Stop with the Hip Thrusts Please!!!

Why the hell don’t girls squat any more?!?

Is it because they finally figured out that leg day is hard?

Rewind the clock back a few years and couldn’t go a day without some BS meme filling up my feed of some girls backside with the title “she squats” #peach somewhere in there. But today? Today all I see is Hip Thrusts. EVERYWHERE. Great. You can load up that thing to have 200kg on it and do some crap partial Thrust. The contribution to your total booty gains? Zero. And don’t get me started on banded “dog taking a piss on a fire hydrant” for 100 reps.

Where did this all come from?? The Glute Guy, Bret Contreas of course. Or your instagram feed. Depending on what you consider a “valid resource” these days.

That’s not to take anything away from Bret. He’s great. And the Glute Bridge / Hip Thrust is definitely an integral part of Glute re education / training. Especially when I’m rehabing a client.

But for the best Glut development. There’s not an exercise out there that’s been taken more out of context than the Hip Thrust.

Even check Bret’s work himself. What’s the best way to full Glute development? A LOT of hip extension movements. NOT JUST THE BENCH BRIDGE. You have to work that thing from the bottom up to the top down and everything in between if you want the best Glute development. Read the last line of the page below. And then read it again.

“if one wants to optimise the gluteus maximus hypertrophic response, he or she needs to incorporate multiple hip extension movements such as hip thrusts, squats, and deadlifts.”

Let me expand on that.

  • Squats and variations
  • Deadlifts and variations
  • Hip Thrusts
  • Lunges / Split Squats
  • Step Ups
  • 45 Leg Press and Variations
  • Good Mornings
  • Back Extensions
  • ANYTHING that involves HIP EXTENSION!!!!!

From different angles. That allow sufficient resistance to elicit a response.

So, for the love of all things gym related. In the time it takes you to set up your damn bench, with the barbell. The ridiculous amount of weight you think you can thrust and the rest. You could’ve done a whole freaking leg workout that’ll give you better results.

Treat the hip thrust as a great Glut Exercise that is an adjunct to your overall Leg / Glut Workout. It is a great assister to your Squats and Deadlifts. It is not meant to be the THE ONLY exercise you load up and then do a million banded walks afterwards.

2 Meals, 3 Meals, 5 Meals…Does It Even Matter?

Back in the “Bro Science” days of bodybuilding, it was normal practice to eat 5-6 meals a day and not go 2-3 hours without eating a meal. Then, in the last few years, all that changed, as new research came along apparently disproving this practice and everyone was quick to jump on the “it doesn’t matter when and how many meals, it all comes down to just the daily intake”.

So, what is the truth? Does it matter the number of meals you eat each day? Or is it just about how much you have, regardless of whether it 1,2 or 6 meals??

Original “Bro Science” Reasoning:

Anyone who has lifted, that was born before the year 1990, remembers that everyone aimed to eat every 3 hours in order to keep the metabolism firing and to stay “anabolic”. God help you if you missed a meal as you would literally see the muscle wasting away from your frame. Or so it felt…

Anything less than 5 meals a day and you were a bodybuilding noob with the metabolism of your 80 year old grandmother.

The New Research:

Once scientist finally got around to actually doing some research on this, it was quickly found that this wasn’t really the case. Truth is, it didn’t really matter if you had 2 meals, or 3 meals or 6, the actual effect on your metabolism was actually pretty similar across the board.

The regular community and those that lift without crippling OCD breathed a big sigh of relief as you didn’t now have to spend 17 hours in the kitchen each week meticulously prepping  and partitioning equally 30 meals to last you Mon-Fri.

It also gave rise to IF, IIFYM, or any other acronym people can add more letters to to reinvent the wheel and profit from.

BUTTTTTT…..

Is it all as open and shut as that?

Let’s take a look at what we know and put it in to some context.

There are two things we need to look at when trying to optimise body composition:

  1. What strips body fat
  2. What maximises muscle retention (increases muscle protein synthesis)

Obviously you want to create an environment conducive to getting leaner. i.e. relative energy deficit, maximising metabolism. But you also want to make sure you are not losing any of your hard earned gym gains.

So, just because your meal distribution may not necessarily affect your Metabolism. IT DOES play a role in maximising Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS). You know, the building / keeping your muscle part…

I’ve written extensively about Muscle Protein Synthesis and the factors that influence it (well, maybe like 2 facebook posts and an instagram story, but I digress). So, I won’t go on about it here. Needless to say that it requires a fast digesting protein source containing about 3g of Leucine amongst a few other things.

This influx of amino acids in to your system after a meal makes MPS peak about “45-90 minutes following a meal, and returns to baseline values by 180minutes”. (Wilson, et al, 2008-9). Translation: the most effective part of eating a meal with regards to building muscle peaks about 45-90minutes after you eat and then tapers off back to normal after about 3 hours.

The researchers found the “addition of a bolus of carbohydrates, leucine, or both, at 150minutes was able to both reinstate the ATP status of the cell as well as prolong protein synthesis.”

Paddon-Jones and colleagues also found the addition of a “low calorie (220 calories) amino acid and carbohydrate supplement between meals drastically improved protein balance through a 24hour period.

So What Does It MEAN????

  • To maximise MPS you need to optimise protein distribution NOT just hit your daily macro target
  • You can do this by eating a high quality protein source every 3 hours or so
  • OR “alternate whole meals containing 25-35g of whole protein sources with snacks containing either BCAA’s, or a combination of carbohydrates and BCAA’s”
  • in other words 3 meals and 2 snacks

Potato. Potato. (that doesn’t really have the same effect when written). It all says the same thing. Eat some quality protein every 3 hours.

If you want to maximise MPS the Amount, Quality AND Distribution of your protein intake are ALL important factors.

Especially if you are trying to get leaner and on any sort of restriction.

YESSSSS. OLD SCHOOL BRO SCIENCE FOR THE WIN!!!!! Stick that one in your Kombucha damn new age insta hippies.

Are You Drinking Enough Each Day? Probably Not…

We all know how important staying hydrated is. Despite this, I would hazard a guess to say not nearly enough of you drink enough water each day.

Staying hydrated is not just good for overall health reasons, but for athletic performance as well.

How much water you need to drink is obviously going to differ depending on a number of factors. Sex, weight, weather, etc.

You’ve probably heard the general 8 glasses of water per day rule. But, this may be undershooting it for you.

A more accurate calculation is to times your body weight by 0.0.35. This is easy enough to do, grab the calculator on your phone, type your bodyweight x 0.035 and done.

So, if you weight 70kg, this would be about 2.5 litres you need to drink EACH day.

How Much Should You Drink During Your Workouts?

A body water reduction in excess of 2-3% is considered to adversely affect performance. So, if you weigh 70-80kg, this is only a drop of 1.5kg.

How do you know how much to drink during your workout? Here’s 3 easy steps.

  1. Weigh yourself before you start your workout
  2. Weight yourself at the end of the workout
  3. If you weigh less at the end of the workout, you have to drink that equivalent in water weight.

So, if by the end of the workout, you weigh 500g less than when you started, you have 500ml of water you have to make up for, as 1 litre of water is equal to 1kg.  Obviously you should be drinking and staying hydrated during your workout. This is just calculating if you’ve had enough during the workout and if you need to make up for anything at the end.

 

Protein Quality: Even more important as you get older

Two beautiful things happen to our bodies as we get older

  1. It’s harder to lose the fat

AND

  1. You lose muscle

Yep. Pretty much the exact opposite of what we are going for.

But all’s not lost!

With careful attention to what you eat – along with your exercise – you can help get the best of both worlds.

One of the most important macronutrients in maintaining your hard earned muscle and even stimulating MORE muscle growth is Protein.

Unfortunately though, it’s not as simple as just getting the right amount of protein each day. You also need to keep in mind the QUALITY as well.

When it comes to protein, quality is measured in two ways

  1. How much protein is present per 100g i.e. % of protein content
  2. How quickly the amino acids are absorbed in to your system and stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis (it’s Leucine content)

Amino acids are the little building blocks that make up all of the proteins that our bodies use. And of the 20 or so amino acids that go to building all of these proteins, there are 8 of these amino acids that our bodies can only get from ingestion. These are called ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS. Essential meaning our bodies can not make them and we must get them from the foods we eat.

As it turns out, the very act of eating protein, actually stimulates your body to MAKE protein. That’s right, eating protein really does actually help you gain muscle. And, more importantly, at least hold on to it keep it while you are losing fat.

The main amino acids that are responsible to stimulating this Muscle Protein Synthesis are the ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS. More specifically, one called Leucine. Now, it’s not important you remember these names, just the effect that eating good quality protein has.

The best sources that get you ALL of your essential amino’s in one hit are termed COMPLETE proteins. Protein sources that lack one or more of the essentials are termed INCOMPLETE proteins.

To keep things a little simplified, the general rule of thumb is:

1) Animal proteins = complete proteins

2) Plant proteins = incomplete proteins

This kind of makes sense when you think about it. It you want flesh of your own, you literally have to eat the flesh of another animal to give you everything you need.

It turns out, some sources of animal protein are even better at doing this than others.

Whey protein, for example – you know that type of protein in all protein powder – is an excellent source of protein. Not only is it a COMPLETE protein, but it is also rich in ESSENTIAL AMINO acids. The main one being LEUCINE.

So, it has a high protein content. It is a complete protein. It is absorbed quickly in to the body and is a rich source of Leucine, meaning it will stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

There was even studies that compared feeding ESSENTIAL amino acids in a bolus dose vs NON ESSENTIAL amino acids only. The essential amino acid group stimulated muscle protein synthesis, the non essential group did not. So, make sure the quality of your protein sources tick the boxes above.

Other sources of animal proteins that fulfil this criteria are:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Different types of fish…

You know, the usual suspects.

As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want the fat content of your meat too high, as this actually lowers the protein quality slightly. The higher fat content means it is absorbed a little slower. This can sometimes be desirable, but again, we’re keeping it simple for now.

So, just as a recap, good sources of protein are:

  • Dairy (some better than others)
  • Eggs
  • Lean Meat
  • Whey protein

If you want the best quality protein, it is a good idea to get it from a variety of sources, as each of these also contain other benefits that are crucial for optimum health.  For example, you will get iron, zinc and creatine from beef. So, don’t think you can go and have protein shakes all day.

In your quest for fat loss, don’t forget you need to keep as much muscle as you can during the whole process. This comes from eating the right AMOUNT of protein each day, but, more importantly, the right QUALITY of protein.

Call it Yo Yo Dieting. Metabolic Damage. Set Point Theory. Call it what you want, you’re still going to get fatter.

I remember back in the 80’s, fad diets were all the rage.

In short, people would go on these crazy short term diets that would cut out groups of foods completely, dramatically drop down their overall food intake, and get awesome short terms results.

The problem was, as soon as these people came off their “diet” and returned to their normal eating habits and normal calorie intake, they would end up FATTER than before!

(Any of this sound familiar?? It should…)

The best way they used to combat this, was to go on another diet. Maybe even a different one this time. Maybe the grapefruit diet. Or the Garth Brooks Juice Diet (ok, maybe that one was from a movie, but you get the drift).

This gave rise to the term YO YO DIETING. Peoples weights would go up and down according to which fad diet they were on. But in the end, they would end up bigger than before. Even when they went back to the same calorie intake!

Again, if any of this is sounding familiar, that’s because it is. We have precisely gone no where over the past 30-40 years when it comes to mainstream consumption of dieting BS and our expectations of what a “diet” can achieve.

In the last couple of years, we gave it a different name. Metabolic Damage.

There’s even talk in the literature again on the Metabolic Set Point Theory. Almost as if these people have reinvented the wheel. When people were talking about this years and years ago.

Here’s the quick breakdown of the Metabolic Set Point Theory:

  • Your body has a natural “set point” or level that it likes to keep its weight at. This is determined by a number of factors including lifestyle, genetic, metabolic factors, etc.
  • Just like your body temperature, your body naturally regulates it’s weight fairly accurately over the long haul. You have in built mechanisms to match your energy intake and output to kind of maintain the status quo – or homeostasis – as scientists like to call it. So, just say your set point is at 2000calories. Your body likes to keep its input and output around that point, so it all evens out.
  • If you drop your energy intake too low for too long a period, your body will fight against it in order to try and keep things the same. To do this it will deliberately slow down your “metabolism” to accomodate this.

Congratulations, your new set point is now 1500calories

Guess what happens when you’ve finished your “diet” and return to your normal eating habits of the 2000 calories again? That’s right. You get fatter than before. Even if you just go back to what you were eating before you started your diet!

That’s Yo Yo Dieting in a nutshell. That’s Metabolic Damage in a nutshell. That’s learning nothing over the last 40 years of diet fads.

Again, it’s important to note your “Set Point” is influenced by many factors:

  • Genetics
  • Neurological Factors
  • Hormones
  • Calorie Intake
  • Body Composition
  • Gut Health – micro biome

And the list goes on…

You can’t just try and fix ONE thing and think you’ve fixed the whole problem. BUT, you can still influence the Set Point back to a positive way and not be stuck in the negative.

The Solution??

  • As tempting as it is to “get results quicker” you should never make big sudden drops to your energy intake.
  • Don’t ever “diet” for extended periods – comp dieters I’m mainly looking at you. NO, you can’t maintain comp conditioning all year round. NO, you shouldn’t compete back to back seasons for years consecutively. NO, not everyone was designed to step on the competitive stage and bean shredded AF.
  • Same for coming out the other end, it takes time for your body to adapt and recover. Give it time.

Regulation of your Set Point is a complex multifactorial issue, but ALL of which can be influenced by the big 4 pillars of fat loss:

  1. Diet
  2. Exercise
  3. Stress Management
  4. Sleep Quality

You don’t have to just drop calories to affect your set point. You don’t just have to then increase calories to affect your set point. Every girl seems to think they should be able to eat over 2000 calories per day. Every guy thinks they should be eating over 4000 calories per day. It’s just not as simple as that.

Forget the quick fixes. Forget the fad diets. Focus on meaningful long term change. And long term change only happens with the small things done consistently. You are the only yard stick you should ever measure anything against. No one else.

So each day, each little step, each little meal, each little training session. Over the long term, they will bring you the results you are after.

The Rapid Response program is built around these 4 pillars of fat loss. Looking at key indicators that are measurable and achievable. By maximising each of these factors and you can get fast results with positive changes, not just “quick fix” solution of just dropping down calories.

 

Is A Bigger Muscle A Stronger Muscle? Muscle Myths Part III – Intermuscular Coordination

Is A Stronger Muscle Is A Bigger Muscle: Muscle Myths Part II – Inter muscular Coordination

Last time we looked at some of the structural affects of training, namely Functional vs Non Functional Hypertrophy as part of an article written for Ironman Magazine.

This time we turn our attention to the next step of the chart, namely Functional Effects of a Training Stimulus, with this articles focus on Intermuscular Coordination.

strength-chart

Traditionally we always think that if we have a bigger muscle, we have a stronger muscle. But this is only the case “if all other variables are equal”. The truth is, these other variables are really never equal and can be affected a great deal by training.

“The fact that Olympic weightlifters can increase their strength from year to year while remaining at the same body mass reveals that strength depends on other factors as well.” (Siff)

This is also easily seen in the fact that bodybuilders are the most muscular athletes in the world, but they are by no means the strongest, or the most powerful.

The biggest element in the strength training equation, therefore, is from the adaptation of the nervous system.

“Strength is the product of muscular action initiated and orchestrated by electrical processes in the nervous system of the body. Classically, strength is defined as the ability of a given muscle or group of muscles to generate muscular force under specific conditions.” (Siff)

So what role does the nervous system play in strength?

“Strength is not only determined by the amount of muscle mass but also by the extent to which individual fibres in a muscle are voluntarily activated and coordinated between many muscle groups (intermuscular coordination).” (Zatsiorsky)

It’s therefore not only the size of the muscle, but how effectively you can contract it. 

Each physical movement is not reliant on one or two muscles contracting, but the coordinated effort of a number of muscle groups that cross a number of joints.

Intermuscular coordination involves the sequencing and synchronisation of different muscle groups to work together optimally to produce any given movement. This may involve the facilitation of:

  1. Activation
  2. Timing
  3. Sequencing of certain muscle groups
  4. as well as the inhibition of others from cooperating in the execution of a skill.

Intermuscular coordination is coordinating the activity of many muscle groups to achieve the greatest force summation.

Even the simplest exercise is a skilled act requiring the complex coordination of a number of muscle groups.

Take the Posterior Chain for example. Your posterior chain is what is referred to when we are discussing the groups of muscles that make up your back, glutes, hamstrings, etc that contribute to powerful hip extension. These muscles are classically the main ones used in the deadlift, for example.

Inter muscular coordination optimises the activation, timing and sequencing of each of these muscle groups to maximise the total force summation of each movement.

If each group of muscles activate too early the previous muscle hasn’t reached peak contraction yet = suboptimal force summation as noted by the blue lines

If each group of muscles activate too late, the previous muscle has already reached peak contraction and has started to taper off = suboptimal force summation as noted by the green line

If each muscle group times perfectly right at the peak of each previous muscles contraction = optimal force production and a much greater end force produced in the movement as noted by the yellow line

Force Summation Chart

The movement pattern, rather than the strength of single muscles or the movement of single joints, must therefore be the primary training objective.” (Zatsiorsky)

This has given rise to the term “train movements not muscles” if increasing strength is your objective.

The biggest thing to note here is that

ABSOLUTELY NO CHANGE IN MUSCLE SIZE HAS TAKEN PLACE. ONLY YOUR ABILITY TO ACTIVATE, TIME AND SEQUENCE THE MUSCLES BETTER!!

In a nutshell, neurological adaptation is the highest priority for strength training athletes

Metabolic adaptation is paramount for bodybuilding.

If you want strength, train movements not muscles.

If you want size, train muscles.

Training for performance is NOT the same as training for cosmetic adaptation.

Specificity of your training stimulus is one of the most important factors in your training program success.

And in case you were wondering, you don’t just “max” out your neurological adaptation and then muscular adaptation starts. Again, this is witnessed by elite athletes able to hit new 1RM’s year to year without changes in weight category and increases in “lean mass”

In the next part of the series, we will look at Intramuscular Adaptation as yet another way of increasing neurological adaptation with no change in the muscular size as a way to increase strength.

Is A Bigger Muscle A Stronger Muscle? Why Are We Even Still Debating This?

One thing I love about my training crew is we get to discuss the trends in the industry and throw back and forth ideas and what we’ve found as far as our research goes.

Seems lately – as with most industries – the hot topics are ones that have been thrown around for decades now. Almost to the point I can’t still believe we are discussing them. Every new generation of trainers think they’re reinventing the wheel when it comes to training ideas and discovering the science behind lifting.

As I mentioned to a colleague earlier today, it’s like the whole “machine weights vs free weights, which one is better?” headlines all over again. Haven’t we already had these discussions enough?

The biggest one that always pokes the bear is the notion that you have to get stronger to get bigger.

At best this is an oversimplification of the idea of progressive overload, at worst its complete ignorance of the science behind strength training.

So, is it possible to get stronger without getting bigger??

If so, what are the training effects that actually take place

In Part 1, we will talk about the different effects that a training stimulus can have.

Subsequent parts in the series will discuss each in more detail.

Right off the bat, the answer to the first question is obviously yes.  You should know, at least anecdotally, that you can get stronger without “bulking”.

After all, isn’t that exactly what we tried to achieve for so many years? To convince females to strength train and show them it won’t bulk them up?

Lift weights we said. You won’t get too big. You’ll just get stronger.

And now what? We tell everyone the only way to get bigger is to get stronger?? Seriously.

So what’s the science have to say?

As most of you know, I’m a visual learner, and like nothing better than a good flow chart.

Outlined below is a simplified version, taken from Mel Siff’s awesome book on strength training – Supertraining.

Training S

It summarises each of the subsequent training effects that take place as a result of applying a training stimulus. For example…lifting a weight.

In truth, there are 3 main training effects that occur in response to a training stimulus:

  1. The Structural Effect – Or the one most of us know as “getting bigger”. This is the muscle hypertrophy that can accompany the training stimulus
  2. The Functional Effect – which further breaks down in to
      1. Inter muscular Coordination
      2. Intra muscular Coordination
      3. Reflexive Changes
  3. The Motor Learning Effect

Take a good look at the chart again, and notice the small tiny part of the overall table that is taken up by the word “hypertrophy”. Now pay attention to ALL of the other ways in which your body can adapt and increase strength WITHOUT increasing muscular size.

And not only that, you will find there are in fact 2 different types of hypertrophy. One that coincides with an increase in strength – what is termed FUNCTIONAL HYPERTROPHY and another where you can get an increase in size WITHOUT a subsequent increase in strength. This is termed NON FUNCTIONAL HYPERTROPHY.

This idea will be explored in more detail in Part 2. Along with discussing in more detail the other ways your can improve strength without increasing size.

Does Stretching Even Do Anything?

It’s been so ingrained in to our psyche over the years. You have to stretch!!

People will always tell you they need to stretch more. But no one ever asks the important questions. Like, does it even work?

Seriously. Is stretching even good at improving flexibility? And more importantly, does being more “flexible” actually help you prevent injury?

Obviously, I’m mainly referring to static stretching here, which involves holding a stretch for a certain period of time. The more traditional form of stretching we are all used to.

I remember reading years ago – in the awesome book Supertraining by Mel Siff – that static stretching affects the passive Parallel Elastic Component. Whereas the part of the muscle responsible for contraction is actually referred to the Series Elastic Component, which is affected more by dynamic stretching and lengthening under tension. Even back then I remember thinking, “why the hell do people make such a fuss about static stretching if it is only affecting the parts of the muscle that aren’t even responsible for contracting? Wouldn’t it make sense to focus on the Series Elastic Component instead?”

What does that mean in English? Well, the times when you actually NEED to be flexible is usually when you’re DOING an activity right? So, static stretching, which stretches the passive structures, seems like it would be a total waste of time.

Well, let’s find out…

Firstly, people usually think they need to stretch to be more “flexible”. Being more flexible helps prevent injury after all. Doesn’t it?

Well, here’s some awesome information from Stuart McGill, world renowned back expert, on the science of flexibility. (taken from Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, 2009)

“Blindly increasing ROM rationalised by the belief that it is beneficial is problematic”

“There is no relationship between static joint flexibility and dynamic performance”

“There is a documented NEGATIVE correlation with more flexibility in the back and higher subsequent back problems”

“Stretching, to many individuals, is done to lengthen muscle in a passive sense yet there is little evidence that this occurs”

So basically, static flexibility doesn’t help you when you’re actually doing something active. Plus there’s little evidence that even static stretches are that effective at even stretching the muscle!

What are you really stretching anyway?

Most people would probably say it’s all about lengthening the muscles, but this isn’t entirely true.

The are multiple factors that contribute to your flexibility.

1) Obviously the muscles around the joint are one of the structures involved, but more than one muscle will have an influence

2) Passive tissue restrictions, such as joint capsules, ligaments, bony surfaces, etc

3) Neuromuscular modulation of length and tension. Or, in English, the nerves in the region play a role.

4) Pain threshold of an individual. If you have a high pain threshold, you’ll be able to push the range of motion further.

Basically, your muscles, joints and nerves. And how you handle pain.

In a nutshell, static stretching doesn’t even increase your range of movement in the dynamic context you’re after. And not only that, you’re not even lengthening the “muscle” the way you thought you were!

So what do you do?

What’s the best way to gain range of movement?

“More evidence favours stretching to modify the neuromuscular processes…the evidence suggests that modifying the neuromuscular process has the most effect on the functional range of motion, but these changes are short lived and must be challenged daily

“The concept of active flexibility is more important for performance”

Dynamic warm up techniques and stretching techniques such as PNF work to address these areas and are much more beneficial in that sense than just holding a stretch.

In a nutshell:

  • Don’t try and be more flexible just for the sake of it
  • Be specific to the activity you are trying to improve
  • Use different range gaining methods and approaches to target passive tissues together with the neuromuscular components
  • Slow twitch fibres may require longer stretches. Sustained static stretches may be indicated here. This may be important for a specific athlete. It may not be important for you
  • Use both static and dynamic stretches for both the series and parallel elastic components.
  • All directions are important
  • Don’t try and make yourself flexible just for the sake of it. You need a functional range of movement that is specific to the activities you do.

Still confused?

  • Static stretching doesn’t stretch the dynamic structures and doesn’t help with your dynamic flexibility.
  • Being more flexible for the sake of it doesn’t lower your risk of injury.
  • Keep your warm up SPECIFIC to the activity you are about to do. Warm up sets along with some dynamic flexibility work.
  • Passive stretching, if at all indicated, comes AFTER the workout.
  • Consistent daily work if you want improvement.

There may be neural factors affecting your flexibility and holding you back. You may need to incorporate neural glides, loaded stretching, PNF, foam roller work, etc. to work on all different aspects.

Range of movement is not about lengthening your muscles and being more flexible just for the sake of it. It’s a co ordinated control of the muscles, joints and nerves to control movement in conjunction with controlling the stability of the movement within the range of motion.

Make sure you come and see me if you are unsure as to what’s the best method for you and your situation.

Why “Good Technique” is Not Enough

On the surface it seems strange, how can you have good technique and yet your technique can still suck?

The simple reason is that good technique is more than just achieving what looks like good alignment.

The timing and sequencing of muscle activation patterns play not only a huge role in power production but also also how the body’s tissues distribute the forces and load.

In achieving good technique, you need to be aware of 2 things:

1) Alignment

2) Muscle activation patterns

Alignment:

Obviously this is an area where books can be written, but as it isn’t the main focus of the article, I won’t go in to great detail here.

There is no one perfect alignment. No one size fits all. It’s always a trade off. If you change technique to take pressure off one area, it will be distributed to an adjacent area. Sometimes this is exactly what we are after though. An example of this is adjusting someones technique so the load is distributed more to the hips rather than the lower back.

As a general rule:

– aim for symmetrical alignment i.e. left to right

– pay attention to weight distribution as this can determine where the force gets distributed i.e. weight through the heels and mid foot while squatting as drifting on to the toes can cause people to place more pressure on their backs than their hips

– neutral joint position of critical joints such as the vertebrae of your spine

Muscle activation patterning:

This obviously still coincides with alignment, but is also the main reason why someone can seemingly have “good” technique on the surface, but – because of poor muscle activation and neural sequencing – still have quite bad technique and leave themselves open to injury.

It really boils down to 2 key aspects:

1) How well you “control” your aligment

2) Where and how you develop your force production

Both of these aspects are controlled by 3 key groups of muscles, your:

Local Stabilisers vs Global Stabilisers vs Global Mobilisers

Local Stabilisers:

Think of different muscles as having different roles. There are some muscles that are quite small and literally are the only muscles that may cross certain joints. When they contract, they don’t actually cause any movement, but actually increase “segmental stiffness” (this is a good thing). By doing this, they contribute to the stability of the system. If these muscle don’t work (which can happen sometimes in response to pain), the stability of the system is severely compromised, which greatly increases your risk of injury.

Global Stabilisers:

As you start working your way outwards, you come across muscles that provide control – especially rotational control – to the system. These muscle should be efficient in shortening to their full inner range, controlling the lengthening and decelerating under load and also isometrically “holding” things in place when needed. Your Glut Med is a good example of this in pelvic / hip / and lower back stability.

Global Mobilisers:

Their main role is actually cause the movement. These are the ones that usually get the whole focus when we are doing an exercise. But, as you can see, they don’t contribute the stability of the system. Rather, they are reliant upon the other muscles to do their role to stabilise in order for them to be effective in producing the movement. By just focusing on these, we can sometimes miss the importance of the other two. Until it’s too late and we hurt ourselves.

I have been quoted in the past with regards to fixing someone’s technique along the lines of “keep doing what you’re doing, just do it differently”.

While they initially laughed, it is actually true. Sometimes there isn’t just an “exercise” you can do to fix a problem. It’s learning how to correct the neural motor pattern IN that movement that is more important.

It’s not WHAT you are doing, it’s HOW you are doing it.

The activation patterns. The timing. The sequencing. One good example most people are familiar with this is the timing of the Glut Max in power production and sequencing in the context of the whole Posterior Chain.

All of these muscle groups, the Local Stabilisers, the Global Stabilisers and Global Mobilisers, are just as – if not more important – than just the alignment.

If you think you are having issues with your technique, need help with pain while lifting, or would like to learn if you are in fact doing your exercises correctly, contact me for an initial consult to run through everything in more detail.

Why “Energy In Energy Out” Doesn’t Tell You If You Will Get Fat

The laws that govern whether or not you lose or gain fat is more than just an energy equation.

When it comes to storing and losing fat: It’s not just about a calorie surplus. It’s not just about calorie deficit.

Still, to this day, even so many so called experts can’t seem to get their head around this concept.

And still. Still, so many seemingly educated people will try and have you believe the only way you can lose fat is with a calorie deficit and the only way you can gain fat is with a calorie surplus.

Even though I’ve tried to explain this concept in detail over the years, it seems like people still don’t seem to “get it”. They think that as soon as you mention this, you somehow don’t believe in the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy. Or they think you peddle pseudo science like “you can eat as much fat as you like as long as you get rid of sugar”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hopefully, this chart can simplify the whole picture (yeah right) and break it down to be less confusing.

I’ve always been a visual learner. The whole process is obviously extremely complex. But I always find it easier to break things down into its simplest principle. This flow chart breaks everything down and summarises the whole process as simply as possible. It’s not comprehensive, but it will hopefully give you the overall picture. Sometimes it’s good to adopt a top down approach so you don’t miss the “forest for the trees”.

image

There are 3 Possible Pathways for the energy you ingest:

It’s an inescapable law of physics, the law of thermodynamics, you can’t create or destroy energy, it can only be converted in to one form or another. The energy of the system, therefore, has to ALWAYS be conserved.
When it comes to the human body, there are 3 possible pathways this “energy” can go down.

The food you eat can be converted to one of the 3 following energy forms:

  1. Kinetic
  2. Thermogenic
  3. Potential

Kinetic energy means it gets used to cause movement

Thermogenic means some of it gets lost as heat during normal cellular processes, maintaining body temperature and also during exercise.

Potential means some of it can get stored, either as structural material or for later use i.e. stored glycogen, stored fat.

Now. Look at these pathways closely again. And look at the “stored fat” pathway. The most important thing to wrap your head around is that the pathway that any “calorie” can go down is not fixed. It is a constantly fluid and shifting process that is influenced by a number of factors. NOT just whether or not there is an excess of energy in the system.

The main factors that influence which pathway any food can flow down is:

  • The type of macronutrient – not all macronutrients are capable of going down all of the pathways i.e. Carbohydrates do not serve any structural role. Protein has the highest Thermic Effect of Feeding.
  • The amount you eat influences the pathway – the amount of food definitely does matter, but it is not the only influence on which pathway a macronutrient will ultimately travel down
  • The hormonal environment influences the pathway – I have written about this extensively before in my Science of Fat Loss series, so I won’t go over it again here. Needless to say, the hormonal environment will influence which pathway the macronutrient is most likely to go down.
  • The hormonal environment is influenced by a number of factors including exercise, macro type and amount, recovery and wellness state (illness) of the organism. The whole system works off a feedback system and a complex interaction between all of these factors. Nothing happens in isolation!
  • Off the back of that, your “energy in” influences your “energy out”. People talk about metabolism all the time with little to no understanding what it actually means. People seem to accept that you can increase your metabolism by eating more food, but don’t understand how it works. This chart hopefully helps.
  • Just because you have an energy surplus DOESN’T automatically mean it will get stored as fat. Just because you have a deficit does not mean it will automatically get pulled from your fat stores. – don’t you think it’s possible that maybe, just maybe you can influence the system to put those extra calories to good use? Or pull that energy deficit from the right places and not muscle? Isn’t that also what calorie counters do anyway? Yes it is. And the very fact they do it also means it’s not just about how many calories they had that day.

In short IT IS NOT A CAUSE AND EFFECT RELATIONSHIP!!!

What the calorie theory gets right:

The laws of thermodynamics, also known as conservation of energy, is an unbreakable law of our physical universe. You can’t create or destroy energy. It can only be transformed in to one form or another. What they don’t get is, you can have conservation of energy of the system. That’s not what we’re actually talking about.

What we’re really talking about is your fat cells specifically. What makes them bigger, what makes them smaller. As you can see by the chart below, for any “energy” to be stored as fat it has to go down a specific pathway. Whether or not a macronutrient goes down this pathway is determined by a number of factors, not just whether or not there is an “energy surplus”.

Problems with the calories theory:

All calories are definitely not created equally. Proteins are processed differently than carbs, which are processed differently than fats. They have different metabolic and hormonal effects and also different thermogenic effects. So, a calorie from carbs is never the same as a calorie from protein.

What the subject should be about is what are the circumstances that cause fat cells to get bigger, what causes them to get smaller. Energy in is NOT the sole determinant for this process to occur

Your Fat Is Not Just A Storage Dump For Excess Calories!

The main concept need to get out of your head is that fat is just a storage dump for extra calories or energy. Your fat cells are in fact an endocrine organ. Which means they release hormones. These influence metabolism and hunger amongst other things. Your fat cells also react to hormones.

Fat cells are under regulatory control. This control is actually exerted by hormones. Not calories. And while it’s true the energy you ingest influences your fat cells. They are not solely governed by it.

But, doesn’t this chart just proves it’s all about energy in energy out?

It’s easy after the event to look back and say “see, when we account for TEF, TEE, NEAT, change in potential energy, etc, we can show what happened” so it must be calories.

The very fact the calorie theory has had to change and adapt over the years every time it has been proven wrong shows it’s actually NOT just about the calories. Concepts such as NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) have had to enter in to account for areas that didn’t add up. Not to mention that NEAT is influenced itself by the “calories in”.

It’s very easy to look at the system AFTER the fact and say “well see, we used this much for activity, their metabolism increased because of this, their spontaneous activity went up, they stored this much as muscle tissue and this much as muscular glycogen. So, subtract the remainder and…see!!! It’s still just about energy in energy out”.

But that’s like reading stock charts. Everything makes sense AFTER the event. (for anyone who doesn’t get predicting stocks on charts, it’s the finance world version of fortune telling) It does nothing to tell you about the fundamentals of the company. I just realised people would probably get a finance analogy less than a nutrition one, soooooo….

It does NOTHING to influence which pathway these “calories” can go down on the way in. And, again, it shows that just by having a surplus DOESN’T mean it will get stored as fat. Yeah, you can calculate it AFTER the event show where it went. Doesn’t mean you had complete control over it just by counting it on the way in. Which is EXACTLY what the calorie theory is based on.

You can still have conservation of energy. You can still abide by the laws of physics. They’re not the questions we should be asking. What you want to know is what influences your fat levels. And what you can see is that storing body fat is only a small fraction of an overall massive puzzle.

The main thing we are concerned with is dropping stored fat. Take a good look at the diagram closely and see what a tiny fraction of that whole equation it is.

Same when it comes to storing fat. Look at all the possible pathways and also look at all of the regulatory hormones that influence that pathway beyond just a simple “calorie” excess.

Don’t you think maybe. Just maybe the laws of thermodynamics can be adhered to and you can influence body fat levels on not just an energy in / energy out basis?

Having said that, what the hell should you be counting then? Well, only worry about the things you have control over.

Get your macros right. The amount and the quality. Measure them. Count them.

Then measure and assess the results. Adjustments should be made based on the results not just for the sake of having to drop calories.

Whenever you read anything or listen to anything from now on, keep this chart in mind. If they try and make you believe you can somehow circumvent any of these pathways or talk to you in absolutes, you can kindly now scientifically understand how they are simply full of crap.

 

Calories Don't CountBen Minos has Bachelor degrees in both Physiotherapy and Exercise Science (Human Movements). He has worked as a Personal Trainer for 20 years and a Physiotherapist for close to 15. Ben has authored a book on nutrition titled Calories Don’t Count, available through iBooksAmazon and most online retailers. He has also authored many articles for Ironman Bodybuilding Magazine and also co authored Australia’s first Kettlebell instructor certification course. He has competed in Natural Bodybuilding over a number of years, as well as prepared numerous clients for the stage.