Simple Strength 1-2-3

It’s not heavy weights that build muscle. It’s not high reps that build muscle. It’s heavy weight with high reps that builds muscle.

– Tom Platz (former American professional bodybuilder)

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Often people try to over complicate everything in life. Tell somebody to define “clean eating” and they will need a 500-page book to explain it, when a simple eat some animal protein at most meals with a variety of vegetables will do. The same applies to the terms “get stronger” or “get in shape”, where it could take multiple books, depending on the discipline to flesh out the finer points.

Getting strong is not that complicated. It is however, hard work.

One of the simplest ways to achieve this is the “one-two-three” method.

How it works
Pick a movement:

  • Push: Bench or Overhead Press;
  • Pull: Pull-up;
  • Hinge: Deadlift;
  • Squat: Front or Back Squat.

Select a load that you can complete five repetitions. It will vary from person to person, but generally it would be about 80% of the individuals max. Now, follow this format:

1-2-3

Complete a single, rest a few seconds, complete a double, rest some more, then complete a triple. That will be a total of six repetitions completed with excellent form. For a more solid workout, run through this method up to three times:

1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3

That is 18 repetitions in a set using a weight that you would normally use for five repetitions!

Rules
Focus on the major movements Push, Pull, Hinge and Squat. Basically, compound multi-joint exercises are best.

Never miss a repetition and don’t chase fatigue. You want to be fresh for each repetition, so rest as long as required. If you have a training partner, the simple “I go, you go” method will be fine.

The weight should feel light and easy. There is no requirement to figure out loading percentages. Just adjust the load by “feel”. The idea here is to increase the effortless efforts to increase your best effort.

Let the volume do the work. Often under appreciated, building muscle mass, getting strong and lean takes time and effort. If you want more strength, you will need a lot of clean repetitions with crisp technique to teach the nervous system to eventually lift the larger loads.

Programming
An easy way to implement this method is to supplement it into your normal training using the 1-2-3 repetition scheme for a chosen movement, one to three days per week.

I have personally found that using this ladder method does wonders for increasing the Pull-up, and have found good results experimenting with other major lifts like the Overhead Press and Deadlift.

Being stronger in these lifts is the secret to power, mass and leanness.

The problem with Stair-master

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The Stair-master is a piece of gym equipment that has been designed to simulate the climbing of stairs. First of all, no machine will ever beat the real life task of climbing a set of stairs or hiking up the side of a mountain. The satisfaction of making it to the summit, along with the view, will always surpass the view of the gym car park or a row of televisions and or mirrors.

However when used correctly, the Stair-master can be used to supplement your training and have some cardiovascular benefits along with being a great tool in developing strength and endurance in the lower body.

This is not always the case as the majority of people are using the machine incorrectly.

The problem with the Stair-master
Almost every time you walk into a gym you will find people who don’t know how to use a Stair-master, or many of the cardio machines for that matter. The machine is meant to simulate climbing up stairs. Pretty basic right? Yet still you will find many people who find it necessary to add all of these un-natural movement patterns to try to complicate a simple movement.

Common mistakes people make on the Stair-master
In no particular order these are just some of the mistakes people make using the Stair-master.

Stair-master kickbacks
Not really sure how this movement developed? Did someone say that this would help give you bigger more developed glutes or did you see someone else doing this exercise so you thought it was worth giving it a go?

Just Squat. And Hinge. The act of kicking out your leg while using the machine does nothing for you other than giving you the impression that you think you’re actually doing something productive.

After you finish squatting, do some glute bridges and kettlebell swings.

Stair-master hanging
There are only two reasons you should need to hang on to the rails of a Stair-master:

  • You’re an older trainer and have poor balance;
  • You’re completely new to working out (or walking) and have developed no balance.

If you fall into the second category, you need to slow the machine down or take a walk around the park.

Stair-master sideways walking
Why? Is it because someone somewhere told you need to try to develop the outside (or inside) of your legs? Those muscles are probably already tight on you and if they’re not then going sideways on a Stair-master isn’t going to fix that.

Stair-master reading
Do you go to the gym to workout or do you go to the gym to read the latest gossip on the bachelor? There is a time and place for everything. Focus on the task at hand. If you want a good workout, then do a good workout.

Stair-master slump
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How often do you walk into the cardio section of the gym and see people slumped over on the Stair-master? The aim of the machine is to simulate the climbing of stairs. There is zero transferable skill to slumping while conducting this movement pattern.

It’s bad enough to sit slumped over at your desk all day, but to go to the gym afterwards and make it worse by slumping over on a machine for an hour? One of the main reasons the gym exists today is to help correct the imbalances created by living in the concrete jungle.

Just slow down, stand up straight, chest up and shoulders back. And get those hands off the rails!

Chasing calories on the Stair-master
Why? Because you need to burn 500 calories so you could eat some food afterwards? Or the night before? There is another whole post here. Chasing calories will not develop successful training or eating patterns.

Firstly, if you’re slumped over and holding onto the rails then the number on the display isn’t even an accurate measure of calories burned.

Secondly, all this is doing is creating a negative relationship with both exercise and food. This will almost always end in failure.

How to use a Stair-master effectively

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This picture tells a thousand words. Try a real set of stairs. Get outdoors and go for a hike. There is no machine that is going to help you with your movement so you actually have to do the work. You can’t lean on anything. You can’t read. It’s just hard work.

And that works.

The Med Ball Slam

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Athletic training has evolved greatly over the last hundred years.

Advances in technology and knowledge of the human body have reflected in the fine tuning of training methodologies used by the worlds most elite athletes and trainers alike.

Several exercises however, have remained constant throughout this time. The Med Ball Slam is one such exercise.

Med Ball Slams are an exceedingly simple exercise. Lift the ball high above your head, launch it into the floor beneath you, pick it up, do it again. It looks like child’s play compared to more technical lifts like the Snatch, but beneath its no-frills exterior, Med Ball Slams are building better athletic performance. Thus, the reason Med Ball Slams have persevered for centuries can be summed up in two words…

They work.

How to perform the Med Ball Slam
It is important to make sure you’re using an appropriate weight. This is not always the heaviest weight possible. The Med Ball Slam is an explosive movement.

  • Grab a med ball.
  • Assume an athletic stance and hold the med ball at waist level in front of you.
  • Rise up onto your toes as you bring the med ball overhead.
  • Explosively contract your abdominals and drive your chest down to slam the ball into the ground with as much force as possible.
  • Retrieve the ball as it bounces up and go into your next rep.
  • Your feet should remain in a good athletic stance throughout the exercise.

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Fasted Training

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Intermittent Fasting can be a valuable tool to improve your overall health and performance. But how do you fit in intense training while fasting?

Firstly, I wouldn’t recommend that most people just too many changes, too fast. Sometimes that can be too much of a shock to the system, which may lead to a decline in health and performance.

If you’re eating a mostly whole food diet you’re already almost there. Some small changes to your eating patterns and slowly extending your fasting period every couple of days will get you out to a pretty decent daily fast in no time at all.

Training in a fasted state
Training should be completed on an empty stomach and/or after the consumption of 10 g BCAA. Technically, the training is not completely fasted – as over time this could become detrimental to health and performance.

The pre-workout amino acid intake has a stimulatory effect on protein synthesis and the metabolism, is a crucial compromise to optimize results. The 8-hour feeding window commences with the first post workout meal.

Example

  • 1130-1200: 10g BCAA;
  • 1200-1300: Workout;
  • 1300: Post workout meal;
  • 1600: Second meal;
  • 2030: Final meal before overnight fast.

The largest meal of the day is consumed post workout, then calories and carbohydrates are reduced as the day progresses.

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Early morning fasted training
This is a common example as a majority of the early morning athlete will usually train fasted before starting their day. This example shows how you can train early morning and begin the feeding phase at noon or later.

  • 0600-0630: 10g BCAA;
  • 0630-0730: Workout;
  • 0830: 10g BCAA;
  • 1030:10g BCAA;
  • 1200-1300: Post workout meal (largest meal of day);
  • 2000-2030: Final meal before overnight fast.

This is my preferred method as I like to train early in the day. I also have a cup of black coffee with some MCT Oil pre-workout.

One pre-workout meal
A common methodology for athletes wishing to train late afternoon or directly after work.

  • 1200-1300: Pre-workout meal. Approximately 20-25% of daily caloric intake;
  • 1500-1700: Workout during this window;
  • 1700: Post workout meal (largest meal of day);
  • 200-2100: Final meal before overnight fast.

Two pre-workout meals
The standard protocol for athletes who work normal business hours.

  • 1200-1300: First meal to break the fast. Approximately 20-25% of daily caloric intake;
  • 1600-1700: Pre-workout meal. Similar caloric intake to first meal.
  • 1830-2000: Workout during this window;
  • 2000-2100: Post workout meal (largest meal of day).

The take away
No calories should be consumed during the fasting phase. Exceptions to this are black coffee, tea, BCAA and a cup of bone broth.

The fasting window is the perfect time to be productive. Try not to sit around, get bored and think about food.

Once in the feeding phase, meal frequency is fairly irrelevant. Most people prefer three meals out of habit.

The majority of your daily caloric intake should be consumed during the post workout period, with the largest meal being the first meal post workout.

The exception to this is on non-training days where your largest meal should typically be the first meal of the day, with the emphasis being on quality protein intake.

Remember, there is no one size fits all. If your preference is to eat your largest meal in the evening, then do it. Some people like to like to consume their largest meal on rest days later in the day with family or friends. If this helps you to enjoy your food and stick to your eating pattern long-term then it’s a win.

If training fasted, BCAA or an essential amino acid mixture is highly recommended. If you’re not into having a large supplement program, that’s fine. A whey protein concentrate will suffice and can be consumed during the pre-workout window.

Which method is best?
Depending on what your daily routine and training preferences are, a different protocol will be preferable. If your preference is to train early morning then the fasted training option is likely to be best for you.

Conversely, if you work the standard 0900-1700 business hours and your only option is to train in the evenings, then the one or two pre-workout meals pre-workout protocols will work better.

Sprinting for better health and performance

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The 100m sprint is one of the most popular and prestigious events in the sport of athletics.

A sprinter has a powerful physique. Body shape, muscle strength, the relative lengths between the legs, heels and toes, as well as a primed nervous system to pull the whole machine together. These are just some of the physiological attributes required to make an elite runner.

Now all of us will not be able to compete for the coveted title of “the fastest man in the world”, but we can definitely use sprint based training to improve our own health and performance.

Sprint training can build lean muscle tissue, burn fat, improve your overall body composition and improve performance across a variety of sports. Sprinting is a physical fitness tool that delivers a return far greater with regards to health and performance benefits than the original effort required.

There are many reasons to conduct sprint training, but unless you’re a competitive athlete or a hardcore fitness addict, you probably aren’t sprinting as often as you should. This is a mistake.

Here are some reasons why you should add a few sprint workout in your physical training programming:

It burns body fat
Weight loss isn’t just about losing a few extra kilograms. It’s about burning excess body fat while maintaining or building lean muscle mass and bone density. Sprinting is excellent at burning body fat without the muscle loss that can be seen in endurance athletes. This study found that a sprint session can increase post-exercise oxidation by up to 75%. This indicates that sprinting can improve body composition by burning body fat.

It’s anabolic (it can build lean muscle and strength)
Sprint workouts can increase testosterone levels in male athletes. In this study from 2012, men and women completed three 30-second maximal effort interval sprints on a stationary bike with a 20 minute rest between each sprint. Muscle biopsies taken from their quads showed markers of protein synthesis (this is how muscle is built).

It may be even better for women than men. The study mentioned earlier showed an increase in protein synthesis of up to 222% in women and 43% for men.

It builds new mitochondria
The basic function of the mitochondria is to extract energy from nutrients and create ATP, the standard energy currency of the body. More mitochondria, more power available to our body and brain, more fuel burned, more energy produced. It’s better to have healthy mitochondria, and scientists are always trying to find ways to preserve or increase their numbers because so many degenerative diseases are caused by malfunctioning mitochondria. Sprinting is one way to make more.

Multiple studies have shown that the type of sprint work doesn’t really matter.

It’s more efficient than endurance training
Generally, sprint training requires less time than endurance training. Sprinting can be just as effective in many ways and completed just a portion of the time. Adding sprints (4-6 sprints, 2 or 3 times per week) to your training can be just as effective as cycling for 40 to 60 minutes at improving insulin sensitivity, arterial elasticity, and muscular density.

It works for elderly people
Even the elderly can benefit from sprint workouts. They might be slower than a younger athletes. Sprinting ability to build and maintain lean muscle tissue may help prevent muscle loss associated with ageing.

It can improve insulin sensitivity
Sprint training can improve insulin sensitivity, improves hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetics, and lowers post meal glucose response in diabetics. If you’re pre-diabetic or already suffering from the condition, sprinting will help.

There are many variations
Sprinting can be completed in a variety of ways. It’s not just the standard 100m sprint on the athletics track. Even though an effective workout, there are many ways to vary your sprint training. You can get on the bike, run some hill sprints, get on the rower or even push a sled. The variations can be endless.

One session, every 7 to 10 days may be enough for some people to notice some of the benefits listed above.

The Turkish Get-Up

The one-arm get-up is general test of strength which had considerable appeal to most strongmen from yesteryear…

It has always made a hit with the theatrical public, for it was obvious to them that magnificent strength was being displayed when an athlete did a one-arm get-up with a heavy bell.

– Siegmund Klein (an American strength legend)

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The Turkish Get-up (TGU) is an outstanding exercise that develops strength, conditioning, mobility and stability throughout the entire body. It is both an excellent injury prevention and rehabilitation exercise for the shoulders. In fact, the TGU will give you shoulders that can take punishment, and dish it out.

It is a highly dynamic movement with enormous carryover to lifting heavy things. It does this by combining a series of movements from lying down to standing up with a heavy kettlebell overhead.

Many strong athletes have been humbled by the functional strength required to perform this movement, but mastering the TGU will make all overhead exercises safer and easier to perform.

A bit of history
The TGU was a staple exercise for the old-time strongmen and wrestlers. It has been said that this was the first and only exercise taught to many aspiring weightlifters to practice. The young athletes would have to master the TGU and be able to perform a TGU with 100 pound (45kg) weight with each hand.

When this goal had been achieved, the athlete was able to progress to the other lifts. There is some real wisdom behind that old-time methodology.

It takes tenacity and commitment to conquer this feat of strength. Secondly, it builds a solid foundation of strength that practically “injury proofs” the body, making it ready for more demanding training. It also significantly strengthens the major muscle groups, smaller stabilising muscles and the connective tissues.

Benefits of the Turkish Get-up

  • Promotes cross lateralization (getting the right brain to work with the left side, and vice versa);
  • Promotes upper body stability;
  • Promotes lower body stability;
  • Promotes reflexive stability of the trunk and extremities;
  • Ties the right arm to the left leg, and the left arm to the right leg;
  • Gets the upper extremities working reciprocally;
  • Stimulates the senses that contribute to balance;
  • Promotes spatial awareness;
  • Develops anterior/posterior weight shift;
  • Develops upper body strength, trunk strength, and hip strength.

How to perform a Turkish Get-Up
To keep it simple. The TGU can be broken down into three parts.

  • The half get-up;
  • The transition; and
  • The full get-up.

TGU: The starting position
Lying on your back, extend the arm holding the kettlebell in front of the chest with the arm locked out. If necessary, you can use your supporting arm to assist the initial lift or spot the weight. The goal is to get the weight into the locked-out position and not to build a big chest by pressing.

Post your left foot flat on the ground, with your heel close to your backside. This is the starting position. Remember to keep your eyes on the kettlebell throughout the exercise.

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TGU: The half get-up
From the starting position, with your supporting hand flat on the ground, roll slightly to your right side and sit up. Allowing the weight to drift forward slightly, then push off your posted foot to help you sit up.

It is acceptable to allow your free arm to assist slightly against the floor in sitting up. Finish with the left arm and kettlebell vertical (above your head), making sure the wrist is tight and elbow locked.

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TGU: The transition
In the transition, the athlete will move from the sitting to the kneeling position.

Begin by pressing the shoulder of your supporting hand (the one on the ground) away from your ear. This is important, but often overlooked step. It puts the shoulder into a strong position. It keeps the shoulder “active”, by keeping it in the socket.

Simultaneously press off your hand and posted foot, lifting your hips off the floor, forming a glute bridge. This will create the space necessary to swing your (right) leg underneath you as you slowly move into a three-point kneeling position.

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TGU: The full get-up
Slowly straighten your torso and pull your right arm up off the ground so that you are in a two-point kneeling position. Keeping your eyes on the kettlebell, and actively pressing the kettlebell straight up toward the ceiling.

Keeping your leg vertical, load your weight onto the heel, contract the outer glute and stand up, pushing the kettlebell up overhead as you straighten.

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From here, pause for a few moments, then reverse the steps under control to lower yourself on to the floor and back into the starting position.

Remember, there is no rush in completing this movement, and at times speed will destroy the movement quality, leading to an even more challenging or even dangerous practice. You will benefit from time under tension. So take your time and get it right.

Finally, always keep your eye on the kettlebell whilst conducting the movement.

 

Final thoughts
Mastering the TGU is an excellent investment of your time and effort. The TGU can compliment a variety of workout programs giving you many transferable benefits. It is versatile enough to be used as an injury prevention or rehabilitation activity, to a warm-up or even the main lift of your workout.

Personally, it is one of my favourite exercises (in and out of the gym), and has been a staple movement in many of my strength and conditioning programs over the years.

Basic fitness movements

Generally people would think that strength and conditioning training would require a gym, some heavy weights or even machines. This could not be any further from the truth. It is definitely one way get an effective workout, but you can also get a great strength and conditioning results with compound bodyweight movements.

It is a real simple way to introduce a beginner to a fitness routine. I’ve also come across many intermediate and advanced athletes over the years who have used bodyweight training to great success.

Below is a list of some of the basic fitness movements.

Plank

the-no-fuss-build-your-own-ultimate-abs-workout-2-700xhAs the names suggests, your body is a plank. Place your hands underneath your shoulders (either arms extended or on your elbows) and ground your toes into the floor and activate (squeeze) your glutes to stabilise your body.

Place your neck and spine in a neutral position, looking about foot ahead of your hands.

Movement standard:

  • Male: 2 minutes;
  • Female: 2 minutes.

Push up

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From the plank position, lower your body until your chest touches the ground. Keep your core and glutes tight and a neutral spine and neck. Press your body up again into the plank position.

Movement standard (single set in 2 minutes):

  • Male: 50 push ups;
  • Female: 20 Push ups.

Pull up

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Grip the bar at shoulder width (or slightly wider) with an pronated (overhand) grip, then hang from the bar with your arms and legs extended.

Pull yourself up until your chest reaches the bar, focusing on drawing your elbows into the ribs and sliding the shoulder blades down your back. Then, lower yourself down under control until your arms are straight.

Movement standard (single set effort):

  • Male: 10 pull ups;
  • Female: 4 Pull ups.

Air squat

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Feet at or around shoulder width (whatever’s most natural) and toes either forward or pointing slightly outward, lower by pushing your butt back and out until your thighs reach at least parallel.

Keep the weight on the heels and a tight, neutral spine throughout the movement.

Movement Standard:

  • Male: 50 Squats;
  • Female: 50 Squats.

Two or three days per week, after a suitable warmup, for example, some light cardio activity with some range of movement to activate the joints, try to complete a circuit using the four basic bodyweight movements.

Your initial goal should be to aim for the movement standard in each exercise for three rounds, with two minutes rest in-between rounds. Once you have surpassed this standard, try adding another round, decreasing your rest periods or even add some additional functional movements like interval running or the farmer’s walk.