#HowFitFeels – The complete experiment

This week: quite possibly the best share i’ve contributed to our blog.
How fit feels – those of us that have found the benefits of staying active KNOW this feeling, if you’re on the brink of starting your fitness journey please watch this and give us a call to start your journey TODAY.

Full credit goes to First FItness Australia for this brilliant documentary.

“Have we become too obsessed with how fitness is meant to look? Over 12 weeks we conducted an experiment. 3 unfit people took up exercise and 3 of the fittest gave it up. We wanted to see #howfitfeels

Better-Than-Sex Glute Pump

If you’re a female interested in fitness the odds are that you enjoy working on your glutes.
Sohee Fit created this great glute-finisher OR stand alone glute session that will give you a great pump!

This is a 10-minute mini-band glute circuit that you can do from anywhere.

Here’s what it looks like:

A1. RKC plank 10-20s hold
A2. Banded bodyweight squat 10ea
A3. Wide-stance banded bodyweight squat to reverse lunge 10ea
A4. Monster walk (band around feet)
A5. Seated band hip abduction 10,10,10 (3 ways)
A6. Feet-elevated bodyweight glute bridge

Rest for 30-60 seconds and then repeat the circuit one more time.

Thanks Sohee!

Reader Question: How Does Strength Training Help Weight loss

A great post written by Erika Hurst from Hurststrength.com!

When we workout, especially if we’re seeking fat loss and a change in body composition, we want to chase a hormonal effect from exercise rather than an amount of calories burned.  Our hormones run the show and dictate everything our bodies do.

Strength training creates the most positive hormonal environment in our bodies conducive to fat loss. It also helps to boost our metabolism, which slow, steady-state cardio doesn’t do. Steady-state cardio does provide a myriad of health benefits, but it isn’t the quickest, most effective and most sustainable method for fat loss and shouldn’t be our primary means of exercise.

Ideally, you should prioritize moderate-to-heavy strength training with an appropriate amount of cardio on an “as- needed” basis. (Click here to read more and for 6 FREE sample cardio workouts).

Strength training also helps preserve and increase our resting metabolic rate (how many calories we burn in a day) by preserving and increasing lean muscle mass. Our bodies burn more calories by maintaining muscle than they do by maintaining fat, because well, muscle is harder to maintain that fat is. So a higher amount of muscle = a higher, better crankin’ metabolism.

It’s important to mention that when people say weight loss, they really mean *fat* loss – weight loss doesn’t specify where the weight is coming from. It could be fat, it could be muscle, water loss, poop or cutting off a limb (hey, that counts as weight).

The number one goal for the majority of people when trying to lose body fat is to preserve as much lean muscle as possible. (Remember, muscle = metabolism).

When we haphazardly lose weight as opposed to just body fat, we also lose muscle and other lean mass which plummets our metabolism and makes the weight loss harder to maintain (because now that our metabolism has decreased, we can’t consume as much food as before without gaining fat). This is why so many who experience weight loss, especially at a faster rate or without a proper strength training or nutrition program, usually end up gaining it all back and more.

Fat loss specifically targets losing just fat while maintaining muscle.

Maintaining and building strength is the absolute best way to ensure you’re not losing muscle. Strength training is also the key to appearing more toned after we lose fat. And beyond vanity, strength helps us embody more confidence because we can lift some major poundage and we feel powerful as heck.

So in terms of fat loss and changing our bodies, strength training while eating in line with our goals is the #1 priority AND our healthiest, sanest and most sustainable option.

Be aware of gimmicks that tell you otherwise!

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There’s many great articles at Hurststrength.com definitely go have a look!

Just Want to Look Good? Why Your Gym Numbers Still Matter

Here’s an article written by Andrew Heming from AndrewHeming.com – why lifting well still very much matters if you only care about aesthetics.

“I don’t care how much I lift; I just want to look good.” I get it. While lifters and athletes care about their gym numbers, if you are training just to look good, you might not care – but you should. Your gym numbers can have a huge impact on how you look. If you want to look your best, you can’t afford to miss out on this. Here’s why your gym numbers still matter.

Progression forces your body to change
Every body composition change I have ever experienced personally or with my clients or athletes came with a gym performance improvement. If you progressively increase the stress on a muscle, you force that muscle to adapt to that stress by growing bigger, harder and stronger. If you keep using the same weight for an exercise, you give your muscle no reason to change. As my mentor and former training partner Rob Gregory used to tell me, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
If you want to change how a muscle on your body looks, start by picking an effective exercise to target that muscle. Then, get better at that exercise. Some examples:
  • Want bigger arms? Progress from doing 8 body weight chin-ups to 8 reps with 50lbs around your waist
  • Want a bigger chest? Progress from doing dumbbell bench press with 50lb dumbbells for 10 reps to doing 100lb dumbbells for 10 reps
  • Want nice legs? Double the weight you can use for squats or split squats
  • Want a harder/firmer/shapelier butt? Add 100lbs to what you can hip thrust for 10 reps
 
Strength makes fat loss easier
Which do you think burns more calories – a 60lb Squat or a 200lb Squat? The stronger you get the more weight you can use on all your exercises. This not only burns more calories during your workout, but also after as your body’s metabolic rate is revved up during recovery.
The more calories you can burn (during and after training) the more you can eat and still lose weight. This is not an excuse to cut loose with your eating. However, it is much more pleasant to be eating 2000 calories and still be in a caloric deficit than it is to have to go down to 1000 to get into a caloric deficit.
 
Heavy weights build tone
Ever notice how some people have big, but puffy-looking muscles? Yes, body fat levels play a huge role, but even when in contest shape, you can tell the difference between a bodybuilder who just does light weight pumping and one who moves some serious weight. For example, next time you are Google Images, check out pictures of Flex Wheeler and Dorian Yates. Both developed amazing physiques. However, Yates moved much heavier weights and had a much harder body as a result.
Contrary to the old fitness mantra, “heavy weights for bulk and light weights to tone and define”, heavy weights build rock-hard, athletic muscle.
 
Strength lays a foundation for size gains
For decades bodybuilders have loved the 8-12 rep range for building muscle. If you add some lower-rep strength work to get stronger, you can more reps in this popular “size range”. Take 8x Mr. Olympic Ronnie Coleman as an example. Prior to becoming a bodybuilder, Big Ronnie was a powerlifter. As a result, when he switched to bodybuilding, he was able to move some massive weights in this higher rep range and used this to build some massive muscle. Check out this video below of Ronnie doing dumbbell bench press with 200lbs for 12 reps.
Warning: Going too far with your gym numbers
Now, hopefully you can see the aesthetic benefits to improving your gym numbers. However, if you blindly chase numbers you will fail to build the physique you want. To build a better-looking body, you also have to avoid this mistakes.
 
Mistake # 1: Getting sloppy
In order to progressively increase the demand on your muscles, you have to maintain consistent technique. If your technique gets gradually worse while you gradually add weight you can end up with bigger numbers, but no bigger muscles. Also with exercises such as squats, if you gradually cut depth as you add weight you end up going nowhere. Trust me on this one. I have made this mistake more than anyone. Countless times I’ve added 100+lbs to my squat only to realize I had cut a foot or more off my depth. This is making false gains and it leans to non-existent muscle gains.
 
Mistake #2: Losing the mind-muscle connection
In performance-based training, you focus more on proper movement and accelerating the weight up. While this still can apply to big exercises (e.g. deadlifts – don’t try to isolate one muscle on a deadlift) you need a strong mind-muscle connection to build muscle. This is especially true when doing isolation exercises. Gyms are full of guys with small arms who do endless sets of heavy curls. Sure they get the weight from point A to point B, but they are using everything but their biceps to do so.
If you want to change how you look, start by picking variations of movements that you can actually feel the target muscle(s) working. Then, progressively add weight, but be sure you never lose the mind-muscle connection.
Mistake # 3: Focusing too much on low-rep performance
Getting stronger on your 1-3RM (rep max – i.e. the most amount of weight you can lift for 1-3 reps) for an exercises is fun and helpful for increasing strength (which as I explained above helps you use more weight on the higher-rep sets). However, you can increase your 1-3 rep max without really changing how you look. To build/sculpt a muscle, low rep performance doesn’t matter as much as seeing improvement in the 5-10 rep range.
FAQ
What if I don’t want to get big?
I totally get that this is a big concern (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) for many folks – especially ladies. Because of that old misunderstood concept of big weights for bulk and light weights to tone and define, many people who want to get leaner but not bigger are afraid to increase their weights.
Big weights are important, but they are only part of the equation. If you want to get bigger or leaner, you need to follow the whole formula:

Heavy weights + sufficient volume for size gains (i.e. more total reps) + calorie surplus = get bigger and stronger

Heavy weights (at an insufficient volume for size gains) + interval training + caloric deficit = get hard, lean athletic body.

 
What about all those fat lifters?
This one can go either way. Sure you can go onto Google Images and find lots of strong, but obese lifters. However, you must never forget that exercise does not cause fat gain. Fast food, junk food and buffets – not heavy squats – is what makes these lifters fat. You can also find extremely strong lifters who are lean and have bodies that would turn heads on any beach.
What about (fill in the blank with a famous physique athlete)?
Yes, of course you can find good looking physique athletes who lift relatively light weights. However, there are many factors that go into having a cover model body in addition to training. These include: genetics, diet, drugs, surgical enhancements/alterations and photo shop skills. The average natural trainee without these helpful additions will be unlikely to make dramatic body composition changes without improving their numbers on key lifts.
 
What about muscle confusion?
Many people training to look good fall into the trap of muscle confusion. Your muscles don’t need to be confused. Yes, your body will eventually adapt to any routine. Staying on one routine indefinitely is will lead to a plateau and some over-use injuries. However, if you do a complete different workout each time you lift, how will you know if you are progressively increasing the stress on your muscles and forcing them to adapt?
Conclusion

If you want to change your body, seek to progressively add weight to your exercises. However, always remember that numbers are not the end. They are a means to the end. If as you add weight, never lose the mind muscle connection or alter your technique.

Thank you Andrew!

Nerd Fitness – How Tiny Changes Transformed Me from Steve Rogers to Captain America

Here’s a great blog written By Steve from www.nerdfitness.com – I think a lot of us that have been training for awhile can relate!

How Tiny Changes Transformed Me from Steve Rogers to Captain America

Hey, I’m Steve.

I’ve been running this site, Nerd Fitness, for about seven years now. Before that, I trained in a gym for six years trying to get in the best shape possible. But I struggled. Struggled to make consistent progress. Struggled because it always seemed like three steps forward, 2.9 (or 3.1) steps backwards, month after month, year after year.

Two years ago, my mentality changed. I stopped asking “when will I arrive?” and instead realized that I will never actually get there.

With this mindset I created a new strategy, and today I stand (well, sit) before you a changed person – physically and mentally. I’m 20+ pounds (of muscle) heavier, stronger and more resilient than ever, and believe that every day is an opportunity to set a new personal best.

I did it by refusing to focus on the “end.” In other words, I stopped worrying about “before and after.” Instead I just focused finding goals and quests that excited me each day.

In fact, I hadn’t noticed just how much I had changed until I looked at a video fromNerd Fitness from three years ago that made my jaw drop (picture above). It really hit home when I went to get fitted for a tux two weeks ago and the guy taking my measurements said “well, this won’t fit right because you’re built like Captain America.”

Excited Steve

Alarm bells went off in my brain: “HOLY CRAP. I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear somebody tell me that. And it happened after I FORGOT about this very goal.”

I don’t think that was a coincidence.

Here’s how I stopped worrying about my after and started living every day in the “during.”

There’s No “After.”

steve push ups

I imagine that nearly everybody who stumbles across Nerd Fitness is here because they want to change their appearance. It’s certainly why I started exercising! And I have NO problem with that.

After all, as the Rules of the Rebellion state: “We don’t care where you came from, only where you’re going.”

As a skinny, weak person for most of my life, I wanted to feel comfortable and confident in my own skin. Thanks to the BS found in magazines and other marketing tricks, I was convinced in my early years of training that I was only 30-60 days away from transforming. I thought I could “sprint” from where I was to where I wanted to be, and then I could settle back into a less crazy routine. Because I was in such a hurry to change from the “before” to the “after,” I would go ALL-IN on training and eating for a short period of time.

Unsurprisingly, this resulted in me burnt out or injured. If the changes did come, they didn’t stick for any long period of time due to “life getting in the way.”

It was only until I started of thinking of progress in “years and years” instead of “weeks and months” that my mentality finally shifted.

This was a tough pill to swallow. I had to put my “after” goals on hold, and instead just did what needed to get done every day. I had to change my mentality: there is no after, only “during.”

I initially thought “Ugh, Years!?! That’s gonna take too long.” And then I thought back to how little sustainable progress I had made in the previous 10 years and knew things needed to change. Today I look back and can’t be more relieved that I made this choice.

In two, five, or ten years, what choice do you wish you’d have made now? The one that puts you on a “30 day diet” or workout plan? Or one that instills changes for the long term?

There’s a reason why a recent study suggests we’re doomed to stay fat: temporary diet changes and temporary workout plans don’t work!

If you want to change your appearance in the long term, your normal life (how you live every day) has to change. Every day you are building a new normal: a sustainable way of eating, sleeping, and exercising that gets you a tiny bit closer to where you want to be.

Appearance is a consequence of fitness

SteveTuckPlanche

Want to know how I was finally able to make progress and transform my appearance after 11 years of actively trying to change it?

By NOT focusing on it so damn much!

For the past two years, I have cared less about what the scale says or how I look in a mirror, and instead put my focus on one thing: am I stronger and more badass today than yesterday? Am I doing better this week than last week? Every week for the past two years, I have followed a workout plan that is incrementally more difficult in a tiny way than the previous week.

For example, here’s my last five weeks of work on overhead presses:

  • Week one: 5/5/5 x 136 lbs
  • Week two: 6/5/5 x 136 lbs
  • Week three: 6/6/5 x 136 lbs
  • Week four: 6/6/6 x 136 lbs
  • Week five: 5/5/5 x 137 lbs

Look how boring that is! Each week, I’m increasing this lift by ONE total repetition. After reaching a certain level, I’m adding just ONE pound to the bar (I bought these fractional plates so I can lift just one pound more).

The same goes for my deadlifts. Every week, I’m adding just one pound to my lift, before going for a 1-rep max once per month. As someone with splondylothesis, I used to think I’d never deadlift heavy again. In fact, I’ve had to yell at myself throughout this process to be patient and be okay with this pace. I knew that when I tried it the other way, progress just didn’t stick.

So despite the seemingly snail’s pace, I’m now stronger than ever and almost at my epic quest goal of a 405 deadlift (here I am in November lifting 385 lbs).

My progress on other movements is even tougher to see, but I’m now doing some really crazy and fun things like gymnastic rings work to muscle ups to front lever practice.

You see, appearance is a consequence of fitness. I just put my focus on getting stronger, and eating in a way to accomplish that goal daily. That “stronger” might be the teeniest of tiniest increments, but when done consistently, sustainably, over a long period of time… big permanent changes can result.

Accountability, priority, routine

Steve Front Lever

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another crucial reason why I was able to make sustained progress over the past two years: I made my health a priority. I wrote about “why you need to be selfish sometimes” on Nerd Fitness before.

After years of starting and stopping, blaming it on Nerd Fitness getting too busy, or life being too hectic, I finally put my foot down. I made two crucial decisions:

1) I stopped trying to go it alone. That’s right. I found that when I had to program my own workouts, I would often skip the last few exercises that I just didn’t feel like doing. After all, who would notice! However, over the past two years I’ve been following workouts that have been created by somebody else, and I have to check in with that person! Suddenly I can’t use my old tired excuses, and I just do the work – after all, that’s why I pay for it!

If I miss a workout or take a week off “because life got busy,” I have somebody to answer to. It sucks, it’s embarrassing, and oftentimes this gets me to go to the gym when I’m tired or busy, or trying to use all these other bullshit excuses.

I think it’s why we have found so many people have found success with The Nerd Fitness Academy or Nerd Fitness Yoga – you value things differently when you invest your hard-earned money in them, and you actually DO the stuff when somebody else is telling you to do them. If you’re struggling to stay in shape, do you have somebody keeping you accountable? Do you have a workout plan to follow? Those two steps alone have change my life. Hat tip to my friendAnthony for creating my workouts for me!

2) I prioritized my health and fitness. Mostly, I stopped accepting excuses from myself, and stopped relying on motivation. Instead, I manufactured discipline in my life. I ruthlessly removed unnecessary time-wasting activities from my life and got better at managing my time. Here’s what I did:

  • I schedule every workout in my calendar. Every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 10:00 AM, I go to the gym. If I’m traveling on a training day, I make it up for IMMEDIATELY, no matter what, the next day and get back on schedule.
  • I have been intermittent fasting the whole time. I train in a fasted state (not eating before my workout), and eat all of my daily calories between 12pm and 8pm. This is called intermittent fasting, and has helped me slowly put on muscle without adding much fat to my frame.
  • I have prioritized food. I eat a paleo-ish diet. I eat the same thing every day at Chipotle. It’s an expense that I’m willing to pay – the location is right across the street from my gym, and it’s the most efficient way to get enough quality calories, carbs, protein, and fat immediately following my workout.
  • I removed distracting activities from my life. I am now way more efficient with my “work hours,” blocking Facebook and time wasting websites. I don’t play video games or watch TV unless I have done everything else that day that needs to be done. Don’t get me wrong, I still binge watch shows occasionally (Making a Murderer!) and play video games (Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate!), I just do this stuff strategically.
  • Sleep has been prioritized. When I relocated to New York City, I made sure to spend money on a quality mattress and blackout curtains. As a cheapskate, this was a huge challenge for me. However, sleep is one of the most important elements of a healthy life. I don’t play games late at night, I don’t have a TV in my bedroom, and I make sure I’m sleeping as much as possible.

Where Were You, Two Years Ago?

SteveRedwoods

You might be reading this and saying to yourself, “Ugh, Steve. I need to feel better now! I can’t wait two years!” Ask yourself, where were you two years ago? How different are you now compared to then?

Remember, you never really “arrive.”

If you’re hoping that getting to a certain pant size or seeing your abs will suddenly make you happy, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s the fitness equivalent of “if I just had a bigger house, I’d be happy.”

All photos in Nerd Fitness success stories are “before and during” shots. My photos here are “during” shots. I’m never going to get to a magical moment where I “made it,” so I’ve stopped worrying about that moment. Instead, I’m just focused on being stronger and fitter today than yesterday, and eating in a way that helps me make that happen.

I have no idea where I’ll be two years from now. My goals might change. My lifestyle might change. So I’m not worried about it. Instead, I’m just worried about being better and stronger today than I was yesterday.

I’d love to hear from you:

What’s a longstanding mentality you’ve had that will change to help you find permanent growth and progress with your health and fitness?

How can you remind yourself daily of this new “identity?”

-Steve

How Much Cardio is “Too Much?”

HOW MUCH CARDIO IS TOO MUCH

Here’s a great article about how to implement cardio succesfully into your workout routine. Written by http://eatmore2weighless.com/
Contrary to my personal anti-treadmill stance, cardio can absolutely play a role in any fitness/fat loss puzzle. But just like everything else in life, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Although our motto here at EM2WL is cardio for fun, weights to transform, we understand the value cardio can add to a goal-specific workout plan (and that fact that some of you actually…umm…love it).  So I understand that cardio lovers in the Fam, striving to heal their metabolisms, and finally lose fat would need a bit more explanation that “don’t do so much cardio!”

When it comes to cardio, it seems that people either love it or hate it. Whether you’re a group instructor, runner, or despise cardio, your workouts should work for you, not against you. In order for this to happen, you must understand the purpose behind each type of workout, how it pertains to your goals, and apply it accordingly.  Cardio is endurance exercise. The more you do, the better your body adapts, and builds up the ability to be able to withstand the same circumstances next time.

This adaptation is great if the goal is to cover a certain distance in increasingly quicker amounts of time (think: training for a marathon), or simply last longer in Zumba class.  As far as general heart-health is concerned, this is usually the goal.  Your new level of efficiency is usually noticeable during workouts when you’re suddenly able to do more cardio than you initially were physically capable of doing just weeks/months before. For example: you may have originally broken a sweat doing ten minutes of cardio before, but now you have to do fifteen minutes to get to the same level.

If you were formally breathless chasing the kids, or climbing a flight of stairs – this type of adaptation is an amazing/healthy feeling.  However, when the goal is fat loss, this adaptation means you now have to do more work to achieve the same results you initially were achieving with your cardio-only workouts.  Adaptation= doing the same work for lesser results.

When it comes to adaptation, strength training is no exception.  If you lift the same weight day in and out, your body eventually adapts and that weight just won’t cut it.  You’ll have to introduce new stimuli to keep getting results, or risk hitting the infamous plateau. But there’s good news when it comes to weight lifting adaptation: all you have to do to bust past that plateau is to lift heavier weights! The duration of your weight lifting sessions will never have to change (like your cardio has to) so long as you’re increasing your weights. This allows you to still be efficient without putting in extra time. Weight lifting gives you the most bang for your buck.

In other words: endurance exercise improves your endurance, but doesn’t necessarily contribute to fat loss beyond the initial newbie phase.  Lifting improves your strength, endurance, lean body mass (muscle!)and assists in fat loss. 

So how do you know that you’ve entered the “adaptation zone?”  In addition to monitoring your performance during the workout, you can turn to your heart rate monitor (HRM) for clues.  Using an HRM will allow you to see when your body gets to a point where it becomes more efficient at cardio.  As endurance improves, your HRM will subsequently show that your calorie burn is lessening for common cardio activities.  When you notice that you’re burning less cals boing the same amount of work, your body has adapted. At that point you must either increase time, or change up your workout style to continue getting results.

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If, for instance, you’re training for a race or are focused on increasing endurance, remember increased efficiency is in fact a good thing. When that calorie adaptation occurs, you’ve just shortened your race time. Increasing the time of the workout is actually the goal in that case.  On the flip side, when it comes to fat loss, inefficiency is key.  Doing the same workouts, but burning less cals, would mean that over time you’d be eating too much (even on a diet) – and eventually start GAINING weight.

That is what we’re trying to prevent when we provide warnings about “too much cardio” during your reset or early stages of fat loss.  It’s not about removing something that you love, but rather understanding the roles that workout style plays in your fat loss journey.

There is no magic, universal number for how much cardio is too much. By using the tips above, your best answer is to listen to your body and evaluate often to see where your efficiency levels are at and if they’re conducive to the physique goals you’re trying to achieve.