Thursday, September 22, 2016

Your Entire Life Is Training - Know Your Timber

"When sorting out timber for building a house, that which is straight, free from knots, and of good appearance can be used for front pillars. That which has some knots, but is straight and strong, can be used for the rear pillars. That which is somewhat weak, has no knots, and looks good is variously used for doors sills, lintels, doors, and screens. That which is knotted and crooked, but nevertheless strong, is used thoughtfully in consideration of the strength of the various members of the house. Then the house will last a long time." - Miyamoto Musashi 

When it comes to training for improved fitness and health, the vast majority of people think of only their workout. They view fitness as just their resistance training, cardio, or high intensity/met cons. If it doesn't make you sweat, doesn't push your limits, or set new personal bests ... then it's not a workout. 

This couldn't be further from the truth. 

Those types of training are important, but they're just an aspect of your training as a whole. There are many other aspects to your training that have a great impact on your health and fitness that are generally ignored, or emphasized to a lesser degree, by many trainees. 

When we look at training for the everyday person, or even the athlete, we need to look at your training and fitness from a holistic view. Training for improved health and movement in everyday life involves ... 

- Resistance training
- Low level cardiovascular training
- High intensity training
- Individualized nutrition 
- Core specific training
- Mobility/Flexibility exercises 
- Postural correctives/Myofascial release 
- Gait correctives
- Quality sleep
- Managing stress 
- Daily very low intensity movement & multiple changes of body positions 

Each one of those listed here are aspects of your fitness training. When we look at all of those aspects, it becomes clear that training is much, much more than just the time spent in the gym. It could be though of that everything you do in your daily life can be seen as training. 

 The key is figuring out which aspects of training needs to take up the majority of your focus and which ones need to be used to a lesser extent. This order will change multiple times throughout your life, depending on the directing your life takes you. 

 These aspects of training are just like the timber described by Musashi in the quote above. The carpenter knows when and where to use each piece of timber, he knows the exact purpose for each bit of wood, and he understands when their needed and when they're not. 

The same goes for every aspect of your training. 

Training implies that your training for something, for most people it means training for the best everyday life. Training means you're improving, not breaking yourself down. When anyone of these aspects of training are put into the wrong order, they can destroy your health. If they're put into the right order, they'll improve your well being. 

Know your timber and when to use it. 

- Tim

P.S.: If you don't know how to use each tool yourself - get some guidance. Online personal training with me might just be the right option for you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Unpopular Opinion: Bench Press Is Stupid

 I think the bench press is stupid and outdated. I don't think it's essential for the average person. In fact, outside of a sport such as power lifting or maybe bodybuilding, I think everyone could get away with ever having to perform the bench press. 

The Bench Press Is Dangerous

Come on, do I really have to describe why loading a bar full of heavy ass weights, then laying down under that bar and lowering it down towards your chest/neck is stupid or dangerous? There's a reason why when you bench you need spotters, or bars on either side, to guard you from having your ribs or trachea crushed if you fail out on a rep. From a danger stand point, the bench press is dumb. 

The Bench Press Is Unnatural 

 The bench press is an unnatural movement. Most of the time when we're in a position to push or press something, we're standing. Not laying down on a bench. We push to open doors, move shopping carts, shove heavy objects or even people. Even throwing punches could be considered a "pushing" type movement.

 When we push things from a standing position, it challenges our fascial slings, hips, and core musculature in a way that laying on a bench just does not. That is, as long as your back isn't up against a wall while you're performing your standing push exercises.  

 Just because you can bench press 300+ pounds doesn't mean that you wont feel weak or fall apart kinetically while performing a standing, single arm, cable push. Actually, most people who don't train their pushing from a standing position, and only train forms of bench press, are surprised at how weak they feel during standing push exercises. 

Any time that I've taken a client, who only performs bench presses, and worked with them on standing cable or resistance band presses, they fall apart and compensate in order to perform the movement. That's not good from both a mechanical and athletic stand point. 

If you want to train your push more effectively I would suggest any of the following exercises 

- Standing cable or resistance band pushes (single arm, both arms, one leg, staggered stance etc.)
- Push ups 
- Sled pushes 
- Med ball pushes/throw variations 

So You Like Push Ups But NOT Bench Press? What Gives?

While the push up isn't as effective at replicating natural pushing mechanics as standing cable pushes, it's still leaps and bounds better than the bench press. 

 The core is worked harder during the push up as the spine isn't being supported by the bench. The core needs to fire during pushing movements in order to protect us and improve the strength behind the movement. 

 The hands are also not forced into a fixed position during push ups, as they are with the bench press. When you bench press, you're forced to hold onto a straight bar. This puts your hands and shoulders into a fixed position. This position isn't right for everyone and locking someone into that position might lead to injury. Shoulder injuries during bench press are common, even while using exceptional form. The push up allows for a little more freedom in hand placement due to the fact that you're not forced to hold onto a bar. This allows the trainee to find the right position for them, that's safe, and feels comfortable for their unique body type. 

Traditional Bench Press Doesn't Have Much Carry Over 

People have evolved over millions of years to stand, walk, and run on two feet as a priority. These actions are facilitated by our fascial slings. Our fascial slings work by oscillating to move our bodies forward or backward. When one sling shortens, the opposing sling lengthens, and a whole series of muscles from our upper body, core, and legs activate - working as a team. 

 If we're looking for greater carry over, from an exercise, to our every day lives and athletics we must use movements that train the slings in ways they were designed to move - from a standing position and oscillating. The bench press doesn't train the slings in this manner. 

By laying on a bench, we disconnect the core from needing to fully engage. By pressing with both arms at the same time we're not using the slings in oscillation. By not standing up during the exercise, we're not performing the push from the position we find ourselves in most of the time. The bench press doesn't train your body to perform the way it was designed to perform through evolution. 

One example of an exercise that does train the slings effectively, in a manner that resembles natural movement is the standing, single arm, staggered stance, cable press. In both looks, and function, this exercise will help replicate the demands placed on the body during not only standing pushing, but also movements such as ... 

- Running
- Walking
- Throwing 
- Punching
- Pushing/ shoving

... and more. If you're goal is to move better in life and athletics, while improving your functional pushing mechanics/strength, the bench press might not be your best option. 

Should You Bench Press?

I'm not your mother, I can't tell you want to do. If you like bench pressing, go ahead. If you're a power lifter, you're going to need to bench.

  But, in my opinion, if you're the average person you don't need to bench press - and you're probably better off if you avoid it. There are better ways to train your push. Ways that are safer, have greater carry over to everyday life/athletics, and respect evolution. Don't be surprised if in the upcoming months, you see more and more coaches/trainers removing the bench press from their programming. 

 It takes time for things to change and become "the norm", but I do believe the bench press is on it's way to becoming "benched" as an exercise for the everyday person. 

- Tim 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What To Do When You Don't Feel Like Exercising

 If you're wondering what to do when you're not in the mood to workout, then you should take a look at my latest article for "Whole Life Challenge". In it I discuss my top 5 alternatives to working out on a day when it's just not for you. You can read more by following this link here.  

- Tim  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Unpopular Opinion: Why I'm Not A Big Fan Of Olympic Lifting

Olympic lifting is popular, and that's an understatement. Everywhere you look at the moment, it seems like everyone from athletes to grandparents are incorporating it into their training. It looks cool, it's got a ton of hype behind it, and coaches everywhere love to discuss the benefits of this training style. 

But ... I'm not a big fan of Olympic lifting. 

In fact, I would go as far as to say that I don't think it's smart or necessary for the "everyday person" to be training using Olympic lifting. 

Now, before you shit down my throat, I did title this piece as an "unpopular opinion". It's my opinion, I understand that it's not one shared by the mainstream fitness community, and I know it's going to make more than a few people a little bit ... butt hurt. 

Before I jump into the reasons why I don't really like Olympic lifting as a form of fitness for the general public, know this. I am not saying that you should stop Olympic lifting if you enjoy it. I'm not saying that no one should do Olympic lifting. I'm not saying that it's not impressive or bad ass. What I will do is bring up some of my thoughts on this training style and why I'm not into it, and maybe they'll be some things you haven't thought to consider. 

Olympic Lifting is a sport, one that's not designed for everyone. 

 Olympic lifting, like every single sport, is more suited towards a certain body type. In fact, in many countries Olympic Lifters begin their training when they're children - after they've been inspected by coaches to see if they have the body type suitable for the sport. 

 Coaches will look for kids with stocky builds - broad torso, short limbs, and not very tall. They must also possess a decent amount of mobility through the shoulders, ankles, knees, hips, and thoracic spine. These attributes are suited towards being successful in Olympic lifting. 

 Not everyone is built to perform Olympic lifting, and that's ok. It's a sport after all, and one that's technically demanding, highly physical, and dangerous. 

Olympic lifting is a high risk training style.

Olympic lifting is a sport. Sports are exciting because they're crazy displays of unusual athleticism. All sports have a certain amount of risk and danger involved, some have more than others - Olympic lifting is no exception to this rule. 

If you're an Olympic Lifter, one who competes, I'm sure you're aware of the dangers involved in your sport - and you've come to terms with the fact that you could easily injure yourself while performing your chosen sport. That's ok, it's a the natural risk you take as an athlete looking to be the best in your chosen sport. 

 However, if you're a regular person (like 95% of the population) who doesn't get paid as a professional athlete - you should be using the safest training methods possible. Your training should be low risk and high reward. This means using exercises that mimic daily movements, are easy to learn, easy to progress or regress, and are not highly technical. 

 Olympic lifts are highly technical, not suited for everybody type, and require special coaching. It also involves literally throwing weight over your head and dropping yourself underneath that weight while fully squatted and arms extended fully overhead. I hopefully don't have to go into detail about how that could go wrong and how there's a high degree of risk for injury involved there. 

But Olympic lifting trains the hinge & athletic position?

Ok, yeah Olympic lifting trains the hinge and the athletic position. But so do tons of other exercises, in much safer, less complex, and more general ways. If you want to train your hinge try any of these exercises ... 

- Deadlifts (barbell, kettelbell, dumbbell, bands, pulleys)
- Swings (dumbbell, kettlebell) 
- Pull throughs (bands, pulleys)
- Standing Hip Thrusters (bands) 
- and more ... 

 All of those are easier to learn, lower risk than Olympic lifting, and most can even be performed from a single leg stance (unilateral) in order to increase their carry over to sports and athletics. There's no reason you have to perform Olympic lifting to train the hinge or athletic position. 

But what about improving explosive power? Sprint speed? Or jump height? 

One of the biggest reasons people train Olympic lifts, is that they're said to improve explosive power, top sprint speed, and jump height. Well, that maybe be true to a degree - I still don't think its a necessary (or smart reason) to be Olympic lifting. 

Yes, Olympic lifts have been shown in tests to help improve jump height, but so did squatting and dead lifting. In fact, the Olympic lifts only were only showed to be marginally (very small) more effective at improving sprint speed and jump height than squatting and dead lifting. The kind of difference that doesn't matter, unless you're a paid athlete looking for a competitive edge. 

When it comes to sprint speed, plenty of exercises have been shown to help improve top sprint speed and they're much safer than Olympic lifting. For example, hip thrusters have been proven more effective than squats at improving top sprint speed by a long shot. The hip thruster also doesn't compress the spine like the squat. It also doesn't involve hucking weight over head and dropping under that loaded bar, like Olympic lifting. Much safer! 

If you're a regular person (by that I mean not a paid athlete) who's looking to perform a training program that improves your explosive power, ask yourself why? What do you need to be more explosive for? And if you do need to be more explosive, do you really feel it's necessary to perform Olympic lifts - lifts that are highly technical and high risk - to get similar results that could be achieved by performing safer and less technical lifts such as squats or dead lifts? 

But I really want to be more explosive, wont Olympic lifts to that for me?

Not exactly. 

We're all born with a certain amount of slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres. People with more slow twitch muscle fibres tend to do well in endurance based athletics - think marathon running. Those born with more fast twitch muscle fibres excel in more explosive types of activities - think sprinter. 

Olympic lifting is an explosive sport. People with more fast twitch muscle fibres will perform better in this sport than those with more slow twitch fibres. Through training, both types of people can become more explosive. However, the person with more fast twitch muscle fibres will always be, due to genetics, more explosive than the person who was born with more slow twitch muscle fibres. 

No amount of training can increase your fast twitch muscle fibres. 

Also, as I had already stated above, you can train your explosive power in a safer manner, with similar results that would be achieved with Olympic lifting, by using traditional lifts such as dead lifts, squats, hip thrusters, or kettlebell swings. 

What do I mean by all of this?

Basically, what I'm saying is this. 

Benefits from Olympic lifting can be produced through safer, less complex, and more general training/exercises. Every form of training has risk involved, but the risk is much higher with Olympic lifts than more basic forms of exercise. There are also no real studies that prove beyond any doubt that Olympic lifting improves over all athleticism. There's nothing that proves it can make you become a better athlete in any sport - other than Olympic lifting. It won't turn you into a super athlete, it's not meant for every body type, and in my opinion - it's not the smartest method of training for the general public. The only real reason anyone needs to be training using Olympic lifting - is if you want to compete in Olympic lifting. 


I'm not your mom, I can't tell you what to do. 

If you enjoy Olympic lifting, go ahead and continue doing it - please be sure to have the best coaching possible. 

- Tim 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

How To Get A Killer Workout When You Only Have A Park Bench

 I'm sure you already know that I'm big on being able to take your training anywhere, regardless of your access to equipment. In my latest article for "Whole Life Challenge" I teach you a bunch of exercises, beginner and advanced, that you can perform using only a park bench. Oh yeah, I include a workout you can do as well. Take a look here (if you click this link you can read about it).

- Tim 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What You Staring At? Trataka Mediation

 I'm a big fan of mediation. Actually, I think it should be a part of everyones daily routine. I don't care if you're mediating for 10 mins or 45, a little is better than nothing. Why? Because mediation has a shit load of benefits, such as ... 

- Improved stress response
- Better sleep
- Improved focus
- Reduced anxiety 
- Improved mood 
- Reduced severity of depression 
- Improved cognitive ability
- Positive effects on blood pressure 

 ... and much, much more 

 The key to mediation, is finding a style that suits your needs and works well with your personality. 

 There are countless forms of meditation, a lot of which have been around for thousands of years. They're not all going to work well for you as an individual, you're going to have to try a few and see what works for you. 

 That's what I have been doing for years now, and most recently I have been working with a form called Trataka.  

What Is Trataka 

 Trataka mediation is one of the oldest forms of mediation, and it involves staring at a small object for a prolonged period of time. The most popular objects are a candle flame or small dot. The goal is to keep your gaze on the object, without blinking or moving your eyes. The practice is said to help cleanse/activate your third eye while enhancing psychic abilities ... but I don't buy into that shit. Too mystic for my taste. 

What I enjoy about Trataka, is that it gives me an object to focus my attention on. By focusing on the object, my mind feels "quieter". When a thought runs through my head, I let it pass by and return my attention to the physical object I'm staring at. It's much like mindful mediation, only I have a physical object to place my attention on. The effect is quite calming. 

How I Meditate With Trataka 

 The way I set up my Trataka mediation is easy ... 

- I perform it whenever I want during the day, I have no set time but you could if you like. 

- I mediate for anywhere from 5 - 15 mins depending on the day 

- I use a dot over the candle flame, it's just my preference 

- The dot is placed 3-4 feet in front of my eyes, large enough that I don't have trouble seeing it but not too big 

- I either kneel down to meditate or stand up, I use a dot drawn on paper that I adjust to the right height

- During the mediation I don't use a specific breathing pattern, but I do try to keep my breath from my belly and regular 

- I pay attention to my posture 

- My gaze is fixed completely on the dot, no blinking, no moving my eyes, just one straight line to the dot

- When a thought runs through my head, and I notice I'm paying attention to the thought, I catch myself and bring my attention back to my breath and the dot 

- At some point your vision may begin to "tunnel" and the edges of your sight may blur ... that's normal. When your eyes don't move for a period of time, they stop processing everything in their peripherals because no "new" information is coming in. This is the best part, it's a neat experience. 

- If you must blink, do it and continue on 

- Continue on like this for however long you desire. When you decide to stop, close your eyes and rest for a bit. Open your eyes and allow your vision to return to normal. 

 I find the whole practice of Trataka rather "grounding" and it leaves me feeling calm. It's one method that, right now, works well for me as an individual and I enjoy it. It may or may not be what you like, it may not even work well for you, but it's worth a try. If you're looking for a new method of mediation you can do it right now by opening the picture above, enjoy! 

- Tim 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

How To Get Better At Pull Ups, When You Can't Do Pull Ups

 My article for "Whole Life Challenge" is up, and it's a great one for those of you who can't perform a chin up/pull up yet. I'll teach you "The Dead Mans Crawl", how to do it, how it can improve your vertical pulling strength, and how to use it in a workout. Take a look here. 

- Tim