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. 

Training Factors You Can Control

Life can sometimes get in the way of exercising, it happens to everyone. Missing workouts is not something that you should punish yourself for. However, there are some things that you can control every time life throws you a curve ball and you have been skipping workouts:

1) Sleep: Getting 7-8 hours is essential because it will not only provide you with the energy you need to exercise, but it will also help your muscles and body recover faster. 

2) Effort: While sometimes you may have to miss a workout, that is no excuse for not giving 100% on the workouts that you can do. Do not get upset that you miss a workout, just try to get back on track and give it everything you have. 

3) Nutrition: If you eat crap,  your energy and output during workouts will reflect that. 

While skipping workouts isn't ideal, it will happen. Control these other factors and you will be right back at it. 

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HEALTHY MENU ALTERNATIVES

GOING OUT TO EAT IS DIFFICULT. THERE ARE A LOT OF TEMPTATIONS AND UNHEALTHY DISHES OUT THERE, SO HERE ARE SOME METHODS TO WATCH WHAT YOU ARE EATING WHILE EATING OUT.  

1) Side Salad: Skip the fries, fully loaded potatoes, or other deep fried side dishes. Instead, substitute it for a salad on the side which is much lower in calories. This seems like an obvious choice but don't forget about it. You can even substitute for vegetables or rice at most restaurants. 

2) Light Beer: Yes sometimes you do want alcohol to go along with your meal. Sticking to light beer will help you feel less bloated and save on calories. Skip the super sugary drinks and heavy lagers which are much higher in calories. 

3) Protein Heavy Meals: Protein heavy meals (such as steaks) are good because they provide more nutrients as opposed to carbohydrate heavy meals. Protein also helps build muscle, so why wouldn't you get food that will help you make gains?

4) Change Sauces: Avoid heavy creamy sauces which add a lot of calories to a meal. Ask for sauces on the side of if you can substitute it for something else that is not as calorie dense. If you have the sauces on the side, you can dip your food instead of smothering it in the sauce! 

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FOUNDATIONAL EXERCISES THAT APPLY TO REAL LIFE

There are many really good exercises out there for you, but I will be covering these specific movements that you must incorporate to your workouts that are essential to real life. 1) The Squat: This is a no brainer, but ever get up from the toilet or a chair? You are using your legs and training the squat will make this repetitive movement much easier over time. 2) The Deadlift: Another super important movement. Why? Try picking something heavy up with incorrect form, you are bound for an injury. Learning the deadlift will ensure proper form. 3) Shoulder/Bench Press: Any motion where you have to extend your arms will benefit from this movement. For example, opening a heavy door! 4) Pull-Ups: Being able to lift your own body weight up is an amazing accomplishment but also helps improve your posture when done correctly. Better posture helps in every day life.

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3 Tips To Help Your Fitness Training

REP SCHEME VARIABILITY Use different reps, sets and rest to build muscle. Not only will it keep your training fresh, but it will force your muscles to adapt, resulting in building more muscle. MIX

HEAVY AND LIGHTER WEIGHTS Similar to above, make sure that you lift both heavy and lighter weights. Using heavy weights is great to help build strength, but doing lower weight, higher rep movements helps increase the amount of volume you are lifting. This helps build muscles in different methods which will benefit you in the long run.

VARY INTENSITY It is very difficult to lift weights with 100% effort and exertion every time. Your body can benefit from moderating how hard you are pushing yourself. Sometimes you need to go as hard as you can and other times you need to go at a moderate pace. This can apply to both the weights and conditioning, mix it up!

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No Equipment Outdoor Workouts

Summer is finally approaching (only after that winter ice storm)! That means that it is time to go out and enjoy the weather while improving your fitness. This month's post is focused on workouts you can do outdoors with little or no equipment.

1) 3 Rounds of:

  • 400m run
  • 20 bodyweight squats
  • 20 push-ups

2) 1 Round of:

  • 20 burpees 20 lunges
  • 100 mountain climbers
  • 20 lunges
  • 20 burpees

3) 2 Rounds of:

  • 50ft inch-worm + push-up
  • 20 sit-ups
  • 50ft inch-worm + push-up
  • 20 sit ups
  • 100ft sprint

Hope this motivates you to get out and get moving!

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