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barbell
Over the last 8-10 months I have dedicated myself to fitness and training. That sounds weird huh?

I mean that is my job and yes I always take my training, healthy lifestyle, and overall fitness seriously. What I found in this short time is that I can maximize my time and actually get much better workouts. My strength has increased tremendously, I have dropped about 4% body fat (over about 12 months), my overall energy levels have been very consistent, and my lack of illness has been almost superhuman. Oh yeah and my mom likes to brag that she did everything right when she was pregnant with me and THAT’S why I’m so healthy…

Here’s a quick timeline of how my workouts used to go:

In college I thought I was in great shape, my stamina was probably good but I ate like crap, drank too much, and relied on steady distance running when I was not in season. I lifted a lot but had no clue what I was doing.  I was fit by default because of playing basketball and soccer but my lean muscle composition could have been much better.

After college I continued to lift and did a lot of body part split routines. I did a ton of cardio as well. I ate pretty healthy because I was living at home. Yeah we already established that Mom is good to me!
I probably worked out 6 days a week and continued to play competitive soccer.

As I progressed in my personal training and strength coach profession I moved away from cardio and did a lot of lifting. I put on a lot of muscle but my overall conditioning and athleticism suffered. When I moved to Boston I began playing competitive basketball again, 1-2 times per week. This served as my conditioning and was much better for me than my typical cardio routines. I did a lot of interval bike workouts and sprints but they were not frequent enough because I was just lifting all the time.

In the last 8-10 months my schedule looks like this:
2-3 days per week of full body athletic based lifting (squats, pull ups, push ups, heavy core workouts, single leg training)
2 days per week of competitive basketball games (interval conditioning at it’s best)
1 day per week of conditioning (Prowler sprints, car pushes, sprints)
>car push
I do ZERO “cardio” training, I work out less, I eat more, and I’m officially in the best shape of my life. Here are the top 7 reasons why this happened…

1. I lift heavy
2. I perform interval conditioning instead of cardio
3. I give my body 2 days of recovery per week
4. I avoid starches, breads, pastas
5. I eat lean meat, vegetables, fruits, dairy, nuts and drink a TON of water
6. I get plenty of sleep
7. My training sessions are short (50 to 70 minutes long)

Take a look at your training style and try to revamp a few things in order to maximize your time, efforts, and your overall strength and health!

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Do you want to get lean and lose body fat? Make sure your nutrition plan doesn’t suck…

I make it very clear to my clients and athletes that I am not a nutritionist. I do however understand the science behind proper nutrition for effective fat loss, developing lean body mass, and overall health. If people want a structured meal plan with calorie counters and metabolic readings then I will refer them to some highly qualified people in my circle.

I like to keep it very simple for people- maybe because in my own life I know that I don’t want to count calories and worry about exactly how much protein I consumed on a training day. I go by how I feel, how many times I eat during the day, and how well I balance my food groups. Through the years this has proven effective for me.
My athletes and clients probably hate me because I ask them everyday- “What did you eat today?”, “What did you have for breakfast?”, “How much water did you drink?”

nutrition1

My approach is simple but I do not minimize the importance of nutrition. You NEED to eat well if you are training hard to get lean and lose fat. Bottom line. If you don’t, you will not see the results that you are striving so hard to achieve.

Here are the ten things that everyone who wants to get super lean and drop body fat should stock in their kitchen: (in no particular order)

1. Water-this is kind of a given but super important. 8-10 glasses/bottles per day

2. Eggs a great, inexpensive source of protein

3.Chicken-another great source of lean protein, many ways to prepare this and the best are grilled and baked

4. Peanut Butter- an excellent source of protein, healthy fats(good for hair, skin, and nails), and dietary fiber. All of these things will keep you full.

5. Chocolate Milk-the easiest post-workout drink in the game today. If you don’t want to go to GNC and spend tons of money; chocolate milk has the correct amount of carbs/protein for a post workout mix.

6. Yogurt- many people (especially females) are not consuming enough calcium. Yogurt is a great snack and will provide fiber, calcium, protein, Vitamin D, and promotes digestive health. My recommendation is Chobani- a greek yogurt with a ton of protein and not too much sugar.

7. Oatmeal- Whether it’s natural oats or the packaged oatmeal; this is a great breakfast food with some natural energy (carbs) and fiber to keep you pretty full. Mix this with some fruit and you’ve got a great kick start to your day.

8. Lean Beef- A lot of people shy away from red meat but in moderation it’s another good source of protein and iron. Iron helps to carry oxygen from the lunges to the muscles so for anyone that is training hard, this is crucial. The key to this food source is keep it lean!

9. Leafy Greens- Spinach and darker lettuce are the best. These foods provide a grocery list of vitamins and minerals and are very nutritionally dense so you don’t have to actually eat A LOT of them in each serving (but you should).

10. Your Cheat Food- No one can eat perfectly all of the time. Give yourself a treat once or twice per week to keep yourself on track and happy. If you are eating clean 80% of the time you are going to be in great shape (literally)

You may not need to eat like this guy….but hey, who wouldn’t want that physique??

phelps

Which would you rather do? This…

img-pink-dumbell

Or This…

prowler

Here’s an article that I wrote recently about why training like an athlete is great for fat loss, overall conditioning, and is just plain cool…

As a former collegiate athlete, I see the value of a solid strength and conditioning program for performance. As a personal trainer to many clients in the Somerville, Massachusetts area; I have found that incorporating athletic movements is not only motivating and fun, it is a great way to lose fat and gain overall strength. People should not take this to mean that everyone should train like a college football player. Training like an athlete can be modified based on the level of the participant but the basis behind it is to perform large muscle group movements, lift heavier weights than you are normally used to, and have an overall plan that cycles throughout the year. Here are some specific details about developing your athletic movement training program.

1.Training like an athlete is FUN: Throwing medicine balls, pushing the Prowler, squatting, lunging, sprinting, performing barbell complexes, and swinging the kettle bell, are just some of the movements that can be done to lose fat using large muscle groups. The exercises tax the muscular system and the cardiovascular system. Metabolism is elevated and this ultimately leads to fat loss.

2.Using Large Muscle Group Movements: Squats, lunges, push ups, chin ups, and overhead pressing are often the cornerstones of our programs. These exercises burn a huge amount of calories and develop an efficient metabolism.

3.Combine Training Goals: Each workout provides training for strength, power, conditioning, balance, and flexibility. Try to avoid focusing on one goal or muscle group; instead combine them and force the body to move in unison the way it was meant to.

4.Lift Heavy Weights: Many people are scared to lift heavy for fear of “getting big.” Athletes need to lift heavy weights to develop strength and power. You must push the threshold in your body. Lifting heavy weights will not cause women to “get big”, instead it will create huge bursts in hormones, adrenaline, and overall metabolism which leads to fat loss.

5.Have a Training Plan: Athletes have a very structured training plan. The year is broken down into training cycles depending on the season or event they are competing in. Creating long term and short term plans for training based on your goals is very important. Training cycles should usually last 3-4 weeks to provide consistent progression for strength, fat loss, and conditioning.

Take a look at your workout plan and shift your way of thinking about training. Athletes are strong and toned, have high levels of cardiovascular conditioning, can move efficiently, and have low body fat percentages. Why would you not want to mimic their training programs?

Here is a video demonstrating three large mucle group movements that will give you high levels of strength, burn a lot of calories, and promote long term fat loss. These exercises will tax the nervous system along with the muscular and cardiovascular systems.

 

The exercises show here are Ring Rows, Single Leg Deadlifts, and Knees to Elbows.

Ring rows are an excellent upper body exercise with a huge focus on the lats and rhomboids (upper back muscles). We generally perform this exercise to maximum effort on each set, leaving a few reps in the tank on the first set or two in order to avoid complete fatigue.

Single leg deadlifts will provide high levels of single leg strength, specifically in the hamstrings and glutes. You will develop great balance as well as stabilizing the musculature around the knee. Performing 3-4 sets of anywhere from 6-10 repetitions per leg will get you well on your way to superior lower body strength. This is usually used as an accessory when a squat or deadlift is our major lower body movement for the day.

Knees to elbows is a very advanced trunk and upper back exercise. It is extremely taxing on the lats as well as the muscles required for grip strength. I would recommend starting with hanging knee raises and as you get stronger, building up to the knees to elbows. We generally perform anywhere from 8-15 repetitions per set depending on the client’s level of fitness.

Use this video as a guide to create your own circuits using large muscle groups. This will promote high levels of strength, develop lean muscle which will raise the metabolism and burn fat at rest, and burn a ton of calories with each movement.

It’s my new obsession folks. My clients hate it…and then they love it…and then they hate it again…
It’s basically the talk of the gym and people give us funny looks when they walk by and see this weird piece of steel being pushed through the parking lot of Second Street in Cambridge…

I have given up on any other form of conditioning. Treadmills, bikes, forget it. The Prowler is THE BEST. Now I have never been one for conventional gym exercises and machines. That stuff is crap but the Prowler is the ultimate tool for fat loss, muscular development through the lower body, and overall heart pumping conditioning and cardio. There are several methods to this madness and the one I have been using lately is a light weight and pushing for all out speed.
Check out the video and see how people are getting in rockin’ shape, getting outside, and having some fun!

squat

I love squats. Plain and simple. How can you not? Maybe it’s just me being a Capricorn I like them because they are simple, to the point, and dependable. If you do them right you will see results regardless of your training goals. You can manipulate them in order to reach certain goals but they are always there- a staple in any solid training program.

Everyone that I have ever trained has squated. I’ve worked with 8 year olds, 90 year olds, and everything in between. Now these people are not loading their spine with barbell squats but they are doing half squats, body weight squats and bench squats. Progress is then made to using some med balls or dumbbells. Eventually I get people under the bar (provided this is safe and necessary).

Under the bar is where the real strength is developed- front squats, back squats, split squats, overhead squats- all amazing exercises. All of these exercises are recruiting large muscle groups which is the key to building lean muscle, burning body fat, and getting in amazing shape.

If my clients are bilateral squatting one day (front or back) they will do some single leg work the next training session of that week (most likely a step up or split squat). I like to vary the mode of the squat. Back squats are the king- they hammer the glutes and hamstrings and also develop an ultra-strong core. Front squats have the same effect as well as incorporating strong and mobile shoulders. Overhead squats will challenge the thoracic spine and shoulders and really force individuals to “sit back” into their stance.

Single leg squat variations are progressive but they always have a place in my programs. I’ll start people with a single leg squat onto a box and eventually lower the box or take it away. Split squats with a barbell or DBs are great for range of motion and single leg development. Bulgarian Split Squats (bench squats) are one of my favorites due to the full range of motion you can achieve in the hip flexors and really fire through the front foot.

Variation and progression are key factors in any strength program but development using an exercise as simple as a squat is really the way to go. You can manipulate speeds, loads, reps, and exercises and really develop a really strong lower body and rev up that metabolism for ultimate strength gains and fat loss.

Let’s face it; the modern day training client does not have quite the same active lifestyle as people did even 10-15 years ago. In the age of conference calls, online shopping, blackberries, and commuting upwards of an hour to work; people are not moving as much. Walk into any gym and what do you see?

 

 

Nautilus machines, treadmills, and elliptical machines. I’m not completely knocking these implements (maybe just a little bit) but how much work do these machines do for you? The nautilus machines only move on a certain track and the range of motion is extremely limited around one or two joints. In terms of treadmills and elliptical machines; how often does the ground actually move you first? Using these tools will certainly burn you some calories but are you getting the most effective workout when it comes to building lean muscle, training your heart, and most importantly- burning fat?

With the sedentary lifestyle that people lead, many times their workouts at the gym or with a personal trainer are all that they do. Those training sessions need to be intense, efficient, and based around the goals of strength building and fat loss.

When clients begin personal training with me in Boston I find that most of them have two major things in common. They are doing a lot of “cardio” and they are not doing enough strength training, or it is done inefficiently. This is especially true when it comes to female clients. Cardio training is great for burning calories and training your heart and lungs, but if you are looking for a long-term change in your body composition and metabolism (the only real way to make your body a fat burning machine) then you must strength train. Now this does not have to be done strictly by lifting a ton of weight and doing body building type workouts. The most effective way to burn fat, build lean muscle, and develop your body into a strong, tight, fat torching specimen is to implement large muscle group exercises and perform essentially a full body workout in each training session.

“Old School” training styles include movements like squats, lunges, pushes, chin ups, as well as Strongman style movements such as Farmers’ Carries, Sandbag lifts, sled drags, and Kettle Bell movements.

Using this style of training will not only rev up your metabolism for that hour, but it will also create a great “after burn” and cause your body to burn a ton of calories and eventually develop a strong, healthy metabolism that will burn fat when you are not training- the ultimate goal!

There are many methods that can be used to develop this efficient and fun type of training. All movements can be modified based on the level of client and their training experience. Here are my top five “old school” movements (in no particular order) for ultimate fat loss and lean muscle development.

Barbell Squats- The ultimate lower body strength movement. There are many ways to modify the squat (front squats, back squats, overhead squats, Zercher squats) but each one will hammer the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and trunk. Working all of these muscles unison will guarantee a huge calorie burn.

Chin-Ups- The King (or Queen) of upper body exercises. This movement can be paired with squats for a killer circuit that will hit all of the big movers. Training your upper back, shoulders, and biceps all in one movement is great for posture and just like the squats; working all of these muscles together can ensure a huge burn for fat and calories.

Prowler Pushes and Sprints– The Prowler is the modern day version of the sled. It’s a great conditioning tool that will burn your legs and lungs like no other. Get rid of your treadmill workout and try a few 30-40 yard sprints, or load up the weight for a heavy push.

Kettle Bell Swings– Another one of the best lower body movements for fat loss and calorie burn. Swings are a quick and dynamic movement that forces the body to work all muscles together in order to keep good technique. The trunk is taxed as the bell is moved from the floor to the front of the body. Try this one in place of your traditional leg press movement!

Sandbag Lifts– Using a sandbag creates instability and essentially keeps the body guessing when it comes to the lifts. All muscles are trained together and a high level of calorie burn is guaranteed because the body is extremely taxed with each repetition. Exercises such as squats, cleans, presses, rows, and Farmers Carries are great individualized or as a circuit.

Using old school and conventional movements are taxing on the entire muscular system, nervous system, heart, lungs, and eventually will create a hard-core metabolism that will burn calories with ease and get rid of that stubborn fat that has been hanging around regardless of how long you run on the treadmill or rep out on the leg press.

The movement combinations are endless but the main goal is to incorporate as many large muscle group exercises as you can in order to efficiently train the body as one unit. In doing this you will see huge gains in fat loss, lean muscle gain, heart and cardiovascular heath, and overall posture and bone health. I have seen great success with my Boston personal training clients