Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Every now and then...

I make a bit of an effort to make this blog a useful resource and set it apart from the usual bog standard fitness blog. But every now and then its nice to just do something stupid.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sam Gets Smashed- Intro to Man Circuits

Here's a little video filmed at the Aegis studio where I put Sam Feltham, local trainer and owner of Smash the Fat bootcamps in East London, through his paces.

Man Circuits are just one aspect of our programming system which we use to turn average London city workers into superheroes. If you want to learn more about them check out my other (slightly more technical, but also slightly sillier) blog here - http://itsgunday.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/circuit-training-for-men-the-gunday-circuit/

Sam's site is here - http://smashthefat.com/

And here's the vid, enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Aegis Training Philosophy (In One Sentence)

I've always felt that the best teachers are masters of taking complex concepts and explaining them in a way that is simple (but not simplified) and easy to understand. As trainers we may have the greatest technical knowledge in the world, but if we can't put that across to the people we're trying to help in a way that they can get their heads round, then I don't feel we are doing our job. So when trainers and nutritionists start talking about their complicated, proprietary systems and using jargon that is impenetrable to anyone without doctorates in biochemistry and physiology, my spider senses start to tingle. It feels like I'm being "sold to" rather than educated.
So just how simple can we get with this? Is it possible to sum up your entire nutrition/training/lifestyle philosophy in one line?

I'm fond of the phrase "don't eat anything with an ingredients list" or variations on the theme of "if it grew in the ground or used to be alive, eat it. If not, don't"
But these don't address training and lifestyle, or allow for large variations in food quality (a battery farmed low-welfare chicken was, after all, alive at one point. It just happened to have a crap life!)
So, here's my attempt at summing up everything I know about health and fitness in one line. I'm no Christopher Hitchens, but what I may lack in elegance I hopefully make up in efficiency:

"reduce the amount of man-made or man-augmented foods in your diet as close as possible to zero, and increase your amount of physical activity as much as possible without exceeding your capacity to recover"

Okay, so it's a long sentence! But it's one sentence nonetheless. And most importantly it touches in every every aspect of the general Aegis philosophy. As for how to apply it, there are an infinite variety of methods which can be debated to death (in fact if you wish to debate, add to, or take the piss out of anything I've said please feel free to comment below). But that's another post for another day, and my dinner is ready!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Green Lantern workout part I

What's that? Shameless search engine fodder just because there's a movie coming out? Well, maybe. But bear with me!

Aside from being a strength training geek, I also happen to be a comic book geek. Yes lifting weights and reading comics may seem like odd bedfellows but I assure you my bookshelf is one part Zatsiorsky to one part Alan Moore.
Anyway, the green lantern is a slightly more obscure superhero, lacking the recognition of superman or batman, despite inhabiting the same fictional universe. He is a member of the green lantern corps, an intergalactic police force who protect the universe from various threats with the use of their power rings (yes, I know, but stick with me here). The ring is capable of producing anything the ring-bearer imagines, provided he keeps it charged by placing it in his power battery (the physical green lantern of the title) and reciting the green lantern oath-
"in brightest day, and blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight,
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power, Green Lanterns light"

Ok Zack, shut up and get to the point.

Well, allow me to draw an analogy between the green lantern's ring and your central nervous system (CNS).
(warning, massive oversimplification ahead)
The CNS is absolutely crucial to strength training. In fact strength training IS central nervous system training by definition, as the CNS is ultimately the engine, the coordinator and the limiting factor for force production.
Any time you perform a set of an exercise you are doing two things, you are stimulating the CNS and you are accumulating fatigue both of the local muscles involved and the nervous system itself.
The trick is to keep the stimulation high and the fatigue low. So, the CNS is your power ring, it will let your muscles do whatever you want, but you have to keep it charged. See? I got there eventually!

So how do we stimulate the CNS without fatiguing it excessively? How do we keep that ring charged?

First of all, some simple principles for training effectively without accumulating massive amounts of fatigue. Then in the second part of this post I'll provide some strategies for training that will actually recharge the CNS.

Train frequently- seems counterintuitive, but when you employ the other fatigue-limiting techniques I'll list it becomes second nature. I truly believe there is no physiological reason for most people to have "rest days". That's not to say there aren't lifestyle or psychological reasons but that's another story. The nervous system requires and thrives on frequency. High frequency also builds work capacity, which allows you to train , you guessed it, more frequently! Infrequent, high intensity style training is a vicious cycle as the less you train, the less capacity you have to train (the less "fit" you become if you like) and therefore the less work it takes you to overtrain. So remember, there is always something you can do, every day, to make yourself better.

Avoid training to failure on bigger movements- I am not an absolutist and there is a time and place for nearly every training technique. But in general, on big barbell exercises like squats, deadlifts and presses, it's better to lift more often, for more sets while not taking those sets to absolute failure. This allows you to do more work overall which is the name of the game. I'm not advocating training easy mind you, so if you can text and squat you're doing it wrong.

Do not emphasise the lowering phase (particularly on big exercises) if you also want to train them frequently- the lowering or "eccentric" phase of any lift is what does the most damage and accumulates the most fatigue. If you can only get in the gym a few times a week, then accentuating the eccentric phase with a slow lowering tempo has it's uses. But you can't both train frequently and do this. Eccentrics can be useful but they don't allow frequency, and frequency trumps all!

Do a few things well- you only have so much power in your battery . Don't use it up on exercises that don't directly tie in to your goals. To be honest, for most people this probably just translates to more squatting and less silly single leg/unstable/machine exercises. Bottom line, spend most of your time on the most productive exercises.

Ok, that does it for the first part of this post, next time- how to use a training session to enhance CNS recovery.