One of my favorite gym memories steams from a conversation I had with my first coach, TB. I worked with TB for my Teen Bodybuilding Competition in 2005. He was one of those old school bodybuilders that had no use for new techniques or equipment. He barely touched the machines and maintained the same training schedule for as long as I knew him. He was also a short mountain of muscle and a regular competitor in back in his heyday. We constantly talked trash and joked around while we were lifting. As usual we got on the topic of the Upper Body Gymrats that were lifting beside us. I asked, “So Coach, how many days a week can you do arms and chest?” He just laughed and said, “Apparently five or six!” He then followed up with, “International Chest day is Monday. International Leg Day is someday.” It’s only funny because it’s true.
Results of my switch to the Ketogenic diet: Pictures were taken 4 weeks apart. I maintained the same fitness routine for the full experiment. No diuretics or hormones were used to amplify results. No magical pills, powders, or stickers were used either.
The fitness industry is full of corruption and fraudulent people. I hate to even type those words because I love what I do and I love helping people, but that is also why I feel the need to write this. I have seen to many people run through every diet on the market and spend thousands of dollars on supplements, consultations, and diet plans only to see no progress. I’m sick of these individuals taking advantage of other’s health and insecurities to make money. I know I have a tendency to get long winded, but I’ll make this one short(er).
1. They Have Something to Sell
This is a big one! A great diet begins and ends with real food. Supplements are made to supplement your diet; not do it for you. If you must use their supplements for the diet to be “effective,” then it’s not effective in the first place. They don’t want to help you. They want to make money off you. I see this shit all the time. These “Coaches” are really just salesmen that are shown how to manipulate their customers with brightly colored marketing and false promises. Most have no background in fitness or nutrition and honestly most of them are still in the process of getting their diets on track. They don’t have any success stories from recent or current clients, but they have the perfect package for you to reach your goal in a ridiculous time frame! They have powders, pills, and stickers that will make the weight fall off in 60 days! How do they stay in business? They use the words “weight management” that way they have some legal wiggle room. Why would anyone buy this crap? Because most of the “Coaches” rely on their relationships to push the products. You probably have at least one “Coach” on your Facebook feed about to go live to tell you about their newest product or product promotion. Don’t fall into this trap. Google is your friend. Research a healthy diet that doesn’t require you to buy anything. Chances are that you can find some great recipes and maybe even a forum or Facebook group to join for free guidance. If you want to use supplements after fixing the issues in your diet, please do. Supplements are great for breaking plateaus and assisting progress, but you must have a healthy base before they can do anything for you. And please research your supplements as well. I use supplements, but I research everything. My daily supplements include CLA and fish oil for my joints and I take Glutamine, creatine, beef amino acids, and ZMA for recovery. All are completely natural and have zero side effects. Everything else I get from my diet.
2. They Offer Quick Results
The faster it comes off the faster it comes back. Most of these “diets” are caloric restrictions and can severely damage the metabolic system. This happens by dropping the calories so low that the body goes into starvation mode. You will lose weight, but most will be muscle leaving you feeling weak and very tired. This is what we see on the extreme weight loss TV shows. “The Biggest Loser” has a slew of horror stories from past contestants. Those trainers gave their clients everything from metabolic diseases to joint damage. Most put the weight back on shortly after returning home because the trainers did nothing to change their habits. They just brought them in, kicked their ass, and forgot about them as soon as they received their ratings. If you think for a second that those trainers knew what they were doing, you should get your brain examined. No self-respecting trainer would do that to a client. I tell every one of my clients the truth. There is no shortcut. Show up and put in the work. It’s not 80% diet and 20% training. It’s 100% diet and 100% training. That gets lasting results. You can’t work off 20 years of neglect in three months of dedication. I really wish it was that simple, but it’s not.
3. They Use Trigger Words Like Detox and Cleanse
These always push my Bullshit Detector into high alert. I love to ask these guys and gals the names of the toxins that their magical concoction is going to rid me of. I have yet to hear a good answer to this question. Detoxification can only be completed on a cellular level by an individual’s immune system. While there are herbs and food that can boost the immune system (such as cordyceps mushrooms) nothing is going to do the work for it. The immune system works through thermogenesis (big word for “heat creation”). This is why our body temperature increases during a systemic attack such as a cold or flu. The immune system is trying to supercharge itself for the battle. (Not the most technical way to explain it, but I’m not a doctor so you get what you get.) We could also go into the work of heat shock proteins, but you should know how to research using Google by now. Just save yourself some money and treat these words like drugs: Just Say No. The only “detox” or “cleanse” that truly works is water and exercise.
4. The Diet Plan is Not Sustainable for You
Everyone has different tastes and lifestyles. I have tried a lot of diets throughout my life just to get a feel for them. I usually try to run a diet for six weeks to see if they are worth the hype. Most fell flat, but a couple stood out to me. Some were great, but they just weren’t for me because they restricted a large amount of the foods that I like. The main one that stands out for me is the Vegetarian diet. I’ve never tried it because I eat a ton of meat, but I know some people that have seen great results from it. I know that meat protein had nothing to do with their crappy eating habits, but if it works keep on truckin’. I’m sure I’ll rant about that later. Just because it works doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. My biggest goal is to enjoy life. I keep my diet on track, but I also find ways of working in the foods and drinks that I enjoy. I have been doing the Ketogenic Diet for a couple months now and I have seen amazing benefits from it. It is easily sustainable for me because my favorite foods are Keto friendly. As a personal rule, I do not push the Keto diet on my clients. I tell them about what works for me and if they are interested I help them anyway I can. The only food advice I give them is to replace process foods and sugar with natural foods and drink more water. I’m not trying to get them to convert to my ideology; I’m trying to help them find out what works best for them. This way they can make a healthy, sustainable diet for themselves and not resort to crash diets that do more harm than good. If you feel the need to cheat on your diet, then it’s not the right diet for you.
I know I stepped on a lot of toes with this one, but I stand behind every word. I have no problem debating any of this article with anyone who wants to say their piece. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please send me a message and I will do everything I can to get you the information you need.
Core training has been so diluted and bastardized that I honestly hate using the word “core.” It sounds like I’m about to run you through a 6-minute routine that requires leg warmers, headbands, and some horrible 80’s music in the background. I’d rather a play a game of grab ass with an alligator. The muscles of the core are just like every other muscle in the body. It has to have heavy resistance to increase strength. Just feeling the burn will get you nowhere. The exercises below will not be found in your local cardio class or any “quick six-pack” YouTube Video. Why? Because they hurt. They will push you far beyond any sit-up routine ever invented and they will require just as much mental strength as physical.
The RKC Plank, or Maximum Effort Plank, is a great starting exercise for anyone with a weak core. It forces the body to maintain alignment against gravity and its own weight. A good plank should be on the hands with the arms locked out, same position as the top of a push up, with the hands directly under the shoulders. The shoulders, hips, and heels are in a straight line. This exercise is designed to add a little extra pressure. I start on my elbows and try to flex every muscle in my body. I try to pull my elbow and feet together while squeezing my back and glutes as tight as possible. If done correctly, it should only be held for fifteen to thirty seconds max. If you feel that you can hold it longer, then you are not squeezing hard enough.
The Bent Over KB Row is performed by hinging at the hips, like the bottom of a KB swing position, and row the KB into the body. The elbows should be tucked tight to the body and slide right by the ribs. The back should stay flat. This is done by presenting a proud chest during the duration of the exercise.
The Zercher Squat is an advanced modification of the front squat. The barbell is held in the crook of the elbows and the back is forced into an upright posture during the entire movement. I squat down to a comfortable distance, or until the elbows touch the knees, and return to the standing position.
The Zercher Deadlift is a very advanced movement. It is also feared by most of the fitness industry, but those guys are just lazy. This is the second progression of the Zercher Squat in which I take the barbell all the way to the ground before returning to the standing position. Only perform this once you have mastered the Zercher Squat.
Another version of this is the Romanian Deadlift with the Zercher hold. The top position is the same, but this is a hip hinge instead of a squat. In the picture below is one of my Idols, Pavel Tsatsouline, performing this variation in the lab with Professor Stuart McGill. They are testing the muscle activation of the lower back during some of Pavel's favorite exercise. Pavel is performing this movement with 315 pounds at a body weight of about 165 pounds. I'm sure I just made a few "Fitness Experts" shit themselves, but it's only dangerous if you lose control or if you do not have a good base.
There are four main lifts in resistance training: Deadlift, Bench Press, Squat, and Overhead Press. Each of these are full body lifts when using a maximal weight; yes, even the bench press. So even though these are four completely different movement patterns, they all require core strength. The core ties the body together and stabilizes the spine to protect and to maintain a straight line of movement. When I look at the average lifter today, I see two main flaws that hinder their progression. The first is weak grips. It seems like everyone has a pair of lifting straps in their bag these days. What’s the point of moving heavy weights if you can’t hold on to them? The second is a very weak core. Introducing the weight belt! No core needed because this will hold your hips and ribs together. The human body has a built-in weight belt. It just needs to be trained.
*NERD WARNING* The main muscles I am referring to are the transverse abdominis, the internal oblique, and the multifidus. The transverse abdominis is the muscular sheath underneath the rectus abdominis aka the “six- pack muscles.” These are used to stabilized the mid-section from the pelvis to the thoracic spine. Internal obliques are attached to the rib cage and extend laterally down to the hips. They are responsible for compression of the rib cage and stabilization during rotation of the shoulders and hips. The multifidus are muscles that extend the entire length of the spine from the base of the skull to the sacrum. Another function of the multifidus is to protect the disks and vertebrae from shifting and slipping.
I know it that is a lot to take in, but the good news is that they can all be target together through resistance training. These muscles also work together to create internal pressure. Internal pressure is a must have for anyone wanting to be “strong like bull.” This is what separates the beasts from the wannabes. One sure fire way to tell what someone is made of is to see how they react under pressure. One of my favorite examples of this is the bench press to failure. I will load up the bar with a weight for a solid six to eight rep set (obviously weight will differ from client to client) and basically let them fail on the last rep. This will result in one of three actions.
The first is that they will push and grind the weight out. This means they are fighting to the end, engaging their hips and giving the press everything they have until the weight touches their chest again. These are the beasts. These are the ones who truly know how to push themselves and fail like a professional. The second bunch are the funny ones. These guys will throw a tantrum. They will pant and kick their feet like a three-year-old wanting a cookie. They know how to create internal pressure, but they have no idea how to control or focus it into power. One way to break this habit is to do slow reps with overhead press or front-loaded squats. If they are standing, they cannot throw a tantrum; they must work with the force. The third group will just give up and let the weight drop. Usually they will say, “I don’t have it” or, “I can’t do it.” This means the they are not even trying. If they were giving it everything they had, they would not be able to talk because the intraabdominal and intrathoracic pressure would be too high to maintain control of the diaphragm. This is where the guttural yell comes from. I suggest heavy loaded carries and high rep Goblet squats for this group because they need to spend more time under tension and learn how to build internal pressure.
I don’t care how many crunches you can knock out in a day; if you don’t move heavy weight, you have a weak core. This is one reason I hate doing ab work. It’s great for the beach, but it serves no real-world application and it doesn’t build strength. If you want true core strength you must stay under pressure. Powerlifters are notorious for having large midsections or “power bellies.” They don’t care about shredding down and looking good. They care about moving weight. You can also see this in the good ‘ol boys that throw hay and wrestle cattle for a living. They look chubby, but they can also sling a ninety-pound bail up into a twelve-foot barn loft all day long. This could be done with any of the four main lifts, but there are some great ways to target these muscles that can be worked into every workout.
Be sure to check out True Strength Comes from Within Part 2: Real Core Training
ACSM Certified Fitness Professional