Maintain your sanity this holiday. Gain peace not pounds

Posted on December 6, 2011. Filed under: Exercise | Tags: , , , , , , |

Remember who you are.


I know this sounds very pop-psychology/ Lion King-ish.  But it is a very important lesson.  Not just for you but for everyone.  Even those you allow to coach you.


This is inspired by an article I read.  In it they referenced a study where Tour de France competitors lived longer than the average life span in their countries.  The writer associated this to mean that high intensity long term aerobic work produced greater longevity.


Whenever I hear a study like this my first though is “they all have buildings.”


This quote comes from the business book “Built to Last.”  In this book, the author is trying to find out the qualities that allow some businesses to succeed where others fail.  His concern is that he will focus on the wrong thing.  One of the examples used is all successful companies reside in big buildings, so if your company does the same it will be successful.


It sounds silly I know.  Yet this happens often with our fitness goals.  Celeb-secret diets, celeb-trainer secret workouts, NFL workouts, supermodel workouts,  Tour de France longevity.  A lot of ideas based on what works for the elite of us and not what actually works.


With the dawn if the internet came the information age. Now we’re in the information-overload age.


Digital content is exploding at an exponential rate, with more than double as much content today as there was this time last year. With 546 million websites (compared to 249 million last year), the information is becoming harder to handle and navigate. Just because information is available to be discovered. Does not mean it is worth discovering or even usable.


Anytime someone asks me a question and I counsel them about their eating or their exercise, the problem isn’t their plan isn’t complex or specialized enough. It’s because it’s either too complicated or too specialized.


If a beginner follows some specialized celeb/pro athlete routine, it’s almost guaranteed they will not get the results they are looking for for.


So how should you structure your routine?


How often

Optimally You should train about three times per week with weights for 45 minutes to an hour each time. Try to average about one minute per work set, and a one to one and a half minute rest period between sets. Or about 20 to 25 sets per workout. You can actually work out seven days a week if you like. You just have to be very careful how you structure that routine

If you’re training with lower reps and a heavier load, you’ll need more rest between sets, but your set time will be shorter. So approximately two minutes per set is still viable.

If you can only do once or twice a day, just make sure you make the most of your workout time. Which means less talk and more motion



What should I target:

When you train, forget about body-part splits, think movement patterns.

When we break down exercise, this is really all the body can do:

  •  Quad dominant (bilateral and unilateral)
  • Hip dominant (bilateral and unilateral)
  •  Horizontal pushing
  • Horizontal pulling
  •  Vertical pushing
  • Vertical pulling
  • Core

Seven movements. That’s it.  Well, nine if you count the core for flexion, extension, and rotation.

Make sure you select one exercise from each category and do it at least once per week. You can do a full-body or split routine, whatever you like, as long as you hit all these movements at least once per week. If possible 3x a week, in my opinion.



How should I change up my routine?

This one gets taken out of context way too often. And it doesn’t help with all the infomercial P90X muscle confusion nonsense. Yes you should change up your routine. No, that does not mean every day or change your workout every 4 weeks, it means progression.

Most people when they hear they should progress their routine they think of only one thing. Increase the weight. There’s nothing wrong with that, but eventually you’re going to hit a limit. You simply can’t keep adding weight to an exercise.

There are a few methods of progression that can, and should be, used on a regular basis. Exercise order, exercise selection, sets, reps, tempo, rest period, and load. Pick one each week. For example we have our workout rouitne:

  •  Deadlift
  • Shoulder Press
  • Squat
  • Push-up
  • Body Row
  • Lunge
  • Lat Pulldown
  • Abs

On our first week one we do the regular routine straight through. Next week we increase the reps on each set by one. The next, reps stay the same and we increase the sets. We could follow that up with reducing the rest period between sets. In the period of a month we have continually progressed the routine and we haven’t even touched the amount of weight used.


These tips may sound fairly basic.   And that’s the idea.   Too often we make things way more complicated than they need to be.   I’m not saying this is all you need to know.   But it’s much more sound then what gets promoted.

If you have fallen for one of the celeb-diets or infomercial workout promos.   Don’t feel bad. It happens to professional coaches to.   Really. Even Olympic coaches


You see for a period of 20+ years, Bulgaria developed some of strongest Olympic lifters on the face of the earth.  Year after year they were in contention to win the best team award at the world championships.  Even more impressive is the fact that their first team constantly finishes in the top 3 world ranking and even their “backup lifters” won medals.   Furthermore, Bulgaria is a small country (approximately 7-8 million peoples) so it doesn’t have the talent pool that countries like China or the former Soviet Union has/had.  Evidently, the fact that they are superior stemmed from somewhere else.

The idea was that Bulgaria had a super secret lifting routine that allowed them to dominate. Reason being at this point it was assumed every body was taking steroids and therefore Bulgaria could not have an advantage in that category.

Eventually with the “information age” the Bulgarian routine was shared and many coaches and gym rats alike jumped on it looking to be super strong, or train super strong athletes. The only problem is very few got results and even more ended up over-trained, injured or both.


Why was this?


My fellow Americans rushed in with out understanding the principles behind what they were doing.

On paper Bulgarian lifters seemed to always lift maximal weights, 7 days a week.  Which was a misinterpretation the Bulgarians chose not to correct.  😉

What actually happened was Bulgaria lifters would go for their daily max.  The daily max was not necessarily a personal best attempt, rather a load that is very challenging for that day.  In most cases, it equated to 85-95% of their competitive max.

Bulgarian lifters will build up to their daily max.  This max is not an end in itself, rather it is the starting point of their training: the daily max is used to calculate the training load for the rest of the day.  Once a lifter reaches his max, he backs down 25-40lbs and do 3-5 sets of 2-3 reps.  With this form of training your daily session is always adapted to your present capacities.  In essence the Bulgarians worked out as hard as they felt up to that day, not as hard as they could on paper.


Even on the Olympic level they fall victim to the “super-secret” workout or nutrition plan. And the result is always the same, no results.


So keep it simple, basic, anti-climatic.


Don’t look for a revolution in the form of an ultimate routine, look for it in the form of embracing a less stressful journey then your fellow gym member. The revolution is found in focusing on sustainable life change. Is turning your life upside down from Day 1and beating your self up over fear of a holiday pound sustainable?




Start small, and build. Go habit by habit to create the foundation for life long change. I want you to succeed and maintain not just through the holidays. But towards whatever your goal may be.



Keep Fitness Groovy

Coach W


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