Recovery tips for faster progress and fewer plateaus.

Recovery is really, really important. I so so often see it overlooked as a part of someone’s program or training and their results hence suffer. But just how do we ensure we are adequately recovering between sets, sessions, weeks and months? There are a lot of factors here and hopefully I can shed some more light on them with this post.

  1. Nutrition – AKA food. Paramount to recovering is getting enough calories in. Assuming we are chasing performance goals then a small surplus of calories with moderate protein (1g/pound of bodyweight) and as much carbohydrate as possible (within your caloric allowance) is recommended. Current research doesn’t show a huge variance between different meal frequencies (eating lots of small meals or a few big ones) and only small benefits of adjusting meal timing (the post workout window thing isn’t a big deal). So really make sure you’re hitting the right amount of calories, protein, carbs and fats daily and this should be covered. At Strong Fast Fit we like flexible dieting (or IIFYM style approaches) but still recommend the majority of your food be nutrient dense selections, think lean meat, fibrous vegetables of all kinds, rice, potatoes, fruit, other grains, dairy, etc.If you want to read up some more on IIFYM or flexible dieting then check out some of the following:
    http://www.healthylivingheavylifting.com/
    https://www.biolayne.com/articles/nutrition/

    Good_Food_Display_-_NCI_Visuals_Online

  2. Weekly workload/volume. To keep it simple it is pretty much accepted that the more training we do, the greater the stimulus (and potential results). But the caveat here is that if we perform too much work, then we exceed our body’s ability to recover (we over-reach and eventually over train). This is actually a lot more simple than most people tend to think. Most of the time I like to make sure athletes have 1-2 reps left in the tank at the end of each and every set during training. On occasion we push very close to failure for several weeks followed by several easier weeks in order to allow them to recover. If we notice an athlete’s hunger levels, sleep patterns, general mood, muscle soreness (DOMS), or average bar speed is fluctuating (getting worse) we will add in an unplanned deload week.For most natural athletes FOUR training sessions of 1-2 hours each per week (not including mobility and warmups) seems to be plenty of work. Of course everyone’s work capacity is different and individual experimentation is the best way to decide what works for you. If you are very very easily recovering from your current work load I would suggest a slight increase and see how you go. The closer we can work to maximum recoverable volume (MRV) the greater the adaptations.Dr Mike Israetel from http://renaissanceperiodization.com/ is a fantastic source of information on all things training and I definitely recommend following him on FB for heaps of great training tips and to help better understand the concept of MRV and work capacity.
  3.  SLEEP. This is such a massive factor in recovery and potentially the most often overlooked. At Strong Fast Fit I tell every single one of my clients to aim for an absolute minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Generally 8 hours is perfect with high level athletes often requiring 10 or more hours per night to recover from their training. There is an abundance of research articles indicating the importance of quality sleep for recovery. Essentially if you aren’t getting enough try making some changes and prioritizing a good night’s sleep for a few weeks and see how you’re training goes.If you have trouble falling asleep at night some great tips are:
    – Turn off all screens (phones, tablets, tv, etc 30 minutes before bed. Try to minimise exposure to artificial light in this time frame also.
    – Any number of basic diaphragmatic breathing exercises while laying in bed can help immeasurably. I personally find 5-10 minutes of conscious belly breathing puts me to sleep every time.
    -Avoiding caffeine after lunch time, especially if you are sensitive to it’s effects.
    – Eating dinner earlier and allowing more time between your last meal and going to bed. You shouldn’t be hungry, but being overly full can also impact the ability to fall asleep.

    eat-sleep-gym-repeat

 

There are many factors involved in the recovery process, but for most people paying increased attention to the above three can yield some pretty amazing results. Remember we are only as strong as our weakest link and neglecting any of the above will seriously hold you back in the long term. The old bodybuilding adage of “Eat, sleep, train, repeat” was actually pretty spot on after all. If you guys have questions, or comments please feel free to comment below or facebook us at www.facebook.com/strongfastfit.


Training splits - different approaches for better results.

Training at the gym seems simple, right? Turn up regularly, lift heavy weights with good form, sleep and eat enough to recover and do this again and again (and again) for years on end. This formula is pretty much the way to reach your goals. BUT there are some other variables which can greatly help you progress quicker and safer. Today we are talking about one of the more important ones and that is the Training Split or in other words, how should you split up your training throughout a week in order to best recover and get the results you are after.

For simplicity today I will be writing briefly about common and generally recommended training splits for four different gym goers: bodybuilders, powerlifters, athletes, and general population. I will assume we are talking about drug free athletes in all of these scenarios.

  1. Bodybuilders. So often we see bodybuilders training what is known as the “five day split” which is usually something like “Monday – chest, Tuesday – back, Wednesday – legs, Thursday – shoulders and abs, Friday – arms” (or some other variation of this split). As you can see typically this would mean each muscle group is only trained once per week with quite a high amount of volume on that day. In our experience this is NOT ideal for gaining mass for most aspiring bodybuilders. Much more typically we would recommend either a push (chest, shoulders, triceps), pull (upper back, traps, biceps), lower (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes) split focusing much more on compound movements and simple progressions to add the most mass. Another common setup is simply Upper (chest, back, traps, arms, shoulders) and lower body (quads, hamstrings, lower back, glutes). this kind of split again focuses heavily on compound movements (barbell and dumbbell pressing and rowing, body weight movements, squats, deadlifts, etc) and would simply alternate between days. A good sample program would be:Monday – Lower body – squats, deadlifts, lunges, hip thrusts, etc.
    Tuesday – upper body (push focus) – bench press, overhead press, dips, tricep skullcrushers etc, some rows and upper back work
    Wednesday – OFF
    Thursday – lower body – squats, deadlifts, lunges, hip thrusts, etc
    Friday – upper body (pull focus) – rows, pullups, bicep curls, etc, add some pushing work in here.
    Weekend – OFF
  2. Powerlifters. Powerlifters need to be technically VERY proficient at only THREE lifts. The barbell back squat, bench press and deadlift. Hence we usually structure their program as either full body days (practicing each of these lifts or close variations with a high frequency) or upper/lower body split. Typically we take a Daily undulating periodisation style approach to programming for powerlifters hitting each lift 2-4 times per week and adjusting sets/reps/weight from sessions to session. A very simple example would be to have a heavy, low rep squat day on Monday followed by light speed squats (focusing on acceleration and technique) on Wednesday and some moderate weight high volume sets of squats on a Friday. A somewhat similar approach would be used for the bench press and deadlift.Monday – Heavy squats, light deadlifts, quadricep assistance movements
    Tuesday – Moderate bench press, upper body assistance lifts
    Wednesday – light squats
    Thursday – Heavy bench press, upper body pulling movements,
    Friday – Heavy deadlifts, medium squats, posterior chain (hamstring, glutes, back) assistance movements
    Weekend – light bench press and core, arms and conditioning work.
  3. Athletes. Training for an in-season athlete must be balanced enough so as to not over-train them and detract from their sport/competition specific practice/training sessions. Typically we look at a full body approach without ever accumulating a very high amount of volume/stress. Multiple shorter sessions per week is recommended, while still staying away from training too close to game-day. Exercise selection typically will also differ to the bodybuilder or powerlifter in order to best get results with the lowest chance of impacting the athlete’s recovery abilities.
  4. General Population. The standard gym goer – someone who wants to move, look and feel better everyday without spending their whole lift in the gym. A full body split is typically again used with a greater emphasis placed on full range of movement and quality of movement. Specificity is not a large factor and typically we look at an effective program also being “fun” for the client here. Adherence is much more likely if the client enjoys their time in the gym.

So there are some simple ideas regarding training splits for most of you, as always I strongly believe that consulting an experienced professional is one of the best investments ANY gym goer can make to help them achieve their goals. Feedback or questions feel free to send us an email at chris@strongfastfit.com.au and I will be happy to help.


The king of exercises

The squat. It’s no secret this is one of the greatest exercises that can be performed no matter what your goal. Everyone from body builders to powerlifters to football players can benefit from some variation  of this classic lift. 

The movement is as simple as bending at the knees and hips until your hip crease is below the top of your knee and then returning back to standing position  via extending the knees and hips. It can also be as advanced as controlling intra abdominal tension, creating torque at the hips and even leveraging your upper back and shoulders/elbows to create the most efficient bar path. 

There are many ways to squat and for the purpose of simplicity today I am only going to talk about the barbell back squat as a variation. This is NOT for everyone and I genuinely believe that consulting an experienced coach is the best way to ensure you are practising correct technique. 

For body building the squat is often used to grow the quads (and as a secondary, the glutes). To get the most stimulus and hypertrophy in the quadriceps a high bar position (across the upper traps)  with a somewhat olympic (narrow with toes straight ahead) stance is recommended. The movement is initiated with a forward movement of the knees and the lifter should maintain as upright torso position as possible. Generally for maximal hypertrophy we recommend squatting twice a week for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps. Adding in simple variations like pauses or tempo squats can adjust where the lifter most “feels” the movement. Even if muscle growth is the primary goal it is important to focus on progressing the amount of weight lifted. More weight moved = bigger muscles.

For powerlifting most often we see a low bar position (across the rear deltoids) and a moderate (feet just outside of shoulder width, often with some amount of external rotation at the hip) stance used. This leads to less forward knee travel, increased loading at the hips (allowing the glutes to help more) and a shorter back lever (generally allowing a slightly greater total load to be lifted). Typically we see powerlifters using the 1-6 rep range for a large number of sets, but it is also very important for them to get their volume training (sets of 8+) done when further away from competition. 

The squat for the competitive athlete is still an extremely valuable tool, but must be used much more sparingly. Typically we see the high bar, olympic stance used for several sets of 3-5 reps with a focus on power. This means weight is kept moderate and control + bar speed is the lifters focus. This also helps to make sure that their resistance training will not impact their sport specific practice or competition (game day) performance. 

No matter what your goals are it is important for all lifters to warm up correctly. Paying attention to the hips (glutes, adductors, hip flexors) and core (transverse abdominals and obliques) in particular is very important. If you are unsure then get in touch and we can help out. 

Want to improve your squat? Or just want some more guidance with your health and fitness goals? Then get in touch and see how SFF can help you. 


Train light to lift heavy.

One of the most common mistakes I see in the new gym goer who is looking to build strength is that they immediately begin to max out every week/session. If you are looking to build as much strength as possible this is generally NOT a good idea.

If we think about our time in the gym, we are always either training (building the skills and base to become stronger/faster/better) or testing (seeing how strong/fast we are). Most of the time these two are NOT the same thing. When I get a young guy (or girl) ask me how they should be training to improve their One Rep Max, my answer is almost always: “Sets of 6 to 12 reps, and lots of them”

Higher rep work (at lower weights) has several benefits. Firstly and perhaps most importantly, it helps to more quickly build lean muscle tissue, and almost always a bigger muscle is a stronger one. Secondly, lower intensity (weight) work has less impact on the central nervous system and hence our bodies are able to perform much more work before overtraining begins to occur. This is very important because once we are overtraining, the capacity for the body to adapt drops significantly. Thirdly, doing a higher volume style of training allows much more time to practice CORRECT TECHNIQUE and PERFECT FORM, at heavier weights these often breakdown, which is not ideal at all.

tl;dr – Most of your training should be filled with as much volume as you can tolerate, doing the exercises most specific to your goal. A great starting point is 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps in the 60 to 75% of 1rm range. If you are struggling with programming or need help progressing then please get in touch and see how Strong Fast Fit can help you.


OPEN GYM MEMBERSHIPS NOW AVAILABLE

Strong Fast Fit is now offering open gym memberships from $20 per week ($15 per week for students, emergency services workers and armed forces personnel). This is a fantastic option for the more experienced gym goer who simply wants to train in a great environment and have access to the best equipment around. Memberships include access to complimentary programs for strength, size or athleticism. If you’re looking for something more personalised, our semi-private PT sessions allow a completely tailored program and coaching service to help you reach your goals. Looking forward to continuing to grow the amazing gym culture that we at Strong Fast Fit are so proud of.

At Strong Fast Fit we pride ourselves on the atmosphere and community within the gym, as well as a massive selection of awesome equipment including competition powerlifting bars, racks and plates, six squat racks, a full dumbbell rack, an airdyne assault bike, concept 2 rower and more.

Whether your goals are fat loss, muscle gain, fitness improvements, development of athletic skills or even to compete in a strength sport (powerlifting, strongman, olympic lifting) we have you covered.

 

Chris


Strong Fast Fit Website Launch

A very short post to welcome everyone to the brand new Strong Fast Fit website. We will quickly be making the transition to posting ALL content and news on here over the next few months. Strong Fast Fit offers the very highest quality personal training, online coaching and gym services and we look forward to helping each and every one of our clients to continue with their fantastic progress in the months and years to come. This website represents just a small part of the many fantastic developments you will see for Strong Fast Fit in the near future.

If you are an aspiring powerlifter, bodybuilder, strongman, olympic lifter or just an avid gym goer and are looking for some extra guidance or help with your journey then please don’t hesitate to contact us now and see how Strong Fast Fit can help you achieve your goals faster, safer and more enjoyably.

Chris


7 Lessons for the new (or old) gym goer

The reason I love resistance training, weight training and generally all things strength is simple: There are no absolutes. In order to be effective as either an athlete or a coach in this industry you MUST be willing to constantly learn, adapt and generally be open minded about new ideas or research which is ever evolving.

Now in my personal journey I have done and seen a lot. From humble beginnings as a meathead with absolutely no idea what I was doing or why (Including the 3x per week bench press and biceps routine), through to some smarter bodybuilding training and then my gradual (and continuing) change of focus toward strength and conditioning.

The following is by no means an absolute or exhaustive list, but my opinion on 7 important lessons (in no particular order) which I have learnt the hard way (or the slow way). Hopefully my insights will save some of you time or effort in achieving your goals.

1. The five day split – Bodybuilders everywhere are about to lose their minds. But after training a traditional 5 day split for years (and working my butt off doing it) I found both strength and hypertrophy had stalled. Employing a higher frequency approach (which could mean an upper-lower or full body split) has provided me with not only improved strength performance, but hypertrophy as well.

Here is a fantastic article by Mike Samuels from Healthy Living Heavy Lifting explaining Daily Undulating Periodisation or DUP. He references plenty of good literature explaining the benefits of training body parts multiple times per week (for both size and strength).

http://www.jmaxfitness.com/blog/daily-undulating-periodization/

2. Six small meals a day – again, this was a lesson learnt early on while I was focusing on bodybuilding and getting “Ripped” being an ex fat guy, I have tried a lot of things. For me, personally eating 2-4 bigger meals a day works much much better than the 6 small meals a day idea. Now this is subjective but the point i’m making is for fat loss, or muscle gain the important thing is total calories and the macros of which they are made up from. If it suits you better and you can stick to a diet eating 1 gigantic meal a day, or 10 tiny ones,do what works for you!

3. The hypertrophy rep range – Walk into any commercial gym and you will see the same thing – plenty of guys doing sets of 8-12 reps for 3-4 sets. They are getting a “pump” and believe this is the best way to build muscle. And who would blame them, pick up any men’s fitness magazine or worse yet ask any the “bro’s” who may or may not pass a drug test and they will tell you to do this.

Recent research has actually gone against this trend and shown that a large amount of sets for low reps (10 sets of 3, with 3 minutes rest between sets), actually produced the same amount of muscle gain, while increasing strength substantially as a group performing 3 sets of 10 reps with 90 seconds rest (the standard bodybuilding protocol). The article is linked here and definitely worth a read

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24714538/

4. Sweet potato, broccoli and chicken breast – I briefly touched on this in point number 2. But yeah, eating clean is fantastic and something we should all focus on. BUT, at the end of the day it’s only macros that matter, if you want to eat McDonalds, or Pizza, or Ice cream, then these can all fit a diet, and you can lose weight while eating these. It’s the calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates you need to pay attention to.

We should all aim to eat clean as often as possible, but hey in the real world this doesn’t happen, and we shouldn’t feel bad about going out for a meal with friends or enjoying the odd treat. Just account for it.

5. Mobility – Foam rolling is hugely important. I’m not saying do 40 minutes a day, but 10 minutes prior to a workout can work wonders for the athlete. Increases circulation while loosening and activating the targeted muscles. What’s not to like about that?

Similarly, we can add a lot of mobility volume between sets in the gym. Things like shoulder dislocates, band pull aparts, T spine mobility and dynamic stretching can all be used as a form of active rest. (Sure beats sitting around doing nothing).

6. Rest – This is huge. For God’s sake people, when you are sick DO NOT TRAIN. Being sick and training is only going to make you worse, and while sick you’re never going to be able to focus enough to make progress in the gym.

Similarly, those of you who do 2 workouts a day 6 days a week then go for a 40 minutes run on your day off – Take a day off, rest up, it won’t kill you and you won’t get fat by resting. In fact the recovery from resting properly will probably improve your performance in the gym and lead to better results.

The drug free athlete generally performs best weight training 2-4 times per week, and doing cardio or other training 2-3 times. My recommendation is everyone have at least 1 full day per week of doing nothing, and 2 days of very light activity – go for a walk for 45 minutes to an hour or something. If you’re training as hard as you should be, then 4 sessions per week is plenty. Even this will still require the occassional deload where the athlete takes a full week or more resting and recovering. Strength training is a long term commitment, and we need to ensure our bodies are in peak condition for prolonged progress.

7. Be comfortable being uncomfortable – While it’s true you shouldn’t leave the gym feeling like you’ve popped a lung, hard work is underutilised in the majority of peoples training. An athlete needs to be able to push and go hard when required in order to force the body to adapt. While it is possible to determine how often, how heavy and how hard to train, this in my opinion is why a coach is the greatest asset am athlete can have. Having someone objectively program for you, and make sure you are training at an appropriate intensity is the best way to improve chances of success and after all, isn’t that why we all do this? To get better, faster, stronger, bigger, leaner , fitter and just generally look better naked.

Conclusion:

 Hope this read has been enjoyable guys, and you can learn something from it quicker than it took me. Happy lifting and remember if anyone has any questions feel free to get in touch via the contact link at the top of this page.

Chris.


How I built a bigger bench press

Ok let me preface this article by saying that the bench press has always been the hardest lift for me to improve, I have tried nearly everything. Recently I undertook two back to back Smolov Jr. Bench press cycles and as a result of this, had a 22kg all time PB.

Now the idea of Smolov Jr. is that you are bench pressing four times per week. While this sounds like a lot, you will remove all other pressing or delt work and keep other assistance work to a minimum.

A full outline of this program can be found here:

http://www.seriouspowerlifting.com/2362/articles/smolov-jr

As you can see, there is a lot of heavy work done. Now there’s a few ways in which this high frequency approach really helped me.

1. It allowed me to fine tune my technique and really improve my arch, bar path and leg drive. By benching heavy and often my technique improved in leaps and bounds

2. By removing really heavy work on my other lifts and focusing purely on the bench for this time, I wasn’t sore elsewhere and therefore my bench press wasn’t inhibited.

While everyones bench press weaknesses are different, I am going to outline a few that I feel apply to the majority of natural lifters.

1. practice benching with a pause – most natural lifters are weak off the chest, training with a slight pause at the bottom will improve this

2. never turn off the glutes – leg drive is paramount to a big bench. You should be forcing your heels into the ground and squeezing the glutes – you should NOT be comfortable, but you should be as solid as a rock.

3. sit on your traps, and retract your shoulder blades. This creates a shorter bar path which is also like benching on a slight decline. Your shoulders will thank me later for this one. This scaps down and back.

4. Crush AND tear the bar apart. You should have white knuckles from squeezing the bar so hard. Creating tension in your hands will help to create tension throughout the rest of the body. Similiarly consciously thinking of pulling the bar apar twill keep your elbows under the bar – keeping you tighter, reducing chance of injury and improving strength from the chest.

5. Hold your breath – before the bar descends you should have a full belly breath, you should have expanded your torso in a 360 degree fashion creating as much intra-abdominal pressure as you can. Hold this breath until you have locked out the rep or re racked the bar. This pressure will make your entire press tighter and help move more weight.