Training Fundamentals

I’m going to start this by saying there isn’t really any great secrets to training and making improvements. Sure, there’s more advanced tricks and techniques that you’ll learn as you go along but it’s really just about being consistent with the basics over time that will get you where you want to be.

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People entering the gym will all have different types of objectives. Some will want to pursue bodybuilding, others will go down the route of powerlifting, some will be training for performance in a particular sport or hobby while the rest may just want to lead a healthier lifestyle and improve their body composition a little. Whichever category you fall into, it will benefit all groups to begin with pretty similar styles of training.

Beginning training should consist with learning the basic compound exercises like squatting, benching, deadlifting, an overhead press, barbell rows and possibly a Romanian deadlift. Learning these exercises properly from the beginning will set you up long term for better progress and less injuries. The truth is that you very rarely see people actually performing these exercises correctly day in day out. Training with these basic movements and adding in a couple as you go along in the beginner stage can form a base for strength, muscle and technique that will serve you well as you progress into more specialized and advanced training in your area.

I think people coming from all the different groups need to understand the concept of a progressive overload from the beginning. Basically, progressive overload is going to mean lifting heavier and heavier weight over time. This may seem like a simple idea in theory but it can be more difficult to implement in practice.

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When you first begin weight training, you are applying a stimulus that your body hasn’t experienced before. Your body, in turn, is going to react by making certain adaptations; be it in terms of lean body mass or neurally. In order for your body to continue making further adaptations, you are going to have to provide the body with reason to do so and this will be in the form of a progressive overload. This is the reason that so many people will stall after a certain amount of time in the gym. It’s simply because they go in and perform the same number of sets and repetitions every day or attempt to inflate their ego by lifting their 1RM a couple of times and never progress.

Now, there’s always been an age old suggestion of high reps for “toning” while low reps for strength and its something I’ll probably go into more detail in the future. (Note: There is no such thing as “toning” a muscle and if you think there is, you are probably a moron). However, I want to introduce the concept of Volume to put things into perspective. I’m going to define volume as Sets x Reps x Weight Moved. Example: 3 sets of 10 repetitions with 50kg would be 1500kg of volume.

When talking about muscle growth, the number one dictator is volume. Let that sink in. So providing more and more volume over time, as it is required when you have stopped growing, will keep you progressing with muscle hypertrophy. This is extremely important for bodybuilders or anyone looking to add muscle to their physique. Of course, there is other factors that come into play such as metabolic stress, muscle damage, time under tension etc but volume is the number one determinant.

Strength is going to be determined by:
Muscle Mass * Neural Factors.
This is going to be important for powerlifters and anybody doing strength training. People in this area take advantage of neural adaptations to maximize their strength output and this is the reason why the biggest people aren’t necessarily the strongest.

As you progress into more advanced training there is different techniques that will allow you to progress further and further but it really isn’t necessary for the majority of people to go into these areas as they can make similar progress from a more simplistic approach.

So, as I said, there isn’t really any great secrets to training but I don’t think I should go any further for now. Keep lifting heavy sh*t and pushing yourself like you do when a hot person is standing behind you watching. That is all.

 

Steroids – My Take On The Vicious Cycle

This is a topic that has been tormenting me since the beginning of time when all that sh*t with dinosaurs was going on. You really can’t get away from the people who take steroids and proclaim themselves as God on a daily basis in the gym. The biggest problem with all of this is that 90% of the time (made up this percentage to emphasize my point), the people who are taking steroids and dispensing advice to the beginners and the naive, hopeful competitors are about as bright as that slow kid who couldn’t read very well in our class in school.

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I want to say that I actually don’t have a problem with somebody who wants to take steroids. It’s their choice. It doesn’t effect me and if they want to play Russian Roulette with their health, it’s their decision. However, I do have a bone to pick with the absolute brain dead guys in the gym and even a lot of the ‘elite’ athletes on social media who take anabolics and then start dispensing terrible advice to other people. This piece is for all of you morons.

Now a lot of the counter arguments I’ll hear from people like this are things like “so what? just look at me” or “you still have to put in that ‘grind’ with steroids bro”. Finally for those people still in denial “I’m not on steroids bro, I swear”. Really? You’re about as knowledgeable as a plank of wood but have managed to gain 40lbs of lean body mass by doing “back attacks” and ascending to the 33rd level illuminati of clean eating? *By the way, I keep saying bro because these people seem to all love this word for no apparent reason.

To put this entire argument into context I just want to reference a study done on steroids (specifically testosterone) that sort of puts these people in their place. In 1996, a study entitled “The effects of supraphysiologic doses of testosterone on muscle size and strength in normal men” was done and the results were pretty clear. To sum it up, there were four groups in the study. One group were the control group (took a placebo), another group trained naturally and dieted, another took testosterone and didn’t even train and the last group took testosterone and trained. The results after the 10 week study concluded showed the following results:

-> Placebo Group: No Change in lean body mass or strength.
-> Natural athletes: +4.4lbs in lean body mass with a 20% increase in squat, 11% increase in bench press.
-> Testosterone (WITH NO TRAINING): +6.6lbs in lean body mass with 20% increase in squat and 10% in bench press.
-> Testosterone (with training): +13lbs in lean body mass with 38% increase in squat and 22% in bench press.

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Now, I think it’s pretty safe to say these results are pretty clear. The people who took testosterone and DIDN’T EVEN TRAIN got far better results in terms of lean body mass gains than the natural athletes training and dieting to their best efforts nearly every day. Now, this leaves me with a couple of conclusions: 1) Anabolic steroids are extremely effective and 2) People taking these synthetic hormones can achieve results despite poor knowledge, poor training practices and poor dieting practices.

As the title states, it really can be a vicious cycle. People who have just began training and dieting naturally turn towards these people taking anabolic steroids because they “look” like they know what they are talking about. They receive absolutely horrendous advice (for the most part) and start out with the same poor training and dieting practices. Naturally, when these methods fail them down the line they, in turn, look towards steroids to compensate for their own lack of knowledge.

It can be pretty frustrating (to say the least) that these people are usually the ones who get the most attention and praise in the fitness and/or bodybuilding world. They look the best so let’s give them most credit. They actually don’t know anything about dieting or training (the things they spend their lives at) but end up with the best results because of the hormones they inject into their bodies so they are put on pedestals while their word is taken as scripture. For the people I see on a regular basis taking steroids and walking around as if they’re Jesus Christ himself: It really is an embarrassment if you’re no better or at a similar standard to some of the natural athletes around  in terms of bodybuilding or powerlifting. Please stop giving out advice, you really really really really do not have the first idea what you’re talking about.

Just a note: If you are considering taking anabolics, you should really have spent a considerable amount of time training, dieting and expanding your knowledge as a natural athlete to actually figure out what you’re doing (and I’m talking at least 4-5 years). This way, maybe you can actually tweak your training and/or diet to make continued progress in the future instead of upping your dosage of steroids when you stall, all the while putting your health further and further at risk.

Think that should be enough ranting for one day anyway. I’m pretty satisfied that I’ve portrayed my level of hatred for a select group pretty well here so I’m going to call it a wrap. Thank you and goodnight folks.

 

Nutrition Fundamentals Pt.2 – Macronutrients

So you’ve read my first post on nutrition. You now know the great secrets of weight loss. You had no idea calories actually did anything. “I thought they were just a number that said a food was unhealthy if it was big!”. Your head is brimming with new possibilities due to your new found knowledge. You now know about energy balance so that means you can now accomplish anything with your body. The world is your oyster and so on. Relax for a second speed racer, let’s take a step back.

I briefly mentioned the macronutrients in the first article and I think it’s pretty important to give them a more detailed piece. I find it quite amusing that each macronutrient has been portrayed as the devil at some point in the past. We’ve gone through phases of ‘carbs make you fat’ to ‘fat makes you fat’ and then on to even more ridiculous assumptions like ‘protein causes cancer’ and ‘trust me, protein kills kidneys’ etc. I think it’s easy to categorize people who speak in absolute terms like this as absolute morons/idiots/fools/(insert preferred insult here).

As I said before, the macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein and fat. Carbs contain 4 calories per gram. Protein contains 4 calories per gram. Fat contains 9 calories per gram (all rough numbers). Again, I’m trying to ram home this idea to everyone with these first few articles so if you only take away one thing from this; realize that calories in vs calories out and the macros you’re consuming will dictate your body composition. The amount of each macronutrient you should be taking in will depend on a number of variables. I’ll do another piece on what you should consider when calculating your own individual macros but for now I’m just going to look at an overview of the macronutrients and their bodily functions.

Protein

Most of you that have taken Biology in school will recall that whole dietary proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. Proteins/amino acids are used in structuring numerous things like organs, muscle, hair, skin etc.

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Protein’s importance is emphasized to athletes for good reason. It plays a pivotal role in increasing muscle mass and this is, no doubt, an important process to learn about. Essentially there are two competing forces at play when talking about what happens to muscle mass; Protein Synthesis and Protein Breakdown. Protein synthesis is basically attaching amino acids to one another and making them into muscle. Protein breakdown is pretty much the opposite. Resistance training will promote both protein synthesis and protein breakdown but when you then ingest dietary protein, you stimulate protein synthesis. When protein synthesis > protein breakdown, you have muscle growth.

There has been much debate over the years as to what the most optimal protein intake is for an athlete but there really isn’t one definitive answer. It really does depend on numerous aspects such as the individuals caloric intake, quality of protein being ingested, body fat percentage etc. There has been an age old suggestion of 1 gram of protein per pound of body mass in the bodybuilding world but under certain circumstances this may be too much or too little.

Fat

Dietary fat is predominantly made up of triglycerides and cholesterol. Triglycerides make up about 90% of the fat we consume and they are divided up into the categories:
-> Trans-Fat
-> Saturated Fat
-> Monounsaturated Fat
-> Polyunsaturated Fat

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To keep the length of this article down I’m not going to go into the details of each type here but it’s something I’ll probably look at in the future. A lot of people seem to be of the opinion ‘dietary fat = bad’ but it is actually an essential macronutrient (ie. you do need a certain amount to survive). Dietary fat is important for the essential fatty acids in the brain, it provides a source of energy, it plays a role in regulating hormones and it helps in maintaining health in many tissues.

Now, I do want people to pay attention to this: Dietary fat…..does not……make you fat. *Dramatic pauses*. If you are exceeding your caloric needs, you will get fatter. Did you get that? No? I’ll repeat: DIETARY FAT DOES NOT CAUSE FAT GAIN, EXCESS CALORIES DO. I’ll get into when and how nutrients are stored or oxidized (burned as fuel) in the future but just take my word for it for now.

Carbohydrates

In the body, carbohydrates role is primarily energetic. When you ingest carbohydrates, it is broken down to provide energy. It can be stored as glycogen (a chain of glucose molecules) in the liver and muscles. Strictly speaking, carbohydrates are not an essential macronutrient (ie. they are not needed for survival) because the body can actually produce the small amounts needed through a process called gluconeogenesis, however it is not going to be practical or productive for most to not consume at least a condsiderable amount of carbs.

A lot of the broscience faithful swear by the “clean carbs” mantra and curse foods like white bread, claiming these are the type of carbs that make you ‘bloated’ and ‘fat’. They will lay claim to things in science like the glycemic index without even knowing how to interpret these values and tell you only to eat things like brown rice for carbohydrates. Another load of nonsense you regularly hear is “don’t eat carbs late at night”. This really is the height of broscience and you should immediately run away from people telling you this type of stuff.

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As with the other macronutrients, it is difficult to give a general recommendation for carbohydrates as it will greatly depend on the individual. There’s other factors such as insulin sensitivity, activity level as well as personal preference to consider when deciding on a carbohydrate intake as well.

Overview:

Ok so that’s just a general overview of the macronutrients and some of the things to consider about them. The most important part about protein, carbs and fat really is to be able to know their functions and be able to apply that knowledge when calculating your own macros. I’ll do a follow up on this with info on how to calculate the right amounts for you and you can thank me later. Anyway, for now I’m off to eat about four tonnes of food  *all of which fits my macros by the way you judgemental f*cks.

Nutrition Fundamentals Pt.1 – Energy Balance

I’ve decided to start off my writing on nutrition with what I consider to be the basics. As I’m typing, I can almost hear the ‘gym bros’ reading this and thinking to themselves “eat clean man.. eat clean”. *Sigh*  *cough*.. morons.. *cough*. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A “CLEAN” FOOD. Anyway, due to a variety of reasons, your average person has an extremely misconstrued view of nutrition nowadays. I think this is mainly down to the fact that we live in the age of social media and the athletes with mass followings on these sites quite often post absolute nonsense as advice. However, that’s a topic for another day.

I think I should start by first addressing weight loss, weight gain and weight maintenance. I really need to stress from the start that calories are king, people. CALORIES, CALORIES, CALORIES. GOT IT?!!! One of the fundamentally flawed ideas that many people hold is that certain foods make you fat while other foods will make you lean. This is, of course, not true and anybody with sound nutritional knowledge knows that calories in vs calories out and your macronutrients are primarily going to dictate your body composition. Where you at gym bros?

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Essentially, fluctuations in fat mass and muscle mass boil down to one idea; Energy balance. I find it pretty incredible that so many personal trainers and self professed ‘experts’ at the gym don’t understand the laws of thermodynamics so I’ll go into it a little.

The Energy Balance Equation

In it’s simplest form, the energy balance equation reads as follows:

Energy In = Energy out + Change in Bodily Stores

Now, I want to keep this piece as straight forward as possible to avoid any confusion for people who aren’t familiar with this idea so I won’t delve too deeply into any one part of the equation.

  • Energy In: As you probably have already guessed, energy in is going to be the calories you take in from the food you eat. Of course, the calories are going to be in the form of carbohydrates, protein and fat (the macronutrients). Each gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories, each gram of protein contains 4 calories and each gram of fat contains 9 calories (roughly). I will note that foods are not going to be digested with 100% efficiency, therefore some energy (calories) on this side of the equation are not going to be absorbed by the body. However, this idea goes beyond the scope of this piece.
  • Energy Out: Basically this is the amount of calories that your body is burning every day. There are a variety of different factors that go into determining this figure and some can be quite complex. If you want to look into this more, it is determined by Resting Metabolic Rate + Thermic effect of food consumed + Thermic Effect of Activity + Effect of Thermogenesis. The amount of calories you burn is going to depend on gender, age, activity level, weight and the list goes on. If you want a very rough estimate of this figure you can search for a TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure) calculator.
  • Changes in bodily stores: This is going to be determined by the other two pieces in the energy balance equation. Put simply, if your ‘energy in’ exceeds your ‘energy out’ your body will store this energy in the form of different tissues (fat, muscle etc.). On the other hand, if your energy out exceeds your energy in, your body will turn to stored energy and there will be loss of tissue (fat, muscle etc.).

 

How to lose or gain weight:  So the above may seem like a whole lot of English and may not make sense if you’re seeing these ideas for the first time. So, what to do if we want to lose or gain weight?

  • As I mentioned before, you can look up a TDEE calculator which will give you a rough figure for the amount of calories you are burning every day.
  • If you want to lose weight; eat less than this figure. This will put you in a calorie deficit.
  • If you want to gain weight; eat more than this figure. This will put you in a calorie surplus.

That’s all there is to weight fluctuations. That’s it. No magic, no “clean” foods mysteriously making you lose weight, just calories. Inevitably, you will have to work through some trial and error to find out exactly what your own individual TDEE is, so you may have to add or take away another couple hundred calories if you’re not seeing progress after a couple of weeks.

I have to also mention that your overall body mass is, of course, going to depend on water retention as well. Overall changes in body mass can be dictated largely by changes in water retention but it is important to remember that this does not play a role in the energy balance equation as water has zero calories. Your body will retain more water under certain circumstances (eg. high carbohydrate intake) but this has no effect on energy in or out. You should probably weigh yourself at the same time every morning before eating or drinking anything to get a more accurate reflection of your overall body mass, as your weight can fluctuate by a large amount throughout the day based on what you have consumed. By the way, don’t read anything into the brief comment I made about carbohydrates. I am not saying carbohydrates = macro-nutrient of Satan. Carbs are your friends, people.

There’s a few things in this that I’ll touch on in more detail in the future but I think this is enough to digest for now. I’d ask you to refer the morons who insist that certain foods make you fat to this. I’ve got noticeably more irritated by all you clean eaters as this has gone on if you haven’t already noticed. I think I’ve dished out enough hate for one night, so we’ll leave it at that folks.

Me, Myself and I.

I’ve taken the plunge. I’ve become a blogger. I’ve spent a lot of time as a bystander but I have now crossed the proverbial fence. I’m not sure what this deduces about the grander scheme of my ranking on the social ladder, but I was never one for caring much about that carry on.

I’ve decided to write about my passion. That’s what us bloggers do, isn’t it? *Not a rhetorical question, I’m genuinely just trying to accustom myself to this new, mythical world of blogging*. Anyway, my name is Eoin. I’m 20 years old. I’m just a little bit of an introvert (and by a little bit, I mean a massive one).

I’ve spent the majority of my life training for one sport or another but I’ve been big into gym work and resistance training over the last half decade. I guess the blind alleys most people are led down in the fitness industry made me want to write about it. I mean, there’s a ridiculous amount of misinformation out there that we all fall for when trying to improve body composition or whatever it may be. I was one of those people for years. I consistently took horrendous advice off the wrong people and ended up staying as the same “skinny fat” kid weighing about 140lbs. Eventually, I did find people with sound science backgrounds and good practical experience that I’ve learned off for a number of years and I’ve come out the other side with a decent head on my shoulders when it comes to this stuff.

If I come across as a little bit (and by a little bit, I mean massively) arrogant and patronizing, it’s probably because I am. Gregory House pulls it off so why can’t I? *Side note: House fans; drop me a message and we can converse long into the night about what a magnificent man he is. Non-House fans… Well, you’re just not welcome here.

I’ll be writing about different topics regarding nutrition and resistance training so let me know if there’s something specific that you want covered. Otherwise, sit back, relax and enjoy my brilliance.