This Month's Transformation
Todd Maier is a lieutenant at the St Francis Fire Department. I've had the privilege of working with his wife Penny for over 2 years. Her amazing progress finally inspired him to start getting serious about training this past fall. He quickly took everything in and his hard work ethic both in and out of the gym has carried over to many others in his department. He has gotten pretty ripped, stronger and out of pain in around 8 months time. He is proof that hard work and dedication with training and diet will lead to awesome results. From September 2011 to February 2012, he went from ~27% bodyfat to ~16% bodyfat. Looking at the last pictures shown down below (taken in May), he is now under 10% and lean. Peep the photos kids.
Original, Fall 2011
Another Great Success Story
Could the competitive stage be in her future?
The last transformation story featured Joe Becker. Joe has a favorite quote that was written by the man himself, Louie Simmons. "Some men grow older, others grow stronger." This is a brilliant quote and I'm going to go ahead and change "men" to "people." In this month's feature, Veronica Ariens, aka Big Ron the Ripper, will be featured and she is the definition of this quote.
At 61 years young, she outtrains and outperforms most people in their twenties. She is truly an inspiration. Over the course of the last year, she has dropped around 9% bodyfat and is now in the low 20 percent range, which is considered excellent for females at any age let alone over 50. She has also shed inches off of her waist and abdomen. She can knock out pushups and pullups with the best of em, squat and deadlift well over her bodyweight and has developed the conditioning of an animal.
Even more impressive, she follows some amazingly consistent eating habits and it shows in both her physique and performance. She has even been asked on more than one occasion if she is a cop. There are some clients that, with a little guidance and direction, will go above and beyond what you would normally expect and take things into their own hands in order to push limits and achieve their goals. Ronnie is one of those clients. Even when she is not working directly with me, she gets in for extra workouts multiple days a week with her partner Gwen (who I'm sure will be featured soon as well).
Any females (and males for that matter) that think pain, injuries and osteoporosis are all that await you as you grow older and that you can't train hard and be an athlete after college have proof right here. Get better everyday; there are no excuses. In addition to the body comp changes in the pics below, take note of the great postural improvements all the way up and down the body, both in rotation and flexion/extension. Big congratulations to Ronnie, keep up all of the amazing work!!
Get to work kids.
Ronnie in action
What About Getting Stronger?
This may come as a surprise to some people but guess what? We have known what works for getting people into great shape for years and years. There really is no hidden secret on how to get into great shape. The only thing that has changed and continues to change is that there is more and more stupid and senseless misinformation that comes out, ultimately making it harder for those who don't know to figure out what they need to do. Today, I'm going to give you one giant piece of advice that is guaranteed to help you make progress with whatever your goals may be. GET STRONGER!!!
Strength is the one physical quality that will have positive effects on pretty much every other physical quality. It will make you faster, jump higher, improve cardiovascular performance, prevent injury, improve power output, improve quickness, better coordination, build more muscle, lose more fat, increase bone density and the list goes on. On the contrary, spending too much time on a quality like aerobic endurance can have negative effects on strength and other qualities (if not programmed properly). Strength is the root quality that needs to be developed regardless of goals, plain and simple!
So, forget all of the garbage. Forget about counting your calories down to a t (unless you need to for some specific reason of course, i.e. bodybuilding show), forget about worrying about how many calories you are burning during a workout, forget about what the latest magazine said about the "new" workout that will shed 20 pounds in 2 days, forget about what the skinny fat self proclaimed commercial gym "expert" says about the 20 supplements and 30 hours of cardio you supposedly need to do every week, forget about what your friend's dad's doctor told him about exercise and focus on getting stronger. Set some goals in the big bang exercises. Try to add 20 pounds to your squat or deadlift. Try to do 10 pullups with your bodyweight. Try to press or row 10 more pounds. Add another plate to the sled. Push the prowler for 2 more rounds with ten more pounds. Push yourself past limits and gain STRENGTH. If you do this, you are guaranteed to make progress and get results. You will build more muscle, you will lose more fat, you will perform better on the field, you won't get hurt picking up a pencil and you will grow stronger as a person both mentally and physically.
If you feel lost with your training, simplify things. Just get stronger!!! And like I always say, consult a qualified professional to at least set you on the right path with programming and technique. LIVE STRONG BABY!!
Thats Samantha. She has built a rockin body by pushing herself past limits and striving to get stronger. Shes not lifting 2lb pink dumbbells, performing endless hours of cardio on the elliptical or starving herself to be "skinny." Shes lifting heavy things and breaking goals and personal records. Thats close to 200 pounds shes pulling there and she does the same with squats; not to mention knocks out around 8 bodyweight pullups and around 30 pushups. The results? An awesome body that is strong, fit and functional that many set out wanting when they begin their workout journeys. The recipe is there for you folks, you just gotta make it happen!!
Cardio that Rocks
While many people still slave away on ellipticals and stair steppers for hours every week boring themselves half to death and making no progress/even regressing progress (getting through a book doesn't count as progress, sorry:) , many other people are doing "cardio" that is actually fun, effective and helps with fat loss and performance with more results in a quarter of the time. The following are some of my favorite tools for conditioning and energy system development.
Sled dragging is one of the most versatile and effective tools that you can use. You can drag for time, for strength, do intense intervals, speed, agility; you can go forwards, backwards, crossover, side to side, upper body, lower body and you name it, the sled can do it. Not only are you getting the cardiovascular benefit, but you are also building strength in your legs and can focus on developing proper locomotive patterns. I loooove forward sled dragging for runners w/ knee pain who need to develop better locomotive patterns. With the sled, I can strengthen weak muscles in their hips, develop appropriate movement and keep impact stress off of their joints at the same time. Oh yea, I can build up whatever energy system they need to work on at the same time. Score! My favorite standard dragging modalities are the following. For fat loss, doing 3-6 rounds with moderate weight at the end of a workout with about 45-60 seconds rest between rounds. The rounds usually last about 30-40 seconds. For aerobic training/extra workouts on days off from lifting, some clients will drag a light weight for time anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what can be done with a sled.
The prowler is feared by even the bravest souls on either side of the world. Ok so thats pushing it but the prowler is one heck of a conditioning tool. It dishes out easily one of the hardest workouts that you will experience. It is especially effective with intense anaerobic intervals. Its great to build leg strength as well. This piece of equipment will work wonders for fat loss and performance. I generally use this for intense anaerobic intervals at the end of a workout or heavier at the beginning of a workout. For intervals, we will load it up with a moderate weight and push it hard and fast. Anywhere from 3-5 rounds are used with anywhere from 1-3 minutes rest between depending on how hard someone is going. Heres a video of a couple of my baseball guys (state champs, 2 leading hitters on the season, and winning state champ pitcher) and a couple of my fat loss guys going at it back to back. What a great training experience to get in a killer workout like this with others who are serious about their training!!
Here is a great alternative for those who don't have access to the real thing
While the kettlebell has a great many uses, for the average person, swings are going to be the easiest and most effective conditioning exercise for them to do. This is a great exercise to develop proper hip movement, annihilate the glutes (and the rest of the body at that), and develop power endurance. It will give you an amazing cardiovascular workout and can be used in a variety of ways (for time, intervals, reps, etc.). The swing is an exercise that is often performed wrong by trainees and even by many trainers. To perform it properly, you need to hinge through the hips rather than squat or dip forward through the knees. Some different ways to use swings follow: 30-60 sec rounds w/ 45-90sec rest between rounds; Rounds of 15-20 swings with 45-60 sec rest between; Swing for time such as 5-10 minutes straight w/ a moderate weight; 10 swings on the minute for a specified number of minutes. Again, the tip of the iceberg.
Battle ropes are an AMAZING conditioning tool. They will get you in shape, plain and simple. They work your entire body as a whole and can be used in a variety of ways. I like doing them for 20 to 30 second intervals going hard or going lighter for time. Rest is going to depend on the person and the fitness level you are dealing with. With the ropes, you can go double arm straight up and down, side to side, alternating arms, add in squats, side to side movement and the list goes on; great great tool.
I love using all different circuits to either finish workouts with or to do as extra workouts. There are an unlimited number of exercises that can be used to make a killer circuit. Here are a couple of examples.
Quick Steps, Med Ball Slams, Farmers carries
10 per leg, 10-20 slams, semi heavy weight for 1-2 trips
3-5 rounds as a finisher or 15-20 minutes straight on an off day
Bodyweight Squats, Kettlebell Swings, Cable or Sled Drags
20 reps fast, 20 swings, 30-40 seconds
Rest as long as needed then repeat
Tabata Front Squats or Kettlebell Swings
With the tabata protocol, you pick a compound movement and perform as many reps as possible in 20 seconds, rest for 10, and repeat for 4 minutes or 8 rounds. Dan John talks about how he loves front squats for these in his book and I agree 100%. I also love kettlebell swings for these. Many people abuse the true tabata protocol. The exercise and rest intervals need to be exact and the trainee has to be pushing as hard as they can. When done correctly, this will take the body past limits. It is brutally hard but will do more for fat loss in 4 minutes than many traditional "cardio" practices will do in 40 minutes.
Hop up on an airdyne bike and get to work. These get your whole body moving and you control how hard you go. I generally will use rounds of 20-60 seconds with 60sec-2min rest depending on the goal at hand and the person doing them. Amazing fat loss and performance tool!
If your body is functioning properly and is healthy, straight up sprints are great for body comp and performance. Great workout for anyone in shape to do them. If you have any issues with imbalances, pain, being overweight, etc. you should not be doing running of any kind.
As you can see, the possibilities really are endless when it comes to energy systems training and conditioning. I could go on much longer but these are some of my favorite forms of conditioning that I often use with clients of all varieties from athletes to fat loss. Specific modalities will always vary based on the goal or task at hand and the individual doing them. "Cardio" doesn't have to be boring, dragging, muscle wasting, repetitive and ineffective after 2 weeks (i.e., elliptical, treadmill, stair stepper, etc.) With all of these amazing tools at our exposal, it can be functional, fun, build muscle, promote more fat loss and build lean, mean bodies for everyone from high level athletes to fat loss clients who want to get in awesome shape. Give some of these a shot if you haven't already!
Its something you'll hear everybody talk about. "I lost this much weight!"; "I run 10 miles everyday and I lost 10 lbs!"; "I wanna lose weight!"; "I've been lifting weights and swimming across the Atlantic and I only lost 5lbs of weight!" I'm about to say something that might blow your mind. WEIGHT LOSS IS NOT ALWAYS A GOOD THING! That's right, losing weight might not be a good thing. In fact, it could be a very bad and evil thing that could make you fatter, lots fatter.
Stop and think for a second about the true meaning of what you are saying when you talk about weight loss. Weight can come from a vast array of things. It can come from fat, muscle, bone, water, ligaments, clothing and the list goes on. What most people are in search of is FAT LOSS! There is a big difference between weight loss and fat loss. You could lose a leg and you will lose weight. Is that a desirable way to lose weight? No, of course not. You can deplete your body of carbs, drink a whole bunch of water and then excrete lots of water out of your body and your weight will go down. Is that true weight loss? No. (Although its a great way to lighten up for a weigh in)
One of the worst ways to lose weight is by losing muscle. You can lose muscle and your weight will go down; however, with less muscle, your fat will go up since you now have less muscle to keep the fat off. Have you ever known someone who constantly brags about all of the miles and hours they run and bike and do the elliptical and blah blah blah and they lost this much weight but now theyre up this much and so on and so forth? I know I have and let me tell ya; it drives me NUTS! Now don't get me wrong, I give all the props in the world to these people for trying to be healthy and active, etc. Nevertheless, there is one HUGE problem with all of this aerobic endurance activity (and lack of any muscle and bone building activity). It wastes away important muscle tissue!! Chronic endurance people usually do no strength training or other forms of cardiovascular activity. They lose weight and might even appear to be "skinny" and healthy; however, the weight that they are losing is muscle and it does nobody any good to be what I call "skinny fat" with weak, fragile, non functional bodily structures.
This goes for those just starting out on their weight loss journeys as well. We've all seen it. Suzy decides that she is finally going to get up off the couch, stop watching All My Children reruns and lose some darn weight!! What does she do? She goes and hops on the elliptical or treadmill (or God forbid tries to jog when she is one hundred pounds more than her joints can handle) and goes at it for 30 to 40 minutes, maybe even an hour, for four or five days a week. This continues for a couple of weeks and she loses about 5 lbs. She then stalls and probably gains some more weight and then she gives up.
So what happened with Suzy? She more than likely lost some water weight and maybe even a small amount of fat (if you go from doing nothing to doing something, you're going to lose something). After a couple of weeks, her body adapted so the "weight loss" stopped. She did absolutely nothing to build any muscle (which is absolutely essential to lose fat) and actually succeeded in wasting away muscle (aside from some slow twitch fibers being stimulated, see past articles), which in turn sets the stage for more fat GAIN. So yea, she lost a little weight; but not much FAT and actually set the path to gain more fat than she started with. This, obviously, is a problem and is not the goal that Suzy had in mind. What she needs to do is strength train, do intense intervals and circuits and set the stage for optimal FAT LOSS as she builds muscle, gets stronger and releases lots of fat burning hormones. And yes, aerobic endurance does have its place and is also important. There are just a lot of people who do way too much of it and not enough of the other very important things to keep a healthy balance.
Stop talking about weight loss. Start talking about fat loss. There is a difference and it should be treated as such. And can somebody please tell me why in the world the Body Mass Index (BMI) is still used in some places?! What a great way to measure someone's well being!!! Lets look at someone's weight level and completely disregard muscle mass. Its not like muscle is important or anything. (sarcasm :)) According to the lovely BMI (which you should basically throw in the trash can of your brain), I am obese. The funny thing is, I am usually around 7-8 % body fat; thus, I am very far from being obese. BMI only takes the height and weight of an individual into account and is very misleading since it does not consider muscle weight. Body fat is what needs to be focused on. Don't let things like this fool you.
So, in conclusion. Start thinking more specifically and clearly when you are making your goals. What weight do you want to lose? I am pretty sure you wouldn't want it to be a body part or muscle. Most likely, you are looking for fat loss. Understand the difference and your training will take you a lot farther.
This is How We Train!!
Circuits are a great way to finish up workouts or a great tool for extra workouts. Cardiovascular training combined with strength training; it doesn't get any better. Get some music going and train. Check out Penny straight killing the end of her workout. Who said nurses don't train hard?!!
Wanna get in shape? Gotta work for it people! Too many people make excuses and constantly try to find an easy way out. Guess what. If you want a great body and want to be in great shape, you have to put some work in. You can try the latest gimics or the newest diet all you want, but the fact of the matter is these ridiculous wastes of money will never help you. So regardless of what the dumbbell shaker's genius creators or the sketcher shapeup's brilliant creators told you, quit wasting your time and money on that kind of crap and start training with proven and effective methods. (Just to be sure we're on the same page, the genius and the brilliant were completely sarcastic :) )
Its nothing new and nothing secret. Strength train and train your different energy systems with a properly designed program, eat the right foods frequently, be consistent and work hard. Also, do yourself a huge favor and let an expert help you. (No, the makers of the dumbbell shaker or anybody associated with it in anyway are very very far from being experts. And if you have a trainer who makes you do anything as ridiculous as a dumbbell shaker, run away and run fast.)
I just received my prowler from elitefts yesterday and I am very very excited to put it to use. The prowler is one of the best, if not the best, strength and conditioning tools out there and is a great way to not only build muscle and strength, but to train multiple energy systems and get an amazing cardiovascular workout. Whether you are an athlete that needs to work on conditioning or someone who wants to get rid of fat fast, you can't go wrong with a prowler workout. Along with the sled, it is one of my favorite strength and conditioning tools. Check out Debra giving it a shot.
To anybody who is interested, I am going to begin holding outdoor strength and conditioning classes in both Kenosha and Milwaukee very soon. It will be awesome for a wide variety of people from athletes to fat loss. It will include sled dragging, prowler pushing, kettlebell exercises, med ball exercises and more. You will build muscle, lose fat, get stronger and get a great cardio workout at the same time. Get that body ready to show off all summer. Let me know if you are interested. I'll provide more details soon. Enjoy this great weather!
I can't tell you how many times a week I have to explain to people about the correct way to eat in order to speed up metabolism and lose fat. Time after time, I run into people or hear about people who think that eating almost nothing maybe once or twice a day and practically starving themselves is the way to lose weight. This is not only unhealthy, but KILLS your metabolism and slows it down to the rate of a snail.
Do you want to look like this?
Or would you rather look something like this?
Rosencutter Ultra Fitness