In our current era, “fitness” is a main staple in the day to day of the average individual.
We believe that abundant amounts of cardio, demonizing certain foods (minus ethical implications) and bicep curls are the way to a great physique.
Granted, if you’re part of the 0.1% of the human population that are hyper respondents to any kind of stimuli, you’ll get good results regardless.
But what about the average man and woman who wants to look great for themselves but has no idea where to begin due to the consistent lies and falsehoods being portrayed by those who know better but want to make a dollar amount of the naivety of the uninformed?
That’s were personal research and simple terms can be employed to grant the best results, with the simplest equations over time. Nothing fancy, nothing magical, just hard work and practical systems of training and nutrition that can be applied over time which will lead to a healthier and more attractive you, also the cognitive benefits from training outweigh the “aesthetics” that come from it.
Calories in/Calories out and Macros/Micros
Let’s not complicate something that is so easy in theory yet failed to be understood by many because they’re bought to believe that it has be.
The human body; Our biological make up, runs on caloric intake aka food.
This food can be broken down into two categories – Macro-Nutrients and Micro-Nutrients .
Macros are the basic caloric make up of a food that have a calorie value to them.
1 gram of protein is 4 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrates is 4 calories and 1 gram of fat is 9 calories.
They each have their own unique function that aids in your performance.
Protein is made up of amino acids that enable muscles to be repaired and built stronger (Protein has more functions than this but that’ll be for another post)
Carbohydrates are used are fuel for your performance in the gym and aid in the muscle building process.
Fats help keep our hormones in check, which plays into our recovery and ability to build lean muscle tissue. Fats are also used as fuel for the body when carbohydrates are in limited supply.
(Keep in mind I’m breaking down the very basic fundamentals of food and training in this post and have no intention of going over advanced things i.e food that improve oxidation or reduce inflammation)
A combination of these (protein, carbs and fats) make up the calorie count of the foods you eat and all the foods you eat in a day make up your total calorie intake for that day.
Depending on how many calories YOUR body needs, your weight will either go up, stay the same or go down. I would like to point out that there is no such thing as fat loss, only mass loss. When you lose weight, no matter if you’re training hard in the gym, you’re gonna lose a little bit of muscle too. We can mitigate this by taking the time to gain weight slowly as to limit the amount of body fat we put on and cut weight slowly as to maintain the majority of our lean muscle tissue that we’ve gained. It’s marathon, always will be.
Micro-nutrients are the vitamin and mineral profiles of each food you eat, and they matter for longevity and general health. We should be aiming for multiple serves of fruit and veggies with EACH meal, not just throughout the day, but with each meal we have.
My goal is to have you healthier first, then performing better second, recovery quickly third and finally to be looking better. How you feel on a day to day basis matters much more than if you’re absolutely “shredded” and in the gym 7 days a week (which is fucking stupid if you’re training smart)
IIFYM/Meal Planning/Eating Intuitively
Now that we’ve covered the basics of calories and the further breakdown of them. Let’s look at types of eating.
IIFYM (If it fits your macros) is hailed as the flexible dieting revolution. Using the information above. People are calculating their calorie and macro requirements and then making “junk food” fit within these ranges. The goal of IIFYM was to allow variety in diet with different protein/carb/fat sources and a small amount of goodies that you indulge in.
The problem with this strategy is that it can be taken too far by individuals and coaches. Allowing for people to over-indulge but still feel as if they’re hitting their goals, which they are as calories and macros are the main component of body composition transformation (lean tissue, fat loss).
The problem is a lack of or complete avoidance of whole foods and anything dense in micro-nutrients aka fruit and veg.
I remember vividly being of the mentality that I could get away with eating whole bags of lollies for pre-workout and then finishing it off with fast food after I trained, completely forgetting about the long term implications of not eating “well”
Meal Planning is the other extreme, following a rigid system of the same meals each day (which can be of benefit if you have a weekly budget)
There are multiple benefits to following a plan with planned “cheats”. Adherence is higher, you know exactly the amount of food you’re getting, the exact macros and the correct nutrient timings. This can be beneficial if you’re time poor and don’t want to be thinking about how much you’re eating. I personally follow a plan as it frees up mental space for the important things like training and my relationships.
Intuitive eating is exactly how it sounds. A way to eat by guessing portion sizes based on ones knowledge of his/her own needs. This is more on the “advanced” end of dietary techniques that can be employed by trainees as it’s normally only prescribed for those who have been tracking their nutrition for at length (2+ years)
Practical Training Principles
The basis of all training should be strength focused. The reasoning for this is simple, the stronger one is, the greater opportunities one has for achieving hypertrophy (muscle growth) long in his/her training career. Strength isn’t linear nor is it confined to a certain rep range i.e. 8-12 reps, 3-5 reps. A strength trainee should be focused on increasing lifts in a broad spectrum of rep ranges to maximize their potential of both strength gain and muscle gain. That is a basic overview, we’ll now delve into volume, frequency, compound & isolation movements.
Compound & Isolation Movements
Compound movements are the bread and butter of all training programs. A compound movement is a multi-joint movement that allows the trainee to move “heavy” loads relative to their bio-mechanics and goals.
An example of a compound movement is a dead lift, a squat, a barbell bench press, an overhead press and a barbell row. Now there are variations of these movements, using different angles and equipment like dumbbells or kettle-bells.
The primary goal of using compound movements is to build strength and ensure a stimulus response that enables strength and size gain.
If I had my way in regards to everyone’s programs, it’d be all compounds with little isolation needed besides for use of lagging body parts. Yet even with this, a change in volume & frequency towards certain compounds would potentially alleviate this “lag”
Isolation movements are the cherry on top of the pie. They’re single joint movements used to target specific muscles like your triceps with a tricep push-down or your medial deltoid head with a lateral raise.
Isolation movements do hold there place in a well rounded training program but should never replace ones ability to perform compound movements unless that specific trainee has a mechanical disadvantage or injury that doesn’t allow for the performance of such a movement.
Volume & Frequency
Volume is simply an equation of load (weight on the bar) x sets x repetitions. Say you’re doing 3×10 with 100kg on the bench press. The total volume for that movement would equate to 3000kg moved in that single session.
Now the goal of training is to improve that number whether it be through adding weight, reps or sets, slowly down the movement (tempo) or training the movement on a frequent basis (2-3x per week depending)
This moves us into Frequency.
Frequency can be simply put as the amount of times a movement is performed or a muscle is worked within a given training week. Say you run a full body compound based program 3x per week with all the main compound movements, this would mean that you’ve trained that movement frequently and as such would need to adjust volume over each given session to maintain optimal recovery.
This adjustment in variables of each movement can be down through volume, intensity or variation of the main compound.
The goal of all strength training programs/coaching should be:
1. get the trainee stronger
2. create confidence within the trainee
3. improve the work capacity of the trainee as to improve recovery
4. Impart knowledge toward the trainee so they don’t need you after a given time period.
Bluntly put, you don’t need to be in the gym everyday, training balls to the wall and then topping out with cardio because you think it’s some magical tool, which it is.. to help create a calorie deficit in which you lose weight.
If you’re progressively overloading, getting stronger, eating and sleeping well. You can easily train hard as fuck 4x a week and get incredible results by simply getting stronger. You don’t need to be doing complex programs that have little explanation or nil progression models, we call that bullshit exercising not training.
The goal of getting in the gym and getting stronger is to develop yourself and the discipline required to go on and further yourself in other areas whilst pushing to get stronger. There’s a feedback loop that becomes ingrained when you first experience this flooding of confidence that comes with getting stronger, hitting new PRs and looking more muscular.
Now let’s look at how I would program for someone to put everything into context.
3x per week Full Body or 4x per week Upper/Lower Split
Volume depends on trainee response to first initial month
Calories would be set above maintenance (Maintain at say 2500, let’s add 250 per day)
Focused on technique and developing motor pathways as to avoid excessive mental cuing, it should be intrinsic and unconscious by 5 months
Continually push for 8 hours of sleep per night, blacked out room, no light coming in.
Food would be via a meal plan to cover off all needed vitamins, minerals and macro/micro requirements for the individual whilst they’re learning to train (minimize stress as much as possible)
This covers off the basics of training practically.
Further articles will look into the depths of periodisation, progressive overload (mentioned multiple times), advanced forms and methodologies.
The end goal of training should be first and foremost “train movements, not muscles”