Switch Up Your Gym Routine!

Are you bored with going to the gym and doing the same old thing? If so, it’s time to switch things up! Simply by changing the repetition range, lifting technique or body part split, you can infuse your workouts with something new and exciting. If you really want to ramp up your routine, add plyometrics or calisthenics, or perform supersets or giant sets.

If you don’t exactly know how to make the changes I am suggesting, I have broken down different exercise elements so that you can easily make changes to your workout routine which will keep you interested.

CHANGE REPETITION RANGE – If you have a habit of doing four sets of 15 repetitions regardless of which exercise you are doing, how about switching it up? Perhaps you can do a warmup set at the same weight which you usually eke out 15 reps, but push yourself to do 20 really good reps. Then increase the weight and do 3 sets of 8-10 reps, and perform them with intensity.

STACK REP RANGES IN PYRAMIDS – Another thing you can try is pyramids, which basically consist of gradually increasing or decreasing the rep range, while decreasing or increasing the weight lifted accordingly. You can perform ascending, descending, or ascending-descending pyramids.

Ascending Pyramids = You will gradually increase the weight used, and decrease the number of repetitions accordingly, with each set. For example, your first set may be 20 repetitions, the second 15 reps, the third 10 reps, and the fourth set 7 reps. Ascending pyramids are effective for increasing strength since you gradually increase the load on the muscle worked.

Descending Pyramids = You perform your first set at a heavy weight, eking out about 6 to 8 solid reps. Subsequent sets will consist of gradually decreasing the weight used, and increasing the number of repetitions accordingly. For example, the second set may consist of 10 reps, the third 15 reps, and the fourth set 20 reps or to complete failure. Descending pyramids are effective for increasing muscle girth since the gradual drop in weight enables you to perform sets to failure.

Ascending-Descending Pyramids = With this pyramid approach, you gradually increase the weight used, and decrease the number of repetitions accordingly, with the first few sets, then DECREASE the weight used and increase the number of reps to finish out the routine. Because of this, I recommend performing odd numbers of sets. For example, your first set may be 20 repetitions, the second 15 reps, the third 8 reps, the fourth set 15 reps, and a fifth and final set can consist of 20-25 reps.

CHANGE THE NUMBER OF SETS PERFORMED – If you are in a rut because you always perform four sets of every exercise, challenge yourself and do 5 or 6 sets. A great way to shake out the cobwebs in your routine is to go for volume, perhaps performing 8 to 10 sets of each exercise to really work your muscles to exhaustion.

CHANGE YOUR LIFTING TECHNIQUE – Many people tend to perform exercises rather rapidly every time they train, so they don’t really focus on what they are doing. There are a couple of ways in which you can challenge yourself and break through plateaus if you have this tendency. One method is to perform negatives, which basically means that after you lift the weight in the concentric phase (in a bicep curl, this would be the phase in which you curl the weight toward your shoulder), you slowly return the dumbbell to the starting position for a count of 5 or 6 seconds. Another great method is rest-pause, in which you perform a repetition at a normal rate, pause briefly, then go to your next repetition forcefully. When using rest-pause technique, slightly increase the weight used to really challenge yourself.

CHANGE YOUR BODY PART SPLIT – If you always train legs on Tuesdays and chest on Fridays, perhaps you might want to switch things up. If you aren’t seeing enough desirable changes in your lower half, add another leg day and focus on the areas which you would like to improve. If you always train your entire body every time you hit the gym, start splitting up body parts so that you devote more time to getting maximum recruitment in the muscles you train.

ADD PLYOMETRICS OR CALISTHENICS – Adding ballistic movements like plyometrics or calisthenics can serve as the catalyst for rapid body transformation. Just be careful if you have hip, knee, or ankle issues. Try adding moves like jumping jacks, jump squats, mountain climbers, burpees, and X-jumps.

PERFORM SUPERSETS OR GIANT SETS – Try stacking two or more exercises together without resting in between exercises to increase muscle fiber recruitment. You can either stack weighted exercises, or perform a combination of weighted moves and plyometrics.
Examples are:
Leg press machine/jump squats
Incline bench chest presses/pushups/dumbbell pullovers

Oil and Water: Is Crossfit Detrimental For Developing Aesthetic Muscle? (repost)

I truly enjoyed writing this article which was featured on Sports Nutrition Supplement Guide. You can see the published post here: http://sportsnutritionsupplementguide.com/training/crossfit/item/1389-oil-and-water-is-crossfit-detrimental-for-developing-aesthetic-muscle#.V1HlOvmlyWg

Read on to find out what I think about Crossfit:

Could someone please tell me why this move is even necessary?  It's dangerous and incredibly damaging to the joints and soft tissues in the body.

Could someone please tell me why this move is even necessary? It’s dangerous and incredibly damaging to the joints and soft tissues in the body.

I will boldly state right now that I’m not a fan of Crossfit, and will be delighted when its novelty wears off. I’ve dedicated my life to supporting, empowering, inspiring, guiding, coaching and otherwise promoting any activity that gets people moving. This is one reason I waited to publicly write about my arguments against the principles of Crossfit. The other, more specific reason, is that it’s become more common to hear NPC and IFBB competitors ask if Crossfit will enhance their efforts to get into contest shape. If the latter is you, let me cut to the chase. Not only will Crossfit widen your waistline as a result of the constant heavy “functional” lifting, it will also cause cortisol spikes, which make your body hold onto belly fat for dear life.

Before I get into why Crossfit is counterproductive to developing aesthetic muscle, a word to those who have found Crossfit gets them active, and has not caused them injury. Keep it up. If it’s Crossfit you need to keep you moving and motivated to be fit, don’t stop on my account. If however, Crossfit just doesn’t feel right, or your goal is to create your best body, and give you the best chance to stay injury free, read on. You’ll find that you don’t have to become part of the latest fitness craze to reach all of your fitness goals and then some.

CrossFit’s Unnecessary Nine

We begin our class with a review of the nine fundamental exercises that CrossFit is built upon:

Air Squat
Front Squat
Overhead Squat
Shoulder Press
Push Press
Push Jerk
Deadlift Sumo
Deadlift High Pull
Medicine Ball Clean

Oh boy, I can only imagine how many lumbar disc herniations have occurred in weekend athletes as a result of performing most of these movements, not to mention the rotator cuff strains and tears from the stress on the shoulders. First off, it just annoys me to know CrossFit renamed the free squat or bodyweight squat to Air Squat in an effort to be catchy and original. Then again, I see no point in getting a client to perform 200 or 300 “air” squats in a row, not unless your objective is to drive your client to complete exhaustion and overtraining. Based on what I have witnessed with the design of CrossFit regimens, exhaustion and overtraining is the inevitable outcome.

CrossFit routines also incorporate other exercises such as pull-ups and pushups. What bothers me here is that these movements are performed in a high rep range, to the tune of 100 or more. Then the client may be pushed to do tire flips or one of the Olympic lifts that CrossFit has managed to make faddish, even though they were developed over 100 years ago.

One of the calling cards to CrossFit workouts is training at “super high intensity”, which taken in correct doses are fundamental to conditioning. As it is used in CrossFit programming, the benefits are far outweighed by the negatives they incur. In CrossFit context, they tax the central nervous system to an excessive degree. Crossfit fanatics may love the feeling of being pushed to the limit, but this borders on being DANGEROUS. When the body is fatigued to the extent that it is in a Crossfit routine, the risk for muscle breakdown and frank rhabdomyolysis is considerable. No physical discipline is worth the risk of landing in the hospital.

I understand that Crossfit offers a great social environment and a feeling of camaraderie, but at what price? Every single person I know who is a fan of Crossfit has been injured while doing it. The suggested Crossfit regimen of 3 days on, 1 day off is too rigorous when you consider the fact that Olympic lifts are part of the core of Crossfit training. The body simply cannot repair itself in enough time. To fatigue a Crossfit client by having him/her do a WOD (workout of the day for those of you not familiar with Crossfit) and then stack on deadlifts for reps or 5 foot high box jumps is insane.

Benefits drop dramatically when the body is completely depleted like that. The Crossfit ideology of deplete and endure is BS. In contrast, bodybuilders and physique enthusiasts, train hard and heavy, and yes, they often train to depletion or failure, but they certainly aren’t going to attempt 100 pull-ups after destroying a traditional back workout. They understand the law of diminishing returns all too well.

Proponents of Crossfit often state that the training is functional and enhances the day to day activities which people perform. When was the last time you had to do a clean and jerk while on the job? Unless you work as a firefighter, stock room clerk or some other physically demanding work role, I seriously doubt that you are performing movements which mimic what happens while in a Crossfit box. Besides, if you’re injured as a result of Crossfit (or should I say WHEN), you can’t possibly perform any challenging physical movement which strains your injured body part.

For those of you who compete in the NPC or IFBB (or INBA, WBFF, etc.), don’t expect to be able to incorporate Crossfit into your contest prep training and sculpt your physique in the manner required for bodybuilding. I actually had a client who begged me repeatedly to let her do Crossfit two days a week despite my recommendation that she abandon it and focus on traditional weight lifting. I finally acquiesced, and allowed her to incorporate Crossfit as part of her training.

As I had predicted, she sustained an injury, her waist widened from all the heavy complex movements which made her midsection boxy, and she became soft as a result of the cortisol spikes which the high intensity Crossfit training created. After 3 weeks of seeing all her efforts from pre-Crossfit training unravel, I asked her to reconsider her decision to engage in Crossfit. As soon as she stopped doing Crossfit, her waist began to nip in, and her body began to tighten up again. Amen for old school weightlifting!

If it sounds like I am saying you will have to decide between doing Crossfit and competing in any of the bodybuilding divisions, I am. You simply cannot create the nipped in waist and beautiful taper that defines every single bodybuilding division. If you do Crossfit, you will create a strong body (plus some injuries), but you will also widen your silhouette and carry a layer of fat as a result of all that cortisol you will release from constant high intensity training. Look at a typical Crossfit athlete. Shoulders are broad, quads and hams are thick, and the abdominal region is thick and boxy. That is what happens when compound Olympic lifts are performed on a regular basis. If that is your aesthetic ideal, by all means knock yourself out with Crossfit, but you will be destroyed on a bodybuilding stage. On the subject of Olympic lifts, even power lifters have the sense not to rep out on these movements. Yet Crossfitters, blinded by the so-called warrior mentality that leads them to do stupid things that invite injury, will rep out on movements which recruit a tremendous amount of muscle fibers and hence tax the central nervous system. I am willing to bet that the Crossfit nation contends with adrenal burnout, permanent muscle damage, and repetitive tendon and ligament ruptures on a relatively consistent basis, and that such negative aspects will eventually cause the demise of this fad sport.

I will always staunchly defend the focus and the principles behind bodybuilding. I know that NPC and IFBB competitors are true warriors and know how to push through grueling training. I also strongly believe that for the most part, most competitors are smart enough not to over train or invite injury by performing movements which are biomechanically unsound. The world of bodybuilding not only rewards strength, but it also recognizes the aesthetic ideal which all bodybuilders aspire to achieve, regardless of division. Bodybuilding is not about flipping a massive tire across a gym, it’s about sculpting and defining muscle.

Minimalist Footwear

minimalist footwear

Please check out my latest article for American Fitness Educators which discusses minimalist footwear! Original post can be found at:

http://www.fitnesseducators.com/blog/minimalist-footwear/

Merrell-Road-Glove-Barefoot-Shoe
Less Is More

Are there benefits to training in minimalist footwear? Studies have demonstrated that training while wearing minimalist shoes results in enhanced performance due to greater foot pliability and a closer approximation to a barefoot stance. Since our feet adjust to wearing raised heels over time, it can be incredibly challenging to keep our heels on the ground while performing exercises like deep squats. Proponents of minimalist footwear may even argue that barefoot is best for heavy weightlifting, but the risks of exposure to microbes or hazardous fragments of glass, metal, or rocks, make minimalist shoes a much more feasible choice while at the gym.

Dysfunctional movement patterns become established throughout the body over time. Conventional athletic shoes can often contribute to ankle and foot dysfunction because they inhibit natural foot action. If you don’t believe it, then try to perform some of your physical activities barefoot and see how well, or poorly, you perform. Chances are that the impaired mechanics in the feet and ankles will make it difficult at best to perform those activities. By gradually switching over to minimalist footwear, an athlete can essentially correct improper foot mechanics and optimize kinetic feedback throughout the body during movement.

Benefits Of Minimalist Shoes

Conventional athletic footwear features a cushioned heel which also can compromise power. In contrast, minimalist footwear features little to no heel, and the soles are very thin and malleable, so they allow the joints in the foot to move and adjust to weight loading movements. In addition, the heels and midfoot make solid contact with the floor, causing more activation in the glutes and hamstrings. Studies have demonstrated that people who wear minimalist footwear develop greater strength in their legs and feet, since more power is transferred from the working muscles, through the feet, and into the movement. Plyometric movements and sprint power will also be enhanced while wearing minimalist shoes.

A 2011 study by Squadrone and Gallozzi assessed the ability of experienced runners to estimate the degree of inversion, eversion, dorsiflexion, and plantarflexion, of a slope surface board placed under their right foot while standing. They found that the degree of proprioceptive feedback which subjects received while wearing Vibram Five Fingers® was much more accurate than in subjects who wore a standard running shoe. In conclusion, cushioned shoes conferred a distinct disadvantage when compared to minimalist shoes during assessment of foot position awareness.

How To Transition Into Minimalist Shoes

Anyone who is transitioning from conventional athletic shoes to minimalist footwear needs to do so gradually, since the body has to adjust to radically different proprioceptive input. There have been cases of metatarsal stress which developed after converting too quickly to minimalist shoes. However, once the transition is made, noticeable strength gains should occur. Try spending about 15 to 30 minutes, twice a day, wearing minimalist shoes around the house. After about a week or two, you can try them out at the gym one to two days a week until you become accustomed to the feel of the shoes. Be aware that your gait and foot stance will probably change as you acclimate to this type of shoe.

REFERENCES:

Squadrone R, Gallozzi C (2011) Effect of a five-toed minimal protection shoe on static and dynamic ankle position sense. J Sports Med Phys Fitness Sep;51(3): 401-8.

Of Crossfit Boxes And Boxy Midsections

Originally published on mensphysique.com on Monday, 04 August 2014

http://www.rxmuscle.com/blogs/the-training-room-workouts-and-tips/11345-of-crossfit-boxes-and-boxy-midsections.html
crossfit
Have I pissed off any Crossfit devotees already with the title of this article? I hope so. I challenge any Crossfit fanatic to continue with Crossfit training while being able to grace a bodybuilding stage with the tiny waist, full lats, and rounded delts which are sought after in every single bodybuilding division. When an athletic pursuit is characterized with moves like overhead squats, push presses, push jerks, sumo deadlift high pulls, medicine ball cleans, and tire flips, developing a boxy midsection is unavoidable. I find it ironic that Crossfit gyms are referred to as boxes since the term box is rather suggestive of the body shape which develops under that discipline.

Whether you have been doing Crossfit and now want to cross over into the world of competitive bodybuilding while still training with Crossfit, or you have been competing in the bodybuilding world and are entertaining the idea of incorporating Crossfit training into your contest prep efforts, let’s just say you can’t have both. Simply put, you cannot sculpt your physique in the manner required for bodybuilding when you are a Crossfit devotee. Not only will Crossfit training widen your waistline, the intensity of Crossfit will cause excessive cortisol spikes which makes your body stubbornly cling to belly fat and derail your efforts to become super lean for the stage.

Crossfit training develops endurance and sacrifices the aesthetic lines which are sought after in bodybuilding. We who compete know that a small, nipped in waist and a wide v-taper is the ideal no matter what the division. But when you see a typical Crossfit athlete, you will see broad shoulders without the shaping or the beautiful round caps that are seen in bodybuilding. A Crossfit athlete’s quads and hams will be thick, and the back and chest muscular but compact. Most notably, the abdominal region on Crossfit athletes is always thick and boxy. This is due to the compound Olympic lifts which are regularly performed in Crossfit. You simply cannot attain the tiny waist and beautiful lines that are worshipped in the bodybuilding world when you engage in Crossfit.

I actually had a client who begged me repeatedly to let her do Crossfit two days a week despite my recommendation that she abandon it and focus on traditional weight lifting. I finally acquiesced, and allowed her to incorporate Crossfit as part of her training. As I had predicted, she sustained an injury, her waist widened from all the heavy complex movements which made her midsection boxy, and she became soft as a result of the cortisol spikes which the high intensity Crossfit training created. After three weeks of seeing all her efforts from pre-Crossfit training unravel, I asked her to reconsider her decision to engage in Crossfit. As soon as she stopped doing Crossfit, her waist began to nip in, and her body began to tighten up again.

Bodybuilding is steeped in honoring an aesthetic ideal, sculpting and defining muscle, while also celebrating muscular strength. Crossfitters may brag that they have more endurance than bodybuilders, which may be true to an extent, but I personally would rather have the lines of an IFBB Bikini Pro than to trade that all in for the wide, tank like physique of a Crossfit athlete. If the idea of muscle sculpture is what drew you into bodybuilding, celebrate that instead of being lured into Crossfit.

Oil and Water: Is Crossfit Detrimental For Developing Aesthetic Muscle?

Original post can be found at: http://sportsnutritionsupplementguide.com/training/crossfit/item/1389-oil-and-water-is-crossfit-detrimental-for-developing-aesthetic-muscle#.VGqav_nF-K0

Crossfit-equipment

I will boldly state right now that I’m not a fan of Crossfit, and will be delighted when its novelty wears off. I’ve dedicated my life to supporting, empowering, inspiring, guiding, coaching and otherwise promoting any activity that gets people moving. This is one reason I waited to publicly write about my arguments against the principles of Crossfit. The other more specific reason is that it’s become more common to hear NPC and IFBB competitors ask if Crossfit will enhance their efforts to get into contest shape. If the latter is you, let me cut to the chase. Not only will Crossfit widen your waistline as a result of the constant heavy “functional” lifting, it will also cause cortisol spikes, which make your body hold onto belly fat for dear life.

Before I get into why Crossfit is counterproductive to developing aesthetic muscle, a word to those who have found Crossfit gets them active, and has not caused them injury. Keep it up. If it’s Crossfit you need to keep you moving and motivated to be fit, don’t stop on my account. If however, Crossfit just doesn’t feel right, or your goal is to create your best body, and give you the best chance to stay injury free, read on. You’ll find that you don’t have to become part of the latest fitness craze to reach all of your fitness goals and then some.

CrossFit’s Unnecessary Nine
We begin our class with a review of the nine fundamental exercises that CrossFit is built upon:

Air Squat
Front Squat
Overhead Squat
Shoulder Press
Push Press
Push Jerk
Deadlift Sumo
Deadlift High Pull
Medicine Ball Clean
Oh boy, I can only imagine how many lumbar disc herniations have occurred in weekend athletes as a result of performing most of these movements, not to mention the rotator cuff strains and tears from the stress on the shoulders. First off, it just annoys me to know CrossFit renamed the free squat or bodyweight squat to Air Squat in an effort to be catchy and original. Then again, I see no point in getting a client to perform 200 or 300 “air” squats in a row, not unless your objective is to drive your client to complete exhaustion and overtraining. Based on what I have witnessed with the design of CrossFit regimens, exhaustion and overtraining is the inevitable outcome.

CrossFit routines also incorporate other exercises such as pull-ups and pushups. What bothers me here is that these movements are performed in a high rep range, to the tune of 100 or more. Then the client may be pushed to do tire flips or one of the Olympic lifts that CrossFit has managed to make faddish, even though they were developed over 100 years ago.

One of the calling cards to CrossFit workouts is training at “super high intensity”, which taken in correct doses are fundamental to conditioning. As it is used in CrossFit programming, the benefits are far outweighed by the negatives they incur. In CrossFit context, they tax the central nervous system to an excessive degree. Crossfit fanatics may love the feeling of being pushed to the limit, but this borders on being DANGEROUS. When the body is fatigued to the extent that it is in a Crossfit routine, the risk for muscle breakdown and frank rhabdomyolysis is considerable. No physical discipline is worth the risk of landing in the hospital.

I understand that Crossfit offers a great social environment and a feeling of camaraderie, but at what price? Every single person I know who is a fan of Crossfit has been injured while doing it. The suggested Crossfit regimen of 3 days on, 1 day off is too rigorous when you consider the fact that Olympic lifts are part of the core of Crossfit training. The body simply cannot repair itself in enough time. To fatigue a Crossfit client by having him/her do a WOD (workout of the day for those of you not familiar with Crossfit) and then stack on deadlifts for reps or 5 foot high box jumps is insane.

Benefits drop dramatically when the body is completely depleted like that. The Crossfit ideology of deplete and endure is BS. In contrast, bodybuilders and physique enthusiasts, train hard and heavy, and yes, they often train to depletion or failure, but they certainly aren’t going to attempt 100 pull-ups after destroying a traditional back workout. They understand the law of diminishing returns all too well.

Proponents of Crossfit often state that the training is functional and enhances the day to day activities which people perform. When was the last time you had to do a clean and jerk while on the job? Unless you work as a firefighter, stock room clerk or some other physically demanding work role, I seriously doubt that you are performing movements which mimic what happens while in a Crossfit box. Besides, if you’re injured as a result of Crossfit (or should I say WHEN), you can’t possibly perform any challenging physical movement which strains your injured body part.

For those of you who compete in the NPC or IFBB (or INBA, WBFF, etc.), don’t expect to be able to incorporate Crossfit into your contest prep training and sculpt your physique in the manner required for bodybuilding. I actually had a client who begged me repeatedly to let her do Crossfit two days a week despite my recommendation that she abandon it and focus on traditional weight lifting. I finally acquiesced, and allowed her to incorporate Crossfit as part of her training.

As I had predicted, she sustained an injury, her waist widened from all the heavy complex movements which made her midsection boxy, and she became soft as a result of the cortisol spikes which the high intensity Crossfit training created. After 3 weeks of seeing all her efforts from pre-Crossfit training unravel, I asked her to reconsider her decision to engage in Crossfit. As soon as she stopped doing Crossfit, her waist began to nip in, and her body began to tighten up again. Amen for old school weightlifting!

If it sounds like I am saying you will have to decide between doing Crossfit and competing in any of the bodybuilding divisions, I am. You simply cannot create the nipped in waist and beautiful taper that defines every single bodybuilding division. If you do Crossfit, you will create a strong body (plus some injuries), but you will also widen your silhouette and carry a layer of fat as a result of all that cortisol you will release from constant high intensity training. Look at a typical Crossfit athlete. Shoulders are broad, quads and hams are thick, and the abdominal region is thick and boxy. That is what happens when compound Olympic lifts are performed on a regular basis. If that is your aesthetic ideal, by all means knock yourself out with Crossfit, but you will be destroyed on a bodybuilding stage. On the subject of Olympic lifts, even power lifters have the sense not to rep out on these movements. Yet Crossfitters, blinded by the so-called warrior mentality that leads them to do stupid things that invite injury, will rep out on movements which recruit a tremendous amount of muscle fibers and hence tax the central nervous system. I am willing to bet that the Crossfit nation contends with adrenal burnout, permanent muscle damage, and repetitive tendon and ligament ruptures on a relatively consistent basis, and that such negative aspects will eventually cause the demise of this fad sport.

I will always staunchly defend the focus and the principles behind bodybuilding. I know that NPC and IFBB competitors are true warriors and know how to push through grueling training. I also strongly believe that for the most part, most competitors are smart enough not to over train or invite injury by performing movements which are biomechanically unsound. The world of bodybuilding not only rewards strength, but it also recognizes the aesthetic ideal which all bodybuilders aspire to achieve, regardless of division. Bodybuilding is not about flipping a massive tire across a gym, it’s about sculpting and defining muscle.