Category Archives: Weight Loss

How your digital devices and apps do not move the needle.

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You downloaded the latest G50Xtreme workout series, you bought the compression training apparel, have the app on your smartphone and checked in via social media at your gym to keep yourself accountable, and posted a sweaty selfie so we know you didn’t just show up and lie. You’re doing it!

 

 

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You then grab a super-greens superfood drink, enter its caloric info into another smart app and track your intake of nutrients. Off to shower, a clean dinner of steamed veggies and grilled chicken or white fish with a sprinkle of pepper and a squeeze of lemon, and a small glass of Chardonnay (c’mon, live a little now, ya hear!)

You calculated at the end of the day that you burnt X amount of calories (and you’re on track), fulfilled your workout quota and beat it by 10% from last week, so now you can add a restorative session of yoga or Pilates. Book a massage, because your body needs it and you earned it.

Crash on the couch, catch up on emails with House Of Cards playing in the background on Netflix, finish up that presentation for tomorrow. Turn off the tube, but turn on the Kindle for a little reading on how to be more effective, assertive and confident (you’ll follow up with the podcast in the morning on your way to work). Sleep 6 hours or less, and after 12-16 ounces of overpriced coffee in the morning, it’s off to the races again. You sit for 8-10 hours. Wait, no, you have a standing desk too, because more and more offices do that, because it’s good for you.

How you doin’?

What are you working towards?

Why is the standing desk good for you? No need to tell me, by the way, I know you read the research, Self magazine and GQ tweeted about the benefits.

My question was about your workout: what’s it doing for you? Is your posture better? Fewer headaches? Good alignment and muscular balance? Right on!

Now, can you get those results without all the digital noise around you? Can you also apply your fitness to your everyday activities: do you hunch at your desk, do you stand evenly, is your neck bent at 45 degrees staring at screens, or do you practice good posture outside the gym, are you mindful when sitting, walking, standing, carrying your messenger bag?

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Bottom line: if you’re not getting the results, the digital gizmos and social media wear thin and become useless landfill fodder. Because if you’re so disciplined that you’re making progress, you don’t need them. And if you are not disciplined, no amount of toys will fill that gap between you and your goal.

Save some cash, save some time, reconnect with yourself and people without a crutch. Dumbo eventually learned how to fly without holding on to his feather.

“Am I getting better?”

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“Am I getting better?” is a question a client asked me recently, and I’ve heard variations of it over the last decade and a half. Some can have a negative feel to them, like “I feel like I’m not getting better, our sessions are still hard sometimes” or “I don’t look like I’ve been training with a trainer after _____  (insert duration here)”, or “wow, I’m so out of shape, I can’t do X or my performance on this is Y” (where I have to refer people to the SAID principle).

WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

To the title question, there is no magical answer, yet people expect magical results. However, the answer is always yes. You may have to cajole someone into the answer, or educate them. As fitness professionals, especially when our clients trust us, they need encouragement, but it also needs to stem in reality and accountability. I had the “am I getting better?” question asked by someone whom I trained via video conference, after 2 weeks of training only. My answer was prefaced with more questions and education so that the answer sinks in, with the following elements:

  • Is it easier to do certain things (from the mundane to the workout specific)?
  • Is soreness from lack of activity gone?
  • Is your appetite going up (physical activity will usually stimulate that, as muscles want to be fed, to simplify this concept)?

I allow people to self-assess from their own baseline while educating them on the process, the idea of consistency and duration of a training program, and how it makes things better in their lifestyle.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEGATIVE REMARKS/QUESTIONS?

When someone feels they’re not getting better, I show them their training logs, anything and everything measurable. “Here, your previous benchmark was at X reps with Y load, today it is X+10 reps with 1.5Y load, so you have improved in strength and muscular endurance”.

As for the visual esthetics, I also emphasize that you can train twice a week and twice a week only, but if you don’t follow a regimented lifestyle that encompasses proper nutrient intake, adequate sleep and recovery, maintenance training will help you from getting worse, and while it will make you fitter and healthier, the only way to tell would be “what do you think you’d look like if you hadn’t trained at all the past 2 years while maintaining the same diet and lifestyle?” While we can never know unless they have a twin as their control group, we communicate and educate our clients.

Also, when someone claims having poor cardio endurance but only wants to train to lift heavy weights, or vice versa; your body adapts to what you get it ready for.

In the end, clients are in the driver’s seat. We just need to give them a good road map.

 

 

How a complete “Natural Method” session looks like

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Home of the Natural Method

Not too long ago, I posted a blog about how Georges Hébert set up a complete session. If you go back and revisit that post with its vintage pictures, you will see that equipment was a bit different a century ago (like the mold below where you can pour concrete to make a construction brick). All goals are met, by the way, from developing strength, endurance, muscle mass, cardio, flexibility, agility (you know my FAST pillars by now), which incidentally leads to weight loss without it being the focus (all around athleticism leads to greater fitness, health and that leads to weight loss too!).

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One of the reasons I wanted to give people an updated version of his training program is simply because equipment has evolved. Now, we’re not going to go show you all the selectorized equipment options or machines which isolate muscle groups which have been developed since. Instead, the focus will remain on variety of free weights, whether it’s a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, sand bell, medicine ball etc…

One additional key is the use of technique. Again, using machines requires a much lesser level of attention to proper form, as it’s almost “done for you”, and if you are going to use free weights, form is essential.

So, here is an updated equivalent post, which also serves as another sneak preview of the upcoming book with the program design of Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education through his Natural Method.

WARM UP WITH FUNDAMENTAL EXERCISES

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DEVELOP ALL-AROUND ATHLETICISM WITH FUNCTIONAL EXERCISESC OMBATIVES: FOR SELF-DEFENSE, DEXTERITY, AGILITY, COORDINATION.

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WEIGHT LIFTING: FOR STRENGTH AND MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT

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THROWING: FOR DEXTERITY, POWER, HAND-EYE COORDINATION, AGILITY, MOBILITY

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CLIMBING: FOR ALL-AROUND STRENGTH, MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT, FLEXIBILITY, MOBILITY, OBSTACLE CLEARANCE, RESCUE

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JUMPING: FOR POWER, STRENGTH, DISPLACEMENT AND OBSTACLE CLEARANCE, AGILITY

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And of course, running (sprinting, jogging, racing) for speed, endurance, power, cardiovascular health, hygienic cleansing and waste elimination benefits through sweating etc…

Latest peek at photos from the upcoming book

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Because pictures tell a better story.

Many thanks (chronologically based on photography sessions) to Nick Bustos, Patrick Hartsell, Melody Schoenfeld, James Neidlinger, Ron Jones and Jennifer Winkelman for making yourselves available amidst all of your activities and busy lives to be part of this fitness project, shot by Antje Anders.

I also want to thank Throwdown and XFit Brands David Vautrin and Ted Joiner for lending us their facility and equipment!

Here is a sampler of jumping, lifting, throwing, climbing, fighting as well as some fundamental/basic educational exercises from the upcoming book based on Georges Hébert’s training program design.

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“Normal” everyday fitness esthetics

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There is a difference between being camera ready, which is ephemeral (unless you want to destroy all sense of social life with extreme discipline), and how the body looks daily. Think magazine cover, or “money shot” when an actor shows a chiseled body in a superhero movie (and then you don’t see the body for the rest of the movie, as it can take weeks or months of filming and it’s hard to maintain the “look”).

Don’t trust this fitness porn Instagram pictures of super ripped bodies. Few people look like that on a daily basis, even bodybuilders peak for a contest and look different in the off-season (that’s why it’s called the off-season, it’s never a year-round look).

Here’s an example of what my body looks like on a daily basis.

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I don’t care to show you a chiseled, mega ripped dehydrated body, because it looks like that for an instant only. I want to show you the body of someone who is like you: trains as frequently as a client should, has responsibilities, a family, bills to pay and is healthy, eats sensibly (meaning well and enjoys treats like chocolate or beer on occasion without guilty feelings).

And better yet here’s and excerpt of Georges Hébert’s book on physical education for women, with an applicable explanation for both men and women:

“The curve/shape is more or less pronounced according to the degree of development or the current state of training. It is necessary to differentiate these two states, as one can have achieved integral development and find oneself, at any given moment, either in a non-active period or simple rest, or in a training period.

 At the peak of development and at once during a training period, in other words in a “ready state”, to use the expression used in sports, the shape of the muscles and the fascia lines are extremely sharp/defined.

The skin adheres to the muscle without fat in-between, or at least without a noticeable layer. Muscular fibers are even seen through the skin when the muscle is strongly flexed.

At the limits of extreme training, curves become “cut” and in the case of overtraining, remind a bit that of someone being “skinned”. This applies to women as well as men. 

When the training period ends, and it cannot last more than a few weeks or days without reaching over training, or as soon as normal activity slows, the muscles appear less “defined”,  small fat deposits fill in and soften the lines of external contours or the fascia. “Covering” takes place, more or less visible as the training load is reduced, compared to what it was prior, and a more abundant food intake. Flesh is then filled.  

This state of covering disappears easily in a few days or weeks as soon as training or regular activity resumes. If, by lack of exercise, we let that covering go on, we progressively suffer all the setbacks on health and beauty. Fattening begins.

In summary, muscular definition is characteristic of the state of training or maximal activity; simple covering, average level of physical activity (maintenance), which is the normal state of training outside of maximal training intensity periods; exaggerated covering, a state of activity inferior or of weak training in relation to the vitality of the body (under training) and finally, obvious overweight, a state of complete inactivity or extremely weak, or also a specific state, which we will discuss, which has nothing to do with our natural needs. Nutrition also has an important role in the production of these various states.”

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The Natural Method: How Hébert Programs Training

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Most training programs are designed with short-term goals, like infamous 90-day programs to get “insanely” ripped. Then what? I find that outside of hypertrophy goals (muscle gain) or people focused on strength training goals like power lifting, there isn’t much consistency or “longevity” built into training programs. Indeed, the most popular training goal is weight loss, and it tends to be patchwork of high intensity drills. Yes, they get you moving, sweating, burning, but most of the time, people wind up too sore to move, beat down, tired, quit too soon or worse, revert to their original “shape” because 90 days isn’t long enough to bring your body to a permanent “good shape” if the “bad shape” was established over a period of years, if not decades.

And for those who exercise diligently and still do not improve, be it at least skill set, abilities or esthetics/looks, you may want to revisit your path to your goal, or troubleshoot life outside the workout itself.

I routinely have noticed that martial arts practitioners tend to do best at learning, being disciplined and moving, and that’s because they are part of a system, regardless of the style chosen. You work on a drill, movement or exercise for a while before moving on to the next, after not necessarily having mastery over it, but a clearer understanding. Example: if you work on the pull-up, practice hanging and only retracting your shoulder blades daily for a week (scapular retraction). The following week, work with a band to assist you in going full range of motion. The week after, work on negatives (lowering yourself unassisted and with control). And yet another week after, try partial pull-ups unassisted, and so on.

Outside of movement fundamentals to prepare and prime the body for training, through warm-up, mobility and corrective exercise (which also develops as fundamental, basic educational exercises), the “meat” of a training session according to Hébert is broken up into several categories. If you hit ONE skill/drill/exercise per category, and you do that for a week, you get to progress gradually. Then, the following week, you either add a new one or continue an exercise (add if easy, repeat if more challenging). So, week 2 would have you either recap all the previous week’s exercises PLUS add one, or add one only in some categories on top of the previous, and repeat some of the previous week’s.

The difference between that and those “get ripped quick” schemes (which only rip you off your money) is that you don’t do too much too soon. It’s a more realistic, gradual and long term approach, where you feel satisfaction from knowing you’re doing things better, and keeps the boredom away. Kinda like Christmas (where you get all your gifts at once and are on overload) versus Hanukkah, where you get one daily for 8 days. I’m not Jewish, by the way, but I think getting something daily is a good way to appreciate things.

So, here’s a teaser of the upcoming programming book and example of how to design the weekly plan:

1 skill per week per category for 12-16 weeks, which gives you a full workout, all-around athleticism, and proper skill development. 
Fighting: cross punch.
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Lifting: two-handed shoulder press.
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Throwing: single-arm light object swing throw.
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Climbing:
– rope: using hands and feet.
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– bar: pull-up.
Photo from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe Til
– obstacle (beam, scaffold, etc.): straight arm support to seated position.
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– Jumping: high and/or broad jump, no momentum.
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– Sprint: 30 meters, try to improve the time daily.
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2nd week: (same order of categories)
– add front kick.
– jerk
– extension throw
– repeat last week’s (harder one, so needs more time)
– etc, etc…

 

The Return of a Bad Health & Fitness Trend

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I know it feels I am very Hébert-centric these days, and that’s probably because I am engrossed in the translation of one of his book as well as the adaptation of the program design and training of another. What is actually happening is that things fall into my lap, verifying the importance of my work, confirming that everything good and bad has been done before, and sooner or later resurfaces.

Case in point: in my junk email today, an ad for a waist slimming device was delivered. A century ago, this was the corset, which Hébert described as a torture device deforming women and causing all kinds of health issues.Now, a revamped version of it has appeared, and as any good marketing piece, it checks off what’s emotionally connected to the target demographics socially programmed “wants”, with benefits that can be attained without doing any work for it, and carefully worded claims which in fact, as only potential and not guaranteed.

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Now, let’s take a look at the benefits and break those down:

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1) Reshaping of waistline: this is an external process, fake, like a push-up bra, encouraging lack of activity and fitting into a standard that may not be the physiology of every individual woman.

2) Helping define curves: does it rearrange, tucking here, pumping there, shuffling skin and fat around (because muscles, even at rest, aren’t going to move a whole lot if they are developed properly)?

3) Helping you feel toned: so you *may* “feel” something that isn’t there (muscle tone), tricking your brain momentarily (until it shuts the sensation down, like wearing silk or not noticing perfume you put on). The problem remains: if you have no muscle tone, this doesn’t provide muscle tone.

4) Smoothing of rolls and bulges: Hébert wrote “For centuries, many poor creatures, to satisfy this criminal concept, have condemned themselves to deformity with the force compression of their flanks.” Hiding under a cloak is only deception, not health, of self and to self and others. 

5) Helping to feel fuller: yes, the best weight loss tools are the knife and fork. Caloric restriction alone isn’t enough. Nutritional balance is needed.

Now, let’s take a quick look at what happens internally. I will not comment, the pictures are worth, as the saying goes, a thousand words. Discuss amongst yourselves.

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DAILY PROGRAMMING according to the Natural Method

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Daily training contains at least one complete session, consisting of the following:

Fundamentals;
Self-defense: boxing and wrestling;
Lifting;
Throwing;
Climbing;
Jumping;
Racing;
Walking;
Swimming (whenever possible)

The daily program is performed in one or several “takes” inside of the same day.
Each take is generally composed of lessons as just listed: fundamentals or basic educational exercises, functional/utilitarian and complete lessons.

The order of performance is preferably in the same order as described in Chapter IV, book 1 [INSERT CHART] or as describe under GENERAL PROGRAMMING

If, for whatever reason (lack of space, equipment, etc.) a different order is followed, it must be logical, meaning go according to the principles of increase, then gradual decrease of energy expenditure, with max effort reserved for the end of the session/take.

Example of daily programming broken up into two takes:
– 1st take: Lesson revolving round basic educational exercises/fundamentals.
– 2nd take: Functional/utilitarian lesson.

Total duration of session: 1 hour.
1st take duration: 25 minutes.
2nd take duration: 30 minutes.
5 minutes rest between takes.

Both takes contain races/running. Preferably perform a distance or endurance run in the first take, a sprint in the second.

Liquid Experiment

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This is by no means a program, a diet, a plan or anything that has any long term sustainability.

I live a busy life. Up before 6AM, not always time for breakfast, just coffee, and when I make food, it’s usually a couple of eggs. If I am not being an exclusive chauffeur for the kids to be taken to school or daycare, or after-school activities, or taking them to the park, I also usually focus on the groceries and home cooking. My wife has an incredibly busy schedule too. We live in Los Angeles, with cost of living rivaling Manhattan, middle-Class exterminator.

I still put in the minimum effective dose of training to stay in shape, be mobile, conditioned, capable. My knowledge of my industry precedes my abilities, not because I don’t have them nor cultivate them. I also have a condition in my cervical spine that needs attention and treatment.

I eat well, quality foods and balanced, without worries of vanity or aesthetic, rather functional balance. I didn’t win a genetic lottery and I am fine with that.

This experiment was purely to see how I could sustain a 5-day liquid intake of 4-5 32g/serving of protein shakes per day. 2 scoops, 16oz of water, with the occasional addition of MCT or coconut oil, or sub those with either almond or peanut butter (organic raw crunchy unsalted) and a tablespoon of ground flax seed. The only solids came from either a crunchy salad, celery, or broccoli (literally 3 servings, one of each of those, in the entire week).

I was only hungry if I went 4-5 hours without a shake. Energy levels never dropped; if anything, performance was better, more focused and driven with 4 workouts plus a few running/jogging/peed walking sessions on top. Urine was clear or nearly clear the entire time.

Pictures from left to right respectively show: Day 1 side shot, Day 6 side shot, Day 1 front shot Day 6 front shot and the last 2 are taken on Day 7, the morning after having had pizza, beer, burger and fries, as well as a regular soda the day before, and “road trip” snacks.

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Quiet the noise!

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OK, a quick recap of confusion in the fitness world. What’s true, what’s not, what’s grey, what’s black, what’s white?

  1. Coffee is bad for you.
  2. Coffee is good for you.
  3. You need cardio to lose weight.
  4. You don’t need cardio to lose weight.
  5. Reduce calories to lose weight.
  6. Reducing calories won’t make you lose weight.
  7. Lifting light weights at high volume will not bulk you up.
  8. High volume & light weights add muscle mass.
  9. Lifting heavy makes you big.
  10. Lifting heavy helps you lose weight.
  11. Reduce fat intake.
  12. Fat doesn’t make you fat.
  13. Paleo works.
  14. Paleo doesn’t work.
  15. The whole wheat-free, gluten-free thing is wrong.
  16. Eat wheat-free, gluten-free.
  17. Barefoot running is bad for you.
  18. Barefoot running is the best way to run.
  19. Crossfit is bad and causes injuries.
  20. The injury rate in Crossfit is not an higher than any other fitness movement.
  21. Vegans cannot add quality muscle mass.
  22. Vegans can add quality muscle mass.
  23. Eating too much protein is bad for you.
  24. You can’t truly eat too much protein before it’s bad for you, you’ll only add muscle.
  25. P90X and Insanity are bad programs that only few people actually finish.
  26. P90X and Insanity are great programs that deliver results.

Please add to the list, as I am sure this can go on in the most unregulated, fastest growing industry that every single person thinks of every day, positively or negatively, at some point, whether it’s buttoning your pants, huffing up the stairs because the elevator’s out, looking at a billboard for Equinox, see an ad for Greek yogurt etc.

Know that for every one of these points, there is data to back it up, and a lot of theories also (be they straw men arguments or not).