Nerd Fitness – 3 Lifting Tips for Beginners

Summary :

  1. You are most likely overestimating your daily caloric intake.
  2. Monitoring proper recovery (sleep, food, stress) is more important than worrying about over-training.
  3. Don’t just set one goal, such as losing 20 lbs. Think about being healthy as a journey with goals lined up like dominoes. More forethought ensures the momentum of progress doesn’t halt. Break your training down into simple phases (building muscle, losing fat, getting stronger) to remove monotony and increase efficiency.

1 – Daily Caloric Intake

Do yourself a favor and track your daily calories using an app. I would suggest checking out “Lose It”. They recently launched a new product called “Snap it” which lets you take a picture of your food instead of having to type it in. Although the accuracy isn’t perfect and it takes well over 10 seconds to process a picture, I am sure iterative improvement to the AI algorithm will make it smarter and your tracking a lot easier. Some alternatives to Lose It would be MyPlate or something similar.

2 – Proper Recovery

Going hard in the gym is the easy part. You need to make sure you are getting enough quality sleep at night, eating sufficient calories from healthy food sources, and meditating.

  1. Quality Sleep:
    1. 7 hours minimum
    2. Preferably on your back. If you sleep on your side then use a pillow between your legs. NEVER on your belly (this will mess up your chest/neck/shoulder girdle)
  2. Healthy Food Sources:
    1. Lean Protein: any seafood (tilapia, salmon, shrimp, etc.), chicken breast, turkey breast, ground beef 90% or leaner, lean steak, egg whites or egg substitute
    2. Fat: any nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, any nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, etc.)
    3. Carbs: Whole grain or Ezekiel bread, white or brown rice, wholewheat or brown rice pasta, oatmeal/steel cut oats, sweet potatoes
  3. Meditating: Spend at least 10 minutes a day without thinking about anything except your own body. Explore different movement patterns on a yoga mat to find stiffness and address it with proper mobility. Use this formula in the YouTube search bar: “Kelly Starrett mobility” + body part” (Kelly is a mobility guru that wrote the amazing book Becoming a Supple Leopard) For example, if you’re in the downward dog pose and find that your ankle/calf region is super tight, type in “Kelly Starrett mobility ankle calf“.

3 – Goals Lined Up Like Dominoes

Whether you’re traversing the journey of fitness on your own or whether a personal trainer is helping you along the road, it is important to understand why you are putting in the Work , and to break the process into manageable chunks. The typical journey of a newcomer will consist of three main phases of training with a fourth one inserted as necessary. Working on form and gaining a base level of strength, pushing strength, and continually improving conditioning over time (i.e. dropping body fat) will be the main three, while hypertrophy (i.e. gaining muscle) will be the one we sprinkle in.

Phase Length (weeks) Description
Form 3-4 5 sets x 5 reps. Work on proper form by taking 3 seconds to go down and one second to explosively come up (on all lifts). Slowly increase weight each week (5-15 lbs) as long as your form holds
Strength 4-5 3 sets x 5 reps. Keep the 3 second down one second up tempo and increase weight consistently each week by 5-10 lbs on all lifts. Every 4-5th week you’ll want to deload to let your body recover
Deload 1 Same sets and reps as the preceding phase. Decrease weight on every exercise to 70% of the weight last used (ex: 100 lb bench for 3×5 becomes 100*0.7=70 lb bench 3×5)
Hypertrophy 4-5 4 sets x 8-12 reps.Focus more on the mind-muscle connection and increase weight consistently each week by 5-10 lbs on all lifts. Every 4-5th week you’ll want to deload to let your body recover
Conditioning Continuous Play around with Strongman Conditioning. Start with 3-4 sets of either farmers walks or sled drags for 40+ yards. Add 1-2 sets every week. When you can do 10 sets then you can start increasing weight.

You can construct your program using these building blocks like lego pieces. Join multiple phases of either strength or hypertrophy, depending on your goal, together with deload weeks.

Visualize yourself as a sculptor and fall in love with the process of constant improvement. The process of breaking down muscle and recovering just enough to break it down again takes discipline and mental fortitude; learn to become uncomfortable.

Send us an email if you could use help with structuring your training: You will be strong!

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Key Concept: Increase Tonnage Lifted

Increase tonnage lifted.  This is a simple but crucial concept I believe doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.   While exercising, rather than get caught up in how much you’re sweating, how high your heart rate is, or how much the exercise “burns” (though these relatively subjective metrics can be useful), simply keep track of how much physical work you do during a workout and aim to increase it in subsequent workouts. More sets, more reps, or more weight! Simple.

The basic physics equation is Work = Force x Distance. Force is weight on the bar (vertical axis on graph below). And distance is the distance that weight moves against gravity. i.e., accumulated reps and sets (horizontal axis).  Put simply, you are getting stronger, leaner, and more fit as the size/area of the rectangle increases.

Let’s illustrate this concept with numbers. From the above graph, weight on the bar could be for one of the major lifts (squat, deadlift, bench or overhead press):

Work (green) = 200lbs. x 3sets x 5reps = 3,000lbs.

Work (blue) = 150lbs. x  3sets x 10reps = 4,500lbs.

Work (red) = 100lbs. x 5sets x 5reps = 2,500lbs.

So which one is best? Well, that depends. From total work done perspective, the answer is blue rectangle at 4,500lbs. of accumulated work. But from a strength perspective, the green rectangle is better because you’re using heavier weight. Regardless, these are just example numbers to illustrate the concept of increasing physical work capacity by either adding more weight to bar, or doing more reps and sets.

Send us an email if you could use help with training: You will be strong!






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Achieving Peak Performance – My Story

Most people wish for more time. They believe that if they only had more time, they could get everything done that they want. I would strongly disagree. It isn’t time that most people need but extra energy to be more productive with the time they have. Whether in your career or in any other aspect of life, high energy is an essential factor of peak performance. Personally, the most important components of peak performance are by far nutrition and living an active lifestyle. Let me demonstrate how modifying your lifestyle can change everything.

Throughout the majority of my teens, I abused my body, generally disregarded it, and basically treated it like crap. I used to melt a 1 lb Hershey’s chocolate bar (high sugar, high fat) in the microwave and eat it with a tablespoon as I sipped my iced tea (high sugar); this was a standard meal. After eating a “meal”, I would be lethargic – sugar crash. Once I turned 18, I decided to diet (unsuccessfully) a few times. Every time I would try restricting my calories and increasing my physical activity, my baseline energy levels would surge through the roof. Once the diet ended, however, I would revert to my old lethargic self and put on body fat.

I would be lying to you if I said that I magically started dieting with perfect self control and have never looked back. This is a journey to a better me, not a “perfect body” destination that I’m trying to reach. Once I changed my outlook on the process, I didn’t get down on myself with the occasional slip up (e.g. cereal bowl at midnight). I would get right back on the horse because I had experienced the following advantages of a healthier, active lifestyle:

  • Increased discipline in other aspects of my life. Since I exercised so much discipline while eating healthy food and maintaining a regular workout schedule, I was constantly flexing this “discipline muscle” and its benefits certainly crossed over.
  • Stable energy levels allowed me to be more productive with my time. Rather than having 3 big sugary meals a day, I divided my meals into 6 smaller portions and improved the quality of my food. It was a little bit of work initially, as any new habit is, but led to my insulin levels being relatively stable. This meant I never crashed or felt the need to scarf down food due to starvation. I could actually get in a state of “flow” and get work done. I was able to think faster and clearer.
  • I felt more confident not only due to an enhanced physical appearance but also because I was able to take control of my own body.

It goes without saying that a healthy lifestyle goes well beyond just looks. Our health and well-being trump everything else. If you’ve tried attempting a new diet/workout regimen but have fallen short, fear not. We have very capable trainers with a plethora of experience that can help you along your journey to achieving peak performance to make sure you lead a full and healthy life. Come in today for a free consultation!


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The Path of a Supple Leopard

You may be reading this as:

  1. someone who doesn’t go to the gym but gets a sharp pain in your shoulder when you pick up a bag of groceries,
  2. someone who used to go to the gym and now feels tightness in your hips after sitting down at your desk all day, OR
  3. someone who currently goes to the gym but is experiencing pain on certain exercises.

Pain and injury do not belong to lifters only. Pain can and does affect simple everyday tasks outside the gym.

Personally, I start my workouts by spending 20-30 minutes preparing my body for the physical stress I am about to place it under. I stretch and roll out my back, shoulders, legs, arms on a foam roller or lacrosse ball, feeling for tightness and tension in my muscles. Known as mobility, this process involves playing Dora the Explorer with your muscle fascia to find balls of tension within your actin and myosin muscle fibers.  It is often overlooked and undervalued. Most people just jump straight into the movement they are about to perform without regard for whether they actually possess the full range of motion to perform the movement. Here are a few specific examples of individuals that might benefit from mobility work:

  1. John sleeps on his stomach with his face resting on his right arm. Without realizing that he has put his shoulders into a compromised position the whole night, he goes to play a pick up football game with his friends and injures his shoulder.
    1. Problem: Sleeping on the stomach has caused anterior tipping of his shoulders, causing his right chest fibers to shorten as well as his shoulder blades to tip forward.
    2. Solution: Thorough warm-up including rolling of the pecs, delts, and lats as well as stretches for the chest before throwing a football.
    3. Tools used: Lacrosse ball
  2. Sarah already has a slight background with lifting through YouTube educational videos and trial and error in the gym but keeps hitting a plateau on bench. Whenever she decides to “push through” she starts getting sharp pain in her chest/shoulders.
    1. Problem:  Sarah is strong enough to push light weight without regard for form but as soon as the tension reaches a threshold point, her muscles start screaming due to the strain placed on the pecs and delts from improper form.
    2. Solution: In order to get Sarah into the proper bench form we need to make sure she has proper thoracic spine mobility, can retract her shoulder blades, and is engaging her glutes (yes, you should be squeezing your butt while benching!).
      • Use a double lacrosse ball to roll up and down the spinal column as well as foam rolling with hands crossed across chest to address the spine.
      • Use a single lacrosse ball and perform shoulder flexion exercises while lying on the ground to address the shoulder blades.
      • Perform couch stretches to loosen up hip flexors so it’s easier to engage glutes during bench.
    3. Tools used: Double lacrosse ball, foam roller

Including mobility as a regular part of your everyday routine can greatly improve performance on day-to-day tasks as well as improving performance within the gym. Joining a gym doesn’t have to be about hitting PRs every week or getting jacked and tan; it can and should be about becoming a better version of yourself physically, in all areas of life.

Disclaimer: Naturally there are some injuries that require specialized and regular treatment by professionals, but for pain with a clear muscular origin, an increase in physical activity, carefully monitored and paired with appropriate mobility exercises can certainly put you on the path to improve strength, flexibility and comfort.


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Cardio – Jump Off the Treadmill and Grab a Keg

In the 10+ years I have spent in gyms, I’ve found that the most popular form of cardiovascular endurance is the treadmill/elliptical. Occasionally, I’ll see a brave soul on the rowing machine or stair stepper (go you!). Instead of the status quo, I propose we bring to the table a chapter from the book of Strongmen.

Have you ever caught a glimpse of the World’s Strongest Man show? (Check this out) These behemoths aren’t just 350+lbs and ridiculously muscular, they can actually run quite fast. This is simply due to the fact that they regularly train a combination of slow twitch (Type I) and fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers. Slow twitch fibers help you dominate events where endurance is needed (e.g. distance running, swimming) whereas fast twitch fibers help you generate a lot of force in a short amount of time (e.g. powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting). An easy way to remember the difference is that Fast twitch Fibers Fatigue Faster. As you can imagine, strongman training such as pulling semi-trucks, throwing kegs and deadlifting cars would require a mix of both. Now I’m not proposing you start deadlifting cars (like some people here) as a regular part of your training but I will advise you to slowly start adding more feasible strongman style exercises. For instance, sleds as well as farmer’s walks are two very common forms of strongman cardio. These two events not only burn a lot more calories than traditional cardio that is performed on machines but it also significantly improves metabolic conditioning. Note: Be careful not to overdo it as the nervous system does get taxed by these exercises quite a bit. However, with proper programming as well as nutritional intake, it would certainly benefit you to add strongman training to at least one session a week.

In conclusion, whether you’re looking to improve upon your aesthetics, train for a race, or would just like to be able to drink another glass of wine/beer without worrying about the extra calories, look towards strongman style training as an alternative to bunny cardio.

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Lessons from George Hackenschmidt

I’m a big fan of the so called “Old time strong men.” Men from the late 1800s to early 1900s who developed incredible strength — before the advent of steroids which pervades both amateur and professional sports today — through natural means of sensible training, good food, and adequate rest.  The lessons from The Way to Live by George Hackenschmidt are as true today as when it was first published in 1935:


In conclusion, I would like to add some general rules and reminders for observance during training, in addition to the recommendations which I have submitted at different stages of this book, and I should like my readers to…


  • That excessive and rapid exercising is harmful.  Overwork, like laziness is harmful.
  • To go ahead gently. Increase your weights and exercises gradually and slowly.
  • That perseverance only brings permanent strength.
  • To give their attention to all parts constituting their corporate frames, for real strength is all-round strength.
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Developing Physical Abilities

The following is the introduction to Part 2 “Developing Physical Abilities” from Science of Sports Training by Thomas Kurz. I couldn’t have said it better, so I won’t even try. We are all athletes. Enjoy! -Nuey

There are two sides of the motor function — skills and abilities. Teaching movements develops skills and is called “technical training.” Developing physical abilities is called “conditioning.” Technical training is often impossible without sufficient development of the physical abilities. Psychological training is necessary for developing physical abilities.  All aspects of sports training are closely related. Learning skills and developing abilities constitute one process. Their separation in this part and part 3 is done only for the convenience of describing the process of sports training.

When developing any one physical ability, the athlete influences all abilities — how much depends on the kind of work used and the level of physical training. For people whose level of physical conditioning is low (they are in poor shape), exercises intended for the development of one particular physical ability will put considerable demand on other abilities. For example, for beginners, a 100-meter sprint will be a test of not only their speed, but also of their strength, endurance, and coordination.

“As training goes on, a dissociation of physical abilities takes place and exercise that before led to the development of all physical abilities now will affect only some of them,” (from Science and Practice of Strength Training by Vladimir Zatsiorky). Later on, even negative relations appear between some of the abilities. Thus, the tasks of simultaneously reaching an individual’s full potential of maximal strength and of long-duration endurance turn out to be mutually exclusive.

The greatest degree of development for any particular physical ability, however, may be achieved only if other abilities are also developed to a certain extent. Some people are naturally strong, some are fast, some are well coordinated. The training should focus on these abilities that an athlete has a genetic predisposition for. Other abilities are to be developed to such a degree as not to be weak links that hinder him or her from taking full advantage of natural ability.

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My NASM Review Sparks Discussion

In November 2010 I posted an review about the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) certification.  Three years later, I’m pleasantly surprised to see it’s the most helpful review and that it stirred up a bit of discussion: NASM Review.

Below is my response to a question posted November 2013:

Will you share more on what disgusts you about NASM’s approach to training? I’m interested in hearing what NASM leaves out and focus on.
Thank you. I appreciate it. -Philen

Good question Philen. Thanks for asking. It’s been several years since I’ve studied or read much of what NASM has recently put out, so I may not be in the best position to give an opinion. But judging from the depth of knowledge (rather, lack thereof) of human physiology and understanding of coaching/training principles I’ve seen in NASM certified PTs I’ve interviewed for potential hire, it seems not much has changed.

I’ll point out a specific NASM training approach I disagree with, but ultimately what do I believe is wrong with the NASM approach? It’s personal training watered down. I guess they simplify/leave out/don’t go into as much depth so more people can pass their exam. But… I believe a low quality bar is a bad thing. It’s a disservice to both trainers and clients. If a higher quality bar means less certified personal trainers, then so be it. That is a good thing.

The Ball Wall Squat; a NASM staple. I hate this. It teaches incorrect movement patterns and is bio-mechanically unsound. You don’t squat with a vertical spine/torso and knees bent at ninety-degrees, which is what you can get away with when there is a stability ball propped behind your back. They have their reasons for teaching this (which I guess was initially inspired for rehab purposes), but to have a relatively injury free and able bodied person (a typical client) learn this is criminal. Teach clients to squat correctly from the beginning. Teach them instead to squat unassisted.

So, for people looking to become a CPT and get into this field, what should they know? This is what I recommend and this is where the quality bar is set at Anthropos Performance:

1. NCSF (National Council on Strength and Fitness) Certification – Highly recommended (I like this better than NSCA). They have a well structured CEU program.

2. “FIT” by Lon Kilgore.

3. “Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe.

Note 1: If you don’t have a life science background, getting NCSF certified will be tough. I recommend taking an Anatomy/Physiology course at your local community college to prepare for NCSF.

Note 2: The above three resources should be considered your base. Study and own the knowledge contained in the above resources, and build from there.

In Strength and Health,
Nuey Thepyasuwan, CSCS, CISSN

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Flat Back Does Not Mean Vertical Spine

When executing the barbell back squat, beginners typically misinterpret the “flat back” cue and try squatting with their back/torso perpendicular to the ground. Ain’t gonna work.  This flawed and unfortunately common approach not only keeps them  from lifting as heavy and safely as they’re actually capable, but in the process it wreaks havoc on their knees.

When squatting, a flat back does not mean a vertical spine. Yes, your back/torso is flat when viewed from the side but relative to the ground, your torso is actually angled about 45-degrees (as shown in above photos). That is, keeping your back flat — i.e., chest up, spine extended — you bend at the hip as you squat and “shove your butt in the hole.”

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An Argument for Free Weights

Working out with free weights stimulates both your prime mover and stabilizer muscles. That is, you need strength in your arms and legs and chest/back (i.e., prime movers) in order to move the weight, but you also need strength in your abdominals, mid-spine, and smaller muscles surrounding the joints (i.e., stabilizers) to hold correct positioning to enable safe and efficient movement patterns.

Compare this against machine based strength exercises. Yes, strength can be developed in the prime mover muscles but the rigid steel bars of the machine remove the need of your body to stabilize itself, and thus your stabilizer muscles aren’t adequately strengthened.

So, why should you also strengthen your stabilizer muscles? Because the demands of an everyday active life — running, jumping, picking up things, playing sports, or being active with your kids — require it; there isn’t a metal exoskeleton to stabilize your body outside the gym. At least not yet.

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