A Few Fitness Tips

Whether your goal is to lose body fat and tone up, or build strength and gain muscle… getting the body and fitness/health you want can be hard. Here are a few tips to help you:

  • Start small. Build off the small wins and be consistent and track your progress. For example, if you squat 100lbs. for 3sets of 5reps, next workout you would do 105lbs – 3sets x 5reps. Over the course of weeks and months, these small increments add up to serious poundage.
  • PROGRESSIONS – Small increments of consistent improvement is the key. Put in the time and do the work.
  • Increase Physical Strength. Whether you want to lean out, run faster and longer, or build muscle, increasing strength is the common denominator and will help you achieve your fitness goal.
  • The Big Lifts:  Squat, deadlift, and bench press. These exercises should be the mainstay of your exercise routine because they use the most muscle, burn the most calories, and allow you to lift the most weight. Learn to do them correctly. And then do them.
  • Eat according to your goals.  Food is an important part of the fitness equation.

If you want a knowledgeable coach to help reach your fitness goals, Book a free consultation.

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How the Barbell Back Squat Strengthens Your Core.

The saying, “Squat is King” is true for several reasons. One of which is it’s a great abdominal and lower back exercise. When the squat is performed correctly, the core muscles (i.e., abdominal, obliques, and erectors) are strengthened and developed because they are forced to contract hard statically in order to maintain correct squat positioning. And over the course of weeks and months as you incrementally add weight to the bar and lift heavier, this increased load provides greater stimulus to your core muscles and forces them to get stronger still. Here are a few different but complementary ways you can view your core and the role it plays when performing efficient and safe barbell back squats; or for that matter the role it plays in any movement that requires you to push, pull, or pick something up!

  • Natural Girdle or Belt – How does a strong core help minimize low back injury? You can think of your core muscles as forming a natural belt. Lifting heavy objects, running, jumping, or any quick explosive types of movements require strength and the ability to produce high force. Having a strong core that squeezes and contracts hard compresses your internal organs which in turn produces internal force that pushes on the lower spine from the inside, and thus indirectly supports and protects your low back.
  • Car Transmission – What role does your core play in movement? They’re certainly not there to do work. That is, you don’t push, pull, pickup, or directly move anything with your abs; that’s the role your arms and legs… to generate force. You can think of the your core muscles as the transmission of a car, and your arms and legs as the engine. Strong core muscles turn your relatively flexible and mobile waist and torso into a stiff lever, which allows for efficient force transference of the force generated by your arms and legs.

So instead of endless crunches, squat to build a stronger core, and a healthier back. -Nuey

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Why I LOVE Being Strong

I’m kinda old fashioned and an idealist… I appreciate the effort, learning, and self-discipline required to accomplish important non-trivial goals. The tougher the challenge, the more satisfying the victory. That’s just me.

When it comes to the physical and mental battle required to build strength, I prefer the long way. Strength and muscle built naturally… In a very real sense, converting wholesome foods into muscle by progressively lifting heavier weights. Sweat, effort, determination. The fight against gravity. It’s fun!

Why I LOVE Being Strong:

  • It keeps me young. What is youth? In a very real way it’s the amount of muscle mass we hold onto (which typically wastes away as one gets older and more sedentary). Use it or lose it.
  • It’s healthy. I know I’m feeding my tissue, cells, body more oxygen and nutrients; releasing more hormones and in greater amounts than would otherwise be released if I did nothing.
  • I have to use my mind. Strength isn’t easily gained. The better informed I am. The better “mental tools” I have at my disposal. The better my results.
  • It feels good. Just me against the bar. PR – Personal Record. Again, it’s fun!

In Strength and Health. -Nuey

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Dinosaur Training Summary

Here’s a nice summary on training from Brooks Kubik.  His books and website are a great source of information on old school strongman training; highly recommended.

  1. Train three days per week for about one hour per workout.
  2. Do basic exercises.
  3. Focus on your legs, back and shoulder girdle.
  4. Train for strength, not for a pump.
  5. Do some gut work so you keep your midsection under control — but don’t train for a wasp waist.
  6. Do one to three sets of each exercise unless you are doing strength and power training, in which case you can do 5 x 5.
  7. Good old-fashioned food builds strength and muscle better and faster than any super supplement ever invented.
  8. You can take supplements if you want to take them, but don’t use them to make up for a lousy diet. It won’t work.
  9. Don’t forget the conditioning work.
  10. Combine your strength training with sports or martial arts. Be well rounded.
  11. Build coordination and athleticism along with strength and power.
  12. Concentrate deeply, fiercely and intensely when you train.
  13. The mental aspects of training are the key to success.
  14. Never give up!
  15. Train for strength AND health.
  16. Live a full, complete, well-rounded life. Don’t drop out and live at Muscle Beach — and don’t glorify those who do.
  17. Don’t take drugs.
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Lose Belly Fat

“What ab exercises should I do to get rid of belly fat and tighten my stomach?”  I hear this all the time and just want to set the record straight. You don’t do stomach/abdominal exercises in order to shrink your waistline. No crunches, no leg lifts, no “core” exercises with the hopes of getting rid of belly fat. Body fat is just stored energy (regardless of where it’s stored).

Think of fat on your stomach (or thighs for women) as an extra gas tank, and your big muscles (i.e., legs, back, chest, shoulders) as the engine that uses that energy/gas and burns it away.

  • Most effective exercises? Squats, deadlifts, presses, pull-ups… i.e., Use “compound multi-joint” movements with the intent of progressively lifting heavier weights.
  • Best diet (i.e., eating habits)? Really focus your eating around natural whole foods; mainly veggies and meat. Cut out or minimize sugar and starches (i.e., bread, pasta, rice, crackers, cookies, cakes, soft drinks and sodas, etc.); limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks per week; eat your food, don’t drink it — that is, no smoothies, shakes, or fruit juices; limit fruit to none or only 1 piece per day.
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Training Variables — Frequency, Intensity, Duration.

What is the secret to building muscle and losing fat?  The answer: Become more physically capable!  This means the stronger you get by progressively lifting heavier weight, the more muscular endurance you develop by performing more repetitions and sets, and the faster you can execute the repetitions while maintaining proper form — the better your body will look.

  1. Frequency — How often you workout; this can be number of training sessions per day or over the course of a week.  Typically for a fit and healthy lifestyle, you resistance train 2-4 days per week.
  2. Intensity — Typically measured as a percent of 1RM (one repetition max – the maximum weight lifted for a single attempt/repetition).  A barbell back squat workout at 80% 1RM is more intense than a workout at 70% 1RM.  Simple.
  3. Duration — As a general rule of thumb, aim for workouts that last 20-60 minutes.

So, there’s frequency, intensity, and duration.  Increasing any of these variables, adds up to what?  From a physics perspective:  Increased work capacity (Work = Force x Distance).  And with an increased capacity for physical work, you will build muscle and lose fat and be fabulous.

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High Intensity, High Volume Routine

This is called the Russian Bear muscle gain routine from Pavel Tsatsouline’s Power to the People book.  The basic idea is to do high-intensity low-rep sets (i.e., 70-90% RM at 4-6 reps/set), but do many sets (i.e., 10-20 sets) per workout.  Hence, the title of this post.

I’m a hard gainer with hopes of putting on weight; current body weight is 150lbs.  After about six-months off from heavy barbell work, I restarted this routine yesterday and did… Deadlift 255lbs. at 4 reps for 4 sets (255lbs. is 70% of my current 360lb. deadlift one-rep-max).  That was enough.  The goal was for greater number of sets but with a protocol like this it is important to listen to your body and fatigue level, and know you will shoot for more in following workouts.

  • High Intensity/High Percent of 1RM — Strongly stimulates central nervous system and hormone production.
  • High Volume — Increases the body’s capacity to do work.  That is, there is an increase in the physiological resources to repeatedly lift heavy weight.

How much physical work did I do?  255lbs. x 4sets x 4reps = 4,080lbs. = 2 tons of work.  As long as I eat enough to fuel the work and sleep enough for recovery, I expect to have put on more mass once I’m physically capable of doing 8, 10, 12… plus tons of work in a given workout.  The plan is for two heavy days per week.  I’ll keep you posted.

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8 Reasons Why Kettlebells Rule

If you’re short on time and want a great body without having to spend hours working out, then kettlebells should be part of your training routine.  Here are eight reasons why kettlebells rule:

  1. KBs work your entire body:  upper body (arms, shoulders, upper back), mid-body “core” (lower back, and abdominals and obliques),  lower body (glutes, hamstrings, and quads).
  2. They work your heart and lungs and improve cardiovascular conditioning.  You can do swings and snatches for high rep counts (10, 20, 30, …) or timed sets.
  3. They don’t require much time (20-30 minutes, 3-5 sessions per week) or  space (a 5×5 foot area) or equipment (a 35lb. KB for men or a 25lb. KB for women) to get in a results producing workout.
  4. You can do variety of exercises: squats, presses, swings, cleans, snatches, windmills, get-ups; the list goes on.
  5. They improve these fitness attributes:  strength, power, endurance, coordination, and explosiveness.
  6. You will increase flexibility and range of motion in your shoulders and hamstrings.
  7. KBs involve dynamic exercises that improve your coordination and spatial awareness.
  8. They develop both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

Do you want these fitness benefits?  If you live in San Francisco, contact us to Learn How Use Kettlebells Safely.

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  • GPP  – General Physical Preparedness.
  • SSP – Sport Specific Preparedness.

Think of GPP as the base on which SSP sits. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or weekend warrior, having a better developed GPP base — strength, power, endurance, coordination, agility, flexibility, etc. — allows for better and safer performance regardless of sporting endeavor.

For example, increased strength and stronger bones and joints are assets for both tennis players and triathletes although the SSP requirements — technique/skill, strategy, energy system development — for each sport are different.

Want to increase your competitive edge?  Talk to us:


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What Makes an Expert? by NCSF – National Council on Strength and Fitness

This article was required reading as part of the NCSF certification renewal process.  I liked it.   I am sharing it with you so you can better vet the qualifications of people you get training advice from.  In strength and health.  -Nuey

The internet provides instantaneous information on virtually all subjects currently known to man. It allows for immediate data related to a multitude of disciplines; allowing for research to be performed related to a subject, instructions to be provided for a specific task and advice to be gained by an “authority” in the area of interest. What is amazing is the number of “experts” who exist in each domain and this may be no more evident than in the fitness industry. Every newsletter, e-news, blog, instructional video, webinar, etc. is presented by an “expert in the field.” But what defines the word expert?

When CNN calls in a military expert it is often a retired general but never less than a battle tested colonel. Reputable news sources providing information on business programs reference Harvard business professors, whereas medical based information is always from an accomplished physician who often also chairs a department at a medical university. Each of these individuals is not questioned as to maintaining a level of expertise based on their education, credentials, and experience. In the fitness industry it is not uncommon for anyone who makes a video, does a local interview or owns a website to call themselves an expert. This begs the question “is it ethical to call yourself an expert because you workout frequently or hold a degree in a fitness related field, or are marketing yourself as such to sell your wears?”

It is generally accepted that an expert level of any skill requires 10,000 hours of purposeful engagement in a particular area. The key emphasis is purposeful engagement. Spending 10,000 hours doing something does not necessarily make you an expert. For instance, there are many people who have spent 10,000 hours cooking in the kitchen but that doesn’t mean that each is considered an expert chef. Purposeful engagement suggests that there is at a minimum – direction, interaction, analysis, and pursuit-based inquiry. The expertise at this level is often assigned to a subset area as most disciplines are too vast to maintain an expertise level in all areas. This is why most school degree programs have tracks or specializations to maintain area focus and prevent the “jack of all trades and master of none” phenomenon.

In the psychological investigations between the expert and non-expert, there seems to exist certain criteria that differentiate the two; historical knowledge as to the discipline’s evolvement and key milestones in the past (discoveries/developmental/technical etc..), requisite procedural knowledge, extreme efficiency in the ability to scan, data process and evaluate information and situations, focused analysis based on the application of specific principles, and research based inquiry (problem solving). The caveat to this is a discernable ability to do it all well.

Although formal education is often considered the most well established route to expertise, there is experienced-based expertise that in some cases leads to more rapid discovery and technical evolvement. Most would argue that one must understand the authorities to challenge them, which explains education. In basic terms, undergraduates regurgitate/replicate information, graduates review and analyze information, and doctors question the information in pursuits of a better, more efficient way. An auto mechanic who learned the locomotive basics in two years of technical school may be considered much more knowledgeable after 20 years of practice than his original teacher. He, in fact, may become an industry innovator as he performs trial and error research everyday without an IRB committee to slow him down. His education is certainly inquiry-based as he looks for better ways to solve the problems he confronts.

America watches TV – a lot of TV. And if a TV personality such as Oprah calls someone an expert the person is nearly guaranteed to become the next big thing. Books, videos, their own television show, etc seem to be the natural consequences of Oprah’s expert rating. Is it simply a factor of platform that makes an expert? This may explain why everyone in the fitness industry is an expert. Any mass media platform needs a marketable title for optimal sale value. This suggests the platform presents the concept of expert in that area regardless of the true level of the professional.

One litmus test in the evaluation of a professional as an expert is if that individual is considered an expert for the purposes of law. Although a courtroom often requires a lower level expertise than a credible University, for an expert witness to be considered as such they must be qualified by the court, based on expertise, accomplishments, and training directly related to the subject matter of the case. In the courtroom, the lawyer responsible for hiring the expert witness is also responsible for convincing the judge that the witness does, in fact, possess specialized experience and training based on the individual’s background, formal training, education, quantifiable skills, experience, and requisite knowledge. Education and degrees are highly regarded by courts as evidence of expertise, but an expert witness can also be qualified based on experience and skills alone, assuming they are above that of an average professional. Once the questioning of the witness has concluded, the court will then make a ruling on whether or not the witness will be admitted as an expert in their field.

If someone would not be qualified as an expert in the courts by the aforementioned process, they are most likely not an expert in their field. This does not necessarily mean they do not have a level of expertise or a value in the profession, but rather that they should not represent themselves in a manner that may falsely assign unearned merit. In some cases a subset of skills in a domain may warrant particular acknowledgement, but ethically should only be presented in that context. For instance, if a fitness professional coaches national level Olympic weight lifters they may have a measurable expertise in the specific lifts and coaching techniques which would add to their authority in that area, but only to the extent that it remains in the specific realm of Olympic weight lifting techniques. To suggest an Olympic weightlifting coach is also considered an expert in health and fitness would likely be a false statement unless the individual was educated, trained and experienced in those additional areas.

When is it ethical to call yourself an expert and advertise yourself as such? The following are supportive evidence (or not) that a level of expertise has been established and can be documented.

  • Education – accredited education curriculum, area of study, level of instruction, rigors of the academics, degree of assessment/evaluation.
  • License/Certification – performed using legitimate measures of one’s knowledge/skill – in the fitness industry this suggests standardized proctored examinations, not online open book tests. Professional certifications are generally considered minimum competency assessments for employment not an assignment of a title of expert.
  • Experience/Time – actual time spent in higher levels of the professional domain Broadening Experiences – participation in events that expand inquiry and provide intellectual growth.
  • Specific mentors – Time spent under highly qualified experts.
  • Recognition by peers in same field – the level of peer recognition by qualified professionals.
  • Specificity of Expertise – actual area of higher knowledge or skill presented.
  • Published works – contribution to expertise is based on the publication and the audience.
  • Speaking engagements (venue and audience) – having an audience does not make one an expert, but the depth and scope of the content, the venue and the level of education/skill of the audience indicate value toward expert acknowledgement.
  • Thought processing and innateness of the knowledge – level of understanding and ability to synthesize and process information intuitively.

Each of the previously mentioned areas unto itself may not define expertise but the contribution of the collective categories round out definable qualifications of an expert. For instance a person with a degree may not be able to pass a certification exam, therefore which has more value? A graduate degree may have little merit or high merit depending on the school, professors, curriculum and assessment or evaluation of knowledge to be conferred. Schools that require a thesis and qualifying exams to graduate are different than a program that grants degrees for time served. Working for 10 years without development in one’s knowledge and skills may present less worth than 3 years experience in a challenging and engaging work environment that demanded continued learning, inquiry and detailed focus. Being considered a guru by thousands of low-level professionals does not compare to the respect of a much smaller quantity of high-level professionals. Presenting on a local news show or industry conference or tradeshow does not match presenting at a University, in the same way writing a blog does not equate to being published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Based on these considerations, the decision to represent oneself as an expert requires a personal evaluation and an appropriate degree of ethics. If bias is a concern, ask a respected peer who is not a friend to participate in the evaluation. In some cases, people believe they are more knowledgeable than they are, but as most readers would agree, in the majority of cases people know their level of expertise and choose to market themselves above that level. Taking the time to go through a personal evaluation will not only help with ethical behavior but also identify areas where one’s expertise can be advanced. Identifying areas of weakness is the first step to improvement and can initiate the path to the next level of expertise.

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