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That Said, Don't Train for Fat Loss

A fun resource to follow if you like crude language around fitness and fun doodles: (click image to go to Physiqonomics.) 

Anyway...

A few weeks back I talked about how exercise can absolutely help you with weight loss (again, *IF* that is what you want). 

However, I don’t think one should train specifically FOR weight loss. 

Like I wrote earlier, when people try to exercise for fat loss, but don’t have any base understanding of their eating habits, they’re likely to unconsciously increase their eating to accommodate their extra energy expenditure. 

If you do have your eating habits and food awareness on lock, then ANY training is going to create a caloric deficit that can help with fat loss. The number 1 most important thing is to find an activity that you enjoy and will do on a regular basis. 

Obviously at SPS, we love weight training, and I can talk about its benefits until you want to smack my face. But in the end, it’s what YOU find interesting and tickles your brain.

Typically, when people talk about training for weight loss they mean some form of conditioning or cardio. And cardio/conditioning has all kinds of health benefits:

  • Cardiovascular flexibility
  • Better blood lipid profiles
  • Better brain function
  • Better insulin sensitivity
  • Stress reduction and better sleep
  • SO MUCH MORE!


But if you’re doing it specifically to create a caloric deficit, I have bad news for you: most styles of cardio don’t work as well for caloric deficits as lifting heavy does. Even the highly lauded HIIT style training often isn’t done with the intensity necessary to get significant results, because that level of intensity SUCKS to do. Plus, pairing HIIT with a heavy lifting protocol can quickly push you over the recovery threshold, leading to overreaching and overtraining. 

So you’re looking to lose weight? Eat for fat loss and train for muscle gains. 

While in a caloric deficit, without strength training, your body will catabolize (break down) both fat and muscle to make up the energy needs difference. But by incorporating strength training, you’re signaling that the muscle is needed and it will be better preserved than without strength training. 

If you want to add in conditioning, because you enjoy it and want to reap the benefits listed above, have at it! But don’t forgo strength training with the notion that conditioning will better accelerate fat loss compared to strength training.
 

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It Seems Like Just Yesterday...

I really wish I remember where I heard this exercise, but I can’t even recall if it was from a fitness, business, or personal growth book or article. 

Anyway. 

Think about eight months from now. It’s April right now, as I’m writing this, so eight months down the road would be December. That’s two whole seasons passed, several gym events, and lots of birthdays. December seems so far off....

But then think back 8 months. From now in April, that would be August 2017, and it really doesn’t seem all that long ago. 

How often have you uttered some version of the phrase “Man, that seems like just yesterday…”

Applying that to your goals, whether they be strength, skill, or physique based, when you think about how long it realistically takes to reach those goals, instead think about how short that process will seem in hindsight. 

In Gretchen Ruben’s book “The Happiness Project,” she repeats this mantra often: “The days are long, but the years are short.” She uses this as a reminder to pay attention to the process and enjoy the journey, because it all goes by so fast. 

Another way to look at this: each day you spend working on your goal feels like eternity. But in the grand scheme of EVERYTHING, it’s going to go by much faster than you think. 

Progress when you’re in the journey can seem so slow. But when you look back on it, you’re not going to remember the daily ups and downs. It seems like just yesterday that you got started.

So take a deep breath, know that frustrations will come and go, and keep working towards those goals. 
 

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Why Do I Keep Jumping Forward on My Olympic Lifts?

One of the more common phenomenons in newer weightlifters is jumping forward when catching the weight in both the snatch and the clean. Often the easiest way to fix this is to either draw a line on the ground for the athletes to line their toes up with, or for the braver coach, hold a PVC pipe in front of the bar during a lift. 

You don’t need to know WHY a undesirable thing happens in order to fix it. But for many analytical athletes, they like to know the why. In my experience there are three main things that lead to an athlete jumping forward. 


Problem Area 1: Not pulling the bar close to you off the floor, leaving a lot of space between the bar and your hips. 

Between convincing new lifters not to use their arms during the first and second pull and the common description of arms as ropes attaching the barbell to the body, athletes often have a hard time distinguishing between keeping their arms long and loose, and still using their back to sweep the bar close to them. 

During the pull off the ground, this can lead to the bar moving straight up or even swinging away from the body leaving a lot of space between the bar and the hips. In order to make that coveted hip contact, athletes unwittingly jump forward, effectively chasing the bar. 

One way to get the athlete to feel lat engagement off the floor: Using a band on the barbell, the coach will hold the band on tension and have the athlete clean or snatch deadlift the bar to their hips against the band tension. 

Please don’t do the whole lift like this, though.  


Problem Area 2: After making contact with the bar, athletes relax their back and the bar loops away from them.

In an effort to get under the bar as quickly as possible, after contact and full extension many athletes will lose all muscle tension and drop under the weight. Even the mildest of brush off the hips can cause the bar to drift forward during the “Third Pull” and if the athlete is not actively guiding the bar, they will have to jump forward to receive it. 

So after full extension and contact/ brush with the hips, you still want to exert force on the bar. Only, instead of trying to pull up on it, you’re directing the path straight up using lat tension while actively pulling yourself under the bar and into the receiving position. 

A couple good drills for this include high hang lifts and snatch “pull unders” from high blocks. Have Coach Jay demo this one for you, he’s really good at it. 


Problem Area C: Shifting weight to the toes too early, causing the overall trajectory of the bar path to be forward.

Most coaches and trainers know this: ask an untrained individual to squat and they’re likely to raise up on their toes as they try to sink straight down. 

While coaching and repetition will help athletes balance better in the middle of the foot, once speed is added to a movement, people may revert to old habits and start shifting towards the toes during the pull. Shifting to the toes early in the pull means the entire system, body plus barbell, moves forward and the overall trajectory can cause a forward jump when the athlete needs to land in a balanced, midfoot position. 

As with grooving any movement, slow it down and really take note of what is happening during your pulls. Pause one inch off the ground, at the knee, at the hip. Do you feel your full foot pressing into the floor at each position? Do it again. And again. And again… 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. 

Just simply the most common causes I’ve seen since I started coaching the lifts. There are as many cues, fixes, and drill combinations as there are athletes in this sport. 

If you haven’t already, come by SPS and have one of our coaches at a look. I guarantee you’ll get a fresh perspective. 
 

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A “Why” of SPS

Why do we do what we do? 

We help people get stronger and obtain better cardiovascular endurance. 

We provide community. 

We coach new skills to people who want to get better. 

Yes. But a lot of gyms do those things too. Why SPS? Why personalized strength and conditioning? Why such flexibility in our approach to coaching MetCons and Olympic lifting? 

Because we recognize everyone’s ability to be a hero in their own story. And since everyone’s story is different, their hero training will need different styles of guidance and adaptations. We feel a one size fits all approach to programming might get people from Point A to “not Point A,” but it probably won’t get them to their ultimate goals. 

We also recognize that goals change over time, and we can move with you to keep YOUR goal the goal. 

So if you’re already at SPS, tell us what you want to do, and we’ll help guide you in that direction. If you’ve just been watching from afar, come talk to us to see how we can help you. 
 

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Make it TOO Easy - Changing Your Approach to Nutrition

In general, people love grand gestures. 

The proposals at sporting events. Big reveals at the end of home makeover shows. The hero’s soliloquy inspiring her team. Success of the underdog like The Karate Kid.

I think that’s why people gravitate towards nutrition programs that promise big results, require big changes, but often leave people with a string of “failures” in their wake. 

Whole30
Bulletproof
Keto and keto cycling

Even programs like Renaissance Periodization and Paleo ask for some pretty big changes in your approach to diet. They’re not “extreme” like the others mentioned, so they seem pretty reasonable.

Consider this, though: When you started in the gym with a training program, were you set up with a program that threw you into twice a day meet preparation or something to get you comfortable with the new moves and routine you were embarking on?

Too often, despite understanding that strength and muscle growth happen in small increments over time, people don’t take that measured approach when looking at their nutrition habits. 

Out in the world, once you leave the gym, you don’t have your coach egging you on and helping you make decisions about weights and reps. So your best bet is to make it TOO easy. 

1. Change one thing at a time

When you first get started, it’s usually because your motivation (or pain point, however you choose to see it) has hit an all time high and you feel READY! But this feeling will wane. Start slow and you’re more likely to stay motivated longer. 
 

2. Start with the low hanging fruit

Most of us have at least one area where a simple change can make a big difference. For me, recently, it was cutting back on my wine. NOT cutting it out, mind you, but cutting back. My evening pours can get really generous (understatement), so I just switched to a smaller glass. 

Maybe in your case it’s:

  • Not eating enough protein at meals, so you get hungry quickly
  • You tend to snack often and aren’t super aware of it
  • You eat your meals out and/or quickly so you don’t notice your fullness cues
  • You go for too long between meals and end up portioning off more food than you otherwise would eat
  • You drink a lot of caloric beverages, anything from wine (*waves*) to heavy cream in multiple coffees, to soda, to juices

It could be anything. Sometimes, this is where a food and drink diary come into play, just to spark awareness.

3. Scale your new habit to 90% confidence

Going back to my wine change, I would never tell someone like myself to STOP drinking wine. I would never stick to that, I would “fall off the wagon,” and it would be failure after failure. But scaling it back to a smaller glass, that I can do. 

So it doesn’t have to be wholesale stopping or starting something. You don’t need to cut out ALL snacking or start eating ALL your meals at home. Start with maybe one less meal eaten out a week. Start with a preset amount of your typical snack. 

Then try your best to stand back and watch how you react to the change. Do you keep “failing?” That’s not failing, it’s data. Either find a different place to start or scale your habit in a different way. 
 

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