As an athlete training for certain goals, one of the things that I am constantly monitoring and gaging are the numbers that I am producing during sessions. Measurements are an important part of tracking progress and checking your training’s efficiency. Every level of fitness or sport has a need to take measurements. However, the kinds of measurements and how often they are taken provide a great deal of influence on the approach and goal setting for your routine. It is important to understand the pros and cons of measurements as well as the benefits and problems they bring to a training program.
There are various ways to measure a person in regards to fitness or sport. Weight, circumference, skin folds, one-repetition maximums, VO2 max, lactate threshold, ten-repetition max, biomechanical analysis, bioimpedence, hydrostatic weighing, flexibility tests, reaction time, resting heart rate, maximum heart rate…etc. In general, there are lots of ways to measure two different things: body composition and physical performance.
Body composition brings a lot of benefits to program planning. The majority of people who go to a gym or begin exercising do so because they want to lose weight, look better, or something along the lines of aesthetics. Body composition is directly related to the way the body looks. The benefits of measuring body composition come in the form of visual progress. Because it’s a clear number that is written down and tracked, there’s little room for interpretation and it’s a good indicator of nutritional and physical efficiency. The cons of body composition are numerous. Principally in that body composition only indicates progress in a single sense; weight is weight and weight is not body fat percentage, skeletal muscle mass, or any other item. It can also be a poor indicator of good health as most guidelines for body composition measurements are based on a very general population and often neglect to address outlying issues such as genetics, chronic disease, age groups, and previous health history.
Performance measurements are a method of determining the body’s capacity for specific types of work: cardio, strength, speed, agility, flexibility, etc. Performance measurements are taken for a different aspect of fitness programming, which ignores body aesthetics and focuses on what the body is able to accomplish with movement. The benefits of measuring for performance tell more than just a single aspect of your fitness. For example, if you have increased your one-repetition max for a lift, you have increased mental confidence, muscular strength, muscular efficiency, proprioception, and other factors. Performance measurements also compliment other facets of your training; as performance increases, the body naturally changes to become more efficient at performing various activities. The disadvantages of performance measurements are that it is very easy to create excuses to justify a lack of progress. There’s a lot of interpretation and factors involved with performance and completion of fitness activities. It is not straight forward, making it easy to take less seriously.
The aspects of your fitness that you wish to measure depend greatly on what you are hoping to accomplish. A good piece of advice is to not completely depend on performance or composition measurements independently. Each has their benefits and their disadvantages, making them strong compliments to one another. With proper guidance on how to interpret any of these numbers and figures involved in your fitness journey, the efficiency of your training and success of your program will rise to new levels and produce even greater results in your performance and composition.
Every Day… A Little Stronger
By Sam Winston, Strength and Performance Coach
You walk into a gym, you have all the ambition in the world, and you feel like this is your time. You have the latest and greatest gear needed and as you enter the front door you hear the trainer tell you, “I’m going to help you get strong.” In your mind, you have a picture of lean muscle helping you conquer that local marathon and in the trainers mind a picture of a powerlifter moving impressive amounts of weight… Which brings up the question, what is strength?
Strength is such a relative term. It can be demonstrated in many different ways and developed in a variety of methods. There is no good or bad way to be strong, but there is an optimal way to achieve strength that will ensure success. When someone begins their pursuit of strength, the importance of proper programming and complete honesty is second to none. You can’t train like a bodybuilder and hope to have world class endurance on the bike, and you can’t train like a professional athlete if you’re entering the gym for the first time.
Before you begin, have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish. Talk to a trainer or coach who can guide you and teach you. Together you will develop a plan that will let you achieve your optimal strength! There are three keys to consider that will help you establish a mentality ready to not just begin your pursuit of strength, but continue until the end…
–The Goal: number one on your list for preparation. This goal is your north star: the road taking you to what you dream of becoming. The hard part of selecting a goal is essentially that you have a choice. With so many ways of being strong, you have a variety of options to choose from between completing a family hiking trip to competing in elite sport events. Choose a goal that suits your talents and abilities, one that interests you, one that you are passionate about: one that you can succeed at and enjoy in the process. With an honest goal, you can begin to come up with a plan that will help you advance towards something. Progress requires direction, and the goal points you in that direction.
–Specificity: when you choose your path, follow the specific ways to advance. Much like a road map, you can’t travel westward and expect to find yourself on the eastern coast line. Training like someone who is after a different goal than yourself will only take you away from what you are after. Training has no universal approach and your body will adapt to the way you train it, so if you want to run a faster mile, train like a runner, or if you want to lift heavier weights, train like a weightlifter. Talk with your trainer consistently about your program to make sure it is taking you closer to your goal. Remember to be realistic with yourself and your trainer. Being honest about where you are and where you want to be will impact your ability to succeed in the future. Everyone starts somewhere; we are all beginners at something. Starting a journey requires a beginning, the point where you will take the first step.
–Consistency: another key to success. You can do all the right things and have all the right tools and motivation, but if you only work towards it every so often, or when time permits, or when you remember to do so, you can’t advance sufficiently to change your body. The body needs consistent work over a long enough time to adapt and transform. Remember as well, if you train one way for only a short amount of time and then switch your routine again and again, the progress you achieve will be hindered by not giving your body enough time to adapt to the movements and performance; in essence, you’re taking steps in many different directions. Dedicate yourself to a particular method that takes you towards your goals, and see it through to the end.
Strength comes in many forms. The pursuit of strength is a journey that requires long periods of dedication and the way you choose to approach that journey will greatly affect your success. Be honest with yourself and work specifically to your goals; consult a professional who can help you take the best route possible. Completing your pursuit of strength is one of the most important achievements of your life as it will benefit not only your physical health, but also your successes in every other aspect of your life.
Every Day… A Little Stronger
There’s a lot of talk right now about the New Year Resolutions, and all the reasons why you wont stick to a fitness program or compete your physical goals for the year. There are always a thousand more reasons why you will fail compared to those why you will succeed, instead of focusing on the reasons to fail, let’s take a look at a tool that will help you succeed! The single most determining factor of success and failure to adhere to an exercise program is your mind, not your body!
Upon taking up the challenge to complete a physical fitness goal or exercise routine, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help ensure your success in not only completing the routine or becoming more active, but also achieving your goals and then some!
One of the key factors that affect the probability of your success in pursuit of physical fitness improvement is that of your self-efficacy. Typically defined as your own self worth and ability to solve issues or fulfill your goals. It is a behavioral trait that tells you how good you are getting stuff done! When it comes to exercise, jobs, relationships, honey-do’s, projects, and other facets of life, we all start with a certain level of self-efficacy that directly helps or inhibits our motivation to accomplish the task. Improving this trait is important if you want to stick to your goals, if yo want to develop that habitual routine and get yourself into the best shape of your life. Basically, if you are uncertain of a certain skill, your self-efficacy of said skill is low, and your desire to get it done is low, resulting in a poor performance or failure to complete all together. If you are proficient at a skill, and are efficient on getting it done, you are going to have a high self-efficacy giving you more confidence and a higher probability of not only completing the task, but doing it well at a high level of performance.
What most people don’t tell you is that this characteristic is able to be developed. It’s not a genetic trait that cannot be altered and you’re stuck with what you were born with. Developing self-efficacy is a process of repetition and simple steps, progressing surely but slowly until efficiency is achieved. Emil Zatopek (the human locomotive) said it best. “If you do something once, nothing happens, but if you do something a hundred, a thousand times then you have not only just changed physically; and will power is no longer a problem.” Too many people start the New Year off with goals that make them go for the gusto and the lack of patience doesn’t allow them to see the progress made. Rather they focus on the longer distance to the end goal and forget to notice the small things that are required to achieve the big picture goal for the year. This is also the key to building this ever so important trait of self-efficacy, taking the journey day by day, week by week.
First things first, your goals… Choose goals that are achievable in a short span of time, things that don’t take too much preparation and can be acted upon quickly. You are more likely to scale Mt. Everest standing at it’s base than you are trying to save money for the plane ticket to get there.
Secondly Start simple. Start with things that you KNOW you are capable of accomplishing, as you accomplish these small things, you will inherently push yourself for more and find yourself succeeding because success is not a coincidence, it is a habit. Start small and progress from there.
Third, Keep in mind that we all start at our own level, be patient! Remember that every bit of progress (no matter how small) is still progress and gets you closer. Forget about comparing yourself to others, forget about the other people you want to impress, your greatest opponent is yourself. As cheesy as it may sound, how can you expect to be better for others when you can’t be better for yourself. Conquer yourself and watch the rest of your world improve!
Achieving self-efficacy is a process, nothing in physical fitness takes shortcuts, there’s never an effective “trick” or “secret” that can replace the efficiency and permanent nature of gaining results through hard work and effort. In achieving self-efficacy, you gain a mental toughness to not just workout more, but to do more in life. self-efficacy is translated into all areas of life. Let your mind become your greatest asset this year. Grow your minds ability to push your body to new limits and forge in yourself a new found level of strength in all areas of your life!
Our bodies are incredible machines capable of incredible feats of strength. We see it across a variety of sports and activities, where people accomplish different shows of athleticism in extremely different ways including; Endurance, Speed, Explosive, Stability, Strength, and a variety of others. These people are able to accomplish these things because of the way they prepare their bodies to perform. An incredible amount of focus towards their desired goals helps them do what is necessary to achieve optimal performance. They take out the fluff, they constantly study and refine the movements and strengths needed to enable their bodies, often times ignoring beneficial exercises with the knowledge that they are not needed to improve THEIR performance.
Performance is a characteristic of human abilities defined in a vast spectrum of ways. The human body can perform at high levels in so many ways. One thing that I constantly drill my clients is focus on their goal. Someone can train all they want, they can do different series of exercises and workout multiple times a week, but if you don’t train towards a specific performance goal, the body cannot change or adapt to enable your performance for that goal. The goal is everything.
Not all Exercises are Created Equal
Someone training for the 100m dash requires a particularly high level of activation of fast twitch muscle fibers, quick nueromuscluar communication and optimal foot position to produce high ground reaction forces, A swimmer requires high mobility in the shoulders and hips with little impact on the joints and a need for body control and buoyancy. Stating that these two athletes can perform the same kind of training and experience the same improvements in performance.
The body is made of a series of joints and hinges controlled by the muscles and the way these muscles are activated through exercise is how they respond when recruited for the activity. There are an infinite number of combinations of exercise variables not limited to sets, repetitions, light weight, heavy weight, slow cadence, fast cadence… etc. It is important to utilize the proper combinations of variables that will prepare the body for the goal activity. Much like a race car, a 1/4 mile Muscle Car is built very distinctly to a NASCAR race car, and if either were placed in anything other than their specialty, performance would suffer. The same can be said for humans and sports.
-High repetitions and lower weights is designed to increase resistance to muscle fatigue and increase higher efficiency of the energy systems.
-Low repetitions and Higher weights is a system that will increase maximal strength output and develop fast twitch muscle fibers.
-Isolated exercises tend to focus on development of musculature at specific points focusing on muscle specific adaptations.
-Compound joint exercises recruit larger amounts of muscle fibers and create greater central nervous system (CNS) adaptations.
-High Intensity Interval Training utilizes a higher average heart rate and diminished rest to test the ventilatory threshold and use fat stores as energy after depleting the blood glucose improving the cardio engine of the body
There are many more ways and variables that need to be taken into consideration, some specific exercises have no place for an athlete, some programming schemes are full of unnecessary movements that will not compliment the desired activity. With the help of a coach, these things can all be planned properly.
Training and performance are directly related to one another, improvements and increases are determined by the efficiency and specificity of the training towards the goal. If you want to run a marathon you shouldn’t train like a powerlifter. Keep focused on the goal and train for it. Stay the course.
Every Day… A Little Stronger
I have to admit that I have been writing a lot lately about the benefits of intervals, heavy lifting and generally higher intensity style training. It would almost appear as if I am against cardiovascular training. But if I’m a triathlete, how can I be against cardio? Sufficient to say, I am in no way against cardio endurance training and full heartedly embrace it’s benefits and place in the training world.
Cardiovascular endurance training is an extremely important part of any training regimen as it provides a series of benefits to help promote overall strength gains and health improvement.
First and foremost, there is no better way to strengthen your heart (considering it is a muscle) than to spend long continuous bouts with an elevated heart rate. Much like any other muscle, the more you use your heart and the more you place resistance and intensity on it, the more efficiently it will perform. This will be gained in the way of a lower heart rate, better stroke volume, even strokes, and higher capacity for work.
Secondly, keeping the body under the stress of continuous cardio stress helps improve your hormonal profile by forcing adaptations to take place by releasing endorphins and other necessary hormones to regulate your body’s ability to sustain the effort. As your body uses it’s hormones to accomplish the task, it adapts and figures out ways to be more efficient at using it’s resources to be more efficient.
Thirdly, cardiovascular endurance is a handy attribute to have, it makes living easier, it opens up the possibilities to perform a variety of activities to support your well being. Increasing your capacity to work can translate to many other areas of your life. Having the endurance to participate in all day activities and being able to do your full days work without being overly exhausted only makes life better!
There are many other benefits to adding some good cardio to your strength training routine. But listing the benefits does nothing if you don’t do cardio training properly. A couple of pointers to keep in mind when doing cardio is to properly warm up prior to performing the desired work. Most forms of cardio training puts a lot of pressure and constant stress on the joints and muscles, so avoid getting injured by doing a good warm up. Cardio training doesn’t need to last hours and hours to receive all the benefits. 30-45min of good constant training can do a world of good towards increasing your cardiovascular endurance. Always eat something within 30min of completeing a cardio session lasting more than 20 minutes, preferably something with some carbs and protein.
Performing cardio endurance training is a huge benefit to any strength routine. The amount you should do highly depends on your goals and level of fitness, however under the direction of a qualified coach or personal trainer, you can reap some serious benefits to improving your body.
10mile fartlek run
Box hops 5×10
Bench Press 5×5
-Superset with pull-up 5×5,6,7,8,10
Row machine 2x3min