Category Archives for Training

Stretching ain’t stretching!

Mobility is important for everyone – whether you just want to move better in general, or whether your lifting suffers because you can’t get into the right positions.
 
Both Fanny and I have spent a lot of time trying to solve the problem of mobility for ourselves and our clients, and in the past couple of years we’ve seen huge success blending gymnastics techniques and weights training with traditional stretching and mobilisation.
Here’s the problem, though – most people don’t really understand stretching.

Most don’t realise this, but stretching does not actually change the length of the muscle!

Instead, it alters the interaction between the nervous system and the muscle. Bundles of muscle fibres are controlled by a nerve, which controls when the muscle fibre bundle contracts and relaxes. This nerve is being fed information from sensors that exist within the muscles and joints, as well as from other parts of the nervous system. This helps create safe and fluid movements in coordination with other muscle bundles.

 

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/strength-building_b_3901446.html

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/strength-building_b_3901446.html

 

There are protective mechanisms in place that prevent movements into extremes of range of motion around a given joint – sensors that exist within a motor unit that report back information to the nervous system about the current state of stretch and tension on the muscle. When this becomes too far out of the comfortable range, these sensors engage the nervous system and it in turn prevents the muscle from moving beyond a certain range.

 

Stretching, massage, foam rolling (self-myofascial release) and movement in general can all alter what the system perceives as threatening or irregular. This is one reason why training through a full range of motion when you  use weights is really important, and can improve more than just strength and muscle size – it actually improves mobility (as well as strength in the extremes of range).

 

This means that there are multiple ways you can attack improving mobility – weight training, mobilisation drills and stretching in its various forms are all legitimate methods that can be combined to produce a result!

 

It’s also a big reason why the term “musclebound” is total BS! There are plenty of muscular individuals who display amazing flexibility – even pro bodybuilders!

 

Jon Call, AKA Jujimufu

 

Big Ron Coleman, arguably the most muscular competitive bodybuilder of all time performing the splits during a posing routine!

 

This means that when we’re thinking about improving mobility, it’s usually best to think in terms of improving a particular movement or position. In other words, simply stretching everything in general is cool, but for example, if you’re specifically trying to improve your squat then getting into specific positions that support that goal is going to be most effective for re-calibrating your neuromuscular interface (so to speak!).

 

It also means that spending too long in one position is not ideal. this runs against conventional logic that says you should always be in neutral spine, or always have your shoulders down and back. The issue is usually not the actual position you’re in in a given moment – it’s that we spend far too long in the SAME position: e.g. sitting in a hunched position at the computer (which necessitates doing the opposite to try and bring the balance back to somewhere in the middle). You could conceivably spend way too much time in the opposite position too – it’s just that no one really does that in day to day life.

 

The correct approach to mobilisation involves several things – including producing stability (this ‘trick’s the nervous system into allowing more range), using the right stretches/exercises and also using the right amount of volume. Mobility training can be programmed and periodised just like any other form of training!

 

If you want to maximise your mobility, here’s what you need to keep in mind: train with a full range of motion; perform movements under load (ie resistance training); work hard to get into many different positions and ranges within your training, but prioritise what you need most for your activities; and finally, dedicate enough time each week to produce a change!

We believe in the community

People coming together as a community can make things happen”

– Jacob Rees-Mogg

 

In Sweden we have a saying “Alone is strong”.

If it comes from our culture where the individual is often independent of others, or if it is being too proud to ask for help I’m not sure – or maybe it is meant to build your inner strength so you learn to depend only on yourself.

Something I saw a lot of when I came to Australia 2.5 years ago was the many communities you have here whether that is in training, eating healthy or save the bush from bush fires, they are widely spread over this big Island.

I don’t think the saying “Alone is Strong” is true, at all.

I believe in the communities.

I believe we can achieve much more together and get stronger in many regards if we learn how to work together and take help from each other.

 

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Think about it; the typical client that comes to us don’t necessarily know that much about training or nutrition, they barely have time to train in between work and picking up the kids, they don’t have the motivation to go consistently… and this is where the community comes in!

As a community you can share experiences and knowledge with others to overcome obstacles like not having enough time, not knowing what to do or how to find your inner motivation and the reasons why you want to achieve these goals!

Luke and I work hard to create that support net for our clients by bringing them together on a monthly basis for our education session. By bringing people with similar goals and daily struggles together they can learn, connect and support each other to a wider extent than we as coaches can do alone.

We believe in the community.

Fanny

The Secret to Gains

 

 

The biggest factor in progressing with your training is managing your fatigue. I don’t necessarily mean booking loads of massages and sleeping enough (which are both great ideas to improve recovery), but rather making sure that the training stimulus you provide to your body does not accumulate too much fatigue over time.

 

When we train, we fatigue various systems in the body and damage various structures. This stimulus provides the opportunity for our body to change and adapt, and thus we get better over time. However, if every session is an all-out effort, fatigue can accumulate too quickly and this adaptive response won’t occur.

 

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Think about the hardest session you’ve ever done – burning muscles, nausea, fiery airways, that washed out feeling of being completely spent at the end -that’s a 10/10. When I train, I try and make most of my sessions around a 7 or 8 out of 10 in terms of difficulty, with the occasional 9/10 and the rare 10/10.

 

This means the session is definitely challenging and requires mental preparation and some grit to get through, but it doesn’t leave me ruined. The goal is not to wreck yourself – the goal is to progress. By doing mostly 8/10 training sessions, you can guarantee a powerful training stimulus, but we can also expect to recover and improve – and in the long term, this is what gets you the results you need without injury and without having to drastically cut your training volume to manage fatigue.

 

By doing 7-8/10 sessions, I’m able to get in the gym and train 5-6 days a week consistently. If I did mostly 9’s and 10’s, I reckon I could manage maybe 4 on average, with a greater risk of injury or burnout.

 

I also walk to work most days (35mins each way) and while I train clients I’m almost always standing. This is obviously really low impact stuff that doesn’t add to my overall training fatigue. The idea of smashing the hell out of yourself in 40 minutes and being unable (or unwilling) to move the rest of the day is not conducive to health, mobility or good body composition!

 

So here’s the take home message – train hard, but be smart about managing your training fatigue.

 

Stimulate – don’t annihilate!

Protein Power!

In my opinion, the first thing anyone looking to lose weight or pack on muscle should be doing is sorting out a minimum amount of protein intake daily. Yeah that’s right – if you want to get leaner, you NEED to pay attention to getting in enough protein before worrying about anything else.

Think about this for a second – muscle is the most energetically expensive tissue (aside from the brain – so keep reading) in the body to maintain. So more muscle = more energy used = the more food you can eat without getting fat. Adequate protein intake allows retention of muscle mass, especially when in a caloric deficit (ie you’re eating less to lose weight).

​Not to blow my own horn, but my level of muscle mass in the past allows me to eat around 3500 calories a day and keep a 6 pack. Let me tell you, it’s way easier to manage portion sizes when you don’t have to worry about every little thing that goes into your pie hole pushing you over your measly 1800 calorie a day allowance.

A focus on high protein intake allowed me to diet down and maintain my muscle mass without feeling hungry

In my experience, women are particularly prone to eating too little protein. If this is you, pay attention to the following research: at the University of Illinois, Layman et al compared the current RDA 0.8g/kgbw to 1.6g/kgbw. Compared to the RDA group, higher protein group lost more fat and retained more lean body mass. In addition, their blood lipids and blood markers for glucose improved to a greater extent. The same researchers later repeated this research, adding exercise conditions to account for the potential confounder. The outcome was similar.

​A calorie deficit requires greater protein intake to retain lean body mass. One study supporting this comes from Mettler et al, who found that 2.3g/kg prevented LBM loss in athletes far better than 1.0g/kg. Even the higher protein group still lost a significant amount of lean mass in this study, however, which indicates that depending on your degree of training and the size of your calorie deficit, even higher protein intakes might be ideal. This is certainly anecdotally pursued by bodybuilders dieting for contests.

So it seems the old broscience recommendation of 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight is pretty much spot on for most people - and this is actually really close to my blanket recommendation of 2g/kg of bodyweight for people without any specific context.​

Higher protein intakes can even improve sleep (hint: sleep is #1 -> blog post on this coming next week) and enhance immune function... in other words your recovery goes through the roof in many different ways if you eat enough protein!​

If you want to work out how much protein you should be eating and what types – start with focusing on animal protein sources like lean meats, and eat them in at least a couple of meals a day.

​Of course, there are many contextual factors that need to be taken into account when designing a solid nutrition plan, so protein needs are variable within and between individuals.