A Letter For My Friend Sia – Ideas to Kick it Up a Notch!

 

Sia is a good friend of mine that I have a lot of respect for. He’s a busy guy, and he’s in good shape already, in my opinion, but I know he’s not quite in the shape he used to be, and he wouldn’t mind losing a little bit more fat. Sia has been watching his diet, and has cut out sugar for almost a year already. After seeing some results he’s finding progress has slowed, and today he asked me if I had any ideas to help him get to the next level.

And as a matter of fact, I do.

Really, I think he just needs to kick it up a notch, and try a few different methods to spark a bit more fat loss. It’s not just about trying one thing or something else, it’s about adding them together. Taking his existing healthy diet and adding some more fat loss methods on top of that should be all he needs.

Idea Number 1: Try Some Intermittent Fasting

I’m a huge fan of intermittent fasting and it’s my go-to method of losing fat. There are more benefits then just fat loss, such as improved insulin sensitivity and digestive tract function. I’m always surprised that fasting also increases my energy significantly, or how my eyes will get whiter (I suspect from reduced inflammation). And I get these effects from just fasting 4-6 hours a day in the morning, and not even every day.

I recommend trying just two days of intermittent fasting for four hours each morning after you wake up. Let’s say you get up at 8am – consume nothing but water or black coffee until noon. Then, eat as you normally would for the rest of the day. Continue to try and eat as healthy as you can – avoid sugar and alcohol as much as possible, don’t overeat, etc etc. But don’t under-eat either – just eat normally! The first day, in my experience, is usually really easy, but the second day is a bit harder. Fight through the hunger and hold off until 12, or 1pm, if possible.

Repeat this method of two days of intermittent fasting and two days of normal eating for a week or two and just observe the effects. If you get up one morning and you just really want breakfast, just eat it! Instead fast the next day, or whenever it feels right. Listen to your body, observe the effects, and repeat what works.

It doesn’t have to be painful or difficult. I admit I sometimes push the boundary of how long I should fast for – I’ll go until 2 or 3pm maybe, and then realize I’m a bit too hungry and that I didn’t have to push it that far. Just do what works for you and what feels right. But you should also see a difference. You should lose some weight. If you’re not losing weight, you’re probably just eating too much the rest of the day. Be mindful of your eating, and repeat the morning fast as needed.

Idea Number 2: Do More Intense Cardio

HIIT, tabata, sprints, whatever. Push harder, and you might be surprised at the results. In my experience, easy cardio does almost nothing for fat loss. Going for a 30 minute walk or a leisurely bike ride is good for you, and it is better than sitting on the couch doing nothing – but if you really want to stoke the fires of your metabolism you’ll want to hit that workout harder. The idea here is that your metabolism stays jacked up for hours after the workout, and you continue to burn a lot of calories during this time. I prefer running 400m sprints with 90 seconds rest – 8×400 is my go-to workout right now. But also I do 500m rowing with 1 minute rest. I can get a lot out of a stationary bike as well using the same approximate time frames. I like to put the bike on the hardest possible setting (level 25 or whatever) for 30 seconds to a minute, and then back it off for a few minutes, and repeat for 20 minutes. Just do what you can! And do it harder! Hill sprints are another good one, or stair running / climbing…

A warning though, these are hard workouts and you won’t want to do them fasted. I would only do something like this when I’m fueled up and ready for an intense effort. I also admit I will often have a bit of sugar and salt right after one of these workouts to restore liver glycogen and electrolyte balance. This is another article entirely, but just to sum up, if you’re sweating a lot, you need some salt. And restoring liver glycogen right after a workout will help you recover. My favorite is orange slices for the sugar, and some potato chips or pickles for the salt.

Idea Number 3: Fasted Cardio

Fasted cardio is another good thing to try, though I admit not one of my personal favorites – I still do it sometimes because it works. The theory is that performing cardio in a fasted state (first thing in the morning before breakfast is probably the most effective) forces your body to burn more fat as fuel. And a lot of people swear by this method. It does seem an efficient method of training, as you don’t need as much cardio to have the same effect. I’m often surprised that I do not feel hungry while I’m exercising and often even have more energy this way. This method also fits in well with the intermittent fasting mentioned above. However, if you do choose this option, I suggest breaking your fast sooner after your workout, because you might just feel too crappy afterwards. Only one warning, it is not recommended to do high intensity cardio fasted. 25-30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio when fasted is more than enough.

Well, there you go my friend. This may be all you need to strip off those last few pounds. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Traps are awesome – Understanding Trapezius Function & How to Train Them

TomHardyBack0001
Tom Hardy’s Cobra

Big traps look awesome. They fill in that area between your shoulders and your neck. Also, thick middle traps add a thick look to your upper body. Honestly, when I can see someone’s middle traps through their shirt, I find that very impressive. Check out Tom Hardy here, you can see how people used to refer to the traps as the “cobra muscles”.

The trapezius is comprised of three sections: the upper, middle and lower. Each section has a different function, but people typically only train the upper portion. For full development and better posture you need to add a few more exercises.

Trapezius_animation_small2
upper, middle and lower sections

The upper traps elevate your shoulders and keep your shoulders from being pulled down.

The function of the middle trapezius is to pull the shoulders back. Note the difference to the lat or the rhomboids here… Think about just squeezing your shoulders straight back and together. That’s why the high wide machine row works so well (or a cable row) – lean back a bit and you can hit a bit higher on your traps. make sure to grip very wide with your elbows high and squeeze back.

The lower trapezius pulls the shoulders back and down, which is very useful for posture correction.

Here’s a complete trapezius workout for you to try – if you’re really an animal, do this after your deadlift workout! Deadlifts alone hit your trapezius well isometrically. Go heavy and hard on the shrugs and snatch grip high pulls, and do the rest fast with low rest to pump up the muscle. The combination is hard to beat.

Complete Trapezius Workout:

1. warm up: band pullaparts 4×20

band-pull-aparts

2. heavy shrugs (upper traps) 5×10
barbell-shrug-1

3. wide machine high row (middle traps) 4×20 – lean back a bit, keep elbows high, squeeze middle traps!

wide rows

4. snatch grip high pulls (upper and middle) 3×15 – use straps!

snatch-grip-high-pull

5. Y raises on 45 degree bench 5×10 (lower traps)

y-raises.jpg

Some people can get away with very little trapezius training. I’m just not one of those people. Deadlifts, barbell rows and pullups will do a lot for your complete trapezius development, but if traps is something you want to focus on give my workout a try. Even understanding the function and being able to isolate and feel each section will be really useful in your training.

Best of the Fitness Industry: Stan Efferding

If someone asks me for advice, more often than not, I’m likely to tell them to just look up Stan Efferding. I’ll tell them to look up Stan and follow everything he says, and I guarantee that they’ll be well on their way to being healthy, strong and successful.

Stan is really, really, really good.

Do I like him because he totaled 2303 raw? (that’s a 865.2 pound squat, 600.3 pound bench and 837.7 pound deadlift – yeah, he’s superhuman) Nope. He’s amazingly strong, and when he did this it was probably the first time I heard of him, but it’s not why I think he’s great.

 

I like him because he’s extremely intelligent, well spoken and articulate, and describes training and nutrition concepts better than I can. And he inspires me to work harder in business. He’s an excellent example of how to succeed I think.

Check out his rants, or “10 talks”… Here is a good example of what I’m talking about. Some people speak in sentences, some people speak in paragraphs. Stan Efferding speaks in essays. Here he talks about the obesity epidemic in the Somoan islands, and the parallels to North American diet and obesity.

Check him out! Stan’s website.

The Rule of 40

One of my favorite bodybuilding/powerlifting programming ideas is “The Rule of 40”. It’s a simple idea for learning how to program intensity and volume in your workouts.

I’ll show you how I would use this idea to program a typical day in the gym. Using back day as an example, I’ll pick 5 or 6 exercises that I haven’t done recently and/or haven’t done in this order, and set up the sets and reps something like this:

  1. Barbell row: 5×8
  2. Pullups: whatever you have to do to get 40 reps total.
  3. Snatch grip high pulls: 4×10
  4. db pullovers: 3×15
  5. machine reverse fly: 2×20

Another example for back day:

  1. Pullups 7×3 weighted
  2. db rows 4×10
  3. wide cable rows 4×12
  4. barbell shrugs 3×15
  5. barbell curls 1×40

The rule of 40 simply means the total volume for each exercise should equal (roughly) the magic number 40. 4×10, 5×8, or 4×12 and 5×12 are staples. 5×5 or 6×5 is a good bet even though it doesn’t add up to 40.

The 1×40 set is really interesting. It really depends on how you pick the weight. Pick a bit heavy, and it’s a trial from hell to get through that set. Pick a bit light, and this can be really good for flushing blood into the area and improving recovery.

The 40 rule is not a firm rule, but it’s a good starting point, which should help teach most people how much volume they need to progress. I’ve learned to tweak a few things, like I’ll do more total volume for exercises that have a very short range of motion – shrugs are a good example, where 4-5×12-15 reps probably works better. Also, I’ll typically do a bit more volume for back than for chest or shoulders. More often back exercises are 4×12 or 5×10, where chest will be 5×8 or 4×10.

Conversely, you might want to take the hardest exercises and drop the volume a bit. Deadlifts are a good example, where 5×5 is more than enough work. Or 7 sets of 3 reps of weighted pullups, which is only 21 reps total, is a lot of work.

Also, these rep ranges only work if you follow the “ramp up to one max set” method. As an example, if my best bench press is 225×5, and I expect to hit a PR today, I might do 5×7, like this:

  1. 135×7
  2. 160×7
  3. 185×7
  4. 205×7
  5. 225×6 (almost hit 7 today, but I made the PR of 6)

Only that last set was “all out”. So you get a growth stimulus of pushing your limit and breaking new ground, but also the volume of the 4 previous sets without blowing out your central nervous system. You can play around with this, and you COULD do 205×7 for 5 sets… But for me, always aiming for a PR just yields better results. I try to PR on the final set of every exercise, in every workout. And if I’m eating enough, training hard enough, resting enough, and rotating my exercises properly, it will happen.

Make it Simple

There is a lot to be said for simplicity in exercise programming. The fitness industry pushes all types of overly complicated workouts and exercise plans – it seems somehow we all feel like the key to fitness must be complicated, expensive, or come in a pill.

The truth is, the answer is just simple, consistent, hard work. AND it doesn’t cost a damn thing. Success in all areas of fitness is actually simple. Maybe not easy, but it is simple. Eat less. Move more. Be consistent. Here’s a “move more” example:

You want to improve your abs, but you don’t know where to start. Surfing the internet gives you a million ideas, all with different exercises, rep ranges and theories. Or maybe you decide to go to the bookstore and find a book on abs, which might be the thickness of a textbook, full of anatomy charts and hundreds of different abdominal exercises. But the answer doesn’t really doesn’t have to be so complicated. Not only does it not have to be complicated, it shouldn’t be. The simpler the prescription, the easier it will be to implement and be consistent with.

If you’re going to consistently keep doing something, it needs to be simple enough that you can actually do it, and repeat it, consistently, over a long period of time.

Here’s a simple workout prescription for abs – do this three times a week:

  • 3 sets of planks
  • 3 sets of v-ups
  • 3 sets of Russian twists

That’s it. In six months get back to me and tell me how amazed you are with your results.

Too easy? Just do a bit more every time. Longer duration planks. More reps or sets on the v-ups and twists. Build up slowly but always try for a just a little bit more.

I got this idea specifically from Runner’s World and Mike Rutt, an 800m runner who made the Olympic trials, who did this exact routine for 5 years. Unfortunately the video file type is not supported by WordPress, but this link will get you there until I figure out a workaround:

http://players.brightcove.net/416418689/Skn0Q69_default/index.html?videoId=5023077384001

Want to lose weight? Run. Want to get in shape? Run. It actually works for everyone. I know, I know, maybe you can’t run, but if you set “being able to run” as your goal, and work your butt off to get to that point, you will definitely be more fit than you are now. And if you can’t run, that is probably something you should be working on. Is your knee busted up? Let’s work on fixing that. Foot issues? Ankles? Hips? Arthritis? Obese? It doesn’t matter. Whatever is holding you back, that’s what we need to work on. If you can walk, we can start there. Can’t walk? Well, then we have to work on that first!