Why You Can’t Spot-Remove Fat

I’ve been home on Cape Cod for a few days now, and I’ve already been asked from friends and relatives for a few tips on what to train, how to train, how to build muscle, how to lose weight, etc.

I had one friend tell me that he’s doing all kinds of crazy ab workouts and tons of sit ups but can’t get rid of his gut.  I had another person ask me how to spot-reduce his…um…back fat.  I have a hunch that if these two have this viewpoint, there’s gotta be quite a few of you out there that think the same way.

Picture 1Craig Ballantyne, internet fitness guru, had this as his Fcebook status the other day: “Traditional “crunch” type ab exercises are useless – they are a JOKE. Today I saw a homeless guy in downtown Toronto with a six pack (abs, that is). You think he ever did a crunch? Gimme a break. He had abs because he had low body fat. So save your time and skip the ridiculous “ab workouts” that get hyped.”

If your main goal is to end up with abs, or you want to get the fat off your thighs or back or stomach, specific targeted exercises won’t work.  The muscle and fat in your body are two different systems.  You can build up your muscles all you want, but you won’t be able to see them until you get rid of the fat covering those muscles.

Want to get rid of that fat?  You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule right? When it comes to ‘getting in shape,’ your diet is king.  If this homeless guy can have a six pack, it isn’t because he’s following the p90x workout.  It’s because he’s not eating crap (well, he’s probably not eating much).  What does that mean for you?  It means you can’t outrun your fork, and you can’t outrun a bad diet.

All of those sodas, double cheeseburgers, sugary cereals, Twinkies, pizza, Taco Bell, deep fried chicken, and hot dogs won’t allow you to get rid of that gut.  You need to get your body fat percentage to drop, and the fat will come off your body all over.  It might come off your arms and legs first, then your outer thighs, and then your stomach.  The moral of the story is, you can’t control where that weight comes off because it’s fat.  You can build up your muscles by training specific parts of your body, but you can’t spot reduce fat.

Want to see those abs?  Eat better! Want to get rid of the fat around your mid section?  Eat better! Want to remove the fat off your legs? Eat better!

  • Eat a high protein diet: chicken, fish, lean ground beef.
  • Lots of vegetables: eat all the green stuff you want.  They’re filling, full of fiber, and low on calories.  Find a few that you love, and eat the **** out of them.  I’m a big asparagus guy.
  • Lots of fruits: strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, apples, blackberries, raspberries, and more.  I buy bags of frozen strawberries from Trader Joe’s or the HUGE bag from Sam’s Club.  They’re cheap, they go great in a blender
  • Processed sugar and simple carbs are your enemy: processed sugar, junk food, simple carbs (like white bread, white rice, etc.), and Soda.  Get it out of your diet!  Get rid of it.

Health is not accomplished in 8 minutes from some DVD.  Fitness isn’t achieved from jogging half a mile every other day.  It’s a lifestyle change.  It’s making a decision every morning to eat right and stay strong.  There’s no simple solution to a flat stomach, there’s no miracle exercise to thinner legs, there’s no easy fix to a healthy figure.  It takes hard work, common sense, and dedication!

Do it.

-Steve

NF Rewind: Nerd Fitness Begins…

For today’s 150th post, I decided to look back at my very first post from last fall, before I really knew what I was getting myself into.  Check it out!

How this site started:

When I moved out to San Diego in ’06, I weighed approximately 160 lbs. I had spent 4 years of college trying every workout routine in the book: one muscle group every day for 5 days a week, 3 muscle groups a day twice a week, etc etc etc. I think between Freshman year and Senior year I probably put on 5 lbs. (I didn’t drink through most of College, so the “Freshman Fifteen” that everybody else put on didn’t really apply to me. I would have LOVED to put on 15 lbs!) I tried it all, and nothing worked.

Things changed when I moved out to the West Coast and signed up at the local gym.  I was given 5 free sessions with a personal trainer, and I learned what I had been doing wrong all along: my diet. Even though I had done the right exercises for the four years of college to build muscle mass, I was only eating half the number of calories and grams of protein necessary for muscle development. In the 5 weeks hitting up the gym and meeting with my personal trainer, I was eating over 200 grams of protein a day and a ridiculous amount of good carbs, scattered throughout 7 meals (eaten every 3 hours), and I went from 160 lbs. to 180 lbs.

I figured after 4 years of intense work-out sessions, I was doomed to be skinny for the rest of my life (yeah, poor me. I know, I’m so lucky, blah blah blah. That’s not the point!) All it took was a change in my diet and my approach to the whole thing.  Since then, I’ve tried to absorb as much information and experience from all aspects of fitness to develop the most efficient way to stay in great shape.  I studied hard and became certified as a personal trainer; after the certification I continued studying and learning, soaking up as much information from as many sources as possible.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this whole fitness and health thing.  I’ve tried enough of the wrong ways, so I want to make it easy on you guys (and girls) to find the RIGHT way.

That’s my story, and this is where we begin.

-Steve

Always Be Learning

Later on tonight, I’ll be meeting up with Mike Rickett, a personal trainer from Colorado who had taught my personal trainer certification class.  Mike travels the country and teaches personal trainer certification classes, and when he’s not traveling he’s training athletes at the Olympic training center near his house.  Not a bad gig!

I love when Mike comes to town, because I know I’m going to learn something new.  Last time he came to town, he took me through an Olympic lifting routine that had me sweating buckets in only 20 minutes.  Prior to that day, I had never even considered doing Olympic lifting and couldn’t see myself getting real benefits out of it.  However, after that day I did some research and found that most Olympic lifters have incredible verticals and can hit the hell out of a golf ball.  As an avid golfer and pick-up bball player, I figured I had been an idiot for years by not doing these lifts.  Now, I do Olympic lifting every other week, trying to perfect my technique and increase my strength.  I always thought being able to dunk a basketball was something you’re born with – now, I’m closer than ever to having enough vertical to throw it down, and I know if I stick with these lifts I’ll be there soon enough.

Tonight Mike and I will be headed to the gym again, and I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn.  Mike’s is my Yoda. Maybe some new lifting styles, some new crazy exercises, or maybe a new way to do an old routine.  Whatever it is, I can’t wait to expand my knowledge and then pass along that info to you guys.  This whole “fitness” and “health” thing is quite the undertaking, and no matter how much you think you know, there’s always somebody that knows more.  I decided long ago that I could never be the guy that knows everything; there simply isn’t enough time in the day.  I was an Econ major in college, I don’t have a doctorate in health sciences, and I work a full-time job along with running this site.  Instead of trying to be an expert at everything, I’m going to continue to try and improve my life a little bit each day, whether it’s by learning something new related to fitness, eating just a little bit better, or helping somebody else improve their lives.   As long as I’ve done one of those things every day, I feel like I’m living my life right.  Like a Firefox or Mac OSX update, there are various stages.  You don’t jump from 1 to 2.  You jump from 1.1.2 to 1.1.3, or 10.5.3 to 10.6.1.  Some changes are small, some are monumental.  No matter the size of the change, as long as it’s SOMETHING, you’re improving.

  • On Monday, I gave up Muscle Milk shakes after drinking three of them a day for 3 years.  I’ve switched to creating my own post-workout shake that is made up of fruits, juices, and good calories.  I already feel better because I know exactly what I’m putting in my body.
  • On Tuesday, I helped a Nerd Fitness reader develop a healthy fitness routine and diet for his body type.
  • Yesterday, I finally gave up my Skippy peanut butter (after eating PB sandwiches daily for 20 years, I kid you not).  I’ve switched to natural peanut butter which has 80% less sugar, and actually tastes the same.
  • Today, I’ll be learning new exercises and routines from Mike.

I challenge you to do the same.  Make one switch in your diet, add a new exercise to your routine, do some research on a new technique, or help one of your friends who is looking to change his/her life as well.  Always be learning, always improve.  Make yourself a better person and make this planet a better place. 

One step at a time, level up your life.

-Steve

My Interview and Workout for Eventualism.com

Wednesday is off and running, and I’m already feeling better about my decision to give up those Muscle Milk shakes.

Instead, I’ve switched over to creating a new concoction that has almost as many calories and is only a little bit more expensive: 6 oz of Orange Juice, a handful of frozen strawberries, half a cup of oatmeal, and one scoop of whey protein – blend it all up, and I’m left with a protein filled, good carb-loaded strawberry smoothie.   It’s freaking delicious.  It’s about 200 calories less than my old shakes, so I’m thinking of trying to find other ways to add calories without compromising the taste.  I think I’m going to lean towards adding some yogurt, switching out the OJ for milk, and maybe even adding some sunflower seeds.

A few other news and notes, if you haven’t got a chance to listen to it yet, head on over to eventualism.com and check out the podcast interview I did with Eventualist creator/comedian Mike Vardy about the history of Nerd Fitness and my future plans for the site.  Mike’s a great guy, and presents a satirical view on the whole “Getting things done” mantra.  Instead of GTD, Mike decided to go with FTD…you’ll have to check out the site to see what it stands for.

Picture 1Mike had me create a special Eventualist workout for his readers as well, which you can read about here, and download as a PDF here.

Next week, I’ll be flying home to spend some vacation time with my parents on Cape Cod, MA.  I won’t have a gym membership up there, so I’m going to have to come up with some creative ways to exercise.  Expect a post or two on exercise routines using just my bodyweight and things around the house, because that’s all I’ll have available to me.

-Steve

NF Mailbag: When Should I Drink A Protein Shake?

wayne-gretzky-21Wayne Gretzky asks: Hey Steve.  I was looking over your site the other day.  Great stuff man.

I’d like to try protein shakes but I’m pretty clueless.  A guy I play hockey with says I should have one before the game.  I’ve read  your protein shakes for newbies article but what else typically goes in a shake?  Anything special in particular with relation to the sport of ice hockey?  Also what’s your take on drinking coffee?  I never used to drink the stuff but started a few years back.  Most I would have is 2 cups usually.

Thanks,

Wayne

Steve writes: Wow, Wayne Gretzky emailed me! Not really.  Alright Wayne, as far as protein shakes go, their main purpose is to pump your body full of protein when you need it quickly and cheaply.  What does protein do?  Help rebuild your muscles after they’ve been broken down.  You don’t really get much energy out of a protein shake, but it certainly helps rebuild your muscles AFTER you’ve destroyed them.  Drinking a protein shake after your hockey game might be a good idea, because your muscles are all worn out and beat up from playing hockey.  Hockey is lots of sprints, so your legs will be pretty beat.  This is when your muscles need protein the most.  Before the hockey game (not immediately before), I’d recommend something that will give you energy – a banana and peanut butter, whole grain bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal and rasins, etc.  You want something with complex carbs (whole grains) and a little bit of sugar to give you energy throughout your game.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you want to stay hydrated, so make sure you’re chugging water starting the day before your games.  Hockey is one of those brutal sports that can really wipe you out if you’re dehydrated.

If you’re interested in drinking protein shakes after your games or after you work out, the easiest thing to do to start out is buying yourself a tub of 100% pure whey protein.  They’re cheap, you can buy in bulk, and they come in different flavors; I’m a vanilla fan myself.  You can mix a scoop or two (check the serving size) with just water, but most of the time those taste crappy.  Instead, I’d say mix it with milk, or orange juice and frozen fruit (my new favorite mix).  Adding frozen fruit is a great idea, and try to eat a few slices of wheat bread if you can too.  You NEED to get carbs along with the protein so your body can use the carbs to refuel and the protein to rebuild.  I’ve even heard of people throwing some oatmeal packets into the blender too, as oatmeal is loaded with complex carbs that will help your body refuel.

Get a cheap blender from Walmart or target, buy a bag of frozen fruit from the supermarket, and start mixing and matching good materials until you come out with a product you like!

I haven’t done too much research on coffee as I don’t drink it, but I know lots of people that do.  I know there are some issues for some people who drink like 5 cups a day with milk and sugar and cream in it, the calories really start to add up.  I’ll do some extra research into coffee and write a post about that soon because I’m curious myself.

Thanks for writing in!

-Steve

Have a question? Email me at [email protected] and I’ll gladly answer it.

You Gotta be the Man.

Word Count: 668 NF Difficulty: Beginner

Trying to get in shape by yourself is always tough.

You’re surrounded by people who make unhealthy choices, choosing to sit on their ass all day rather than exercise, and would rather go to Burger King than eat a decent meal.  If you can find somebody to partner up with and help keep you accountable, things will be much easier.  However, if you’re the lone wolf, it just means you’re going to have to show stronger leadership skills, show stronger willpower, and be the Man (ladies, you can be the woMan, it’s cool).   Maybe you’re like Master Chief and have some other marines around you to help keep you on track.  More than likely though, you’re like Sam Fisher and have to go it alone (ladies, you’re gonna have to be like Samus, which is awesome because Samus kicks ass). 

You might be married to or dating a girl/dude who is unhealthy and likes you “just how you are,” and they won’t understand why you’re trying this ‘exercise thing.’ Maybe you’d like to get in shape with your girl/guy whose motivation is severely lacking and gets mad at you every time you want to go to the gym instead of watching a movie with them.  When you have to go it alone, it seems like everything is lined up against you.  When it’s not a priority for anybody but you, you’re going to have to work extra hard to be successful.  You gotta be the Man.

What being THE MAN requires:

  • Make good decisions, even when everybody else around you isn’t. I don’t mean you can’t have any fun.  Go out for beers, eat bad food every once and a while, but more often than not, you need to be the guy that sets a good example.  Suggest places other than fast food joints for dinner/lunch.  Order the healthy stuff while others are ordering deep fried.
  • Start exercising, and become knowledgeable about how and why certain exercises do what they do. If you like running or climbing or swimming or lifting weights, become the go-to guy in your group for information about that stuff.  If you know how to do basic exercises properly like squats, deadlifts, pull ups, chin ups, and presses, you’ll be more knowledgeable than 90% of the people in your gym.
  • Speak softly and carry a big stick. Don’t start preaching to people, because nobody likes hanging out with “that guy.”  Be a silent leader, but be ready to talk about your success if they ask.  People will have a lot more respect and admiration for you when you just go about your business and let others do the same.  Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and do it without insulting those who don’t.
  • If you don’t have anybody to look up to for information, find somebody less knowledgeable than you and help them out. The best way to get better at something is to teach somebody else about it.  I started this blog not because I was an expert, but because I wanted to become one by helping others.

Ya know what, most of your friends might make fun of you or tell you that you’re being ridiculous with your healthy behavior; let them.  When you’re all at the pool and you’re the only one without a gut, I think you’ll get over their playful insults. 

What if you’re married with kids? Want your wife/husband to get in shape with you but don’t know how to bring it up?  Start exercising and eating right, and then when your wife asks you why you’re wasting your time with exercise, that you already ‘look good enough,’ tell her that you’re doing it because you want to be around for a long time for your kids.  When you tell her you’re doing it for the kids, she can’t argue…and it might even kick her ass into gear.  Set a good example!

It’s a constant daily battle, are you up for the challenge.  If you start to get discouraged or begin to lack the motivation to keep up the fight, email me at [email protected] and I’ll gladly help. 

Stick with it.

-Steve

Do you know these Fitness Equations? You Should.

Word Count: 607 NF Difficulty: Beginner

C4743rWe’re all nerds here, right?

We’re all relatively intelligent, we don’t mind math equations, and we want to get in shape.  Every day, your body burns a certain number of calories just existing.  This is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (calculate your BMR here), and it’s based on your height, weight, and age.  You also burn calories when you expend energy doing physical activity (walking to work, swimming, climbing stairs, playing with your kids, etc.)  When you combine your BMR with the calories you burn doing physical activity, you have your total calorie expenditure.  Conversely, you get your energy from the calories you consume with each meal, drink, whatever.  Let’s take a look at some of the fundamental equations of fitness that you need to knowe.  This will seem overly simple, but so many people don’t realize these things when trying to get in shape:

  • Calories consumed > total calorie expenditure = weight gain. Although this is a quite simplistic look at things, it really works.  If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight.
  • Calories consumed < total calorie expenditure = weight loss. If you consume less calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight.  What a novel concept!
  • 3500 calories = 1 pound of body weight.

Okay, so when you’re just getting started with fitness, these are the only formulas you need to worry about, because they’re easy to remember, and they’re simple!  Let’s explore more closely.  If 3500 calories = 1 pound of body weight, then 500 calories per day (3500/7) = 1 pound of body weight.

For you big nerds trying to slim down – if you’re interested in LOSING a pound a week - you need to decrease your daily calories consumed by 500 calories, increase your calorie expenditure by 500, or find a combination of the two that equals a 500 calorie deficit.  My recommendation, find a healthy combination of less calories and increased calorie expenditure (by exercising more).  Obviously if you want to lose 2 pounds a week you’ll have to manufacture a 1000 calorie deficit.  I wouldn’t recommend too drastic of a deficit, or your body will think it’s starving and go into starvation mode.  (Read why starvation mode is bad here).

A few things to take from this: every calorie counts!  You know that half cookie you ate at lunch?  How about that half a can of soda you had left in your fridge.  Those calories definitely count, and they add up throughout the day.  Be smart.

For you skinny nerds trying to bulk up, if you’re interested in GAINING a pound a week - you need to increase your daily calories consumed by 500 calories, decrease your calorie expenditure by 500, or find a combination of the two that equals 500.  Now, if those 500 calories are all junk food, and you decrease your calorie expenditure by doing less exercise, the weight you’ll be gaining will be fat which is undesirable…unless you’re going for the fat look.  My recommendation, eat 1000 extra calories a day (GOOD calories), and then exercise with heavy weights (which will burn many calories, but less than 1000), and you’ll gain lean muscle.

Now to be honest, not all calories are created equal…but hopefully you knew that. Obviously a Mr. Pibb (dude didn’t even get his degree) and bag of Funyons isn’t equal to grilled chicken and rice, even though they have the same number of calories.  If you’re going to create a calorie deficit, do so by cutting the junk food out of your diet; Because that stuff is so bad for you, finding 500 calories to get rid of on a daily basis isn’t the tough part.  It’s actually having the fortitude and willpower to do it.

What can you cut out of your equation?

-Steve

The Big Nerd Manifesto – 15 Tips for Guaranteed Weight Loss

So you’re a big nerd.

234085-hoagie_largeIf this were an RPG, you’d be an Ogre.  If this was Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, you’d definitely be Hoagie.  You weigh 300+ lbs. and this whole fitness thing seems like a lost cause to you.  You’re ready to lose some weight, eventually build some muscle, and get strong like a mofo…but you have no freaking cue what you’re doing.  Luckily, you found this site, and I’m here to help!

Here are 15 tips for you to get started:

  1. Realize that your diet is 90% of the battle – You can’t outrun your fork.  If you exercise 20 minutes a day but continue to eat like crap, you’re not going to get much accomplished.  The first change has to start in your mind, and the second change has to happen with your diet.  Without making changes to what you eat, you’re just treading water.
  2. Keep track of everything you eat - Sign up for a site like dailyburn.com (it’s free), input your stats and start to track every one of your meals.  It will tell you if you’re eating too many calories or carbs or not enough protein.  You might think twice about that 3rd coke when you know it will put you over the calorie mark for your day.
  3. Eat breakfast! Read this article about why breakfast is so important.  When you eat a high protein breakfast first thing in the morning, your metabolism gets started right away and starts processing those calories.  If you don’t eat breakfast, you’re more likely to stuff your face for lunch, and your metabolism (which hasn’t processed food since the night before) will be rusty and inefficient.  This is one is non-negotiable.
  4. Eat more often – If you eat generally three meals a day, instead eat six.  Try to eat every 2-3 hours, and each meal needs to be the half the size of what you used to eat.  By eating more often, you will keep your metabolism operating at peak efficiency.
  5. Remember this equation: 500 less calories a day = 1 pound lost per week.  Evaluate your diet, and find out where you can knock out 500 calories a day.  This can be a small change with each meal, but the calorie deficit will certainly end up more in your favor.  If you can burn more calories per day than you consume, you will lose weight.  It’s science
  6. Eat only good things - Taco Bell, Twinkies, and Mountain Dew aren’t getting the job done.  You need to use common sense and evaluate your diet.  If you don’t think it’s good for you, if you bought it at a drive-thru window, or it came out of a deep fryer, it’s PROBABLY not good for you.  You need healthy calories that are loaded with good protein, good carbs, and healthy fats.  Be smart.
  7. Muscle burns more calories than fat – A person with lots of body fat will have a slower metabolism than a person with lots of lean muscle.  Work on building more lean muscle, and your metabolism will reward you with burning more calories, even when you’re not exercising.  More calories burned = more weight lost = a happier and thinner nerd.
  8. Protein = building block for your muscles. Chicken, fish, meat, eggs, low-fat milk, almonds, peanuts.
  9. Not all carbs are created equal – if you must eat carbs, eat good ones!  Bagels, muffins, white bread, candy, french fries, donuts, sugary cereals are NOT good carbs, but you already knew that because you’re using common sense.  Load up on vegetables and fruits, cut out breads, grains, and pastas and you’ll lose weight, guaranteed.
  10. Low fat does not mean healthy! Read your labels on those ‘healthy choice’ frozen meals.  They all say “low fat,” but if they’ve just replaced the fat with tons and tons of sugar, it will instantly go to your ass/gut.  All that added sugar isn’t good for you, so make sure you read your labels!
  11. Fruits and veggies, go nuts – Want some good carbs?  Eat all the vegetables you want!  Find ones that you like, and eat them all the time.
  12. Liquid Calories still Count – Drink water all day long.  STAY AWAY FROM sugary sodas, alcohol, lemonade, fruit punch, massive Coolatas from Dunkin Donuts, etc.  These drinks will derail your weight loss train faster than anything.  Drinking water instead of those two Cokes a day will result in almost 20 lbs lost in a year.  Evaluate your liquid calories, and cut them out of your menu.  Water!
  13. Do what makes you happy – If you don’t have a gym membership or you don’t like lifting weights, that’s fine.  Ride a bike, play basketball, jump rope, go hiking, live action D & D, whatever you want, just find something active that makes you happy, and do it for at least 20 minutes a day.
  14. If you do like lifting weights, compound exercises are your friend– All of the compound exercises, like squats, lunges, deadlifts, and benchpresses practically use every muscle in your body.  The more muscles you use, the more lean muscle you’ll build and the more fat you’ll burn.  Everybody wins. Do you like lifting weights but no gym membership?Check out this blog on body weight exercises.  You’d be amazed what you can accomplish without any equipment.
  15. Set realistic goals – If you try to lose too much weight too fast, your body will revert back to caveman mode and assume the reason you’re only eating 900 calories a day is because food is scarce and you’re starving.  When this happens, your body will start to hoard the food you’re eating and shut down your metabolism, so you’ll burn even less calories and you won’t lose any weight.  Then, when you start to eat more, your stays in starvation mode for a while and you gain back even more weight than before.  Aim to lose 1% of your body weight per week or less.  More than that and it might not be healthy.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and I’m sure many of these suggestions seem overwhelming.  Just take it a day at a time!  Pick a few things on this list, and make them a habit.  After they become routine and you start to see results, pick a few more and work on those.  If you work on getting a little better each day, stay determined and motivated, you’ll see results.  Email me at [email protected] if you have any questions, and I’ll gladly help.

As Morpheus tells Neo, “I can only show you the door.  You are the one who must walk through it.”  Take the first step today.

-Steve

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Don’t Cheat Yourself: Do a Full Rep!

Word Count: 1057 NF Difficulty: Advanced

I wanted to kick off today with a link to a podcast I did for Mike Vardy, creator of eventualism.com , a satirical site aimed at helping people ‘get things done…eventually.  It’s like a site that Stephen Colbert would run if he decided to run a productivity website.  You can listen on Mike’s site, download it here directly, or get it in iTunes here.

Let’s move onto today’s topic, “Doing a full rep.”

I was at the gym last night, and in a span of 10 seconds I watched 3 guys half-assing it.  A guy was doing squats with three plates on each side of the bar, and he would go down like four inches before going back up.  Next to him, I watched a guy swinging all over the place as he did “pull ups” where he only went down halfway and then barely brought his chin over the bar.  In between the two, a guy was doing ‘bicep curls’ while throwing his back into each rep because he couldn’t actually lift the weight with just his arms.

Picture 2If you got a chance to read through yesterday’s article from Henry Rollins, you know that “200 pounds is always 200 pounds.” Mark Twight, the lead trainer for the actors from the movie 300, has slightly amended that statement: “to ensure valid measurement a yardstick must be one yard long and two hundred pounds is only that when moved through a complete range of motion — regardless of the speed at which it moves.”

Mark had a lot of competition between actors while getting everybody ready for the film; in this article (thanks for the link Evan!), he discusses how the majority of people in a gym will very quickly sacrifice form and completeness for speed:

“As our training group grew during the last year we noticed that, in the quest for faster times work quality was easily sacrificed. Such may be unconscious behavior but I like to call it cheating. When movement quality declined we couldn’t use the stopwatch to monitor improvements because other parameters must be fixed for the time to be relevant: if the load is fixed, and the movement is always the same then posting a faster or slower time is useful knowledge. If the load is fixed but the range of motion (ROM) is shortened a second variable has been introduced and knowing the time is no longer useful.”

“We train in preparation for sport-specific tests or work-related challenges, we do not train for the sake of it or because conditioning is our sport or hobby. We don’t do this because we want to look a certain way or to lose weight (these are consequences). We suffer during training to improve ourselves physically and psychologically and we measure those improvements on mountains, on frozen waterfalls, in burning buildings, facing cunning adversaries, on the battlefield, on the mat and in the cage. Because these tests occur outside the gym we don’t compete in the gym, we work hard, and we work together to make the sum greater than its individual parts. Cheating here won’t help us get where we are going so we enforce all quality all of the time.

“That’s our yardstick, how long is yours?”

If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.  I highly recommend reading the whole article, but if you don’t have time, here is the description for various exercises and what the guys at Gym Jones consider full reps:

Pull-ups: elbows must pass behind centerline of the body, if this happens the entire head rises above the bar, active shoulder position at bottom (as opposed to full dead hang)

Push-ups: chest touches the floor first, active shoulder and full extension at the top, body held as a solid plank, the hips do not move

Squats: thighs must be parallel to floor (at minimum) in the bottom position, full extension at the top of the movement

Lunges: trailing knee must “kiss” the ground but may not support any weight

Push-Press and Thruster: arms must lock out overhead, hips displace horizontally to the rear to initiate recovery of the weight, Thruster includes all attributes of a proper squat

Kettlebell or Dumbell Swing: weight must be raised higher than the head (arms about 45 degrees)

Box Jump: once established on the box the athlete must stand up completely, whether jumping for reps or max height taking steps to gain momentum is not permitted

Ball Slam: full extension at the top with hips forward, ball must actually be slammed (imagine that), catching it on the bounce is better style, rounded back not permitted during recovery

Burpees: includes a proper push-up, explosive finish (jump), overhead clap, and feet remain together throughout movement to ensure maximum hip displacement

Wall Ball: full squat required, ball must hit target

Dips: upper arm must be parallel to the floor (at minimum) in the bottom position, arms lock out in full extension at the top

Picture 3I love it! If you exercise each week and find ways to ‘cheat’ the system so you can lift more weights or do more reps, you’re not getting any better or stronger.  Practice perfect form every single time you’re in the gym.  Practice perfect form with each repetition.  Practice perfect form if you’re in a competition or trying to set personal bests.  If you don’t remove all variables except weight or reps, you won’t really know how successful you really are.  I know we have a few Crossfit readers on here; my concern with Crossfit is that due to the highly competitive nature of Crossfit, form is far too often sacrificed for faster times and more repetitions.  If you are a Crossfit guy or girl, do everything you can to promote full repetitions at your gym and amongst your peers so you’re all on a level playing field (and you’re all safe! sacrificing form is the fastest way to get injured).

You know the famous 300 challenge? When actors and stuntmen attempted to complete it, there were spotters watching each repetition to make sure each was done completely.  No three-quarter pull ups, no half-assed deadlifts, no fake box jumps.  I have ten thousand times more respect for amguy doing complete squats with just the bar than I do for a guy with 400 lbs on his shoulders only going down a quarter of the way.

Do a full rep!

-Steve

What’s Your Excuse, Chump!

Every day, you have a choice to get in shape or perpetuate an unhealthy lifestyle.

kingsizehomerIf you have been a couch potato for years, probably anything seems better exercising, so you come up with excuses to make yourself feel better about putting things off for one more day.  I’ve heard pretty much every excuse in the book, but there are three that repeat themselves over and over that drive me crazy.  Are you guilty of any of these?

I don’t have time to exercise – To (loosely) quote Boiler Room, You know what I say to that? I say, hey look, man, tell me you don’t like my firm, tell me you don’t like my idea, tell me you don’t like my ****ing neck tie, but don’t tell me you can’t put together 20 minutes of exercise a day.  I know there are single moms, with three children and two jobs, that still find a way to get up 20 minutes early to go for a walk or jog.  I don’t care what you do, as long as you find a way to do something.  If you tell me there’s not enough time in the day, what you’re really saying is that you’re not actually serious about getting in shape…which is perfectly fine.  Come back when you’re ready.

Don’t think you can actually get anything done in 20 minutes? Try some high intensity interval training or jump rope.  20 minutes will get the job done.  Want to really push yourself – try Tabata exercises.  This will only take 4 minutes and will probably destroy you.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.

fat-homer-simpsonI can’t afford a gym - Oh realllllllly? Sure they all have “initiation fees,” but if you show up, then tell them the price is too steep, and you’ll have to think about it, I guarantee that price will get cut in half.  Ask around your office or your group of friends; if any of them have a membership at a gym, you can probably sign up as a friend of theirs and get reduced rates and no fees.  “I can’t afford the 35 or 40 bucks a month, though” -  That’s one less night out at a bar a month, one less dinner date, one less video game.  If you’re serious about getting in shape, 40 bucks a month is a small price to pay.

Still too cheap? Find 4 different gym chains in your area, and go into each as a potential buyer.  They’ll give you a free week’s guest pass.  Find enough different gyms and you work out for free for quite a while!  Read about picking the perfect gym here.

I don’t like gyms – Before we deal with this one, do you really hate the gym, or are you just afraid of going to them? If you just don’t like them, that’s fine.  Personally, I LOVE to lift weights and get stronger, but I can’t stand my gym.  It’s a bunch of meatheads in spandex ogling themselves in the mirror while they do bicep curls or half-assed squats.  90% of the people in there do exercsises improperly, 50% of them are there to socialize, and probably 2/3rds of them have no idea what they’re doing.  I made up all of these statistics, but I bet I’m not far off from the truth.  Because of this, I make sure I go to the gym 1st thing in the morning when it’s practically empty, I put in headphones, keep my head down, and just do my thing.

If you really don’t like the gym and have no desire to use one, find another way to stay in shape.  Run every morning.  Go for a hike with your kids.  Join an ultimate Frisbee league.  Take your dog for a walk.  Get outside and enjoy this beautiful weather!  You can get in great shape doing just bodyweight exercises, so don’t think you need weights and treadmills.

Which one is keeping you from getting started?  If you did find a way around them, how were you successful?

Leave your comments below!

-Steve

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