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Category Archive Why Train?

Why Women Should Lift Weights

From the title, you can infer what I will discuss in this article but what you may not realize is that this may very well turn out to be one of the most important articles I ever write on this site. I get asked all the time what is my favorite team to work with. Most assume its football with me being a former football player and the reputation for football player’s love of the weight room. Although my answer can vary depending on the time of year, and personality of the teams, most are shocked when I tell them how much I enjoy the girl teams. As a strength and conditioning coach that works with every sport at one of the biggest high schools in the state and also a personal trainer and online coach, I have the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of females. Women, no matter whether they are training for sport or just to be fit, are a lot of fun to work with. A big reason I love working with females is that whether it’s a shy high school sophomore who has little to no confidence in the weight room or a mom working out for the first time in years, the look on their face when they achieve something they might not be naturally comfortable doing is priceless.

The Misconception

Working with women often comes with obstacles that are not present with men. Of course, this is not true for all women but in my experiences it is a topic that needs to be addressed. A big part of the population has a misconception about weight lifting and its effect on women. Again, not all women but a large number are afraid that lifting weights will make them bulky and masculine looking. I get told “I don’t want to look like you” or “I don’t want to look like a guy” more frequently than I would like to recount. In my experience, most women view cardio or aerobic type classes as the type of training they need to achieve their ideal physique. They split it right down the middle, if you’re a male, you lift weights and if you’re a female you do cardio. In fact, a study in 2014 showed that of the millions of women that belonged to commercial gyms less than one-third picked up a dumbbell. I attribute this to both a lack of readily available information and misinformation thanks to social media and the internet.

Go Hard. It’s Okay. I Promise

Another misconception that I battle on a weekly basis is that resistance training is actually okay for women as long as it is light and low intensity. I can only assume this is why there are classes for women that include dancing with five and three pound dumbbells. Luckily, I did my homework and found another study that was done with college aged females. The study proved over a significant time period that a high resistance weight training program increased lean body mass, decreased fat percentages, and showed no change in body weight. It literally says at the end of the study that the results showed no masculinizing effects meaning they did not start looking like dudes.

We Aren’t the Same

Life isn’t always fair. Not everyone is created with the same genetics, skills, etc. In this case, for women who are afraid of bulking up with resistance training this is a good thing! Because women literally cannot gain muscle the same way a male can. I have told this to some women and it’s like they don’t hear me. It is a scientific fact that women cannot gain muscle like men can because women have significantly lower natural testosterone and significantly higher levels of estrogen. “But, you see those women on line that look like dudes, I don’t want to gain muscle like that.” Notice I said natural testosterone. Those women with insane amounts of muscle mass are not natural. Period.

To Get HOOGE You Have to Eat

“But I don’t want to get muscular, I just want to get tone.” Just slap me please. When someone says they want to tone up what they are really saying is that they want to gain muscle and lose fat. Also, gaining the amount of muscle mass some women are afraid of gaining does not happen overnight or even within a few months. It not only takes a lot of time and hard work to gain a significant amount of muscle but also a surplus in calories. If you aren’t eating more calories than you are expending you will not gain muscle. So for women who resistance train a few days a week and eat healthy but not in excess, you have nothing to worry about in terms of too much muscle mass. It happens all the time, someone will ask me details about my training, they comment on how much time and work I put into the gym, food, etc. to gain the amount of muscle I have, then turn around and are afraid they will gain too much muscle in a week lifting for thirty minutes. I don’t let it upset me too much because one of my favorite lines is “They don’t know what they don’t know.”

More Serious Matter

Although, I have discussed the importance of weight training for helping women achieve their ideal physique, there is a far more beneficial reason women should resistance train especially for the long term. Resistance training strengthens bone. It strengthens the bone density which in turn can fight off osteoporosis which is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. Although both men and women are vulnerable to osteoporosis women are more prone to suffer from it especially postmenopausal. Age-related sarcopenia or muscle loss is also a concern for women. A significant loss of muscle mass as a woman ages can make everyday activities more difficult and can eventually lead to falls, which brings us back to the dangers of osteoporosis and broken bones.
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References:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10671315.1974.10615291
http://jandonline.org/article/s0002-8223(98)00094-7/abstract
http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/33/3/190.short
http://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/strength-training-for-women
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-s/strenght-training-builds-more-than-muscles
https://www/nwacc.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid+1269b4e5-c398-4e1e-a07e-6700bbceb9a9&groupd=216833&filename=4%20Advantages%200f%20weight%20training%20for%20women%20by%20julie%20%20gabbard-1.pdf

Principles Over Methods

When I first entered the strength and conditioning field I wanted to learn as much as I could as fast as I could. I read articles detailing specific exercises, I read books about programming, I did it all. I learned a great deal through reading, and talking with people that were already successful in this field. However, it seemed as I learned and discovered new things the same question kept creeping into my head. “Why?” For me, it wasn’t good enough to learn new things and simply apply them. I needed to know why I was doing a certain exercise or why I was writing a program a certain way. I believe wanting to know “Why” came to me naturally because for me, if I didn’t know why I was doing something then how could I possibly adjust it or improve upon it? I understood very early on that knowing the “Why” would make it easier for me to think on my own instead of constantly relying on books or mentors. I needed to have my own set of beliefs or rules that I could base all of my decisions from.

For me, I had great mentors at the university I worked for as an intern and then a graduate assistant. They taught me the importance of principles over methods. The first time I heard that line, “Principles over Methods”, it was like a ginormous light bulb went off in my head and I was like “Yes, that’s the answer to the question that’s been nagging at me!” I needed to develop my own set of principles to live off of. By having principles every decision that I would be faced with was made very simple, it either fell under my principles and I used it or it didn’t and I ignored it.

In a field with an abundance of information and unique ways of thinking this simplicity was like a breath of fresh air. This simplicity also allowed me to have the confidence in my decisions and gave me a “Why” for everything I did or do. This is a big complaint I have with the strength and conditioning field. It seems a large portion of people are worried about methods or the “How” of something instead of having any principles or “Whys”. I find this ironic because if you have principles then the methods or “How’s” comes to you organically. I feel that most people fall in love with the “How’s” of something because they are afraid of missing out on something. I can see how this can easily happen. You discover a new exercise, or method of doing something and you feel that it can be beneficial your program. However, without having any principles to live by eventually you are throwing every shiny new method into your program and not having a very clear understanding of exactly “Why” you are doing what you are doing.

I’ll admit, at times it takes a great deal of self-discipline to say no to something and stick by your principles. For those of you that read my article Why my High School Athletes Don’t Do Olympic Lifts you know that I don’t have my high school athletes perform Olympic lifts. Does this mean I dislike the O-lifts? No. Does this mean I don’t see the benefits that they offer? No. Neither of those are true. The O-lifts can be a great tool for athletic performance and if you use them in your program then great. However, they do not fall under my movement based principles and therefore I do not use them, it really is that simple. Other exercises that isolate a certain muscle group such as GHR’s are great exercises but again, they do not fall under my principles so I do not use them.  

I did not write this article to say that your beliefs should line up with mine. I wanted to write this article to give some people a direction that may be struggling with the abundance of information and ways of thinking in this field. If you are one of those people that are always grabbing at the newest method or shiny new toy then ask yourself “Why?” Why are you adding that exercise? I also hope that is article encourages you to have the self-confidence to develop your own principles that you can live by. Following are the principles I follow. Again, these are my principles and in no way am I saying yours have to match mine.

My Principles

 

  • 8 Movements that I use
    • Push/Press (Vertical and Horizontal
    • Pull (Vertical and Horizontal)
    • Squat
    • Hinge
    • Carry
    • Crawl
    • Roll
    • Hang
  • Perform a variation of each movement EVERY workout.
  • Perform as many different variations for each movement as possible.
  • For every bilateral movement done in the week perform a unilateral movement in the same plane.
  • Every exercise should be done in a full range.

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Say No to the Scale

I named my business “Training With a Why” because I wanted to help people develop a different way of thinking about their fitness and really their life. If you take a moment to think about, it it’s amazing how many things we do daily in our lives without thinking or asking ourselves why. We become so accustomed to thinking or doing things a certain way that it becomes automatic.

As a trainer, I am constantly challenging my clients to find the why. I find that this not only gives them a better understanding of what it is that we are trying to accomplish but is also a great source of motivation. It is harder to give up when the reason you started in the first place is in the forefront of your mind. Reading this without context I can see how some people may have a hard time understanding how someone can forget why they are doing what they are doing. However, it is fairly common for me to see people lose track of their why.

A perfect example of this is the weight scale. P.S., if I don’t go on a ten-page rant about the weight scale I’ll consider that a win and be very proud of myself if not downright surprised. This is by far my biggest complaint as a trainer. My issue is not with the scale itself, it has done nothing wrong to me, my problem is with the people that give it too much power. The scale is a single tool that can be used as a guide. Notice the phrase, “a single tool” as it is just one of many tools that can be used to track progress and in my opinion it is the least important tool as well. It can be helpful to use every once in awhile to reaffirm we are on the correct path. However, for someone who loses track of their “Why” the scale can be their number one enemy.

When someone loses track of their “Why” and begins treating the scale as the single most important thing, my headaches as a trainer begin. I can go on and on about why giving the scale too much power is a bad thing. However, I have found that the problems begin before the workouts and diet plans even take form. People get their “Why” all screwed up. What is just as bad as not having a “Why” is having a poor understanding of what the why actually is. The following is an example of a conversation I’ve had at least a few hundred times with clients over the years helping them gain full understanding of their “Why.”

Client: “I want to start working out and eating healthier.”

Me: “Okay and why is this important to you?”

Client: “I would like to lose some weight.”

Me: “Okay and what is your goal weight”

Client: “I would like to weigh (Enter very specific number here)”

Me: “And why is this important to you?”

Client: “I got on the scale last week and couldn’t believe how much I weighed.  I used to weight x amount at (enter period of time here).”

Me: “Okay and why do you believe you have to weigh X amount?”

Client: “So I can look and feel better in my clothes, bathing suit, etc. etc.”

Me: “Ding, Ding, Ding!!! And there is the winner. That is your why! Not the specific number on the scale.”

I can see why asking “why” over and over again to my clients can become annoying, but what I am actually doing is getting to the very roots of their dreams and desires. The number on the scale is not the why. It is simply a tool in tracking the progress of the true why. It is my job to help people find and understand their true “Why” and then keep it in the forefront.

It is getting harder and harder to do this with all these 10-minute ab workouts and fad diets placing too much emphasis and power on what the scale says. I’ve had clients with goals of becoming stronger, or more lean, or healthier, or a big one is to look better in their clothes. So, we train and train and they continually improve their diet and sure enough they are getting stronger every day and their clothes are visibly fitting them better. They are feeling really good about themselves and then they step on the scale and are heartbroken that they have only lost 7 pounds. Are you freaking kidding me!

This is when I have to remind them of their “Why” and how they are achieving that why. It’s like the saying I have heard many times growing up about money. Find a job that you love and the money will come. In fitness, in regards to the number on the scale, keep inching closer to the true why and the weight will come. To close this article out, I have listed a few reasons below about why you should not give the scale too much power. I hope that this will entice you to possibly change about how you view fitness and your own goals and your why behind them.

Why The Weight Scale is Not the Answer
  • Everyone holds weight differently and you should not base your weight goals off of someone else.
  • Improvement can be made before change is visible on the scale.
  • Body weight fluctuates more than you realize.
  • It is not always a reliable tool for your state of “health”.
  • Muscle weighs more than fat.
  • The mirror is a much more reliable tool.
  • It can cause you to lose track of your why.

 

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Why My High School Athletes Don’t Do Olympic Lifts

In my three years as a high school strength and conditioning coach the hundreds to thousands of athletes that have gone through my program have done exactly zero Olympic lifts. That’s right, zero power cleans, zero jerks, and zero snatches. I know this will be shocking to most strength coaches but I simply don’t see the need for them at this level. Before I go any further, let me make sure it is well known, I do not hate the Olympic lifts nor do I deny their effectiveness at building explosive strength, in fact, the opposite is true. I am simply stating that I do not see the need for the Olympic lifts in my program at the high school level. Your athletes and setting might be different and Olympic lifts might be beneficial. I can only speak about my setting and here are a few reasons my athletes do not do the Olympic lifts.

Time (I Get the Most Bang for My Buck)

Time, or the lack thereof, is always a factor in everything you choose to do at the high school level. I have written articles, such as Three Things College Didn’t Teach Me on how high school athletes juggle multiple sports, jobs, school work, and extra-curricular activities all on top of weight training. This leads to inconsistency and a crunch on time. That makes it near impossible to teach the technique dominated movements of the Olympic lifts to a group of 20-30 athletes. Instead, I choose to run my high school program similar to that of a university setting. The sessions are fifty minutes long with one team after another. I guarantee that my athletes get more done in fifty minutes than 90% of the high school programs get done in two hours. How is that possible? Because I make sure that we are getting the most bang for our buck. I cover the absolute necessities. These necessities will be covered in the following sections. It is also no coincidence that these necessities should also be the building blocks of anyone wanting to be strong in the Olympic lifts. So no, I do not deem the time it takes to teach, become proficient, and then strong in the Olympic lifts more important than what the next two sections will cover. You have to remember that when you say yes to something you are saying no to something else.

Movement (Can You Tie Your Shoes First?)

This heading was only meant to be half-way funny. The other half is a serious question. If an athlete cannot move his or her own body effectively and efficiently they will not only suffer in the weight room, but they will certainly suffer in their sport. My job is to help them be as effective at their sport as possible, not be weight room heroes. When you see the word movement I know most of you will immediately associate it with technique. Proper technique is obviously important in the weight room and it does involve movement. However, I am not just discussing technique alone, I am also talking about learning to move the human body efficiently and effectively with and without the stress of a load. Can you tie your shoes first is a legitimate question. If an athlete cannot reach the ground or even their toes from a standing position how do you expect them to safely pick weight up off the ground? If they tip over doing body weight squats how can you possibly ask them to put weight on their back? These are just a couple common examples associated with two of the “big” lifts (i.e. deadlifts and squats). There are many other examples, some that have nothing to do with a big compound lift in the weight room but rather a natural human movement that should be fairly easy to execute but so often my athletes find very difficult, at least at first. Learning to move efficiently and effectively will not only improve athletic performance but will do so while also decreasing the risk of injury by eliminating imbalances and dysfunctions within the system. In my programs crawling, rolling, hanging, and carrying weight is just as important as the big compound lifts. Combine the compound lifts with these other movement exercises, throw in some needed corrective exercises and you got yourself a program with very few holes.

Strength (Squat, Deadlift, OH Press, Bench)

After learning to move efficiently and effectively my main focus is to have my athletes build raw strength. I do this by making the compound movements the center of my program. The compound movements are the squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press. Yes, these movements still involve technique aspects and not everyone is going to be proficient at them right away. But they are much easier to teach and thus allow the athletes become stronger faster. Not to mention, even if your goal was to include the Olympic lifts, your athletes should be strong in the basic compound lifts first.

Even if I wanted to take the time to teach the Olympic lifts and was successful at doing so, what’s the benefit if the athlete doesn’t have the raw strength to move sufficient weight in the Olympic lifts to justify the time spent teaching them? I would much rather utilize our precious time to allow them to become strong and powerful at the basic compound lifts.

There You Have It

I know there will be a good number of well-respected strength coaches that disagree with the idea of avoiding the Olympic lifts at the high school level. In my opinion, what it comes down to is knowing your environment and ultimately your athletes. If you have had success with the Olympic lifts don’t stop. But if you are spending an enormous amount of time that you don’t have trying to teach these very difficult exercises just because they are “tradition” you may want to rethink things. If you are interested in any of my techniques and methods for improving movement such as correctives etc. be sure to contact me as I am always happy to help.

 

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Lessons the Gym Has Taught Me

You can call me weird, but I loved being in school. I loved being around my friends, the extracurricular activities, and I enjoyed playing sports and the atmosphere of a Friday during football season. In college I loved meeting new people, living in a different town, and just all the new experiences college brought into my life. I think towards the top of that list of things I loved, if not at the very top, was just being a student. I always loved learning new things and bettering myself. I enjoyed the process that was school. It turns out that it was a good thing I liked school because at twenty-five years old and a graduate from high school, a four year college, and another year to earn my master’s degree, roughly 92% of my life so far has been spent in an academic setting. My experiences and lessons learned in high school led me to what I wanted to study in college.

Earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees gave me a foundation of knowledge that I use every day. These countless lessons shaped me into the kind of professional I am today and I am proud of that. However, what I am more proud of is the type of person I am and continue to develop into. Besides my parents, who obviously played an enormous part of developing me into the person I am today, I can honestly say next on that list is the gym. The gym is an enormous part of my life but the reasons and benefits extend far beyond the bench and squat rack. Here are a few lessons the gym has taught me over the years.

Discipline and Patience

I went back and forth about which word to put first in the heading because both are important and you can’t have one without the other. If you aren’t disciplined or you lack patience you will not succeed in the gym. Heck, I guess you can say that about almost any goal in life. You learn fast that you better have the discipline to consistently go to the gym. Especially the days when you have other offers on the table or you didn’t get a good night sleep the night before. The thing most people forget is the discipline you need outside the gym to help reach your goals. The discipline to go to bed earlier, meal prep for the week, to stay in on Friday night when you are supposed to work out Saturday morning. This discipline will also come in handy when your patience is starting to waver and you become discouraged. And trust me it will happen at some point! When you are at the gym you better possess patience because nothing happens overnight, or in a week.

Depending on the situation you might not approach your goals for months or years at a time! I truly believe that the success I have had in the gym is because I honestly love the process. I am a nerd when it comes to winning the little battles. I love it when I improve on a lift by five or ten pounds even if it takes a month or more.! Learn to love the process and be patient and results will follow, guaranteed.

The Skill to Adjust

This one is definitely the one that I naturally struggle with the most. I love routines. I love knowing what I am going to do well in advance. This is actually a good thing regarding the gym because routines, or programs, are how you progress. However, the gym, like life, is not always perfect with impeccable conditions. Things happen and you must adjust. Unfortunately, I had many injuries during my football career that ultimately ended my playing days. While trying to combine preparing for the upcoming season and still rehabbing an injury I was forced to learn how to adjust and work around things. Even now that my playing days are over I still struggle with the inconvenient injuries that come with training. Anyone that works out regularly can attest that you are not always going to be 100% all the time. So you have to adjust so that you still get your work done. Bodybuilders are great at this because not being able to train a certain body part because of injury is just not acceptable. So they become masters at finding different ways of working around an injury. I have also had to adjust my routines when certain equipment is not available for whatever reason.

The third reason you may have to adjust is because something is just not working. In training almost everything will work when you first try it. Then your body adapts and you must adapt with it. You must adjust what you are doing to continue down the path to success. This realizing that something must be adjusted leads me to my next and last point, self-awareness.

Self-Awareness

Okay, maybe I lied. Honestly, I’m not sure what I naturally struggle with more, adjusting or being self-aware. But I am aware that self-awareness is not a strong point so does that mean I am actually self-aware? Ironic, but I digress. I believe that self-awareness is one of the most underrated skill sets not just in the gym but in life in general. I hold it in such high regard that it is probably the one skill I would choose if I only had one choice. If you are self-aware you know exactly what you are good at and what you aren’t good at. Sounds like common sense right? Not so much. I see it all the time in the gym. People have an inflated idea about what they are good at and completely ignore what they suck at. In the gym that is a recipe for disaster. You need to attack what you are bad at. See my article about training weak points Weak Point Training – Training With a “Why?”

I am continuously trying to improve my self-awareness not just in the gym but in all other aspects of my life. The gym is a great way to practice this. Being self-aware about what body parts are my strong points, which ones are lagging behind. What movements am I good at? Which ones need some extra attention? This a skill set that will not only improve your performance in the gym but in everyday life. Self-awareness and being honest with yourself can become uncomfortable at times because no one wants to admit that they are bad at something. Maybe ask a family member or close friend to help you figure out what your strong points and weak points are. But remain open minded and remind yourself it will lead to growth in more ways than one.

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Let’s Get Started

I want this blog to be a place where people can come to for advice and knowledge in the pursuit of bettering themselves in and outside the weight room. With the help of social media, I plan to be able to interact with people who read these posts and have questions that they can ask me directly. My first challenge to you, as a reader, is to find your “Why?” Why are you in the weight room? Why is training important to you? Why
img_6047 are you currently doing the programs or exercises you are doing? These are all questions that you should ask yourself. You got the answers to these questions? Write them down, right now. The answers to these questions will lead you to the type of training you do, how often you do it, the exercises you choose, the type of food you eat, the amount of food you eat, the list goes on and on. I do not know everything. As the saying goes, the more I learn the more I realize I do not know. However, I have been doing this for a while now both personally and professionally, and I am constantly learning. I will not try and seem like I know everything. I will simply share what I do know and what works for me and the people I have trained. Training is a very personal thing. Yes, there are things that are biologically set in stone and will not change from person to person. There are, however, a good amount of variables that each person responds to differently. Things that you can expect to be covered in this blog are bodybuilding tips, strength tips, training for athletes, ways to gain mass, ways to lose fat, training for powerlifting, etc.