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3rd Annual Strongman Results

Aug 27, 2012   //   by Andrew R.   //   Events  //  Comments

This years strongman event is over and I must say it was definitely very competitive. Everybody brought their best and every competitor was impressive in one way or another. We know some events went longer than they should have (i.e. the log press) and we’ll definitely be making adjustments for next year so things run smoother and more efficiently. Despite this it was still a great event and we hope to see all the competitors again next year.

Here’s the final tally for the events for those curious where they placed.

Juniors 13-15

  1. Ricky Munchbach – 10 points
  2. Scott Moore – 5 points

Women Under 150

  1. Katie Gannon – 12 points
  2. Lauri Kazlauskas – 11 points
  3. Maria Ringer Abel – 6 points

Women 150+

  1. Catherine Toniatti – 37 points
  2. Arianna Komninos- 31 points
  3. Margarite Benevento – 25.5 points
  4. Mary Abbruzzese – 24.5 points
  5. Christina Frolish – 23.5 points
  6. Kimberlee Seevers – 20 points
  7. Sarah Iacobacci – 10.5 points
  8. Jonelle Bayer – 8 points

Men Under 200

  1. Ben McCarthy – 33 points
  2. Joshua DiMezza – 30 points
  3. Cean Olsen – 29 points
  4. Brad Coons – 21.5 points
  5. Nathan Loomis – 20 points
  6. Patrick Mackey – 19.5 points
  7. Andrew Moritz – 16 points
  8. Jonathon Ash – 11 points

Men 200-259

  1. Don VanNazzen – 5 points

Hope to see everybody again next year!

HIIT – Is it Really Superior?

Apr 22, 2012   //   by Andrew R.   //   Training  //  Comments

HIIT – Is it Really Superior?

In recent years HIIT (or High-Intensity Interval Training) has gained in popularity. Some coaches going as far as saying HIIT is superior and the only way you should ever do cardio, often stating that steady state cardio will make you fat and weak. Like anything else in this field, the truth lies more in the middle. There are many reasons to utilize HIIT in your programs, especially if your goal is fat loss. However, it doesn’t have to be done exclusively. There are benefits to both steady state and HIIT cardio, and both can be used effectively rather than choosing one over the other.

HIIT – What is it?

As already stated HIIT refers to High-Intensity Interval training and is a method of conditioning that involves short bursts of high intensity activity followed by lower intensity work. The work to rest ratio can vary but is commonly 2:1 or 3:1. An example HIIT session would be 15 second all out sprints followed by 45 seconds of walking, repeated for multiple rounds. This can be done on a variety of equipment as well. HIIT sessions are typically short and very intense.

Benefits of this type of training include time efficiency, increases in resting metabolic rate even hours after exercise (known as EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), and rapid improvements in endurance performance. Also, HIIT sessions can be fun and time seems to go by much quicker.

Steady State Cardio

This is the form of cardio everybody is familiar with. Steady state cardio is typically performed around 6-70% of your max heart rate. This level of intensity is maintained throughout the duration of the session, which may range anywhere from 20-60 minutes.

Benefits of this type of training:
– It much more appropriate for beginners.
– Tends to burn more calories during exercise
– Can be performed more frequently, even daily if desired
– May improve diet adherence
– Acts as a form of active recovery from weight training

As you can see, both forms of cardio have their benefits. Also, these lists only scratch the surface as to the benefits offered, but I decided to only cover the ones most reading this would be most interested in.

Programming

Since both are effective how can we incorporate both in our routines? First, HIIT should be treated similar to a weight training session. In other words, because of the intensity generally frequency and duration will be less than steady state would be. If you wish to do more interval training than outlined in this article, I’d suggest cutting back the weight training slightly to prevent overtraining.

Here are a few examples.

3x Weight Training, 1 HIIT session

Monday – Weight Training
Tuesday – LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State)
Wednesday – Weight Training
Thursday – LISS
Friday – Weight Training
Saturday – HIIT
Sunday – Rest

4x Weight Training, 2 HIIT sessions

Monday – AM: HIIT, PM: Lower Body Weights
Tuesday – PM: LISS, PM: Upper Body Weights
Wednesday – Rest (extra low intensity cardio could be added)
Thursday – AM: HIIT, PM: Lower Body Weights
Friday – PM: LISS, PM: Upper Body Weights
Saturday – Rest (extra low intensity cardio could be added)
Sunday – Rest

The first approach would be more appropriate for a beginner, while the second somebody more advanced. Assuming legs are being trained twice in one week as in my example, 2 HIIT sessions would be the most I’d suggest. If you were to cut back to once a week training legs, I could see doing 1 more HIIT session. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking more is better when it comes to interval training. Just like weight training, frequency and volume need to be controlled.

Also, while it seems counter-intuitive to do HIIT on a leg training day, it allows the legs to get more days rest overall. In my second example legs would get hit hard 2x a week instead of 4x a week like it would if HIIT were done on separate days. Just try to keep sessions 6-8 hours apart.

Summary

Few things in this industry are as black and white as many make it out to be. There are benefits to just about any training style and it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each training style to help you reach your goals.

Nutrition for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain: Part 2

Feb 15, 2012   //   by Andrew R.   //   Blog, Nutrition  //  Comments

In Nutrition for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain: Part 1 I discussed determining your baseline macronutrient and caloric needs. Now in Part 2 I’ll get into a bit more of the practical side of things and show you how to use this information to construct a healthy diet. I will continue using the example of a 200lb male as an example throughout. If you have not read Part 1 in this series read that first.

Calorie Counting Made Easy

After reading Part 1 of this article you may be thinking “I don’t want to count calories, that’s too hard,” and honestly if you were to track every single meal, snack, drink, etc. every single day, I would agree. It’s not a very practical way of doing things and not an easy method to stick to. If a diet isn’t easy to stick to, what good is it going to do? This is why over the years many other methods have come about as a way to get you to reduce your calorie intake without actually tracking your intake. The problem with many of these approaches is that they lay the blame on a single macronutrient (e.g. carbs, fat, fructose) when it’s not quite that simple. The fact is you need to at least have some method of determining your overall calorie intake if you want to build or maintain an impressive physique.

So how do you find a happy medium between tracking every morsel of food and just guessing? Create a meal plan that meets your calories, protein, fat, and carbs goals and print it out and stick it on your refrigerator. Now you have an eating goal for the day. Don’t want to eat the same things every day? Simply create multiple meal plans or make substitutions using your meal plan as a template. If 1 cup of brown rice is in your meal plan, but you ran out you can easily substitute it with another carb source because you know exactly how many calories and carbohydrates that cup of brown rice contained. With this method you track calories once, and that’s it. From then on you follow it or make simple substitutions.

What Foods Should I Eat?

Don’t think just because I gave you macros to hit that you can get away with just having protein powder, ice cream, and gummy bears. Quality is just as important as quantity. Therefore here’s a list of acceptable foods for each macronutrient. Just keep in mind just because something isn’t on this list doesn’t necessarily make it a bad choice. Really anything in moderation is fine, but the majority of the foods you eat should be of the “healthy” variety.

Protein:

  • Eggs (whole eggs or whites)
  • Chicken Breast (boneless skinless)
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Tuna
  • Fish (salmon, tilapia, halibut)
  • Protein powders (whey, casein, milk protein isolate)
  • Shrimp
  • Low fat cheese
  • Low fat pork
  • Ribeye Steaks or Roast
  • Top Round Steaks or Roast
  • Top Sirloin
  • Beef Tenderloin
  • Top Loin
  • Flank Steak
  • Eye of Round
  • Ground turkey, Turkey Breast Slices or cutlets

Carbohydrates:

  • Whole Grain Oats
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Brown Rice
  • Beans (pinto, black, kidney)
  • Oat Bran cereal
  • Wheat Bread
  • Fruit (berries, bananas, apples, peaches)
  • Fibrous veggies (lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach)
  • Waxy Maize, Dextrose, Maltodextrin (around workouts)

Fats:

  • Fish oil capsules
  • Flax seeds and flax seed oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Extra virgin coconut oil
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts)
  • Natural Peanut butter
  • Fish (salmon)
  • Egg yolks

As you can see there is some overlap. For example, eggs and salmon both make great protein and fat sources. Keep this in mind when designing your meal plan. Depending on your specific dietary fat needs and protein sources you choose, you may not need any additional fat sources. However, due to the several health benefits of including the fats listed above, I would try to choose mainly lean protein sources so you’re able to consume more from the healthy fats list.

Meal Frequency

Meal frequency has been a hot topic over the years. It has often been thought that a high meal frequency is required to keep your metabolism up. It turns out this isn’t supported by research. This myth mainly comes from a misunderstanding of the thermic effect of food. The amount of energy expended from digestion is proportional to the amount of calories consumed in that meal. Therefore, eat larger less frequent meals and you’ll get fewer but larger increases in metabolic rate. Eat smaller but more frequent meals and the increase in metabolic rate will be smaller and more frequent. At the end of a 24-hour period, the end result is the same.

So how many meals should I be eating? This is hard to answer because it’s going to completely depend on calorie requirements, daily schedule, etc. A male trying to gain mass may be consuming 3500-4000kcal per day and need to eat more meals to get the required food in each day. Compare this to a 150lbs female trying to drop bodyfat who may be only consuming 1500-1800 calories. At 6 meals a day that’d be 250-300 calories per meal, which would most likely not be very satisfying. Some people depending on their schedules can only get meals in at certain times as well. Therefore, pick how many meals you feel comfortable consuming. Generally anywhere from 4-6 meals work well. Keep in mind this would include snacks. For example 4 meals may be Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 1 snack.

A quick word on nutrient timing

It’s very important that you get nutrients before, during, and/or after training, mainly in the form of protein and carbohydrates. This is a prime time when nutrients will be used to fuel your workouts as well as be used for repair after the workout. Keep this in mind when developing your meal plan. You don’t want to have hours before and after your workouts that you’re not eating.

Designing your meal plan

Now that you know your calorie and macronutrient goals, possible food choices, and meal frequency we’ll design our meal plan. Just to recap here’s the macronutrient breakdown for our 200lbs male:

Calories – 2400
Protein – 200g
Fat – 65g
Carbs – 253g

We’ve also decided that this individual will consume 5 meals. Since we know how much he needs for the day and know he will be consuming 5 meals the simplest way to set this up would be to divide everything up evenly throughout the day. You don’t have to do it this way if you prefer to eat larger meals earlier or later in the day. However, protein for the most part should be split up evenly. For our example this would mean around 480 calories, 40g protein, 13g fat, and 50g carbs per meal. Again, this doesn’t have to be exact, but it gives us something to shoot for.

Now either on paper, an excel spreadsheet or one of the many tracking websites (my favorite is www.myfitnesspal.com, which also has a smartphone app) start developing your meal plan. Start with the protein source and then add carbs, then additional fats if needed. I would suggest using one of the popular tracking websites, as it makes it easy to make changes and recalculate. However, be aware that not everything in the databases is 100% accurate. Your best bet to verify nutritional information is look at the nutrition label, or if that’s not available, check out www.calorieking.com which is usually pretty accurate, has a large database, and you can easily adjust portion sizes and get the correct nutritional information.

After doing all that, which may take a while your first time, you should have your meal plan. Here’s a sample diet for our 200lb male:

Meal 1:
3 whole eggs
2 cups skim milk
1 small apple
3 fish oil caps

Meal 2:
5oz chicken breast (raw measure)
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 cups broccoli

Snack 1:
Oh Yeah! protein bar
1 large banana

Meal 3:
4oz lean red meat (e.g. top round, eye round)
Salad with 2 cups mixed veggies, 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar
8oz sweet potato
1 cup skim milk

Snack 2:
2 scoops whey/casein/egg protein blend (e.g. Muscle Pharm Combat Powder)
3 fish oil capsules

You can use the above meal plan as a starting point for your own meal plan as well, adjusted to fit your own needs of course. Once you’ve finally figured out what you’re daily meal plan will be, all that’s left is actually sticking to it. So print it out and stick it right to your refrigerator so you always have it for reference.

Some quick tips

1) Prepare food ahead of time. This is make it a lot easier to stick to your diet. If you know you’ll consume 2lbs of chicken for the week, why not prepare it at the beginning of the week? That way when you do need chicken, you’ll simply be able to grab it from the fridge and heat it up. Without preparation you’ll be much more likely to grab something quick (and usually not healthy) because you don’t have time to prepare a real meal.

2) Buy in bulk. This will help save on food costs. Especially with a higher protein intake, food can get expensive. Don’t be afraid to stock up if you have a decent sized freezer when certain things go on sale.

3) Protein powders are a convenient and easy way to add extra protein to your diet. However, the majority of your protein should still come from whole foods. If 75% of your protein intake is from supplements, your diet needs some work.

4) Utilize cheat meals. This will go a long way in keeping you sane and may help keep your metabolic rate up during dieting as well. Just because you want to improve your physique doesn’t mean you have to eat only healthy foods and avoid social events for the rest of your life. Once a week, go out with friends or your significant other and have a “normal” meal. This would simply replace one of your planned meals. Just keep in mind a cheat meal doesn’t equal pigging out. Still be reasonable and you should still have some sort of protein source with this meal.

That’s it. Hopefully by now you have a good idea on how to setup your own diet. Any questions, feel free to post in the comments!

Nutrition for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain: Part 1

Feb 5, 2012   //   by Andrew R.   //   Nutrition  //  Comments

Nutrition is the most important factor when it comes to meeting your goals. Whether its fat loss, muscle gain or just performance based, nutrition plays a huge part. Most people know this, yet still don’t implement a sound nutritional plan. This could be for a number of reasons, but one of the most common that arise is that people have no idea what or how much they should be eating. By the end of this 2-part series you will have a firm grasp of how to put together a fat burning or muscle building meal plan.

Throughout I will be using a 200lb male at 20% bodyfat with a goal of losing bodyfat as an example.

Determining Calorie Needs

First and foremost we must determine how many calories you should be consuming. This is going to vary depending on the individual’s size, activity, lean body mass, and goals. While there are plenty of formulas around to try and determine optimal calorie needs, I prefer a far simpler approach. The fact is even the most complex formulas are giving you an estimate, meaning it will likely have to be adjusted depending on real world results (more on this later).

If an individual is involved in light to moderate activity 3-5x a week the following values tend to work well as a starting point.

Fat Loss – 10-12 kcal per pound of bodyweight
Maintenance – 14-16 kcal per pound of bodyweight
Mass Gain – 16-18 kcal per pound of bodyweight

For our 200lb male this would mean he would start at 2000-2400 kcal per day. I would suggest starting closer to maintenance levels at first. Therefore if your goal is fat loss you would start at 12 kcal per pound. If your goal were muscle gain you would start at 16 kcal per pound. In our example, we will be starting with 2400.

Protein Intake

Getting adequate protein is essential if you want to maintain or build muscle mass. A high-protein diet is superior when it comes to fat loss as well. Exactly how much protein is enough though?  Exact amounts are going to depend on the individual’s bodyfat percentage, bodyweight, caloric intake, gender, and type of activity performed. To put it simply, protein needs go up when dieting (even more so as calories/carbs get lower) and the leaner you are. There is also some evidence that women need slightly lower intakes than men do. Individuals involved in weight training will generally need a higher protein intake than an endurance athlete. However, since this article is about improving body composition, protein will be set assuming some form of resistance training is being performed.

Another issue with setting protein intake is whether to use total bodyweight or lean body mass. Due to issues getting an accurate bodyfat percentage, I will express protein requirements in terms of total bodyweight. To avoid overshooting your protein requirements, separate recommendations are given depending on bodyfat.

Average bodyfat – 1-1.25 g/lb
Very overweight – 0.8-1 g/lb
Lean – 1.25-1.5 g/lb

Women should use the lower end values and higher values should be used as calories are brought lower. For example, an individual at 8% bodyfat may consume 1.25 g/lb when eating for muscle gain, but up it to 1.5 g/lb when aiming to lose fat.

With our 200lb male we will be using a value of 1 g/lb. This is equal to 200 grams which would be 800 calories from protein.

Fat Intake

Next we will set fat intake. I prefer a moderate fat approach over a low-fat one. Diet adherence is generally better (food tastes better) and a moderate amount of fat will go a long way in helping keep you full for longer, as fat slows down gastric emptying (how quickly foods will empty the stomach). Also, fat is important for a variety of health reasons as well as optimal hormone production.

How much is ideal? Generally 20-25% of total calories is sufficient. In our example this would mean consuming between 480 and 600 calories from fat. This would equate to 53-66 grams (9 calories per gram). We’ll choose 65 grams or 585 calories.

Also, just about everybody at this point has heard about the benefits of fish oil. I won’t go into too much detail here, but the EFA’s from fish oils (flax is not a substitute) should be included in your daily total. 3-6 one-gram capsules providing 900-1800mg combined EPA/DHA is sufficient for most individuals.

Carbohydrates

This is the simplest macronutrient to figure out. We’re simply going to use whatever calories are left over for carbohydrates. Since we already have a calorie goal, this is easy to figure out. In our example we already have 800 calories from protein (200g x 4) and  585 calories from fat (65g x 9). Therefore we have 1385 calories accounted for and would leave 1015 or 253 grams left over for carbs (1015 / 4).

Putting it all together

So for our 200lb male his fat loss diet would look like this:

Calories – 2400
Protein – 200g
Fat – 65g
Carbs – 253g

As I said earlier, this is a starting point. If after a week or two using these macros he does not see any weight loss, calories should be dropped slightly (about 200kcal). This could be from a reduction in fat, carbs or a combination of the two (say 10g fats and 25g from carbs).

In part 2, I will go in depth on using the above figures to develop a nutritious meal plan. Until then, use the above to figure out your optimal macronutrient breakdown. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Beginning a Resistance Training Program

Feb 5, 2012   //   by Andrew R.   //   Training  //  Comments

If you’re reading this you may be a complete beginner picking up a barbell for the first time or maybe you’ve been training for a little while, but haven’t seen much in the form of progress. Maybe you aspire to one day be a competitive bodybuilder or power lifer, or maybe you just want to maintain your muscle mass while leaning out.  Regardless, everybody has to start somewhere and starting off on the right foot will set you up for success later down the road.

So, let’s get started.

1) Learn proper form

This is extremely important. Not only will learning proper form ensure you are getting the most out of a particular exercise, it will also help protect you from injury. You want to perform the exercises in the safest manner possible while allowing you to achieve your desired goal. This is easier said than done, especially since most people in commercial gyms don’t have a clue what proper form is. Don’t assume you or your buddy knows what correct form is. Also, don’t figure your form is “good enough.” Any power lifter or bodybuilder will tell you form should always be in mind and there is almost always room for improvement.

The best resources for learning proper form are Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe (now in its third edition) or The Insider’s Tell-All Guide to Weight Training by Stuart McRobert. Purchase one or both of them. Also, bring a camera to the gym with you and record your form. You may think you’re performing a movement correctly, but when you actually see it, it’s an entirely different story. If you’re having trouble or just want to make sure, upload the video to YouTube and post the link on this website’s  forum or shoot me an email.

2) Concentrate on the basics

At this point doing several variations of bicep curls and other isolation exercises are a complete waste of time. Concentrate on the “big” lifts – squats, deadlifts, military press, bench press, incline press, dips, leg press, chin-ups/pull downs, and rows. Throwing in some arm work is fine, but you don’t need multiple movements to emphasize different heads or any nonsense like that. Worry about that at a later point.

Likewise, you don’t need to worry about advanced techniques such as drop sets, supersets, partials, etc. While they seem cool and all the big guys do it, you have to remember most big guys got started the same way I’m advocating here. Save advanced techniques for when you actually need it.

3) Repetition

This sort of ties in with the last one, but the best way to get better at something is through repetition. Therefore, you shouldn’t be changing exercises very frequently at the start. You’ll learn proper form and get stronger faster if you stick to a few basic exercises every time you hit the gym with little variance. I would advise not changing anything for the first 6-8 weeks. Then and only then can changes be made. Obviously there are exceptions to this, the most obvious being some sort of injury preventing you from performing an exercise correctly. Just don’t change the exercise just because you feel like it or saw some cool exercise in your favorite bodybuilding magazine.

For this very reason beginners also typically do better with full body routines done 2-3x a week. Save the body-part splits for down the road.

4) Progressive overload

Any solid lifting program is built around the concept of progressive overload. In other words, over time you must be adding weight and/or reps.  If you started benching 135×8 and months down the road you’re still doing the same, don’t expect any changes in physique. This doesn’t mean you have to make progress every workout, but over a period of time you should be getting stronger. If you’re not, something needs to be changed.

Don’t forget my first point though. If at any point form breaks down stop the set. You’re not doing anything for yourself by sacrificing form to push a bit more weight or get a couple more reps.

5) Think balance

I won’t go too in depth with this since it can cover a lot, but keep this in mind when choosing exercises. Your routine should be balanced between pressing and pulling, quad dominant and hip dominant, etc. Don’t just throw a bunch of random exercises together because you like doing them. This will help ensure you have a balanced physique as well as go a long way in preventing injuries/imbalances.

Sample routine

Now that I’ve given you some basic guidelines, I’ll give you a sample routine to follow.

Workout A:
Squat – 3 sets of 8-10
Dumbbell Rows – 3 sets of 8-10
Bench Press – 3 sets of 8-10
Triceps Pushdowns – 2 sets of 10-12

Workout B:

Trap Bar Dead lift – 3 sets of 8-10
Chin-Up/Pull down – 3 sets of 8-10
Military Press – 3 sets of 8-10
EZ-bar Curls – 2 sets of 10-12

The above would be performed 3x a week on non-consecutive days alternating between the two workouts. The most common way to approach it would be the following.

Week 1 – Mon. – A, Wed. – B, Fri. – A
Week 2 – Mon. – B, Wed. – A, Fri. – B

Remember to start light. Start with the bar and nail down form. When you’re able to perform the exercise for all sets hitting the top of the repetition range with good form, increase the weight for the following workout.

Also, in addition to everything I mentioned make sure you don’t neglect things like nutrition, flexibility, and conditioning. I won’t go into detail because it’s out of the scope of this article, but all are important pieces of the puzzle.

Questions? Feel free to post a comment or send me an email.

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