Archive for August, 2012

How Should Women (And Men For That Matter) Train?

This is a follow-up article regarding females and how they should train because apparently a lot of them still believe that an hour of Pilates or Spin Class a day is enough to reach their goal, mainly being fat-loss. (I have nothing against those types of classes, it can be fun but there are limitations.) The human body adapts to a stimulus very quickly, therefore if you repeatedly expose yourself to the same stimulus, the effect of your exercise regimen will slowly start to wane and ultimately plateau, especially if your goal is to lose fat as fast as possible.

I completely understand that women have phobia with weights, mainly because the men who use them make unnecessary grunts while lifting weights just to make it seem harder than it actually looks. These same people also tend to drop their ‘heavy’ dumbbells/barbells onto the floor, trying to make a statement which vaguely states ‘I am hardcore’. No, that is not hardcore; hardcore is making heavy poundage seem like a feather.

Training can be a very good way to release almost all of life’s stresses. For me personally, I tend to have the best workouts when something or someone is obstructing my pursuit of happiness. I vent all of my frustration on the iron.

 My training philosophies are very simple. It can and should be applied to everyone that values time spent in the gym.

Learn your body’s limitations and diligently remove it.

Flexibility refers to your muscles while Mobility refers to your joints. Most people have tight hips, mainly because of the amount of time spent sitting. When you sit, you are practically doing a half-squat. This is one of the main reasons why most people (including myself) cannot squat to depth. We’re too sedentary for our own good, thus affecting our basic movements such as the squat. Ever wondered why babies have perfect squatting form? Then all of a sudden we are lead to believe that squatting any lower than parallel is bad for our knees, lower back, and pinkie finger. You know where I’m going with this. We tend to make excuses to comfort our pride, training is no exception.

To undo our screwed up movement patterns, we need to be consistent with joint mobility work and stretching. (30 seconds of static stretching does not cut it, mind you). Static stretching has been made to look like a ‘pariah’ in the fitness world mainly because there were studies that showed it reduced peak power output during workouts. Most people need static stretching on the chest, hip musculature and calves. I will be the first to say that everyone should do stretching (static or dynamic) as frequently as possible because the more you do it, the better you will feel. However you don’t want to stretch a muscle that isn’t tight in the first place. Find what muscles or joints are limiting your movements and just keep on working it until you can see actual improvements on your movements. (Side note: Sick rhyming skills displayed there, if I can say so myself.)

It’s better to be good at a few exercises rather than being mediocre at a lot of exercises.

The basic exercises everyone should learn to do are bodyweight ones. It’s human nature to avoid anything uncomfortable or challenging.  What’s the point if one cannot stabilize on all fours (Planks) but wants to stabilize on twos (Squats)? I’ve personally seen people who are able to bench-press yet cannot execute a proper push-up.

This is how a proper push-up looks like. Mid-section braced, elbows close to ribs,shoulders over palms,knees off the floor.

I am the least mobile and flexible person I know. I need about 20 minutes of warm-up to actually get into a bodyweight squat comfortably. In my experience, a lot of people have forgotten how to engage their core, including myself. I am re-learning all these exercises I thought I knew.

It’s all about progression and regression. Females tend not to have huge egos, therefore they are willing to embrace regressions and from there their progress will be much more profound. There will be times where you must take a step back in order to move forwards.

Master the fundamental movements first, and then move on to fancier stuff in the weight room. This leads me to my next philosophy.

You have one ass; therefore you cannot sit on two horses.

I don’t know who came up with this but I know it makes perfect sense to me and once you’re done with this, should make perfect sense to you too. Females train because they want to look good naked or they are obligated to a sport. The problem is most of them are following conventional wisdom. If 10 reps of crunches somehow magically remove fat, 20 reps surely will remove fat faster. More is not always better. The 1 hour you spend in the gym is not the key to your goals; it’s what you do with the 23 hours that dictates your progress towards your goal. Diet and Sleep (Collectively known as recovery) are the most important keys when it comes to meeting your goals; let’s presume its fat-loss. My advice is to eat anything your great-grandmother would recognize as food.

I notice a lot of women tend to be the first to hop on fitness trends, the current one being Zumba. I have no qualms with that but you have to understand that if fat-loss is your goal, you have to actually exert physical effort, the most brutal form being High Intensity Interval Training(HIIT), and no, doing it on every machine within sight is not considered HIIT. Choose a training method that suits your lifestyle the best and stick to it. Too many people do too many things at the same time, therefore when they somehow succeed; they have a hard time attributing it to a single factor. Sit on one horse you like the most, ride it as far as you can.

See what I mean?

There you have it, these are just a few of my principles regarding training and how I perceive fitness. For me it is and never will be just about gaining muscle or losing fat. It is simply about sustaining long-term health. Plus I love doing things I previously thought I couldn’t do. It is empowering, knowing that you can do anything you want to do. It’s just a matter of how bad you want it.

 

 

 

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Why do most women fear effort?

Women tend to want to look like other famous women. Unfortunately, most famous women are celebrities and some of them don’t portray healthy physiques. The pictures you see in magazines do not reveal the full extent of the ‘beautifying’ process that is involved towards the ‘perfect’ look that many women would die for. They will also subconsciously hop on the ‘latest diet bandwagon’; especially if they know a celebrity is on the same bandwagon.

Let me give you my definition of the word, diet. It is not cutting down on food, neither is it a fixed way of eating. It is simply the food I eat.

Most women don’t understand that a lot of dedication and consistency is required just to look good naked. In my experience, women cannot differentiate between emotional hunger and real hunger. They are further confused by the media and social circles, influencing them on nutritional habits. They listen to everyone else, at the expense of the single most important person they should be listening to, themselves! No one knows your body like you do.

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The single most effective parameter of measuring fat-loss or muscle gain (notice I don’t use the word lean or tone) is the mirror. The second best one being your clothes. Most people tend to judge their weight on weighing scales. It makes complete sense right? WRONG! Don’t be too obsessed with numbers because your bodyweight will fluctuate but the mirror will never lie.

Most people fear what they don’t know. Females are not the first thing that comes to mind when one mentions the word ‘Gym’. This is because most of them have a pre-conceived notion that when they do strength training, they will automatically bulk up to monstrous proportion (which is entirely untrue by the way).  It is as good as saying they don’t want to try sprinting because they don’t want to look like Marion Jones.

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Females have far lesser testosterone than males; therefore it takes a longer time to grow muscles compared to males. However, females think the moment they lift ‘heavy’ dumbbells or barbells, they are going to look like female bodybuilders. Care to venture what changed the thought process of most females? The mainstream media are the sole perpetrators of this phenomenon.

Most females also think spot-reducing still works. Let me tell you it has never worked. Your body is smarter than you think. A few sets of triceps pushdowns coupled with crunches will never eliminate fats from those respective areas. Fat-loss does not work that way. Everyone has abdominals; it is just covered with layers of fats. Abdominals are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.

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“The myth that women should not lift heavy is advanced only by women who fear effort and men who fear women.” Eric Midkiff, Olympic Weightlifter

Everyone should learn to train like athletes. The most prominent example would be the Olympics. The common denominator from the female athletes is that they have very low body fat percentages and enough muscle required for their particular sport. I’m not saying everyone should train twice a day and follow a strict diet. I’m saying we should adopt the mindset required to achieve what many think may seem impossible.

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So what’s stopping you from achieving your goals?