Over the past month or so I have had the privilege of working with, talking to, and hanging out with a pretty diverse group of people. These interactions have brought up some pretty eye-opening things that apparently are going on in the fitness world that I really have some issues with. So, let's talk about them! Yay!
I have to start with a bang here, and this is about the most insane thing I have ever heard. Like, seriously. It has come to my attention that there are fitness centers out there (it seems more schools than other places) that have record boards up at their gym. Well, that's not crazy, the crazy part is where the numbers are coming from. It seems that some of these places are posting numbers based on projections. Yep, take your jaws off the table and read that again. They are posting up gym records based on projections! WTF?! Some dude 5 rep maxes his squat, so they take that and find a percentage chart (you can find these things online) and post up that the athletes 1 rep max is, say, 500#, despite the fact that the person has NEVER LIFTED 500#!!!! This is easily in the top 5 stupidest things I have ever heard of in my entire life. It'd be like the Yankees claiming that they officially won the 2012 World Series because they added Ichiro to their lineup. Forget the whole "winning enough games to get to the playoffs, then winning the playoffs, then winning the World Series," they just, you know, win. I understand why people use projections; it's like taking crappy body fat tests so you have some form of gauge of where you might stand. But you DO NOT use projected numbers as what you can actually do. They are freaking projections!
Ok, ok, I'm getting worked up. I feel like I don't have to say much more about all this to have people with normal brains to understand how dumb it is. So, let's move on!
Maxing on day one. So this one has been one of those things I’ve talked about with tons of people. A lot of schools, gyms, athletes, and people in general choose to come in on day one of a program and max out on all their lifts so they know where they stand. I really do understand why one would want to do this, but there are a number of things completely wrong with doing this (if you actually want to get WAY stronger and better!). First and foremost is the fact that most people beginning a strength-training program do not fully understand how to squat correctly. If you can't squat to depth, if you are having any sort of joint imbalance, if you’ve never squatted before, there are a whole slew of steps that need to be taken before you throw on as much weight as humanly possible. This also leads to my second point, and that is a matter of general safety. I have seen and heard of this happening most commonly with teams, and when a group of 15-25 athletes enter a weight room, I think that maxing out right on that first day is about the most irresponsible thing the strength coach could do. You have absolutely no clue where each athlete stands, and it would be your JOB to make sure that each one of the athletes is getting the best possible program. Make sure each has a GOOD understanding of what it is they are doing, and proves they have the biomechanical ability to actually perform the movement before you tell them to throw a ton of weight on the bar.
The last point is more of a geek-out point. And to all my athletes who have heard me talking about this this summer, and to all those who have gone to their coaches and trainers to ask about this, here is a chance to get a little understanding. For me, a huge reason to not max on day one is because our bodies our not prepared to handle maximal loads. An intelligent and effective program will not only prep the muscles to be able to adapt to handling heavier and heavier weights, but it will prep the Central Nervous System (CNS) to understand how to contract the muscles properly given the load demand. The CNS takes a signal in the brain when the body is loaded, then fires a response to the muscles on how much to contract given the specific load. This process needs to be trained. If you do not train it, the brain will not have the ability to fire properly when over-loaded and you will probably fail, lift incorrectly, and put yourself at a HUGE risk of injury.
When you max on day one, you are asking not only your muscles, but also your brain to do more than it’s capable of doing. You are setting yourself up to fail, and you are setting your training program back a ton! This is why a good program involves something called progression. Yes, it can be as basic as gradually increasing loads week by week. But, a really good program will have much more detail that is directly put down to prep your CNS and your muscles. Then increase loads and volumes in a manner that most effectively allows them to adapt and grow. The second you overload the body before it is prepared to be overloaded, you limit its growth potential. So, anyone who claims CNS prep is stupid, just go lift heavy things is an idiot. I say that with complete confidence.
Low- and No-fat diets. These things are about the most ridiculous things to happen to food since Wonder bread. Think of it this way: America is more or less the only country in the world that promotes the low/no-fat diet, and America is the most overweight country in the world. Does, not, compute! This is a post in and of itself really, I mean, I have read a few books that focus almost completely on this topic, so there is a ton to say here. Let me try to keep it as simple as I can. Fat distributes nutrients to the body so that our bodies can benefit from all the good that real food provides us. We NEED fat.
When a food product has its fat taken from it, it is replaced with something else. Generally this is some sort of sugar. Sugar is WAY, way, way worse for our bodies than fat. Lean meat is not necessarily better for you. And it is definitely not better for you if you are eating it with a whole bunch of pasta, white rice, bread, soda and/or alcohol.
My point here is to say that you should not be afraid of fatty cuts of meat, uncured bacon, butter, olive oil and nuts. These things will actually work wonders for your system if you add them to your diet and take away the processed crap you add to your diets to replace the fat you are not getting.
And this leads me to my final point (although, there are about 10 more I’d like to make. Perhaps a series of these posts…?): educate yourselves! The internet can actually be used for good, and if you are reading this blog, you are already taking a small step towards getting some good information into your heads. Go to my resources page and click on some links and read! There is such good info and advice out there, all you need to do is read around (as in, read more than just a few article titles) and start to form a better and healthier understanding of how you want to live your life. Hell, if you don’t believe what I say here, go educate yourself a little and raise a discussion with me! I am always happy to talk in detail about all this stuff, just as long the as the person I’m talking to can make an educated argument. Why does your knee hurt? Why does your stomach hurt in the morning? Why do you wake up every morning stuffy? Why are your eyes sunken in, or even a bit bulgy? Why do you get constipated? Why do you feel tired all day? Why are you not making gains in the gym, with your runs, on the bike, etc.? There are reasons for all this and more people! And while it would be easiest to just push all the problems away and forget about them, that will most surely come back to bite you in the ass later on in your life. So, either find someone you trust and ask them questions, and make the effort to learn the stuff for yourself, or go freaking read! If you get fat and out of shape and just can’t seem to figure out why; my guess is you just have no clue. So open your mind up a bit, ask around and learn to take charge in getting better.
And as always, I am MORE than happy to help!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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