after a workout for muscle repair. Real food sources of protein include beef, chicken, eggs, and fish. Try to include these foods as staples in your diet. These foods have amino acid content that is similar to what our human body requires for repair. This is also known as the biological value of the protein. Vegetable sources of protein have a lower biological value and may lack one of the essential amino acids needed by humans. These foods must be strategically combined by vegans or vegetarians so they consume all the amino acids needed for tissue repair. As a vegan athlete it can be challenging to meet your needs without supplementation and can be difficult to get a full spectrum of key micronutrients.

Try to consume 1.0 to 1.5 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. For a 200 pound man (90 kg) that means 90 grams to 135 grams of protein per day. This will provide enough amino acids for your bodies daily needs. Unfortunately eating more protein doesn’t mean it automatically turns into muscle. Unused protein will be broken down and utilized as a fuel source by the body.

Hopefully knowing a little bit more about each of the macronutrients and how they act in your body will help you to make informed decisions. If you have more questions around a healthy diet ask coach!

Missed Lifts and Threshold Training


Whether you are a seasoned veteran or new to lifting, there always seems to be an area for improvement.

As you train each day you are working hard to make progress and hit that next PR.

Some days when you’re pushing the weight you might feel your form start to break down. It might be a low catch on the clean you couldn’t quite rack or taking ten steps across the gym floor to stand up a snatch or jerk. You want your lifts to look snappy and butter smooth. A performance worthy of a super slow-mo breakdown to epic music like the folks on Hookgrip. Unfortunately your running man snatch is like that bad high school yearbook photo your girlfriend always laughs at.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

You’re working hard and no one is going to hold an ugly lift against you, but sometimes the best way to move forward is with a work smarter not harder approach. Working with an experience olympic lifting coach can help you tackle your weaknesses head on. There are many reasons why you could be missing lifts and many of them have nothing to do with your time in the gym. Sleep, nutrition, stress and recovery are all important areas to consider before addressing the training program itself. If you feel that things outside the gym are good then it is time to look at your training program as well as you as an individual athlete.

A proper training program should incorporate some form of periodization. This means alternating volume, intensity, and exercise selection in a fashion that keeps continuous long term progress. The program should address your goals and take into account the whole body of work. If you are missing lifts during a lifting session you first need to identify if the issue is technique based, strength based, or a mobility issue.

If it is technique based there are accessory drills to help you address the weak component of your lift. If it is strength based you can adjust the percentages you are working at to ensure you are able to successfully complete. You may also need to incorporate more strength work based on a strength inadequacy or imbalance. You may simply need to dial back volume to prevent neuromuscular fatigue. Mobility issues can be corrected by screening a series of movement patterns to identify where to tackle with stretching and mobilization.

Missing a lift during a lifting session has different implications than misses on olympic lifting movements incorporated in a metcon based workout. The first thing you have to remember is the intention behind the workout programming in terms of the energy system being taxed and desired physiological response. It wouldn’t make sense to incorporate Cleans at 90% of your 1 rep max into a workout designed to build aerobic capacity. The lift would slow you down too much in between attempts and make it challenging to repeat the efforts with an elevated heart rate. There could also be a discrepancy between movements that is holding you back. For example it may be dangerous to attempt snatches after performing grip taxing movements like deadlifts, pull ups, and kettlebell swings. Some workouts are designed to tax the grip and that is perfectly fine but you need to be smart about the goals of the workout to keep your training both safe and effective

5 Pre-Workout Nutrition Tips


“Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win.” – Bob Knight

Many people have diligent post workout recovery routines including consuming protein shakes, supplements, and other key nutrients.

However, very few individuals give much thought to their pre-workout nutrition.

What you consume for fuel before you exercise should include more than just a stimulant based energy drink. It should contain the right types of fuel for your body and mind to meet the demands of the days activity. A great pre-workout nutrition routine will not only help your days performance but can help improve your daily energy levels, build lean muscle mass, and shed unwanted fat. It is essential for taking your performance to the next level.

Pre-Workout nutrition is unique for each individual. The types of foods, quantities, and ratios of macronutrients may need to be adjusted based on how you are feeling and performing. It is important to discuss all these factors with your coaches so they can help you dial in on a plan that works best for you. Check out these 5 pre-workout nutrition tips to start creating a routine that works for you.

1. Leave time to digest

You want to consume the right amount of food to fuel your workout but not so much that it slows you down. Depending on body size and food choice the body will generally absorb about 300-400 calories per hour. That means a meal of approximately 30g of protein and 40g of carbohydrates an hour before your meal will be fully digested by the time you begin exercise. If you have ever tried exercising on a full stomach you the feeling of bloat as all of the blood is out of your working muscles and in your abdomen for digestion. If you continue to push through the exercise your body may try rejecting the remaining contents of the stomach. This is best avoided and makes proper pre-workout nutrition an easy choice.

2. Choose the right foods

The types of foods consumed are just as important as the quantities consumed. A balanced meal of low glycemic carbohydrates and high quality protein is the best choice. For carbohydrates the best foods to consume are fresh fruit like apples, berries, and oranges. For protein try grabbing a 4-6 oz. chicken breast or a shake containing 30 g of quality whey protein. Fats carry a high caloric load and are not an immediately available source of energy for high intensity activities like strength training so they are best left out of pre-workout meals in high quantities.

3. Avoid Certain Foods

Dairy products, spicy foods, and fibrous vegetables may not be the best choice for your pre-workout meal. They can cause cause discomfort on your gastrointestinal (GI) tract that is less than ideal when you are about to train. Feeling queasy, or running to the bathroom is not the best way to spend your time at the gym. As a rule of thumb, if you have to ask “will this food bother me?”, it is probably not the right choice.

4. Keep it consistent

The more you change up your pre-workout nutrition the greater chance you have of something going wrong. It’s best to be a bit boring when it comes to nutrition, especially when you are eating to live rather than living to eat. Eating the same foods every day around your training schedule is the best way to dial in exactly the foods and quantities that give you the best results.

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”

5. Keep it simple

The best routine is the one that you have the highest probability of following. When you plan your pre-workout meal consider the foods that you generally have access to and can properly prepare and take with you.

So there you have it. The top 5 pre-workout nutrition tips. If you have any other questions about diet or training reach out to one of our coaches and get started.

Speed Is a Skill


Here is how to master it…

Depending on your sport the importance of speed could be a defining characteristic of your success. Naturally track and cross country athletes want to run fast, but speed can help in almost all team and individual sports where strength and conditioning comes into play. Whether you’re a running back who needs to hit the gap just a split second before the linebacker can wrap you up or a basketball player who needs to explode past the defender for a layup speed can be your best friend on the field or court. Given all else, a faster athlete tends to be a better one and luckily many of the defining characteristics of speed are skill based. That means they can be trained and improved upon. It is important to work with a coach who can teach you the skills and mechanics you need to learn. When improving speed is the focus you need to make progress in at least one and possibly all 3 areas of strength, mobility, and mechanics.

Strength

An athlete can become faster by improving their absolute strength and relative strength to their body weight. This can be achieved through a combination of resistance training and plyometric exercises. Heavy squats and deadlifts will help develop the the motor unit recruitment and force production ability of the leg muscles. Plyometric exercises like box jumps will strengthen connective tissue and improve the stretch shortening cycle in the muscle. Athletes will grow stronger and more powerful and this will directly correlate with increases in speed. Working with a coach who is well versed in speed development will help you get results quickly as well as stay injury free.

Mobility

Improving mobility, the ability of your joints to move freely and easily can directly improve your speed. This is primarily due to the increase in stride length when the hips, knees, and ankles have full range of motion. This allows for greater muscular contraction due to the body having a higher threshold for motor recruitment. Your coach should explain the proper way to dynamically stretch, warmup, cooldown, and mobilize as a part of your program. It is important to discuss any past injuries with your coach so they can help you to the best of their ability.

Mechanics

The foundational movement pattern of running is a skill just like any other. Learning how to generate power through the proper mechanics can be a game changer for many athletes and may make you feel like you are running for the first time all over again. The timing, stride length, ability to change directions, and use both the arms and legs for explosive movement are all essential skills to improve speed. Your coach will be able to address your unique needs and provide the proper guidance to dial in your mechanics.

If you are serious about improving speed to crush it in your sport, you can set up one on one coaching with a coach of your choice.

Does Cardio Hurt Muscle Gain?


It’s the ultimate tradeoff you must face whether you’re an athlete, bodybuilder, or recreational gym goer.

How do you structure your strength training routine and still make time for trail runs, pickup basketball, or your metcon of choice? Strength is good. Cardio is good. So how do you balance the two for optimal health and performance? A great strength and conditioning coach knows exactly how and the truth might surprise you…

The perceived problem is rooted deep in bro science. “Ditch the cardio and just lift heavy if you want to get yoked!” Yet there are incredible athletes around the world have found ways to carry muscle mass and maintain a high level of cardiac output. CrossFit Games competitors casually bust out 225 pound snatches between sets of burpees. Hybrid athletes compete in powerlifting meets deadlifting 600+ pounds and complete Ironman triathlons in the same week. The threshold for excuses just dropped through the floor.

So why is it such a problem balancing strength and metabolic conditioning?

It takes knowledge of exercise science and how the human body adapts to training in order to properly prescribe a routine that works. At least if you wish to improve your strength and maintain your cardio or vice versa. There are many folks who run their body through the ringer day after day. Hard work is not the sole element for achieving fitness success. In fact hard work can be misapplied and eventually become a hindrance to your training if not properly executed. Layering intensity on top of dysfunction or lacking a clear goal leads to burnout and chronic fatigue.

So how do you balance out your strength and conditioning pieces?

The key is to understand how to work in different heart rate zones. Working at different prescribed intensities will improve cardiac output, build muscular endurance, and even help improve recovery from your strength training routine. The volume and intensity spent in each zone will be dictated by your training age and specific goals in training.

A great coach will tell you that you can only have one priority for each block of training: you execute. They will also understand that your energy needs, micronutrients, electrolytes, and will all have to be supported in order to sustain greater output.

Optimizing Nutrition For Recovery


There is a plethora of information on the interwebs when it comes to nutrition advice.

Everyone claims to have the secret tip or biohack that will make you bigger, smaller, or more of…well whatever it is your goal happens to be. The marketing gimmicks are endless.

Nutrition is a highly individualized journey. There are certainly some wrong answers out there but when it comes to what is right for you the answer could be totally unique. Finding an overall nutrition strategy that fits your goals and lifestyle is essential if you want to have success. If you’re not sure where to begin then start by talking to a coach and asking for tips or checking out our nutrition program.

When it comes to post workout recovery there are a few key factors to keep in mind. For healthy individuals performing strength training or other forms of high intensity exercise it is imperative that you consume a healthy post workout meal to replenish glycogen in your muscles and provide ample amino acids for protein synthesis.

In one study at the Norwegian School of Sport Science made cyclists performing time trials to exhaustion (TTE). Immediately post workout the cyclists were given a carbohydrate drink, a carb and protein beverage, or a non caloric placebo. The group who consumed the carbohydrate plus protein beverage significantly outperformed the other two groups when performing a second cycling test just 18 hours after the first. The study suggests that if you train hard multiple days in a row then carbohydrate and protein intake post workout seems to boost subsequent performance.

“Exercise makes carbs your friend” -Charles Poliquin

Cyclists in the study consumed carbs and protein in a 2:1 ratio. This means they consumed twice as many carbs compared to protein. The amount given was based on the body weight of the individuals at a rate of 0.8 g carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight + 0.4 g protein per kilogram of body weight.

In a 175 lb. person this would look like:
0.8 g/kg x (175lb ÷ 2.2kg/lb.) = 64 g Carbohydrate
0.4 g/kg x (175lb ÷ 2.2kg/lb.) = 32 g Protein

In a 130 lb. person this would look like:
0.8 g/kg x (130lb ÷ 2.2kg/lb.) = 48 g Carbohydrate
0.4 g/kg x (130lb ÷ 2.2kg/lb.) = 24 g Protein

You can use this equation to calculate your ideal ratio of carbs and protein to optimize post workout recovery. If you don’t like math, understand the science, or are not a fan of measuring then let’s take a look at some quality food sources that would provide you with the desired amounts of protein and carbs. You can select the weight range you fall in and select the foods that best fit your tastes and lifestyle!

Food Grams Carbohydrate Food Grams Protein
Kiwi 10g/kiwi Chicken Breast 31g/4oz portion
Apricot 17g/cup Whey Protein 15g/tablespoon
Pineapple 22g/cup Greek Yogurt 25g/cup
White Rice 45g/cup Salmon Fillet 28g/4oz portion
Maple Syrup 13g/tablespoon Egg 6g/egg

 

Food 175 lb person needs Food 175 lb person needs
Kiwi 6 kiwi Chicken Breast 4 oz portion
Apricot 4 cups Whey Protein 2 tablespoons
Pineapple 3 cups Greek Yogurt 1.25 cups
White Rice 1.5 cups Salmon Fillet 4 oz portion
Maple Syrup 5 tablespoons Egg 5 eggs

 

Food 130 lb person needs Food 130 lb person needs
Kiwi 5 kiwi Chicken Breast 3 oz portion
Apricot 3 cups Whey Protein 1.5 tablespoons
Pineapple 2 cups Greek Yogurt 1 cup
White Rice 1 cup Salmon Fillet 3 oz portion
Maple Syrup 3.5 tablespoons Egg 4 eggs

Use this as a starting point to tackle your post workout recovery. The rest of your meals may look very different than this post workout recovery meal in terms of quantities of protein, fat, carbs as well as the sources you get them from. Working with an experienced coach is the best way to dial in a plan that works for you.

Prime The Pump


Have you ever started a workout and not quite felt ready?

Like your body should be able to perform the exercise but it feels extra heavy or a step behind? Maybe you’re watching others moving around you at lightning speed and you wonder “what am I doing wrong?!”

Knowing how to prepare your body for exercise is a skill in itself. A great coach will instruct you on how to warm up in a way that physically and mentally prepares you for the day. Having a deeper understanding of how your body works will be hugely beneficial for taking initiative yourself and getting the most out of your hard efforts. You will be able to ask the right questions and know if you are really working up to your potential.

Today we will explore how to prepare for strength based workouts as well as high intensity intervals or cardio sessions. Understanding these principles will help you prepare your body and take your fitness to the next level!

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln

Preparing For Strength And Power Workouts

To prepare for a strength workout you can utilize a rep scheme called a “wave load” to prepare for big lifts. Wave loading lets your body tap into its ability to activate high threshold motor units, the signaling mechanism telling your muscles to contract. The more motor units you activate the more muscles fibers you utilize to produce movement. Understanding how to recruit as many motor units as possible is essential for moving heavy weights or to move moderate loads at high velocity such as in an olympic lift.

Say you are trying to find a 5 rep max back squat. If your current max is 300 you might start out performing sets of 5 starting at 135 pounds, adding 20-30 pounds each set and resting a minute or two in between. By the time you get to 225 though, the weight is already feeling heavy and a feeling of dread creeps in. Most people use a linear progression like this to build up to their heavy weight. The load feels heavier and heavier.

The problem with this approach is that your body is an efficiency machine. It doesn’t want to work any harder than it has to lift the load. It will only recruit the minimum number of motor units required to lift the weight in front of you. Every weight feels heavy because it actually is heavy relative to the muscles you’re using to lift it! Meanwhile however you are using up precious energy trying to slowly build up to your goal weight for the day.

One effective strategy to build up to the goal weight effectively and bust out new personal records is using a wave load technique. Rather than use straight sets of 5 reps all the way up to your working weight you can use single reps at a higher load than you would want to use for a set of 5. This helps your body recruit more muscle fibers because of the demands of a heavy single rep.

Every training session is kind of like blowing up a balloon. Blowing up a heavy duty party balloon fresh out of the package can require some serious lung strength. It’s a challenge right? This is similar to building up to a new weight in your workout. It’s hard to do and physically demanding. What happens once you’ve blown the balloon up all the way? It’s stretched to a new dimension that if you let all the air out, would make it easier to blow up the next time. This is what performing a heavy single is like before performing your set of 5.

Instead of progressing in a linear fashion such as:

  • 5×135
  • 5×185
  • 5×205
  • 5×225
  • 5×245
  • 5×275
  • 5×295
  • 5x New Max Effort Attempt

Total reps = 35  Total load = 7,825 lb.

 

Instead try an undulating periodization:

  • 5×135
  • 5×185
  • 3×225
  • 1×275
  • 3×265
  • 1×300
  • 3×295
  • 1×325
  • 5x New Max Effort Attempt

Total reps = 22   Total load = 4,855

If your goal is to conserve energy for a new max it is clear to see how a wave load can still prime your body for a heavy lift without wasting unnecessary energy!

Preparing For High Intensity Interval (HIIT) or Cardio Workouts

HIIT workouts can be brutal. Sometimes you find yourself gasping for air and wide eyed in the first two minutes. Wondering how you’ll last until the time cap or complete the prescribed number of rounds or reps.

If this is an experience you have had it means that you were either not properly warmed up for the workout or you didn’t properly scale the weights and movements. Warming up for a HIIT workout requires several key components. Increasing respiration so your heart is prepared for greater cardiac output, movement progressions that warm up your muscles and reinforce the movement patterns, and mobility work to improve performance and reduce injury risk.
As a general rule of thumb, the shorter and more intense the workout is, the more warmup and preparation it requires. You need to be prepared to give an intense effort and that will look different every day depending on the workout.

A great coach will be able to help you execute a proper warm complete with movement progressions and the appropriate scales for the movements in your HIIT training.

Squat versus Deadlift


Which lower body movement is “King of the Lifts”?

The squat and deadlift are the two staple movements of a lower body training program. The squat and hip hinge are also two fundamental human movement patterns and are important for normal daily function. They also require a large percentage of muscle recruitment making them essential for developing muscle mass as well as increasing neurological capacity and hormonal output.

The squat and deadlift are also both elegantly simple in theory yet technically complex in application which can make them intimidating for new lifters. The human body is capable of moving tremendous loads with these movements and to stay safe you must master the basics. After all, strength training should always be performed with the proper coaching, equipment, and environment to keep you safe as an athlete.

When it comes to strength training many athletes tend to prefer one lift over the other. There are many reasons for this. Comfort. Body type. Skill level. To name a few. Some people may have stayed away from performing either the squat or the deadlift from a negative past experience or injury.

Let’s take a look at:

  • Who should be training squats and/or deadlifts,
  • The benefits and muscle groups worked, and…
  • The Volume and Intensity you should be using.

General Population versus Athletes

If you are a recreational athlete or utilizing strength training to stay healthy and fit then it is essential that you learn the basics of squatting and deadlifting. After all the ability to squat and hinge are components of everyday life. The human body is an adaptation machine and responds to the demands that are placed upon it. When we spend a lot of time sitting in chairs instead of moving We begin to lose these human movement standards. Don’t worry, the gym is the perfect place to bring them back. When you first learn these lifts make sure to work with an experienced coach who can give you the visual, audible, and tactile cues to perform these lifts.

Athletes also need to hinge and squat to develop explosive power, muscle stiffness, and joint stability for their sport. They may prioritize either the squat, deadlift, or a derivative like the trap bar deadlift based on the demands of the sport on their muscles. Working with a strength coach on sport specific training will be key to choosing the right lifting program for you.

Benefits and Muscle Groups Worked

The ability to perform a basic body weight squat should be the first goal of a training program. The squat requires mobility of the ankles, knees, hips, and spine as well as the motor recruitment patterns to properly extend at the knee hip and ankle simultaneously. The primary muscles worked are the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Depending on the squat variation being used as well as the depth and other variables you can increase or decrease specific muscle activation. Low bar back squats and box squats achieve greater posterior chain activation. Front squats and overhead squats require a more upright torso and are quad dominant.

The deadlift is the most effective exercise for working the posterior chain. The posterior chain is essential for developing strength and power as an athlete. Powerful hamstrings and glutes will make you run faster, jump higher, and lift more weight. The muscles of the back also benefit from deadlifting due to the powerful isometric contraction required to maintain a neutral spine during heavy pulls. The rear delts, lats, and erector spinae all will grow as a result of deadlifting.

Volume versus Intensity

As a general rule of thumb strength training programs should have an inverse relationship between volume and intensity (in this case another term for weight being lifted). Since squats and deadlifts are both total body lifts that require intense focus and neural activation it is important to vary loading patterns, volume, and intensity.

Deadlifts tend to be great for intensity but can be problematic in large volume. One fix for this is to train the hinge movement pattern with other implements that remove the need for heavy loading. Kettlebell Swings, Romanian Deadlifts, and Glute Bridges all train this movement pattern and are great.

Squats on the other hand seem to respond better to higher training volume. With that said you can still grind yourself down with too much high intensity work in the rack.

There you have it. A breakdown of the squat and deadlift as well as the reasons you should train them. If you’re looking for help learning these movements and building a movement practice to change your body or get stronger we have a team of coaches who can help you reach your goals.