How Do You Deal With Stress Through Fitness?

Stress is a normal part of being human. Sometimes we have little, sometimes we have more than any person should ever have to go through. Sometimes it can feel as if the world is coming to an end. Stress is here, stress will always be here. Many things that stress us out are out of our control. What we can control is how we respond to stress.

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Training is More Than Soreness and Sweat

Your alarm sounds. Already? Maybe just one snooze…

No, what must be done, will be done. You roll out of bed, the sun just barely rising up. The birds are chirping in the backyard, but besides them, not many others are up at this time.

So why are you?

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Starting Strength Training From Absolute ZERO (Video Guides)

Strength training is growing in popularity among average Joe’s and Jane’s, which is friggin awesome!

I write about it’s importance all the time, and how it is literally the fountain of youth (when done correctly).

But what if you have absolutely no experience, are afraid, or have zero clue where to start and what to do?

I will try and lay it out in the post, step by step, as clear as possible. If you have any questions feel free to post or email me – mike@mgfitlife.com.

1) Focus on all the fundamental movements – push, pull, squat and hip hinge.

What the heck are these?

PUSH – think push up, or pushing AWAY from your body, like a chest press. Can’t do a push up? Try hands elevated pushups. Any pressing machine, or dumbbells will work as well.

PULL – pulling weight towards you. Start with a form of horizontal pull like a dumbbell row, a body weight row, or cable row.

SQUAT – pretty much exactly how it sounds. The squat is more of a knee dominant exercise and it tends to work the quads, or front of the legs more than the hamstrings, or backs of the legs.

Start with just body weight, then add weight once you can sit down to the point where your thighs are parallel with the floor.

HINGE – this is also a lower body exercise, but focuses on hinging from the hips – and works more of the backs of the legs – hamstrings and glutes (butt).

Start with a slight bend in the knees, but then push your hips back keeping your spine straight. Go to the point of feeling a stretch in the backs of your thighs then return to the top.

If using weights, keep them close to your legs, and shoulders back and tight.

So these are the 4 basic movement patterns that will cover most muscles of the body, now what do we do with them?

Start with ONE workout, because one is infinitely more than zero.

First – warm up. This can be as simple as a 5-10 minute brisk walk followed by 20 forward and 20 backward arm circles to warm up your shoulders.

Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions (reps) of the first exercise before moving to the next. Give yourself about 1 minute rest in between sets.

What weight should I use??? Use a weight that allows you to get all 10 reps, but it somewhat challenging by the final rep. If you are unsure, do one warm-up or “ramp up” set first with light weights to gauge the difficultly.

You shouldn’t go to failure on your working sets, and you shouldn’t force sloppy reps.

I often use the cue – leave a few reps in the tank. Meaning, if you absolutely HAD to do 12 or 13 reps you could.

How does this look?

Example:

  • 10 push ups or dumbbell presses – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 push ups or dumbbell presses – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 push ups or dumbbell presses – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 rows – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 rows – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 rows – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 squats – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 squats – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 squats – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 hinges – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 hinges – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 hinges – rest for 1 minute

That’s it!

See how you feel 2 days later, and if you feel up to it, repeat the same exact workout once or twice in the week,

Then what?

The most simple way to progress is to add reps until you get to about 20. Then go back to 10 reps and add weight. This will cover you for a decent amount of weeks and if you are truly new to lifting weights you will be good to go.

Example:

  • Week 1 – 10 chest presses with 10 pounds
  • Week 2 – 12 chest presses with 10 pounds
  • Week 3 – 15 chest presses with 10 pounds
  • Week 4 – 18 chest presses with 10 pounds
  • Week 5 – 20 chest presses with 10 pounds
  • Week 6 – 10 chest presses with 12 pounds
  • Week 7 – 12 chest presses with 12 pounds
  • And so on and so on…

That is literally the most basic form of weight training you can do, and if you are totally new to it this will be a great place to start!

Don’t try to get ahead of yourself and add weight every workout. It takes time for muscles to grow, and slow and steady is always the way to go!

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How to Progress at Lifting Weights (Yes, You Need to do This)

Why does someone need to progress at lifting weights? Can’t I just “mix it up” and confuse my muscles every single day with something completely different?

Sure, but it will take longer to improve specific, foundational movements that are imperative to building muscle.

But why does that matter?

Because muscle is great, and it keeps us young, strong, healthy, mobile, sexy, happy, and much more. I won’t go into details of why having muscle goes far beyond vanity, but it does.

Now back to progression.

Why progress?

This goes beyond standard progression of more reps more weight.(more on that soon).

Like anything else, lifting weights is a skill that must be learned, and improved upon to get the most effect from it. If you only do a squatting exercise once a month, how do you expect to ever get better at it? Like Bambi on ice, your legs will not develop the proper neuron firing patterns to actually LEARN the proper squat.

There is a big difference in just popping your butt towards the ground, and actually doing a squat.

Same goes with any lift. How many people actually feel LAT PULLDOWNS in their LATS? Or a chest press variation in their chest (pecs)?

This takes time, and learning, and concentration on improving motor patterns and getting the correct muscles to contract/stretch/squeeze/flex/etc. This is how results happen, and how you get the most out of lifting weights.

weights-652487_640

So how does one go about progressing? 

Basic progressive overload is the backbone of muscular growth. From wikipedia:

Progressive overload requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency or time in order to achieve the targeted goal of the user. In this context, volume and intensity are defined as follows:

  • Volume is the total number of repetitions multiplied by the resistance used as performed in specific periods of time.
  • Intensity is the percent value of maximal functional capacity, or expressed as percent repetition maximum.

This means more reps, or more weight – and you are progressing.

This idea works GREAT for people who are new to lifting (0-1 year of consistent training), and works with most exercises.

One of the simplest ways to progress is increase reps until about you can get 20, then decrease reps and increase weight and repeat.

This would look like:

  • Week 1: 3 sets of 10 at 50 pounds
  • Week 2: 3 sets of 12 at 50 pounds
  • Week 3: 3 sets of 15 at 50 pounds
  • Week 4: 3 sets of 20 at 50 pounds
  • Week 5: 3 sets of 10 at 60 pounds

Now this is very basic, and isn’t always this linear. But its a principle.

***Also, some exercises are hard to increase weights on time after time – example lateral raises – and thats okay, try focussing on the other progression techniques at the end of the article***

This brings up another point: TRACK YOUR WORKOUTS! 

How would one know that they are progressing if you are always guessing at what weights you used last time, and how many reps you did?

Now what happens when you can’t do anymore weight, or you stop being able to increase reps? 

If you fall into the general fitness population (anyone who isn’t competing in bodybuilding or strongman/woman competitions) thats okay!

Now is when you can change things up, try a different variation, and see how it changes you.

Some other ways to progress besides adding weight include:

  • Varied tempos (slow eccentrics or lowering portions of lifts are brutal)
  • Varied grips (wide grip, neutral grip, front squat, back squat, rack position holds, overhead holds, etc.)
  • Varied implements or handles on cable machines (dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells, neutral handles, rope attachments, v-bar handles, etc.)
  • Timed sets – instead of doing 3 sets of 10 reps, try 3 sets of 30 seconds at a challenging weight – this is a good one.
  • Improving your form! There is always room for improvement and working the muscles through a solid range of motion with a good contraction of the working muscle.

These are just a few ideas, but give them a try if progress has stalled – then try whatever lift you were stalled on and see what happens.

Just remember, lifting weights is a skill that must be worked on constantly to actually see improvements – track, and progress wisely.

 

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Stay healthy my friends,

 

When It Comes To Workouts, Stop Chasing a Feeling

 

I, and many others in the industry have said it before, ANYONE can make you super sweaty and feel like puking during a workout.

It’s really not hard.

Run 50 sprints, do 100 burpees then jump up and down on a box 50 times (PLEASE DONT ACTUALLY DO THIS) – and you will probably want to die…


Does that mean it was a good workout? Far from it.

That type of training and mentality needs to change.

Chasing an arbitrary “calorie burn” on your heart rate monitor is really just marketing BS. “Burn 1000 calories a workout!” sells much more than “feel great, get stronger, and lean up over the next 6 months to a year”.

First, the “calories burn” of a workout is really just a function of you age, gender, and heart rate during a workout – as created by whatever HR monitor you use. It can be a good indication of effort put into a workout, but still, it’s not the tell tail proof needed of calling a workout good or bad.

This type of justification was popularized by certain TV shows that did lots of unhealthy things to get people to lose weight super fast…and we all know where most of those people are now…

What is your goal? Want to get stronger? Then monitor your weights used over time and see if you get stronger. Here’s a “secret” – if you are getting stronger, you are likely creating more muscle and muscle burns calories when you are just sitting around better than fat does…so do that.

Want to lose inches? Take measurements and track your food. If you lose inches and maintain muscle – chances are you are doing things right. (No clue where to start? Send me a message!)

Instead of chasing the feeling of being completely exhausted and weak after a workout, chase the results over time.

This may be hard for some to swallow, but if you have only been chasing a feeling or a calorie burn and haven’t seen the results you are after – maybe you need to change it up?

While diet plays a HUGE role in any type of compositional change – your workouts also matter. Train for strength and mange your diet accordingly is really the best way to go about things.

I have been seeing some amazing results with a lot of my female clients especially who have “bought in” to the idea of strength training, and frankly – training more like bodybuilders – for muscular hypertrophy. They aren’t getting bulky, or manly looking as many will still tell you – but are getting strong and tight in all the right places, and losing body fat at a great rate.

Here’s the caveat, they leave the gym feeling GOOD. Not crawling out like a puddle of a person, and sometimes they hardly break a sweat (there is always some by the end, but not the dripping, puddle forming, holy crap I might puke kind of sweat)

While this may sound like I am ain’t bootcamp or high intensity training – it is not quite that simple.

I have nothing wrong with these types of workouts, and still offer them to many – BUT this has to be done appropriately and accordingly.

If all you do is plyometrics, jumping, running, and explosive work – your body can become worn down, joints brutalized, and central nervous system fatigued out. Especially if you are on an extreme caloric deficit.

You have to take some time to STRENGTHEN your muscles, joints and connective tissues to withstand that kind of beating if that is what you are into.

This brings me to my next point – when you are supposed to be lifting weights for strength – do just that. Strength training is for strength, cardio is for cardio – keep it that way (most of the time)

Don’t rush through a set of squats or bench presses because you “have to keep your heart rate up” – those are meant to create strength and essentially cause a little micro trauma to the muscles. Thats how we get stronger. Focus on the INTENT of the exercise and FEEL the muscles working. Slow down the tempo, feel each rep, and squeeze the hell out of the muscle that is being worked. Here is an example for hamstring curls:

Yes things like dumbbell complexes, and kettlebell work is a little of both, and thats fine. But you will get so much more out of a lift when you FOCUS on the intent within the muscle, rather than trying to fly through your reps.

While this got a little ranty, the one thing I want everyone to take from it is this:

Rather than chasing a feeling; chase a result. Have a plan, know what you are going to do when you set foot into the gym, do it right.

Lift your weights with intent, go fast when you are supposed to sprint, and control what you are supposed to control.

 

 

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Stay healthy my friends,

 

Take 15 in 15

Hopefully everyone is feeling great, revitalized, not hung over, and ready to kick off a healthy new year!…or not…

As many of you may know, I am all about encouraging others to live happy, healthy, complete lives full-time, not part-time. I am also a huge fan of keeping things simple and not overwhelming others with unrealistic change in order to pursue that healthy new venture. This is why I have already come up with YOUR first goal for the new year;

Add 15 minutes of health to every day.

Robert De Niro Says So!

Now, I wish I could make the days 24 hours and 15 minutes long, but that might not fly with most people. So what I want you all to do is make the effort, on every single day, to improve your health by focusing on it for an extra 15 minutes more than you already do.

Why 15 minutes? Because 15 minutes is 1% of your day. If you can commit to being healthy one more percent per day, that adds up to 90.25 additional hours committed to health in the new year! If you are a calorie tracker and you burn 400 calories per hour through exercise – this could mean 36,500 more calories burnt in the new year!!!

Imagine if I told you, “you need to workout 90 additional hours this year” or “I want you to sleep 90 more hours this year” or even “spend 90 more hours this year planning your meals and cooking healthy” – INSTANT FAIL!

But look at it as 15 minutes per day, or and increase of 1% of your day – and this seems much more manageable. So how do you do this? Try the following:

  • Watch 15 minutes less of mindless TV – and stay an extra 15 minutes on the treadmill (or if you can do both, you are a wizard, or have a nice gym with TV’s in front of your T-Mill’s)

 

  • Spend 15 more minutes preparing a healthy lunch in the morning before work (PRO TIP: this can save you $2000/year if you eat out regularly at lunch, use that money to buy a gym membership, invest in a trainer/dietitian, and boost your results! 🙂

 

  • Sleep an additional 15 minutes every night. Sleep is one of the most underrated aspects of a healthy life.(OBVIOUS TIP: This doesn’t mean stay up 15 minutes later because you are sleeping in 15 more minutes tomorrow morning.)

 

  • Spend 15 minutes reading about an educational topic you aren’t normally interested in. This goal is for those looking to improve mental health, but also you may find yourself a new hobby.

 

  • Go with the triple threat combo: 5 minutes extra in your daily exercise, 5 more minutes spend prepping veggies and fruit rather than reaching for a bag of chips, and even just 5 more minutes of sleep every night (still adds up to an extra 30 hours of sleep every year!)

 

No matter what way you decide to mix it up, just keep reminding yourself that extra 15 minutes can go a long way!

SNAP Challenge – Day 1: Pre/Post Workout

I’ll keep this one pretty simple:

Preworkout:

My preworkout snack was a large navel orange. This provided me with about 20g of carbs before my workout.

I had a pretty intense, one hour weight lifting workout today, but I wont get into that since the focus of this program is my diet. However, I do want to quickly climb on my soapbox here and say that the general recommendation for HEALTH (not even weight loss) is 30 min of moderate intensity 5 days/ week. It is sad that many Americans dont even come close to this… I have heard every excuse in the book, so if you feel like discussing how you “dont have time for this” please send me a message or comment. 🙂

Postworkout:

My post workout snack was a quick fix of 1/2 cup dry, whole grain pasta (cooked of course) and the other 2 oz of tuna from before, tossed with a Tbsp of olive oil and some pepper. 

Calories: 306

Carbs: 27 grams

Fat: 14 grams

Protein: 20 grams

Pre and Post-workout Snack

Pre and Post-workout Snack

ALSO TO NOTE: My weight at the gym today was 214.5 lbs (guess the cruise didnt harm me…guess I shoulda ate more)

Are You Using Proper Form?

One of my biggest pet peeves in the gym is seeing people doing an exercise with bad form. Using proper form is the MOST important thing one can do when lifting weights. If you don not use proper form you are putting yourself at risk for injury and you aren’t working the proper muscles correctly. The two exercises that I see the most people doing wrong are the squat and the straight leg deadlift.

The squat is one of the best exercises for overall lower body strength and core conditioning. The squat movement is basically the same movement as if you were to sit back into a chair. The key to a proper squat is sitting back and not just down. The following are the proper steps to a perfect squat.

1. Stand with and even stance. Your feet should be at least shoulder width apart with your feet slightly facing out.

2. Keeping your shoulders back, and chest out, and head looking straight ahead of you,  bend at your hips and sit back into the squat. With younger athletes that I have trained, I always used the somewhat goofy analogy that you should pretend you have a bee stinger on your rear and you are trying to pop a balloon behind you. The hips should always bend/hinge before your knees.

The hip "hinge" at the start of the squat.

3. While keeping your glutes back, start to bend at the knees. Keep your knees out. Your knee joints should be pointing in the same direction as your feet all the way down. If your knees buckle in it normally means that the weight is too heavy. Your weight should be back on your heels, NOT on your toes. At the bottom of the squat you should be able to wiggle your toes freely.

Near the bottom of the squat. Notice I'm pushing my butt back, as if sitting in a chair. Shoulders are back, chest up, head forward.

4. Once you get to the bottom of the squat, think about driving your heels through the floor and pushing up using your glutes.

 

BAD SQUAT FORM: Knees are going forward at the start, hips and butt are not hinging back. This puts a lot of stress on the ligaments of the knees

BAD SQUAT FORM: Chest is down and back is rounded. This will put added stress on the lower back.

BAD SQUAT FORM: Back is rounded and my weight is on my toes, instead of my heels. My knees are also in front of my toes.

BAD SQUAT FORM: Knees are buckled in and weight is on my toes. This puts added stress on all ligaments in the knees.

The straight leg deadlift or Romanian deadliftis another great lower body exercise which works the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles. The following are the proper steps to performing this great exercise.

1. While standing upright and holding the weight in front of you at your waist, keep your shoulders back and chest and head facing forward, unhinge your hips back, just as you did with the squat. Contrary to the name, you should actually keep a slight bend in your knees and never lock them out.

Unhinging of the hips, pushing the butt back, and letting the bar hang freely.

2. Instead of bending at the knees any more, continue to keep pushing your glutes back, while bending forward at the waist. It is important here to keep your shoulders back and entire back straight. Keep the weight (bar, dumbbells, kettebells, etc.) close to your legs. Continue to lower the weight without rounding your back! You can slightly look up, without extending at the neck too mush. Go down until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings.

Slight bend in the knees, back is still flat. You should feel a stretch in the hamstrings.

3. At the bottom of the lift, you back should still be flat, and how far you are able to go down will be based off of how flexible your hamstrings are. From the bottom, reverse the movement and push your hips forward and begin to raise the weight by extending at your back and actively squeezing your glutes.

BAD RDL FORM: Shoulders are rounded forward along with the upper back.

By following these proper technique cues, you can prevent future injury while also building strong and flexible leg and core muscles.