New Years Resolutions: How To Win

Gonna keep this one short, sweet and to the point.

Every year millions of people set New Years resolutions, and fail quickly.

“I want to lose weight”

“I want to get strong”

“I want to eat better”

These are great idea, but WAY to simple!

Here is how you need to go about setting your resolutions, and don’t skip any steps.

1) Picture yourself on Dec. 31st of 2017

What do you want to feel like, to look like? Picture this person, and think about how great you will feel. Write this down.

2) Figure out WHY you want to be that way in one year. 

I want to lose weight is very general. WHY do you want to lose weight?

Better health? Better energy? Find a future spouse? Feel sexy again?

Anything. Now whatever that reason is, ask why again.

Why do you want to be healthier, to have better energy, to find a spouse, to feel/look sexy?

Energy to play with your kids? Feel sexier to have more…confidence…? Honestly, these can be very personal answers that you don’t need to share with me – but the more personal they are, the more meaningful they will be to you!

3) Now, relook at your first generic goal and make it more definite.

Instead of “I want to lose weight” make it “I want to lose 20 pounds by next December” or instead of “I want to be stronger” say “I want to deadlift 300 pounds by next year”.

Make it measurable and put it on a timeline. 

4) Break it down into micro goals

I want to lose 20 pounds in 52 weeks can be broken into – I WILL lose 1.66 pounds every month until next year. 

Or I will increase my bench press  max by 5 pounds every other month.

Or I will increase my mile time by 30 seconds every quarter.

Whatever your end goal is, break it down into micro goals.

5) Look at your final goal date…and now cut it in half.

Yes, cut it in half. If you want it bad enough, you should be able to accomplish any realistic year end goal in half the time. 20 pounds in 6 months instead of 12. This is off of the idea of Parkinsons Law.

Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

This is like being given 6 months to complete a 6 week project. If you are given 6 months, you are bound to let it stretch out to that time when in reality you could easily accomplish the project in 6 weeks.

Set tough goals for yourself, break them down, and commit to working towards them every single day – and you will succeed.

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The Acceptance of Declining Health Through Passiveness

Getting old, weak, and frail.

Getting weak and fatter.

Getting sick constantly.

Getting older and sleeping less.

These seem to be accepted as the “norm” by many, but why?

While we cannot stop the clock from aging us in years, we can slow down and even reverse everything that comes with it.

As we age, we get busier. We have jobs, kids, more responsibilities, etc. I get it.

But why does this all of a sudden give rise to the idea that gaining weight, getting weak, and having a lower quality of life is part of the path we are meant to walk?

I work with, and have worked with, many clients in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s who have improved their overall health by leaps and bounds.

A passive life is a life doomed for failure and suffering. The only person you can truly blame for this decline is yourself. This is the first step to righting the ship. This is not meant to shame you, this is meant to motivate you. Change is now, and change is good.

1) Accept that your current state, if you don’t like it, is from years of passiveness.

Maybe you got caught up in a job, raising a family, etc. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it is just what probably happened. You let yourself go. The first step is realizing it, and deciding that today is the day to make a change.

It’s like that co worker down the hall who has seemed to always have that persistent cough and sniffle. They have accepted that this is what they will have on a day to day basis, and maybe it doesn’t bug them anymore. Meanwhile, you just want to march down there with a box of tissues and cold medicine because they clearly aren’t doing anything to fix it.

Look at yourself from the perspective of others. What do they see?

Audit your lifestyle. Are you happy with you health? Your life? How you feel when you get out of bed?

You don’t need a fancy gym, tons of super expensive food, or magic powders and pills to change it either – you just need to put your foot down and make a commitment – NOW.

 

2) Get Active

Start with walking. If you can’t walk because of injuries – get on a bike. You can find gym memberships for $10 per month and have access to everything you need.

Work on increasing your cardiovascular endurance through walking even 5 minutes a day. Start SOMEWHERE. By just moving a little more each day, you will start seeing the benefits, and start the ball rolling towards reversing your self neglect from years of no work.

Get an inexpensive pedometer like this one -> http://amzn.to/2hNpsK9 and track your steps. Aim to increase your daily average by 10% until you consistently hit 10,000+ steps per day.

To be honest, exercise and movement doesn’t matter as much as diet. It’s the truth that no one wants to hear.

However, it is usually the easier of the two to adopt, and can lead to a snowball effect of health, eventually triggering changes in diet. So start moving more, and start thinking about some little changes you could make down the road…

3) Get Strong

Weight training is not just for people in their 20s and 30s. Like I stated earlier, I have helped many people, 50+ years old, get stronger and thus improve their quality of life and increase chances for longer independence well into their 80’s and 90’s.

Image result for summary of adaptations to aging and resistance training

Start with body weight work, and machines. Track your reps and weights, and try to improve in some way each week. Even one more rep, or 2 more pounds, over time can make a huge difference.

What’s the number one reason people need to move into an assisted living home?

Because they cannot stand up on their own. Strengthen your legs, your core, your grip, your arms, and you will be on the path to longevity instantly.

3) Eat “like a grown up”.

This is preached by world renowned strength coach, Dan John. Eat like a grown up.

Lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, high fiber carbs, and healthy fats – these should be the staples of your diet.

Drink tons of water, and I mean TONS.

Cut the fast food, skip the sugary foods, and lay off the booze a little – and you will instantly find your health, immune function, sleep cycle, and life improving.

Start with one meal at a time, or even one side dish at a time. Swap out french fries for veggies, or pop tarts for eggs. Small changes make for big results.

We need to stop living passively through our lives. We are where we are right now because of ourselves, no one else.

To be there for our spouses, kids, grandkids, but most importantly – ourselves – is the best investment one can make for the future.

 

 

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Why Your Cardio Sessions Might Be Hurting More Than Helping

*For the purpose of this post, Cardio = running, jogging, biking, elliptical at a moderate pace for 45-60ish+ minutes*

Whether it be running for fat loss, participating in as many charity 10k’s as possible, or just cardio-ing because it’s all one knows how to do – it may be hurting your goals more than it is helping.

For some reason “running a half/full/marathon or 10k, etc” is still seen to many as a pinnacle of health. I get it. It’s an easily measurable goal. You either complete the race in a target time, or you don’t.

When working with overweight clients, I often hear that a goal is to run a race ONCE they finish a program, or once they lose weight. This is great. I have nothing against setting a performance goal if that is what people are after and enjoy doing.

However, for many looking to improve body composition – i.e fatloss – traditional cardio may not be the best way to get there, and it even may cause you to go in the other direction.

How can this be?

To reiterate, I want to be clear – this is NOT a cardio shaming post. If you want to get better at running, then run – assuming your body is ready for it.

People often say they want to start running to get fit – however, I see it more as you should get fit to run.

1) If overweight, running can cause joint issues – and leave you stuck on the couch.

Between muscle imbalances, joint weakness, and extra body weight – running can put a damper on your overall well being. Overuse injuries are very common among endurance athletes, and can become even more problematic for the average trainee looking to shed some fat.

When you run, you place extra strain on the joints of your hips, knees, ankles and feet.

Every step you take walking exerts a load on the knee 2 to 3 times your body weight. The force exerted from running increases that load to anywhere between 5 to 12 times your weight.

If you are just running, and not cross training and strengthening your muscles and joints with resistance training, this can add up to some serious orthopedic issues.

Tip: Instead of strapping your shoes up and just running to lose fat, meet with a trainer and nutrition expert and get your diet on track and balance your cardio training with strength training. Diet is the BIGGEST culprit leading to being overweight, so get that in check FIRST.

2) Traditional cardio can easily be offset by one poor nutrition choice.

When doing “cardio” (moderate pace, 45-60+ min) people often experience more hunger throughout the day. This could be from a few different aspects:

1- Dehydration – if you are a heavy sweater, and cardio makes you sweat a ton, it is easy to become dehydrated. Most people walk around day to day in a general dehydrated state as it is. Often times, we can confuse dehydration for hunger.

Make sure you are drinking AT LEAST half your body weight in ounces of water. To clarify, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be drinking at least 100 ounces of water (not 100 lbs. of water 🙂 

2- Changes in hunger hormones. It has been found that aerobic exercise done around 70% of VO2max (essentially jogging at 70% of your max sprint effort) can trigger increases in hunger, leading you to subconciously increase your caloric intake for the day. Conversely, exercise done at a lower level (walking) does not trigger the same response.

You should track food, and know what calorie level you should be consuming to lose weight. If you are aware of your caloric goal, or are well in tune with your food intake, you should be able to account for increases in hunger and eat accordingly without overeating. Also, use walking to create a caloric deficit without triggering changes in hunger hormones. 10,000+ steps/ day is a great start! 

3- You consciously over consume calories either because you underestimate your output, or feel like you “earned” more food. It has been said that ON AVERAGE, you burn 100 calories for every mile travelled. Say you run 3 miles over 30 minutes, this could only be an extra 300 calories. If you eat calorie dense foods, this number can easily be surpassed through poor food choices.

Again, know your caloric intake goals. Don’t “earn” more food – you aren’t a dog. 

 

3) Traditional cardio is very adaptable, and can eventually lead to a metabolic standstill. 

When it comes to fat loss, we need to be as inefficient as possible. Think Toyota Prius (very efficient fuel usage) vs. Hummer Hum-V (inefficient fuel usage). If you continuously run, run and run – your body becomes efficient and good at running. For performance this is great. For fat loss, not so much.

Progressive strength training, sprint work, weighted cardio (sleds, swings, carries) are great inefficient forms of fitness – that also help maintain AND build muscle which = higher metabolic rate which = more calories burned at rest.

Those losing ‘weight’ via excessive cardio gain it back easily because their body has become metabolically inactive. Muscle can be lost via excessive cardio and excessive caloric restriction.The reductions in muscle and RMR (resting metabolic rate) have made storing more fat likely and burning more difficult.

Sadly, even those that manage to maintain their new weight wind up with a high-fat, low-muscle physique that isn’t strong, muscular, or looks the way they want it to.

Exercise, especially weight training, should focus on building and maintaining muscle, not burning calories. This translates to a higher metabolic rate, lower fat storage rate, and decreased risk of degenerative disease and mortality.

What to do?

In a nutshell, and the most simplified terms, this is what I would recommend for fatloss, and creating your ideal physique.

  1. Figure out how much you are currently eating, and eat slightly less. Keep protein around 1 gram/pound of body weight or 1-2 palm sizes of protein foods at each meal + possibly add one protein shake per day. Fill in the rest with reasonable carbs and fat.
  2. Lift weights, 3-4 times per week, hitting multi-joint lifts primarily (presses, rows, squat varations, and hip hinges)
  3. Walk everyday – shooting for 10000 steps. If you get these steps during your workday, great. If not, add in a walk after dinner, or early in the morning.
  4. Keep cardio short, sweet, and intense – with ample rest. Sled push or sprint for 10 seconds, rest for 50 seconds – repeat 10 times, and call it a session.
  5. If you want to keep cardio-ing, stay aware of your intake – if your body isn’t changing the way you want, see tips 1 through 4.

 

 

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Why “It Depends” Is the Answer to 99% of Fitness and Nutrition Questions

 

We love simple quick answers. We love simple quick fixes. We love definite, simple, quick answers that give big quick fixes. You know what we have been taught to hate?

Consistency, hard work, waiting, and a dynamic approach to all things.

Well, I’m here to tell you that this is exactly what gets the best, maintainable results.

Of course, this isn’t what sells though. That’s why magazines, TV shows, and endless websites and diet programs tell you things that are sexy, click bait, and sell.

  • 5 Foods That WILL Make You Fat
  • You Must do 150 Minutes of Cardio Per Week to Lose Fat
  • You Must Squat, Bench and Deadlift to Get Strong
  • You Shouldn’t Eat Carbs After 3PM
  • 10 Exercises That WILL Destroy Your Joints

All of these titles, or topics SHOULD be answered with, “well, it depends”.

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When it comes to the human body, everyone is so incredibly different, that one size fits all recommendations and plans won’t necessarily work for everyone.

Imagine you come down with a terrible virus, or a nasty infection. Your ideal result is to be cured and back to 100%. Would you base your plan of attack off of a magazine article, or a 30-minute TV show segment? Doubtful.

You would seek out an expert, who would put together the BEST plan for YOU, based off of your individual needs and your current condition – to get you the BEST results.

So why do so many people listen to diet and exercise advice to get their desired results from anyone with an Instagram account, a six-pack, or a non-personalized approach to their health? ***I’m not saying there aren’t good programs and plans out there, as there are many, however there also is a lot of fluff, tricks and gimmicks, that fail to address the real issues, or answer the “it depends” questions.

A true professional will work with you as an individual, and come up with a plan for your nutrition and exercise needs, and this plan should always be evolving.

So back to “it depends”.

Does eating after 6pm make you fat?

It depends. Does eating after 6PM put you into a caloric surplus? Then yes, this will increase your body mass. Are you still maintaining a caloric deficit by the end of the day? Then no, this won’t make you gain weight.

Do I need to do cardio everyday?

It depends. What else do you do for training? What are your goals? What is your diet like? How healthy is your heart? Are you looking to get better at running, or improve running performance? Then yes, cardio will help with that. Are you just looking to lose some fat, and look better? Then maybe you don’t NEED cardio, maybe you can adjust your diet, or your training methods… it all depends 🙂

Do I need to bench, squat and deadlift to get strong?

It depends. Do you want to be a power lifter? Then yes, you will need to get better at those lifts. Do you have limitations, just want to get sexy or have no clue what a deadlift is? Then no, you don’t need to deadlift to get a strong lower body and back. It ALL depends…

Will eating ice cream and cookies make me fat?

It depends. Will this put you into a caloric surplus day after day? Then yes, your weight will go up. Do you plan these treats into your otherwise balanced, and adult lifestyle choices and maintain a maintenance or caloric deficit? Then nope, enjoy that ice cream cone.

I think you get it, IT ALL DEPENDS.

So what about that other 1%, where it doesn’t depend?

Whatever you choose as your goal, or your desired result, these things MUST be present:

Hard work – you need to put in the work to get the results. This means you are in it for the long haul, and you remind yourself of this when the days and times come when you don’t want to go to the gym, or you just want to pound a gallon of ice cream. Now, all this stuff is normal too. It happens. You are a human being, and these things come up. It’s how to bounce back, how you adjust, and how you move forward that aligns with a hard work mentality.

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Consistency – I get it, quick fixes and 7 day weight loss challenges can get you motivated and jump start your plan. But then what? It’s all about consistency, and giving things time to take effect. The only way to truly measure consistency is to track what we can. Intake, workouts, steps taken, eating patterns/habits, etc. You don’t NEED to track everything, but if you are truly chasing a specific result, it helps tremendously as we can only manage what we can measure and adjust accordingly (credit to my friends at Relentless Dietetics).

Fun – honestly, you have to find the enjoyment in what you do. This is where a professional comes in handy. Your neighbor might be doing some crazy diet that works for them, but sounds like hell on earth to you. Do you think that you will stick to that diet, and get results that your neighbor is getting? Unlikely. A professional nutrition coach, trainer, or whoever you choose to work with should be able to create an approach to training and nutrition that is the most feasible and least miserable to YOU. It won’t ALWAYS be fun, but it doesn’t have to ALWAYS be miserable – just has to be worth it.

 

While most fitness and nutrition questions can honestly be answered with “it depends”, the truth is – this doesn’t sell products or seats, and often coincides with a very close minded, and lazy approach to the complexity that is the human body.

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What always will prevail however, no matter what you choose to do, is hard work, consistency and a little bit of fun getting there.

 

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Beware Of These Superlatives When It Comes to Exercise/Nutrition Advice

 

Ok, slow down with the School House Rock terminology for just one second…

What I mean is, be weary of words like “always” or “never” or phrases like “you must”, “the best”, the “worst” when it comes to fitness and nutrition advice.

I have seen it all over, and frankly, I’m sick of it. Trainers telling clients that they must always do this, never do that, always eat this, never eat that. This is all bogus advice.

Every single human is different, and every single human will respond differently to different food and different exercises. Some of the most commonly quoted phrases by fitness and nutrition “professionals” can be some of the most damning phrases that might just add more stress to your life.

1) Need to lose more fat? You NEED to start doing more cardio!

100% bull. If you need to lose more fat, you need to make sure you are creating a caloric deficit. There are plenty of people, myself included, who have lost lot’s of fat without doing “cardio”. Do you enjoy going for jogs, and this is how you choose to try to create your deficit? Great! Go for it!

However, this is not something that you HAVE to do. Often times people will use the line “I just need to do more cardio” as a band-aid of sorts, to cover up nutrition or lifestyle choices that maybe need to be addressed first.Image result for tired runner

Sometimes the honest truth hurts, but you might just need to audit yourself first and explore what else might be going on.

Cardio is fine, but it is not the holy grail of losing more fat.

If you are someone who doesn’t enjoy running, or traditional cardio, what should you do?

  1. Look at you TOTAL daily activity. How many steps do you take? Try figuring out your daily average over the course of a week and increase it by 10-20%. Change nothing else, and you may be shocked. When I entered my dietetic internship, I went from being on my feet all day as a trainer (averaging 12,000 steps) to mostly sitting (4000 steps) and gained 10 pounds, without changing anything else. Once I made the conscious effort to get back up to a step level that the rest of my lifestyle (workouts and diet) agreed with, the weight came back off.
  2. Audit your diet. Do you know how much you are truly consuming in a day? It is always helpful to track and measure, but especially if you are hitting a plateau of sorts. Don’t go TOO low however, as your body will not be able to sustain your current workouts and may actually stall out more. Find the sweet spot that keeps you energized for workouts, but also leads to the body you desire.

2) You don’t EVER need cardio, you can get your results from lifting and diet alone.

“What?? Didn’t YOU just say this above?” Yes, but I put “cardio” in quotes – as I was referring to slugging away on a treadmill, or heaven forbid the elliptical.

What I mean by this is: cardiovascular training in an aerobic state is very important for heart health, and this is something that cannot be ignored. It is crucial to a healthy internal system and life.

However, I do feel that everyone should do some form of resistance, because having a strong body helps maintain a level of independence into our old age, and that is the ultimate goal of staying strong. Do you need to train like a powerlifter, bodybuilder, athlete? NO! Image result for fun workout

Find what you enjoy, and give it your all.

Same thing goes for cardio.

However, you don’t need to necessarily do the traditional, boring cardio that we all think of to get these benefits.

  1. Try hiking, or biking. These are two great ways to get fresh air, explore the world we live in, and get your heart rate up a little. Plan out a hike on the weekend, so for a bike ride.
  2. If you live in a climate like Wisconsin, you know that this cannot be done year round* – snowshoeing is a great alternative. Take to the gym and do some circuits, or mix up your workouts with some timed sets, or join a group fitness class that keeps your heart rate elevated. Anything that gets you breathing a little heavier and sweating is a great option.
  3. One of my favorite options is a dumbbell complex. Take an upper body, lower body, and a weighted carry and do them circuit style for a few rounds. This can be anything, but keep rest to a minimum.Try:
    1. 10 Dumbbell Shoulder Press
    2. 15 Dumbbell Squats
    3. 1 minute farmer carry
      1. Repeat 5 times, minimal rest between.

3) Never eat _____, Always eat _____ (especially if there is time involved)…

“Never eat carbs after 3 pm”

“Always slam a protein shake within 30 minutes of your workout”

Here’s the deal. You can fit ANY food you want into you eating plan. It all depends on your goals, and how quickly you want to reach them.Image result for boring diet

Want to eat ice cream once in a while? Do it – just make it work within your calorie and macronutrient goals.

Want to eat carbs after 3pm, and you are afraid? Non-sense. The little insulin fairy won’t appear out of nowhere and automatically send all your carbs to fat storage. What matters more is your overall, daily intake – not your nutrient timing (for most people).

If you are SO concerned about getting a protein shake in right after your workout, but are only consuming shakes, and getting 50 grams of protein a day, your timing of your shake is not your biggest issue that you need to enforce.

Here’s what matters more:

  1. Focus on mostly quality nutrition. Nutrient dense foods are good for you – that’s pretty hard to argue with. Get your veggies, fruits, lean proteins, and quality carbs at most meals of the day and you well generally be on the right track.
  2. Kids baseball team going out for ice cream? Join them. Family matters, and it’s important that you are there for your kids, and you don’t make a big fuss about the “morality” of good and bad foods. Foods don’t come with morals (even though we are constantly taught that). Just be mindful. Do you want a little ice cream? Have you followed tip #1 all day? Do you still have some calories to spare? Okay, then get a small cone – this doesn’t been you need to go gangbusters and get the large chocolate soaked 4 scoop sundae.You can make food like this work, if you are on top of tracking, and know your calorie and macro goals.
  3. There is no one food that makes us fat, or no one food that we must consume to be fit. If you absolutely don’t like a food, then find a substitute.
  4. Remember that you are also ultimately in control. You decide what you use your own hand to move food from a plate into your own mouth. The freedom to choose is yours, embrace it, and enjoy it.

Find what works for you, give it your all, and don’t look back. You will find it freeing, and much more fun than following what the gurus tell you that you must/cannot do.

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Get The Most Out of Your Workouts

 

Whether you call it working out, training, exercising or getting your fitness on, there is one thing that I stress with all my clients – do it with INTENT.

in·ten·tion
inˈten(t)SH(ə)n/
noun
  1. a thing intended; an aim or plan.

Do you just show up to the gym, and go through the motions, not quite sure what you are doing or where you should “feel the burn”? While this may be better than staying in bed or sitting on the couch – it still isn’t providing your biggest return on your investment.

There are a few areas of fitness that I always stress intention with my clients, and these areas are ones that can often get pushed aside, or simply forgotten about.

1. Ab/Core Exercises

When doing core work, you should feel the exercise – you guessed it – in your core!

Exercises like the deadbug, birddog, and other Jungle Book like exercises are easy to just go through the motions on. You will get nothing out of a deadbug if you are not consciously bracing in the abs, breathing correctly, and focussing on core stabilization.

Here is a fantastic demo from Eric Cressey:

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Same thing goes with planks. Yes, I know some guy held a plank for 5 hours and something, but was he maximally bracing his abs, and creating max tension in his entire body the whole time? I highly doubt it. I dont know about you, but I have better things to spend my time on than holding a 5 hour plank.

For planks, I like to recommend the RKC plank. This version is MUCH harder, and when done right – should only be able to be held for 20-30 seconds. As quoted on T-Nation, “Place your arms slightly farther out than you would in a traditional, non-effective plank. Contract the glutes and quads as hard as you can until your body starts shaking like a paint mixer.”

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2. High Intensity Cardio/Metabolic Work

The key words here being HIGH INTENSITY.

To get the most out of high intensity work, you need to be pushing yourself hard. I often tell my clients that I would rather have you go as hard as possible for 15-20 seconds, and need a break to catch your breath, rather than pacing yourself for 15-20 seconds and being able to go right into the next exercise.

All of the studies that have produced the results that back up HIIT (high intensity interval training) have been done to maximal effort. If you are going at max effort, you should not be able to stay at that pace for longer than 20, maybe 30 seconds.

If you can talk, sing, or yawn during “max effort” work – you are not putting in max effort.

If you are doing HIIT with 2 minute long “high intensity” runs, you are not doing HIIT. Not that there isn’t a time and place for this or it is bad, but I just want to clarify.

This is high intensity:

3. Lifting Combo Exercises

Yes, it might look cool to do a step up onto a BOSU, then bicep curl into an overhead press and step down into a RDL, but what is the purpose or intent of this exercise?

If your intent is to strengthen and work your legs – do a step up with appropriately challenging weight.

If your intent is to work your biceps and build sexy arms, then do bicep curls with an appropriate weight.

If your goal is to build strong, sculpted shoulders, then do shoulder presses with an appropriate weight.

If your goal is to train for the circus – then stick to the BOSU.

Your weight that you use for step ups should be much heavier than a weight you can curl – unless you skip leg day and do bro arm sessions everyday.

By doing a step up with a curl, you are selling your legs short on their effort. There are times that these exercises can be effective (in circuits, finishers, or combination with other leg exercises), but if done as a standalone exercise can be sub par at best.

Not sure what the “intent” is here…

When it comes to training, always remind and ask yourself – what is my goal here?

Then make it happen!

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