Lower the Weight

“One step back, three forward” is a common saying. This saying can be equally applied to fitness and lifting weights. Here are some reasons why slowing down, lowering weights and taking scheduled breaks can benefit your fitness:

1) Improve Form: After lifting heavy weights consistently for a long time, your form might break down to try and lift heavier weights than you are accustomed to. Taking a step back and decreasing the weights to reinforce good form can be beneficial. If you continue to lift heavy weights and not take time to review proper form, that improper form can become a bad habit that is engrained in your technique.

2) Gives The Body a Rest: If you are training consistently and trying to push your boundaries, your body is accumulating fatigue over time. Lowering the weights for a week or two to reset your body is beneficial for long-term improvement.

3) Change Stimulus: Lowering the weights but adding variation to your exercise (repetitions, tempo, etc.) will help you change up your routine. If you are looking to get stronger, constantly testing your strength is not the best way to improve. Doing lower weights will help you increase volume and still build strength without constantly pushing your 100% capacity. This is also called percentage work, doing repetitions at a lower percentage of your 1 rep max.

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Training Mindset

Training Mindset

Through my own training and helping others, having a good mindset going into a training session and even when training is super important. Don’t get me wrong, the body does have limitations but sometimes the mind can trick you into selling yourself short. So here are a few tricks to keep pushing when you feel like slowing down or quitting:

1) Count down - Give yourself 5 seconds rest. Count down from 5 to 1 and then begin the set/exercise again. It is a great way to get you going and cut down break time.

2) Focus on one set at a time - If you try to look too far ahead and think, “I have 80 more repetitions to go,” you are bound to fail. You need to think about smaller sets and increments. This makes it more manageable and you are more willing to get it done.

3) Have a training partner - Having someone to go through tough workouts with you is key. Naturally when you see them push hard, you will want to keep up. The energy between you and your partner will help you push to another level.

Some days, you will have bad training sessions and that is inevitable. Don’t let it drag you down and carry over to the next few workouts. Just move forward and put in more effort next time.

Full Body vs. Isolated Movements

Working every muscle body in your body is imperative to having a well rounded fitness routine. But when should you do full body and when should you do smaller, more isolated muscles?

Full Body Movements

Start your workouts with full body exercises. Squats, deadlifts, shouler press, bench press, cleans, snatches. All these exericses are good full body movements. They require a lot of muscles to perform the movement and for this reason you can increase the weight used for these exercises. This is beneficial because it is the best way to help you build muscle and strength in the most muscle groups. This will also help burn more calories as you are moving more weight over greater distances.

Isolated Movements

Isolated movements are beneficial for a few reasons. First, they can help fix imbalances and weaker muscles. For example you can correct weaker muscles on one side of your body. Additionally, isolated movements are good for aesthetic purposes. Developing smaller muscles are important for physique as well as an overall developed body.

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No Secrets Here

There is no “secret” workout or set way to workout to achieve your goals. There are many ways to get to the same goal. There is no new piece of equipment that will get you into perfect shape. However, there are general principles that you should follow:

1) Train often, train consistently: This is probably the best way to get to your goals. Want to get stronger in your squat? Squat more!

2) Train big muscle groups: Training big muscle groups will result in more muscle which is beneficial for ANY fitness goal.

3) Incorporate different aspects: Heavy weights, lighter weights, long cardio, short cardio, whatever it is, make sure your program has varity to expose you to different stimulus!

4) Intensity: If you’re going to train, try your bet every session. That doesn’t mean that every session will be its best, but giving 50% effort will result in 50% results.

Ryan's Lifting Principles

After many years of lifting weights and working out, the biggest thing that I have recognized is that continually improving is the best way to achieve your goals. However, you can’t achieve these goals when you are injured. Below I have explained my principles for a long and prosperous fitness journey.

Technique

This is the base and biggest component of exercising and lifting weights. If you do not have good technique you are bound to injury. Continually practicing bad technique leads to poor form until you hit the point of injury, it is inevitable. Take the time to learn movements properly.

Consistency

The next principle is consistency. Can you perform the proper technique of the exercise over and over again? Can you perform it with light, medium and heavy weights? If so, then you can move onto the next principle.

Intensity/Speed

Great so you have good technique and can perform the exercise properly over many repetitions. However can you increase the rate at which you can do those exercises properly? If not, slow down to ensure good technique.

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Listen To Your Body

When training, it is important to listen to what your body is telling you. It could be giving you signs that you are totally unaware of because you are determined to reach your goals. Determination is very important but being smart while you are training is equally as important.

Overtraining

Do you find that your workouts are sluggish and weights feel extremely heavy? This is a sign that your body may need a break. This does not mean stop training, but try using lighter weights to allow your body to rest and come back the next week ready to get strong.

Sickness

If you are feeling light headed, have a cough or sore throat, listen to your body. It is telling you to rest and recover. If you are very strict with your exercise routine, taking 2-3 days off to recover will not ruin your progress.

Progress Slowing Down

Relating to overtraining, if you are finding that weights are not improving and that you are unable to improve, this could be your body telling you that you need to change up your routine. Mix up the exercises, weights and repetitions to surpass

Injury

That little twinge that you are feeling in your back? Your body is telling you to get it checked out before you lift heavy. Let it rest or go get treatment before you try to push the limits and your body will thank you.

Key Areas to Stretch

Key Areas to Stretch

1) Hips: Hips are essential in squatting sitting often can reduce range of motion in the hips keeping them mobile is essential.

2) Thoracic Spine: The T-spine helps you stay upright in a lot of movements, resulting in good positioning for lifting weights.

3) Shoulders: Shoulders are involved in most upper body movements so it is important to keep them healthy.

4) Ankles: Relating to hips, ankles can become tight from poor shoes and high heels. Keep them flexible to help with squatting movements.

Methods To Fix Imbalances

Do you ever find one side weaker than the other? Or maybe you are having trouble and some discomfort because there are muscular imbalances in your body. For example having weak back muscles may lead to poor posture and painful shoulders. This is normal and most people have these imbalances. However, there are ways to improve the discrepancies.

What Are Imbalances Caused From?

There are a few reasons why imbalances happen in the body. First, everyone has a dominant side of their body, it is inevitable. Secondly, a lot of people train a specific area more than the other causing it to be stronger than its counterpart. As for the example above, if you train your chest more often than your back, your chest muscles will tighten up and your weak back muscles cannot compensate for it. Therefore you will get shoulder pain as a result of the imbalance. Finally, everyone is built differently and is stronger in different areas of the body. You must be aware of these problems and do your best to fix them.

Solutions To Imbalances

1) Isolate Left and Right - Train each side individually making sure that you are using the same weight and reps to try and build up the weaker side.

2) Train Your Weakness - Take the time to train your weakness to make sure that you are keeping a balanced and completely developed body.

3) Stretch/Massage Over-worked Areas - This will help release the tension in the muscles that are causing the pain.

Why Bad Workouts Happen

Have you ever had a realy bad workout? Like I mean you had no motivation, no energy, weights that you can normally do feel heavy? While it may not be a common occurrence, it does happen to everyone. Below are some reasons that could cause poor workouts and what you can do about them. Causes 1) Lack of quality sleep: Whether you slept less than you normally do, had a change in sleep schedule, or were just restless throughout the night, sleep is a huge factor that plays a role in your training. Without proper sleep, you are bound to have bad days. 2) Poor Nutrition: It could have been a bad meal the day before or even a few hours before. If you are eating poorly you are not properly fueling your body to exercise and perform its best. You may feel sluggish and that is a result of eating poorly. 3) Overtraining: Maybe you have not taken a rest day or deload week recently. Your body eventually will not respond well to the training if you are going hard every time 7 days a week for months on end. Solutions 1) Take a rest day/deload week: Cut the workout short, go home and relax. Or go much lighter to still go through the motions but give your body time to recover. 2) Get Treatment: If there your body is fatigued and tired, it could be beneficial to seek a therapist to help release and relax the muscles! Stretching instead of training can also be beneficial. 

Adding Variety To Your Workout Program

Are you constantly doing the same exercises and finding that you are getting stuck in your fitness routine? Hopefully this article will provide insight on how to surpass plateaus and change up your routine.

Why add variety to your workouts? Changing up your routine is important because your body is always adapting to what you make it do. So if you are performing the same exercises over and over, your body will become very good at that but not progress after a certain point because it has become used to it.

Types of Variation: Let’s take the squat for example. If you are performing 5 sets of 5 repetitions, your body will get used to that. There are many ways to improve your squat without having just adding weight. You can perform a pause squat, holding for 3 seconds at the bottom of the squat. You can perform a split squat to isolate one leg and focus on building strength one leg at a time. Below are some variations you can use for your squat:

1) Barbell Front Squat 2) Split Squat 3) Pause Squat 4) Hack Squat 5) Lower weight, higher reps 6) Higher weight, lower reps 7) Tempo Squat - slowly descending or ascending

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How Many Days Should You Train?

It is beneficial to know when your body needs a break and when you can keep pushing. By giving your body time to recover you will not only avoid injury, but help improve your strength and fitness goals by taking a break occasionally. Here is a breakdown of how often you should train.

Newbie (0-0.5 Years): While beginners are eager to jump into exercising, they need to know their bodies limitations and give their body time to adjust to the weights and the amount of pressure it puts on the body. Beginners should aim to train with weights 3-4 times a week emphasizing good technique and form. 

Intermediate (0.5-2 Years): Intermediate athletes can train up to 4-5 times a week emphasizing technique as well as variation of compound movements to help them increase their strength. Recovery time has improved but still allowing 1-2 days of recovery is necessary. 

Advanced (2+ Years): Advanced athletes can train 5-6 days per week. Notice that even advanced athletes still need rest days to allow their body a break. Training 7 days a week is not going to be beneficial for the body and will most likely lead to poor workouts. 

Note that these suggestions are just that, suggestions. The number of days you workout is totally up to you but is just a guide to help you find a good balance between recovery and pushing yourself to improve. The categories are guidelines for people who may be looking to increase or decrease the number of days they are training. Enjoy the process and happy lifting

What Lifts Should You “Max Out”

The term “maxing out” means finding the maximum weight you can do for 1 repition of a movement. While performing these very intensive lifts, you need to make sure that your form is not compromised. Additionally, you should not just “max out” whenever you feel strong. It should be a calculated attempt and not random. With that being said, it is good to max out on certain lifts to see if you have gained strength and progressed in your lifts. Maxing out should be for compound movements where you can use multiple muscle groups to help support heavier weights.

Lifts You SHOULD Max Out: 1) Squat (Front Squat, Back Squat, Overhead Squat) 2) Deadlift 3) Bench Press 4) Clean & Jerk 5) Snatch 6) Press (Shoulder Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, Split Jerk)

Lifts You SHOULD NOT Max Out: 1) Bicep Curl 2) Hip Thrusts 3) Lateral Raise 4) Calf Raise 5) Lunge 6) Row (Barbell, Cable, Dumbbell)

 

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Exercise To Relieve Neck Pain

A common problem among many individuals working at desks or in front of computers is neck pain. This is caused by a constant forward head lean which stresses the neck muscles. To help improve this posture, here is an exercise that you can perform to help improve your head posture. Step 1: Lie on a box or any surface that has a ledge. Position yourself so your shoulders are supported but your head and neck are not. Step 2: Using your hand, push your head backwards and make a double chin. The goal in this position is to make the head in line with the box. This creates a straight posture from the head down to the back. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Step 3: Gently release your head and relax it back.

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Deadlift Positioning

Many people are scared to injure themselves while performing the deadlift because of improper form and technique. But, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't deadlift! It is an essential lift and movement to getting stronger and being able to build strong back, lower back, glute and hamstring muscles. Below I have created a diagram of a good and bad starting position for your deadlift. 

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Let's discuss what is going on in the two images. Firstly, the deadlift is naturally a hinge, meaning that you are bending at the hips to pick up the bar. Secondly, in both images the back is flat and there is no rounding in the lower or upper back. This is a good thing! But that does not mean you are performing the movement correctly. 

The differences between the two is the positioning of the hips and torso. On the right, the hips are very low as if the person is "sitting" into the position. For a deadlift, this is not the optimal position to lift as the bar will not travel straight up and down as it should. On the left, the person has their hips a little higher and their knees are pushed back. The shoulders are over the bar. When the person on the left picks up the bar, this is the best position as the bar will travel straight up and down. They will not run into the problem of hitting the knees on the way up.

With that being said, always maintain a flat upper and lower back. Do not shoot your butt up too fast as this will cause your lower back to round. Keep the shoulders over the bar and make sure the bar goes straight up and down. 

Eating Healthy: Plate Portions

If you are looking to get started on healthy meals, this plate is a really good representation of what you should be looking for.

1) Vegetables which provide a ton of nutrients are are lower in calories so great for weight loss.

2) Lean meat to help you build and repair muscle after your workouts.

3) Some sort of carbohydrate to provide you energy to fuel your workouts. Just be cautious of what types of carbohydrates you are putting in. Always check to see how many calories a serving is and how many grams of carbohydrates so that you ensure it will fit within your daily intake.

4) Fruit is a great treat at the end of the meal if you do need something sweet.

Portion sizes will vary by person but this template is a great start to help you eat healthier!

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At Home Recovery Tools

If you are having pain, tightness and soreness, seeing a therapist is a great option to help. You can take this a step further with at home remedies that can be purchased online. Here are some fairly cheap options that you can use to help aid recovery from your training:

1) TENS Machine: There are some cheap options that cause muscle stimulation which aids the recovery of muscles.
 
2) Cupping: Traditional cupping uses heat and glass cups but a cheaper alternative is to use plastic cups and suction to get the same effect. Cupping brings toxins and bad blood to the surface of the skin which will then be replaced by better blood with nutrients and oxygen. 

3) Lacrosse Ball/Foam Roller: Do your own soft tissue recovery with a lacrosse ball or foam roller. Tight muscles leads to pain which can be solved by doing some soft tissue recovery tools. 

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HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR WORKOUT

Ever confused on how to make the most of your time in the gym? Below I will describe the best way to maximize your workout time and structure it to reflect this. 

1. Warm Up: Start your workout by using the first 5-10 minutes to warm up. Start with light cardio to get the heart rate higher, then move on to dynamic stretching and mobilization. This means doing short stretches and movements that prime the muscles you will be working. 

2. Strength: Pick a compound movement that moves a lot of weight in large distances. The exercises that work the most muscles will require the most energy and concentration so put them first. 

3. Circuit Training/Cardio/WOD: Call it whatever you want, this portion is meant to increase your heart rate. Really get you sweating. Whether it be sprint intervals or a combination of 3 exercises, use this portion to get that intensity up. 

4. Cool Down/Stretch: Now is the time to implement long held stretches to help the muscles that you just used recover. Use this time to also work on making sure your body can get into good positions to lift weights.