How to Supplement Strength Training With Your Primary Training
Contrary to some, strength training isn’t the only type of training involved in someone’s life. Some train for Jiu-Jitsu, some have a sport they play where strength training is just supplementation, or some even have hobbies that require a decent amount of physical or skill-based effort. The questions then becomes, when should I add strength training? Should I strength train before or after I go to the batting cage? Should I strength train before or after Jiu-Jitsu practice? Should I strength train before or after I go work with my pitching coach? Should I do my strength training before or after cardio? I have a very simple answer to this, at least, I think I do. At the end of the day everyone only has so much physical effort they can exert. It is beneficial to think of this like a gas tank. Some people have a bigger or smaller tank than others. The tank represents the relative amount of physical resources you can exert on physical stuff. The more well trained you are, the bigger the tank, and vice versa. So, whatever your goals are, I believe it is important to train the most important thing first. There becomes an important distinction here. Some training is based on general physical effort. Other training is more skill-based. Batting practice is way more skill-based than running 4 miles for your cardio. Because skill-based training takes quite a bit more overall motor coordination, I think it is important to always do your skill practice first. The last thing you want to do when you practice pitching is to have super fatigued legs from squatting right before because you are likely to not get much out of it. If you have two practices that are equal in the skill work involved, I would train whatever is most important first. You have to be able to make the distinction between what is skill-based and what is not. I would say any sort of training or practice you are doing for sport is likely to be more skill-based than your strength training, and therefore it should be first. Ideally, I would try to spread out all of the training into their own days unless it is not possible. If someone has to have two different training days on the same day, the skill-based training comes first unless unless they can get adequate rest during the day before the next training session. I think it is important to build up your gas tank as much as possible so you can accumulate more work in a given day. The more work and training you can accumulate, the better the athlete you will be. There becomes a downside if you try to build up your gas tank too fast and your body can't recover so you end up just beating it down more and more. This would be an example of training on "E," as opposed to actually making your gas tank bigger. You only have so much physical effort you can give in a day. If you want to be a great marathon runner, and strength training is taking up 60-70% of your overall training volume, I would say that you are doing it wrong. You are going to adapt to specific stressors and the intensity of those stressors. If you can only go at about 50% on your cardio because you are so tired from strength training you won't get much out of that cardio except more fatigue. The same is applied for sport. Strength training can be a great supplemental tool to help you in other endeavors. Just make sure it doesn’t become the thorn in your side that is actually preventing you from making progress at what is most important. Email me at if you have any additional questions!
What Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Olympic Weightlifting Have in Common
"Justin, are pull-ups good for Weightlifting?" Someone asked me this at the gym the other day. At first, I wasn't quite sure how to answer. On one hand, yes, of course. Getting a bigger and stronger upper back will of course help your Weightlifting ability. However, on the other hand, I thought, the only thing that is going to get you better at Weightlifting is more Weightlifting. So, don't be too concerned wasting your time over doing the pull ups. It has to be some sort of bias of the human brain that makes us want to focus on the things that don't matter in order to avoid the things that do matter, because we don't want to do them. You could give someone the best advice in the world, tell them an exact plan they need to follow to achieve their goals, and they will find a way to focus on the unimportant stuff. I think this is mainly because the stuff that we know we need to do becomes mundane and boring so we start to focus on other things in order to add some variety and spice back into our training routine. This post isn't about the next best scientifically researched strength and conditioning program, or the "top 5 exercises to get you strong." This is simply a post about skill development. Which is something Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Weightlifting have in common. I think it is in our nature as strength and conditioning coaches to place a bit too much value on strength training and not enough value on sport play. I think this is simply because most of us are meatheads, most of us saw a bunch of self-improvement from strength training, and in a way, our job is to get people strong. But, I think this way of thinking can lead us to become ineffective at our job. If our job is to develop athletes to help them improve performance in their sport, we have to remember that at the end of the day, they are sport athletes and not strength athletes. They want to get better at their sport. One of those most fundamental principles in skill development is that whatever it is you want to get better at, you have to do that thing a lot. Like, A LOT. You can never replace taking a million swings to get better at hitting a baseball. Or, throwing a million routes in a game like simulation to be a better quarterback. You can improve weight room numbers all day, but if you aren't specifically practicing your skill in a deep and meaningful way, don't plan on getting better at your sport. This is where as strength coaches we have to focus on how we can prepare an athlete for the demands of the sport. How we can develop qualities that are likely to make them better but not take away from the skills of their sport. It might be wise to push heavy numbers on a back squat for an offensive lineman, because a lineman doesn't want to get moved. They need to be big and strong and not be able to turn, because if they get turned a defensive lineman is behind them sacking the quarterback. The same methods might not be wise for a receiver who needs to be able to move more freely. A receiver needs to be fast and powerful and make a cut on a dime. Heavy back squatting all the time may limit this. These are the sort of conversations we have to have with ourselves that will influence our programming. What adaptations can we chase that will have no negative consequences for an athlete in their sport. I know the title of the article specifically mentions Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Olympic Weightlifting and I have yet to really mention either. The point is, that both sports, much like most others are heavily dependent on skill acquisition. You may be strong and have a good wrestling background and be able to beat a bunch of white belts when you first start Jiu-Jitsu, but a brown belt will beat you 10x/10. Much like in Weightlifting where you may have a good athletic background, can jump high, are pretty strong, and this will help make you a better Weightlifter than most other beginners, you aren't going to snatch 120kg+ unless you have years of specific Weightlifting practice at your disposal. There are certain qualities that will set you up for success in certain sports, but at the end of the day, practicing the sport A LOT is what is ultimately going to make you better. Alabama just won the College Football National Championship and there is a picture of their star quarterback, Mac Jones, after the game with his shirt off. He has the epitome of the "dad bod." A bunch of coaches committed on it saying how it was a body of "peak performance." In reality, they aren't wrong. Mac Jones can throw the football damn well. Sure, a few extra pounds of muscle and less fat likely won't hurt, but most of his time was spent getting better at football, and that is why he was third in the final Heisman standings. As strength coaches we need to always keep this fact in mind. We can't get lost in "strength is never a weakness," and need to prepare athletes for the skills of their sport. Ultimately, our influence isn't as great as we may have been told. We certainly can make an impact, but strength training should never be a substitute for sport training. They can both work very well when used synergistically in the appropriate way, and it is our job as strength coaches to find the right dosage and recipe for strength and conditioning training.
What You Need to Know About Sports Performance Training
When a client comes to you and says they want to lose 10lbs, and in a month they have lost 5lbs, it is pretty straight forward that they are making progress and the plan that was originally laid out is working. There are a few additional variables at play that may have had an impact, but you generally know that your plan is working and you are executing on the right variables. Training for sport is not the same. There are an insane amount of variables at play during sports. An athlete has to constantly adapt to the environment and players on the opposing team. They have to do this in a matter of seconds. Things like speed, strength, change of direction, field vision, overall proprioception, sport specific skills, and overall work capacity are all at play during any given sport. That's just to name a few, and not including psychological factors as well. Some athletes are born with innate athletic skills that help them excel at a handful of sports. The best usually end up picking a specific one and do very well at that one. Some athletes could never step in a weight room and still be in the top 1% of their sport. Others don't possess that same ability. So, it's hard to really determine what we can do in the gym that will have the greatest positive effect on an athlete's performance on the field. But, we can take some very educated guesses. We know there are certain physical qualities that are VERY likely to make someone better at their sport, regardless of their sport-specific skill. A faster athlete is likely a better athlete. A stronger athlete is likely a better athlete. An athlete with more muscle and less body fat is likely a better athlete at most positions. It doesn't matter if your jump shot sucks, if you can run fast you are likely to be better than another person with the same jump shot quality who is slower. This is the sort of framework we need to use when training for athletic performance. We can't know everything, and there are some variables that are out of our control such as genetics, but sports performance training is all about making the best possible guess as to what is going to make an athlete better on the field. And, that comes to developing qualities like the ones mentioned above. When things get a little bit more complicated is when we have to start talking about secondary consequences we are creating at the gym. What happens when you start back squatting all the time? You may be increasing your back squat strength, which is good, but are you also limiting your ability to rotate and turn, which is very much needed on the field in athletic performance? At some point I am willing to say an athlete's squat strength is good enough, because I wouldn't want to limit other areas of performance by continuing to put pounds on the squat. A 400lbs back squat for a pitcher is good enough in my books. Time to start developing other qualities that aren't going to limit the insane range of motion that is needed to pitch. I hope I am starting to create a picture for you as to how complex training for sport can be, and will get you to start thinking differently. I wish it were as simple as increasing bench press, back squat and deadlift. And, to be honest that is how I used to think. We have to come up with certain performance indicators that will guide our decision making, but I don't think increasing weight room numbers should be the only thing in the conversation. Many jobs in the strength and conditioning world are judged based on how much stronger athletes are getting in the weight room. I think this is misguided and does not represent the bigger picture. It may be relevant for an offensive lineman to continue to bench 400+lbs and squat over 600lbs, but we shouldn't be pushing the same agenda on a wide receiver or a defensive back. We have understood this in a very limited sense with quarterbacks. Coaches don't typically give them the same strength program as the rest of the guys. But, this is to ensure that they don't hurt their arm and not necessarily because there might be different qualities that a quarterback needs to develop compared to a linebacker. So, what should guide our decision making process in the gym if every athlete has different needs, and we will never know for CERTAIN what will have a positive effect on performance on the field? I wish I could give you an exact answer but the reality is that it will always be subjective and we are always sort of guessing. There are however, like mentioned above, certain qualities that are very likely to make an athlete better. One quality being speed or the ability to produce and apply force very quickly. Even though the 40 yard dash is never really ran in a straight line on the field, it is a very good test to see what football players are fast. I would pick the guy who runs a 4.3 over the guy with a 4.6 all day everyday, unless it is apparent that the 4.3 guy can't catch a ball to save his life. We also know that for certain positions in certain sports it pays to be big. If an athlete wants to be a linebacker, but is 135lbs soaking wet, I am willing to say we HAVE to add some muscle mass to his frame. In a lot of cases for a lot of athletes it would be wise to add muscle mass. Muscle is a very good predictor of force production, and most young athletes have limited muscle mass, so they are likely to be served by adding some muscle. The question you still have to deal with is when there might be a time adding muscle is no longer useful because of secondary consequences it might elicit. The truth is, we rarely deal with the 1% of athletes. We get to train the athletes that are underdeveloped (hence they come to us) and young. It is reasonable enough to say that most of these athletes need a few things. That is, they need to add some muscle, they need to get a bit stronger, and they need to learn how to produce and apply force a bit more effectively. You may encounter some athletes that are in a lot of pain so you need to find a more adaptable way for them to express movement. There may also be a time when you see an athlete that has reached the upper extreme of performance and display movement strategies that seem more idiosyncratic. The question then becomes, do you want to keep that idiosyncratic movement or add layers of adaptability? Because for some people, increasing their movement adaptability or "range of motion" will decrease their ability to produce great amounts of force, and can therefore decrease their performance. Training someone for sport adds layers of complexity. What we do for their training is not straight forward. It isn't the same as getting someone to lose a few pounds. It's an ongoing conversation with not only yourself and your program design, but with the athlete(s) as well. Test, intervene, retest. The biggest thing is to be willing to change your mind, change your course of action, and be willing to accept feedback. Welcome to the complex world of sport. email to set up a FREE sports performance assessment!
I grew up with it being mandatory to play outside. I remember my dad always saying, “unless it is dark or raining, you need to be outside playing.” So, that is what I did. There were no constraints on this play, either. It was simple; just be outside. So, my friends and I did just that. We played pretty much anything you can think of. Backyard baseball and football being the most popular. My friend’s dad even mowed a “Field of Dreams” into their backyard. What I mean by that is he mowed the base paths lower than the rest of the yard so it gave the look and feel of a baseball diamond. As a result of my parents valuing an active lifestyle and making me be outside, I picked up sports when I was young. I played pretty much anything that I could. It started as early as tee ball, and I played football and basketball all the way through high school. I don’t remember a time in my childhood where sports weren’t a thing. I always had practices for something and even if there was a short period of time off, my friends and I would be playing some backyard pick-up game somewhere. My friend even slit his knee open playing “Kick-the-Can.” That’s a story for another day. In high school I was very small. 5’8” tall and 135lbs my junior year of football to be exact. I hated lifting. I thought it was so physically uncomfortable and it just didn’t make sense to me. “Make your body that uncomfortable, and maybe, just maybe, get a little bit bigger in a few months?” “No, thanks,” was my attitude. So, most of my high school career I did just enough lifting to make the coaches happy, but not enough to make myself uncomfortable (In hindsight this is hilarious because that is basically the only way you make progress in the gym). This is even more surprising because my dad was a high school strength and conditioning and football coach. But, it didn’t help. I still hated lifting. Like the guy who always gets back with his ex, I had a change of heart. I had made the decision that if I wanted to make a bigger impact on the football field my senior year, I had to get committed to lifting. Towards the end of my junior year I started lifting out a guy’s garage that a few friends of mine had been training at for a few years. I don’t know why, but this time I was bought-in. I gained about 20lbs of muscle in about a month. Granted, this isn’t that crazy because I was so skinny to begin with. I don’t know if it was the old school environment of training in a rusty garage, but I felt as though I would be training for the rest of my life. I was just telling people at the gym this morning how stupid I was when I first started college when it came to training. I basically looked up workouts on BodyBuilding.com and did ones that I thought were interesting. I didn’t get much stronger through college. Just a bit bigger. My senior year I watched a podcast with then Weightlifting Olympian Kendrick Farris. The next day I went to the gym and to the only Olympic lifting platform at Ball State to teach myself the Olympic lifts. I was wearing crappy old tennis shoes. Not for long though as I sold my iPad for a pair of Weightlifting shoes just a month later. I completed a few internships after college, learned a lot more than I did in college, and got a lot better at Weightlifting and Powerlifting. A 512lbs squat, 325lbs bench press, 567lbs deadlift, 121kg snatch, and 151kg clean and jerk have to be strong to someone, right? “Where are you going with this, Justin?” I’m glad you asked… Training is second nature to me now. I don’t have to think twice about working out 4-5x/week. I wish I could toot my own horn and say this is all because I have a bunch of willpower and self-discipline. The fact of the matter is that it’s easy. Playing outside everyday during childhood makes it easy now. The thousands of sport practices when I was younger makes it easy now. Playing sports most of the year during high school makes it easy now. Training 3-4x/week almost every single week since my freshman year of college make it extremely easy now. Discipline is very easy when you have accumulated thousands and thousands of reps at something. This is my life. Influenced all the way from when I was just 6 years old. Most people you may be training any given day might be starting for the very first time. They may be starting after taking 20-30 years off. It is extremely NOT easy for them. These people deserve all of our empathy and patience. This post is largely centered around a conversation I had with a client. She was talking about hard it can be to workout some times. The motivation is just not there. I briefly told her my story and the only reason it is easy for me now is because I have essentially built this muscle of consistency around health and physical activity since I was 6. I think it is only because I was lucky to be born into the parents that I had that this was possible. Not everyone has started building that muscle that early. There are a lot of driving forces behind what you see now. Just like you never saw all the hours of practice Kobe put in, you just saw him have a spectacular game. This is true of everyone you see. It is important to understand that Rome can’t be built in a day, and also that if you want to go anywhere, in any endeavor, the reps have to be put in. The 200th time training will be easier than the 20th time, and the 2000th time will be exponentially easier than the 200th. Oh, you were looking for the secret recipe for something? Nothing of value comes easy. Just keep clocking in.
We have all probably faced some guilt around health and exercise through the holidays. We ate way too much pumpkin pie, we feel like crap, but more than anything, we feel bad because we feel like we've just set back all of our weight loss progress that we made the last two months. Or, Christmas rolls around, we have a vacation planned, we don't know when or how we're going to work out, so we don't and then we can't even be present with our family because we are thinking about the workouts we are missing. The holidays can be a stressful time to go through. They can be especially hard if we have health and fitness related goals that we want to hit. Maybe even harder if we've hit our goals, because we don't want to lose our progress. It might actually be less stressful for people with no progress on their goals because going backwards wouldn't mean that much. However, that is all beside the point. The question is two-fold: how do we not lose all of the progress we have made, and how do we not go insane and still enjoy the holidays at the same time? Zoom Out It is important to remember that what we call "the holidays" is a very small amount of time out of the whole year. Two weeks, maybe three weeks at most. Thats 3-5% out of the entire year. Even if you did the worst possible things to your body during that time, which I'm sure you won't, that's not enough time to completely screw up all of your gains. I just had a few really good friends that I grew up with come visit me. We drank entirely way too much this Saturday. I live like that maybe once a year. This one day isn't going to effect my health long-term at all, and even this year. Now, if I started turning it into an every weekend thing, that would change things. So, during the holidays this season, zoom out on your perspective and realize 3-5% of the entire year isn't enough to throw your health and fitness goals into turmoil. Only unless you let the 3-5% turn into 50%. Then, you may have a problem. Win Where You Can Nobody is perfect. And nobody is especially perfect during the holidays. You are probably going to eat a cookie or two, have a few days where you don't exercise, and spend a bit more time on the couch than you usually would. If this doesn't sound like you and you are that disciplined through the holidays then this post isn't for you. If this does sound a bit like your life, no sweat, there are still ways you can "win" during this time of the year. Find small ways where you can potentially eat a bit healthier or exercise when you wouldn't. On the same mentality above, don't let two cookies turn into 5 and don't let one day of exercise turn into two weeks of not exercising. Your environment may look a lot different during the holidays so don't let the change in pace effect what you can and cannot do. Go for a 30 minute walk when you get bored. Just because you're not in the gym doesn't mean you can't find other ways to stay active. Rather than snacking a lot try replacing the snacks with water or something that is lower calorie. Find active ways to hang out with your family. We love being with family this time of the year, but that doesn't mean we have to sit on the couch and watch movies. There are plenty of ways where you and your family can be together that isn't sedentary. Reminder, walking for long periods of time is one of the most underrated forms of exercise. Rather than let the holidays be one huge loss, pick up some small wins where you can. It might be less than you are accustomed too, but it is better than a major setback. Don't Try To Make It All Back Up This might perhaps be the biggest point in this entire post. Your body is constantly adapting to fit it's needs in response to the environment. If you exercise every day with roughly the same amount of training volume your body adapts accordingly. If you take some time off or do a lot less training your body will adapt accordingly. So, don't try to pick back up where you left off if your body hasn't been exposed to that same amount of stress for a couple weeks. Bad things are likely to happen. You don't want to make a small step backwards or a neutral step a HUGE step backwards. Gradually work back into where your current training volume was. This might mean you start with just a 45 minute workout instead of an hour. Or, you slightly reduce the weight you were training with before. You can even just take one set off of each exercise and gradually work back into the sets you were training at. The jist of it is to start a little bit lower of your previous training volume and slowly add it back into where you were previously. Just make sure your "easing back into it" doesn't last a full month. It doesn't take that long for your body to get back into it. If your training doesn't take a hit during this time then this section wouldn't apply to you. I really hope this article doesn't sound like I'm expecting people to fail during this time. I just want to give the most realistic and practical advice that I can. Some people won't miss a beat during the holidays, and that means this post probably won't resonate with them. However, some people struggle through the holidays or even just have anxiety about their decision making. The holidays are really just a snapshot in time. A very brief snapshot compared to the entire year and especially your entire life. Don't let a few bad choices you may make during this time discourage you from getting back on the wagon. The only thing worse than one bad day is two bad days, and three bad days. Consistency always win. Don't let yourself lose twice in a row.
Netflix, Fries, and Tribes. How to Be Healthy in a World That is Mostly Not
The world is against you. Seriously....the world is against you. I'm going to give you the next ten seconds to get super pissed at the world, and that's it. Then it's time to get to work. Let me tell you why the world is against you... Do you pay attentions to the ads you see? Most of our mental lives are consumed by ads and subtle things that go beneath our conscious minds. You probably can't recall the last 5 ads that you have seen or heard, but I promise you that they are there and they are influencing you probably more than you know. I actually just saw an ad while pumping my gas that said, "it's time to get your stretchy pants on!" as it was promoting a new sub sandwich. Can you believe this? This ad is encouraging you to gain weight. Now, I'm not super against indulging every once in a while and I hope that becomes clear by the end of this post, but I don't think it should ever be encouraged to live an unhealthy life. This post may seem a bit hopeless. That there are so many forces out of your control that influence the way you think, what you believe, and therefore how you behave surrounding the topic of health and fitness. But, that is not the intention. I want to try to show you the best path forward, but I think it is critical to establish as a starting point, that the world has many forces acting against you in this regard. You deserve some empathy, but it is also crucial to establish the optimal route forward to get you to achieve your goals. What can we do? You want to eat healthy. You want to start to exercise, but there are only so many hours in the day. You want to cook a healthy dinner but by the time you are off work you feel so tired and don't want to do anything except spend some time with your family. We get into these bad habits and changing them feels like an impossible task. So, how do we change them? Start small I have written about this before on this site, but it is very crucial to understand. We often try to do too much at once, this leaves us feeling overwhelmed, and then we stop and go back to our old habits. We know willpower is very limited so we need to use the short supply of what we have on just one behavior change at a time. You created your bad habits very slowly, but often very unconsciously, so we have to start creating positive habits very slowly as well. I have often heard many people talk about this as well, but rather than trying to work out 5 times a week, start by just putting your workout shoes on and gym gear. Hold yourself accountable to only that. Likely, you will end up going to the gym and getting some sort of workout in, but it doesn't overwhelm your mind beforehand. If you tend to eat unhealthy most of the time, start by just eliminating one thing from your diet, or just eating smaller portions of what you are already eating. Eating one Oreo is way better than eating the whole sleeve. This isn't fancy advice, but the key in all behavior change is developing habits, and to develop habits you have to start small and stay consistent. Consistency is the key to almost anything. Elimination > Addition We tend to search for things that we can add to our lifestyle that will help us reach our goals. However, we very rarely search to eliminate the negative things in our life that are preventing our progress. It is an honorable mindset to search for the positive, but we won't get anywhere if we don't remove the negative items. I'm sure we can all take a quick inventory of our life to see what baggage we have that is weighing us down. Make a quick list, and then commit to eliminating one of those items on the list. It may take a month for your body to actually adapt to the elimination because you are just creating another habit. You may find that it is actually easier to eliminate bad habits than to create a new positive habit. I bet we can all improve our healthy lifestyles quite a bit if we just look to remove some of the negative as opposed to adding more chaos, even if the chaos is positive. Find a supportive environment We all know how the saying goes--"you are the average of the five people you spend the most time around." I think this has always been true. I've seen many people try to make healthy lifestyle changes. They do pretty well, but keep slipping up, and then you realize some of their best friends drink a lot of alcohol, don't exercise or eat healthy, and maybe even worse, aren't supportive in their attempt to be healthier. I'm not saying you need to go right ahead and dump all of your best friends that aren't healthy, but I would strongly encourage finding an environment that is supportive and has many other similar individuals that are all trying to crush health and fitness goals. It will be easier to stay on track and be easier to get back on track if you were to fall off. It's very hard to make the right choices when most of the people around you aren't making the same choices and aren't encouraging you to do so. Just how all great sports teams were built around a culture of success, your health and fitness success is dependent upon the people you spend a lot of time around. It's no coincidence that some of the most in shape people have very in shape friends and partners. Ignore most mainstream health and fitness advice This is where the "tribe" part of the title comes in. This may seem like a confusing thing for me to be saying, but you most likely don't need more information. Most people don't. Most people don't need to know what the newest diet fad is, or what the next most popular fitness routine is. This just adds confusion. Most people know that exercise in general is very good for you and what foods are typically good to consume. Most health and fitness related success is dependent upon behavior change and not what people are doing. It's that people are doing something and doing it consistently. Once you've been training for more than two years then it might be time to talk more about the nuances of training and nutrition. It alarms me seeing the trend of where this country is heading from a health and fitness perspective. I previously wrote a post about obesity, and was alarmed at the statistics. Everything our culture and society promotes is not in our best interest. Whether that is physically, mentally or emotionally. Just pay attention to the next 5 ads you see. They are trying to persuade us by triggering the parts of our brain that make us reach for short-term gratification as opposed to long-term results. The donut over the veggies. The Netflix show over the long walk. The biggest change you might make is just eliminating the social conditioning. I wish I could just tell you to make the changes and use your willpower. But, that's not how humans work. If there is anything to take away from this post it's that it is very important to build some consistency in your life. Start today by making some small changes that can add up to healthy habits over time. Even if they are super tiny changes to start with. Just like it can be very hard to break bad habits if they've been with us for a long time, it will be that much easier to continue good habits if we've been consistent with them for a long time. If I can help in anyway, please email me at Justin@liftlabco.com.
From 2013-2016 about 49% of Americans tried to lose weight within the previous year, according to the CDC. The CDC also reports that the prevalence of obesity hovers around 40% for people aged 20-39, and is even greater for people that are older. I'm sure if you walked up to most people these days and asked, they would tell you they would like to lose a few pounds. I knew obesity was fairly prevalent in the U.S., but I did not know it was as high as 40%, especially in young adults. To me, that is crazy. It seems that we have an epidemic on our hands. One that no one is talking about. Do we have the answers to this prevailing "problem?" And, I would call it a problem as being overweight and obese has some very harmful effects on your health and overall well being. If there is one change you could make to improve your overall health, I would tell you that it should be to maintain a healthy weight. Right under stress reduction/management. I don't think anyone doesn't have the answers to how we tackle obesity, and being overweight. We know that exercise is incredibly good for you and it is important to not over eat. The big question is, how do we get millions of Americans to get there? I am going to try to attempt to break this down fairly simply. Behavior Change This is the most important piece to the puzzle because we have to learn how to change our own behaviors to get anywhere. We have to learn how to create a little bit of change and not fall off the wagon quickly. We should do this in smalls steps. Trying to add too much change to your lifestyle is a recipe for disaster. Small, consistent, incremental change over time is what will get the job done. We know that willpower is a limited resource so we should focus on small habits. The book, "Atomic Habits" by James Clear is a good starting point on this front. Lastly, we need to be alright with slow progress. We know Rome wasn't built in a day and the progress you really want to see is going to happen over a longer period of time. Empathy I think this is the responsibility of the people that don't have weight to lose. People who have taken control of their health, their weight, their training, their nutrition, etc. It is easy to criticize people who aren't the same as you. It seems as easy as "if I can do it, so can you." That is easier said than done. Rather, I think we should take an approach of cooperation. I think we should try to empathize with where people are at, because when it really comes down to it, they aren't happy with where they are at. And, if they could they would change some things. When people are constantly shaming others, it makes change that much harder. We should embrace everyone with open arms, seek to understand their experience, and work together to help people reach their goals. That doesn't mean push your own training and diets down people's throats, but encouraging them to take any step in the right direction. People need support, not shame. Exercise It should be obvious that exercise is on the list of slowing the spread of obesity. But, what does this look like? There a million exercises training programs out there. There are tons of gyms. What should people do? Here's my answer: anything. Anything more than what you are currently doing. Walks are the most underrated form of exercise that no one talks about. If you only walk 1,000 steps a day, walking 3,000 will make a significant difference. More than you would probably imagine. This is where I am actually a huge fan of the Apple watches and other devices. If you have immediate data to your face that tells you if you are slacking or doing well, it can be a great motivator and tool for change. I also think it is important to find a form of exercise that you enjoy. Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, walking, running, lifting weights, yoga, etc. There are so many ways to get exercise. Don't get stuck in the traditional idea of what it means to exercise. Find something you enjoy and think you can stick to for a long period of time. And, don't be afraid to change course and try something different and new. Last reminder: do ANYTHING more than what you are currently doing. Nutrition Last but certainly not least, how do we eat better? Much like my advice for exercise, it is likely that you are eating too much if you are overweight, so anything less than what you are currently eating is a step in the right direction. If you eat 4,000 calories a day, 3,700 will make a huge difference. Don't get stuck on all the diet trends because those usually get recycled every 6 months anyways. Don't even worry too much about what you are eating at first. Start by just eating a little bit less. If you like donuts, just eat one less, or even half of one less. I once trained a guy who actually stopped training but showed back up to the gym a year later to tell and show me all about his progress. He lost what looked like close to 100lbs. All he said he did to make the change was to eat a little bit less of what he was already eating. He didn't restrict any foods at all but he would just limit his portions just a little bit. This was his first step and a year later he was waking up early, making veggie smoothies and eating quality foods most of the time. All progress starts with just a little bit of change. This could be a 300 page essay, but I don't think many would read that. I actually hadn't planned on writing on this topic at all until I stumbled upon the statistics and realized they were that high. I may be right, I may be wrong, but based on my experience these are some of the things we need to hammer down if we actually want to create change on the obesity front. It has to be a cooperative effort, and I believe all change starts small. We need to be okay with this small change. I'll check back in a year.
How do you conduct yourself at the gym? At Lift Lab we have a pretty big Weightlifting team. We have a decent amount of stud athletes, but more importantly, we get a lot of first timers who have never tried the sport. This is a big deal because we have the opportunity to continue to develop athletes in the sport we love. When we get new people in the door it is very important that we hold ourselves to a standard of excellence. This means that we hold our more experienced lifters accountable to how they act. There is a reason everyone on the team is friendly and most make a conscious attempt to introduce themselves to anyone new to make them feel more comfortable in the novel setting. We try to produce a very "team-like" atmosphere and set a good example for new lifters. This brings me to my main point of the post. I think most people have this idea in their heads that they aren't good enough for people to take notice of them. I'm hear to tell you that is not true. Everyone has different perceptions of what is good and people notice behavior that stands out--good or bad. For some, a 100kg snatch is the coolest thing ever. Athletes more advanced in their career may look towards a 150kg snatch to motivate them. Which athlete you are doesn't matter. Just know that someone else is alway watching you. You are always an example to someone. I've seen people throw shit after a missed lift in training. You would've thought they were 8 years old and their parents never gave them anything. I've seen very advanced lifters take time out of their training session to help someone brand new to the sport. I've seen intermediate lifters not say a word during a training session, but just keep their head down and get to work. A year later they are putting up huge numbers. I've seen advanced lifters not be able to shut their mouths all training session and not get a lick done. Whether you are putting up a sub par total right now or you are competing for a podium spot at Nationals, your behavior matters. Someone is always watching. People are always taking notice. How you conduct yourself matters. Don't be that person that ruins the sport for someone who was never able to get their career off the ground in the first place. Start training with Team LiftLab CLICK HERE.
You may find yourself asking, "what is the best exercise program for me?" You may want to know which program is going to get you the fastest results and which program you are going to enjoy. You may also want to know the program with the best price and has the location nearest to your house, BUT, I am willing to bet you would go with the more expensive program if it got you results AND you enjoyed it. I think these are the only two aspects of any program that matter. Results and enjoyment are the only things that are going to make you adhere to a program for the long term. In my experience those are the only two reasons most people stop with their current training program. People may say that it is due to other factors, but at the same time, they were probably getting bored, burnt out, or weren't seeing the results they wanted, and a few other small life factors finally caused them to make the decision to stop training. So, how do you find these two qualities in a program? I honestly don't know if I have the perfect answers for that because many people are different. I have seen people find a lot of success on a program that doesn't seem enjoyable to most people and doesn't seem to be too in line with the science of training, BUT, they were getting results and they were probably having fun too. If I could offer any bit of advice on this front it would be to find a coach, and a gym with a supportive community and one that has shown to have results with their clients. If you can find a coach or a gym with these qualities they likely know how to get results and they likely know how to keep it enjoyable for their clients as well. We know that only getting results will only go so far for so long. I would even say that it becomes much harder to get results if you aren't enjoying the process because you aren't bought into the program and will likely not give it your best effort. In today's age it can be super confusing to find the best program for you in regards to exercise and fitness. There is simply too much information out there and no one expects everyone to know all the research to find the best place for them. Find something that you can enjoy and will likely adhere to in the long run. Results mainly come down to being able to accumulate work over a period of time. This is only going to happen if you can stick with a program and that's only going to happen if you enjoy it. The best exercise program for you is the one that you do. If you have any questions please feel free to shoot me an email at Justin@liftlabco.com. I would love to consult with you on your health and fitness needs.
Is It Really As Simple As Calories In vs. Calories Out?
Yes. The blog post could probably end now, but let me elaborate.... I think many people are a little skeptical about the calories in vs. calories out idea because they feel like they don't eat that much and are still gaining weight. Here's the kicker, you don't know how much you are eating until you are tracking how much you are actually eating. And that means tracking EVERYTHING. Even that late night sugary snack you eat right before bed. Yes, that counts. You will probably soon realize that you are eating a lot more than you think you are. I highly encourage you to track all of your food for one week and see what your consistency really looks like. Then from there you can make a plan. The bottom line is that your body obeys the law of thermodynamics. You can't get around that. If you consume more energy than you are expending, your body will hold on to and conserve that excess energy. This excess energy turns into extra body weight. This extra weight turns into muscle for some, and fat for others. This is entirely dependent on what kind of foods you are eating and what your training does or doesn't look like. The person that strength trains hard and eats a lot of protein, even if they are in a caloric surplus, will likely add muscle to their frame and not fat. The next question is how to go about creating the right amount of caloric deficit or surplus, depending on your goals. Most people's goal is to lose weight and look lean while doing it. Meaning, they want to hold on to (or gain) muscle, while losing body fat. This is where tracking your food for the week will come in handy. Once you know how many calories you are eating on a daily basis that is contributing to your weight gain or weight maintenance, you can start to create a plan to minimize that if your goal is to lose weight. A strong suggestion if you want to lose weight is to start in a small caloric deficit. Dropping down to 700 calories a day is not healthy and I highly encourage you not to do that. Start with just a 100-200 drop in calories and see how your body adjusts. Try to eat a lot of protein and as healthy of foods as possible (we all have an intuitive sense as to what those are). You can lose weight just by adjusting your calorie intake to be in a deficit. You don't even have to train. But, I highly encourage you to train. The benefits of exercise go way beyond body composition and I think it is one of the most important things any human could be doing in the year 2020. The reason I think more people are overweight than ever before is because there is an extraordinary amount of available fast food that is highly caloric, and people are more sedentary than ever before. My first suggestion for anyone wanting to lose weight would be to exercise more than they currently are. Even if it is going for a walk every day. Our ancestors were very fit and healthy. I don't think that is solely because they only ate meat and berries. It's because they moved non stop. This movement dictated how hungry they would be and when they would eat. They weren't tracking their calories, but they were in a constant state of energy expenditure. It was virtually impossible for them to be overweight. But, if you dropped a few McDonalds in the savanna, and gave them some couches and T.V., I think this would change in no time. I understand tracking your food can be hard and it can lead to a psychological state of being neurotic around food, which is never a good thing. But, I highly encourage it, even if it is for a little bit to gain the understanding. It is important to enjoy life. It can also be super rewarding to achieve your goals and the body you want. If you would like a consultation with a coach from Lift Lab where we can create a more elaborate plan for you, email Justin@liftlabco.com. We would love to help you make the change you want to see!
"I’m in pain. Does that mean something is wrong?" I have this conversation with clients and anyone going through pain all the time so I figured I should write about it. Here’s deal…You can put someone under an MRI or X-Ray and see that something is structurally wrong. This person can experience no symptoms of pain. Put another person in an MRI and X-Ray and nothing is structurally wrong, but this person is experiencing a good deal of pain every day. You could also see examples of structural pathology synonymous with pain and vice versa. So, this basically tells us that we don’t understand pain in relation to physiology super well. What can we do? I often tell people that it’s impossible to fully understand what is causing pain in most cases. Spraining your ankle and feeling pain afterwards is a lot more straightforward than the random onset of elbow pain. Especially when there are a lot of variables involved. First order of business would be to chose interventions that don’t cause a lot of pain, and reassess every so often and see if the pain is there. You can also try to find exercises that bias an increase in motion and see if that helps suddenly and/or long-term. You can also pick surgery. There is no guarantee that this will help, because as I said before, it’s hard to fully understand pain in relation to structure. At the end of the day I am not a doctor. If your bone is sticking out of your skin you probably want to get that fixed. All I am saying is your bulged disc or spinal asymmetry isn’t as straightforward. I’m willing to place a bet that if 90%+ of humans got an X-Ray today, you would see spinal asymmetry. No spine is perfectly straight. Your guts aren’t even weighted symmetrically in your stomach, bro. Beware of the snake oil salesmen that uses your structural pathology as a means for you to keep giving them money.
What is the most important skill to develop early on in your coaching career? We've been working with a few interns and new coaches recently and have been thinking quite a bit about this… I remember being the intern. I remember not having a clue about anything. Everything seems like information overload. I think what you suck at most should be your first guide. Mine was communication and client interaction. So, that was the first thing I needed get better at. Technical skills could come later. It seems to me that you have to develop people skills early on. No one will pay you for training if they don’t feel comfortable around you. If your technical skills are good enough and your people skills are on point, you will do just fine. Next, what do you want to learn? Interns are typically given the same speeches about programming, exercise technique, periodization, etc. You have to learn the fundamentals but I think it should be taken a step further. Not sure what you want to learn more of? Ask very specific questions. This, I think could be the most important point. Let these questions guide your study. You will likely find yourself down a rabbit hole and once that gets boring or you feel like there is nothing left there, ask another very specific question. Don't get too hung up on broad training concepts. The more detailed questions you can ask, the more you will broaden your understanding and the better coach you will become. Lastly, don’t be shy about asking for help. Most people out there are more than happy to share their experience and lend a hand. When I left my last job I reached out to pretty much any gym owner I could. Not one person turned down a conversation with me. I’m extremely grateful for that and I think that is mostly what the industry is full of. Get off instagram for a second. When I was at Ball State as an intern, legendary strength coach Al Vermeil spent a whole day with us and basically told us everything he thought he knew about strength and conditioning. It was awesome to hear from such a veteran. Very last thing….experience trumps all. Go getchu some.