Which exercise professional is best for you

Which exercise professional is best for you?

Not just their personality. 🙂 Each type of exercise professional has different scope of practice. Learn the difference.

Personal Trainer. Exercise Physiologist. Strength and Conditioning Coach. What’s the difference?

Every industry has it’s own terminology. These can sometimes lead to confusion. This article seeks to clear things up. By the end you will know how to choose which exercise professional is best for you. Please keep in mind that there are differences between countries.

Broadly speaking, the distinctions between Personal Trainers (PTs), Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) and Strength & Conditioning Coaches (S&Cs) come down to three factors:

  1. Health sector or sport and recreation sector
  2. Training general or specific populations
  3. Tertiary qualified or not

Whether you choose to train with a PT, EP or S&C you should:

  1. Check that they are, in fact, qualified (the fitness industry is self regulated)
  2. Make sure they are insured
  3. Check that they have industry Registration (professional Code of Conduct, minimum standards, etc.)

which exercise professional personal trainer

Personal Trainers

  • Professional Registration: Fitness Australia
  • Scope of practice: General population (low risk only, not sport specific)
  • Qualification: Certificate 4 in Fitness (may be completed in less than 6 weeks)
  • Usual work: Fitness, Strength and Weight Loss

A Personal Trainer is a fitness professional involved in exercise prescription and instruction.
Proper exercise prescription may result in improved body composition, physical performance, heart condition and health outcomes. A trainer pays close attention to their client’s exercise form, workout routine, and nutrition plan. The decision to hire a trainer may be due to the perception of proper exercise selection and coaching or motivation and adherence.

PTs motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback and accountability to clients. Trainers also measure their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. These fitness assessments are usually performed before and after an exercise program to measure their client’s improvements. They may also educate their clients in many other aspects of wellness besides exercise, including general health and nutrition guidelines. Qualified Personal Trainers recognize their own areas of expertise. If a trainer suspects that one of his or her clients has a medical condition that could prevent the client from safe participation in an exercise program, they must refer the client to the proper health professional for prior clearance.

There are scarce studies with men, but some with women. According to those studies, women working with personal trainers achieved:

  • greater increases in strength
  • higher workout intensities
  • higher perceived exertion during exercise
  • self-select heavier loads

than women who did not.

In summary, the scope of practice for a personal trainer is to enhance the components of fitness for general, healthy populations.

which exercise professional exercise physiologist

Exercise Physiologists

  • Professional Registration: ESSA (Exercise and Sport Science Australia)
  • Scope of practice: Specific population (med-high risk, disease/injury management)
  • Qualification: A Minimum 4 Year University Degree
  • Usual work: Fitness, Strength and Rehab / Medical condition management

Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) are allied health professionals.
They specialise in the delivery of exercise for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries. AEPs provide graded exercise therapy and lifestyle interventions for ‘specific populations’. These are clients that have developed, or are at risk of developing, chronic and complex medical conditions and injuries. AEPs work in hospitals and private clinics, occupational rehabilitation companies, employment agencies, seniors gyms and research institutes.

AEPs are not Personal Trainers. They are allied-health professionals and are trained members of the health and medical sector. AEPs are eligible to register with Medicare Australia, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and WorkCover and are recognised by most private health insurers.

AEPs provide training in safe manual handling. They perform functional assessments and fitness tests. They also provide lifestyle education to help people manage their health conditions.

In summary, the scope of practice for an exercise physiologist is to assess and manage the components of fitness for specific, at-risk populations.

which exercise professional strength and conditioning

Strength & Conditioning Coach

  • Professional Registration: ASCA (Australian Strength & Conditioning Association)
  • Scope of practice: Sporting population, primarily sports/teams
  • Qualification: Coaching Accreditation through the Australian Sports Commission; Tertiary Qualifications Available
  • Usual work: Sporting Performance, Injury prevention/management

Strength and conditioning coaches (S&C) have two primary goals.
The first is to improve athletic performance, which usually means improving athletes’ speed, strength,and power.
The second primary goal is to reduce athletic injuries.
Let’s address each.

S&C Coaching for Athletic Performance includes:

  • Developing systematic training programs for both teams and individual athletes
  • Working in close association with skill coaches
  • Teaching proper lifting techniques
  • Supervising and motivating athletes as they work out
  • Assessing their performance before and after the program.

The nature of the conditioning program will vary depending on whether the sport is in season or not. During the off-season, conditioning programs can be quite rigorous. In season, conditioning programs tend to focus more on maintaining athletes’ conditioning than on improving it. Conditioning programs also vary by sport, and even by position within the sport.

S&C Coaching for Injury Management includes:

  • Designing regimens to strengthen body parts that are prone to injury in a particular sport
  • Preventing athletes from getting injured during training
  • Teaching correct exercise and lifting techniques
  • Monitoring athletes’ general health

S&C coach’s may also create nutrition plans for athletes, or liase with nutrition professionals. This is usually designed to provide the best possible nutrition to keep each athlete at peak condition. Additionally, proper nutrition helps to speed up muscle recovery time and provide the necessary energy for competition.

Maintaining accurate workout records for all athletes is an often overlooked but still important aspect of the job. Proper record keeping helps to ensure that individuals and teams accomplish the training they need on the right schedule. The right training increases the team’s odds of success in games over the course of the season.

Conditioning coaches usually meet regularly with the team’s coaches to determine what individual athletes, or the team, needs to work on in the conditioning facility. If working with an injured athlete engaged in rehabilitation, conditioning coaches will also consult with the sports medicine or athletic training staff to be sure they do not ask the injured athlete to do anything inappropriate in training.

In summary, the scope of practice for a strength and conditioning coach is to enhance the components of performance for specific/sporting, healthy populations.

Often a Personal Trainer with an interest in performance, rather than weight loss, will undertake additional training to become a strength and conditioning coach. (Like I did!) 🙂

So, hopefully now you know which exercise professional is best for you.

Please share and comment if you found this article helpful. Thanks!

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Primal Blueprint Review: 10 ways to better Health

Primal Blueprint Review

There are a number of books on my shelf about fitness, health and nutrition.
The Primal Blueprint is my number one pick for “START HERE”. Other books can (and do!) go into more specifics. The Primal Blueprint is a great overview for the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle.

Primal Blueprint Review

The Primal Blueprint is not a weight loss or diet book. It’s a lifestyle program from an evolutionary perspective. Using historical and contemporary hunter-gatherers as a model, it attempts to apply those lessons to life in the 21st century. He does it in a way that’s accessible to nearly everyone.

Mark Sisson is an athlete, coach and student of health. The Primal Blueprint is the distillation of 20 years of his research and experience. Utilising aspects from a number of scientific fields, Mark has devised a concise list of behaviour principles to improve your health, fitness and participation in life.

If you keep in mind that this is a blueprint for general health, fitness and well-being – you won’t get bogged down in minutia. Or throw the baby out with the bathwater because of one or two things with which you disagree.

I like the fitness suggestions because they focus on functional movements, encourage strength training and some cardio for conditioning. Walking more will work for almost everyone.

I like the diet suggestions because they focus on real food. The Primal Blueprint principles are simple, practical and relatively inexpensive. They require minimal, if any, sacrifice or deprivation. Mark is not a drill sergeant. He tries to create a plan that will be sustainable in the long run, by staying positive and allowing for flexibility.

The most important take-aways are:

The 10 Primal Blueprint Laws
The Primal Food Pyramid
The Carbohydrate Curve
Walk lots, Sprint Occasionally, Lift Heavy Things

If you can, read the whole book, cover to cover. Then reread certain parts.
If you can’t/“don’t have time” then read the chapter summaries and ‘snippets’.

The table of contents is as follows

Welcome from Mark
Introduction: What is Going on Here?
Chapter 1: The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws
Chapter 2: Grok and Korg- From Indigenous to Digital: One Giant Step (Backward) for Mankind
Chapter 3: The Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy
Chapter 4: Primal Blueprint Law #1: Eat Lots of Plants and Animals
Chapter 5: Primal Blueprint Law #2: Avoid Poisonous Things
Chapter 6: The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws
Chapter 7: The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws
Chapter 8: A Primal Approach To Weight Loss
Chapter 9: Conclusion

Welcome from Mark

Read this just for the 80% Rule.
The gist. No one is perfect, but strive for perfection. That way, even if you don’t quite “get there” you’re still doing really well.

Introduction: What’s going on here?

Mark compares “Conventional Wisdom” and “The Primal Blueprint”. He does this by contrasting an archetypal hunter-gatherer called Grok, and his 21st century counterpart, Mr Korg. This section contains very brief sections on grains, saturated fat, cholesterol, eggs, fiber, meal habits, strength training, cardio, weight loss, play, sun, footwear, prescription drugs and goals.

Chapter 1: The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws

In this chapter Mark outlines the specific laws of The Primal Blueprint – the foundation of the entire book. If you read up to the end of chapter 1 and actually apply what you learn, your life will change.

Chapter 2: Grok and Korg – From Indigenous to Digital: One Giant Step (Backward) for Mankind

Mark compares the typical day of many Americans (this applies to many Australians now too, sadly) to a prototypical hunter-gather ancestor. It’s a frightening contrast.

Suffice to say, it’s been a different lifestyle scenario for the past blink in human evolution (some 10,000 years), and DRAMATICALLY different over the past few decades.

* Even if (like me) you’re not convinced of the ‘hunter gatherer model’ for health, what with so many factors, both genetic and environmental, that go into health – eating real food is still the right answer.

Chapter 3: Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy

If you eat real food and don’t eat fake food – you’ll look, feel and perform better.
Sounds hard to believe, but it’s true.
The longer you eat properly, the less you want to eat crappy food- because it makes you feel just that way, crappy.

This chapter also covers the role of insulin in fat storage, cholesterol and the lipid hypothesis of heart disease, the role of healthy fats, macronutrients and transitioning to a Primal way of eating.

*Here’s where people often get hung up. Even if you don’t buy into the insulin/carbohydrate hypothesis and think dismissal of the lipid hypothesis is dangerous – eating real food and cutting down on fake food is still generally the right answer for improved health.

Chapter 4: Law #1- Eat Lots of Plants and Animals (Insects Optional)

Mark has a sense of humour. The Primal Blueprint is NOT a textbook.  It’s professional, yet enjoyable and even comical at times. Perhaps that’s even one of it’s strongest aspects – since what good is great knowledge if the communication is confusing?

In this chapter, Mark gets more specific with eating habits and choices. The vast, vast majority I agree with. A few details here and there I’m not exactly in agreement with, but overall, another excellent portion of the book.

Here Mark presents the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid. On the whole an excellent, clear guide. I would swap the positions of meat and vegetables, but hey, that’s me, and the difference for most people would be negligible.

Regarding supplements, I’m not “anti-pill”, but obviously only take supplements if you actually need them (i.e. you have a tested, measurable deficiency in a vitamin or mineral).

Chapter 5: Law #2- Avoid Poisonous Things

In this chapter Mark argues against the ‘conventional wisdom’ surrounding grains in a systematic way. He goes into detail regarding the effects of grains, legumes, processed foods and sugar on insulin levels and immune function. He also discusses gluten, lectins, phytates and polyunsaturated vegetable oils and their effects on nutrient absorption and health, clearly and logically.

Chapter 6: The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws

Mark’s stance on exercise and physical activity is far superior to the run of the mill “chronic cardio” and bodybuilding crowd. I have read some accounts of the Primal Blueprint by fitness professionals that disagree with this section. I believe this is throwing the baby out with the bath water. In my opinion, moving frequently at a slow pace, lifting heavy things and occasionally sprinting is a great way to get basic general, functional fitness.

It is true that you can get into far greater specifics with how you lift heavy things, what heavy things and how often. That will depend on specific goals, training age, required recovery, energy levels and a host of other variables. What Mark offers here is a quick guide on how to effectively go from sedentary to moving (or from overdoing it to balance).

He discusses the case against chronic cardio and the importance of functional, compound movements in strength training and in play.

Chapter 7: The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws

Without proper sleep and sunlight the rest is built on shaky foundations.
Also, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” holds true for humans generally.
Mark ties these together and shows how they affect our health (mental and physical).

He also covers the final Primal Blueprint laws of “Avoiding Stupid Mistakes” and “Using your Brain” – making this book comprehensive and not just a typical diet or exercise book.

Chapter 8: A Primal Approach to Weight Loss

The chapter begins by linking, and purposefully repeating which aspects of The Primal Blueprint will help you lose weight (fat)- although I hope by the end of the book that most people will realize that health, body composition, daily habits, and so on, are all inter-related, and very rarely exclusive to one another.

The carb/insulin vs reduced calorie intake for fat loss debate is still raging. The jury’s still out. Studies have shown that just about every weight (fat) loss method that is adhered to is effective – at least in the short term.

The major advantage of the Primal Blueprint method (and others) is that it involves lifestyle change, rather than ‘dieting’. This makes it easier to maintain medium to long term – which makes the results last.

Primal Conclusion

A strong ending for an excellent book. This book is a gem in the field of nutrition and lifestyle.

Mark gets really down to earth and a bit more behind the scenes. Not only in terms of psychology, but also in what a few days out of his life typically look like – specific foods eaten, activities, and so on.

Also, what you appreciate at the end of a health book – a complete list of foods and habits to aim for, and foods/habits to avoid. Simple as it is, I think most people will really appreciate this final section – especially people new to Paleo/Primal thinking.

Personal Conclusion

Overall, I give this book my highest regard and recommendation when it comes to proper nutrition and positive lifestyle habits to develop. This is the definitive book on nutrition and lifestyle change, especially considering how practical the information is and immediately applicable.

There are detractors to this book. Apart from “you can’t please everyone”, there are some flaws in this book. Domestic plants and animals are very different now than in the Paleolithic. Does that mean eating real food is bad? Of course not!

I agree with 95% of the content of this book. The things I don’t agree with won’t stop you from being successful with this lifestyle change. If you get bogged down in minutiae you will find fault with this book, and Paleo/Primal in general. If you see the big picture of ‘eat real food’ and ‘move/use your body in a functional way’, then the Primal Blueprint is a great template.

Like what you’ve read? Please leave a comment.  🙂

If you found this Primal Blueprint Review useful please share it with friends and family.

What is Fitness? Learn how to measure your progress

What is fitness? – A measurable definition!

Fitness is being physically able to do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it. If you are wholly-fit, you can do your job, play games and sports, and do the normal activities of daily living on any level you wish without limitations produced by illness, injury, low self-esteem or stress.

Physical fitness is how you look, feel and perform. It comprises two related concepts: Health-related fitness (a state of health and well-being) and Functional fitness (a task-oriented definition based on the ability to perform specific aspects of sports or occupations). Physical fitness is generally achieved through exercise, correct nutrition and enough rest. It is a vitally important part of life.

Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.


Health-related fitness

Crossfit Sickness Wellness Fitness Curve Diagram

This is a depiction of the the sickness-wellness-fitness curve in the 2002 Crossfit Journal Article defining fitness. (I’d look at body composition rather than just body fat; our understanding of cholesterol has developed since 2002; Systemic inflammation (through C-Reactive Protein and other markers) is also something I’d want to measure as a ‘wellness’ marker. This diagram IS a good starting point for understanding Health-related Fitness.)

Health

One way of looking at health is as our ability to survive and thrive RIGHT NOW. What’s your blood pressure? Blood sugar? Mental outlook? Stress level? Immune response? Ability to survive falling off a 12’ ladder? This is perhaps a simplistic view of health but I think it works quite well.

The indicators of sickness and wellness are measurable. The relative health of a person can be estimated using a range of biomarkers. Please keep in mind that across a population there are large variations in “normal”.

Using the scale, “Sickness” implies something may be amiss e.g Blood Pressure is above 140/90. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem or illness, but can spark further investigation and preventative measures if required. “Wellness” indicates normal or average health e.g BP of 120/80. A lower (but not too low) reading would suggest greater cardiovascular efficiency and greater “fitness”. Health and fitness do overlap, but the ‘ultra-fit’ do tend to be more prone to illness than ‘fit’. (Probably due to compromised immunity through chronic stress or inflammation)

Longevity

What if we considered health (the moment to moment ability to survive) over time? We would have longevity. Longevity is health over the long haul.

Longevity CAN simply mean surviving for a very long time. Quality of life does matter. One’s health may be such that any stressor, a cold, a fall, will be more than the individual can deal with. Conversely, perfect health, as measured on the day-to-day level, may curtail longevity. People who have a cold here and there tend to have lower rates of cancer. An occasional drop off in health may translate into improved longevity.

Functional fitness

Capability: Put simply, are you physically able to do the task?

Capacity: What volume of work/task are you able to accomplish?

The Crossfit model of fitness would include the concept that “He or she who does best at the widest variety of tasks is on average the “fittest”.” I would say that would make you the best generalist, or best at Crossfit. Ultimately, your ‘fitness’ is highly dependent on the tasks you wish to do.

Measures of Physical Fitness Summary Table

Recovery

The ability to recover after a physical challenge or illness is in itself an indicator of fitness. Consider two people. Both perform a gruelling task e.g shovelling a large load. At the end of the day, both are shattered. The following day, one is able to continue the task, the other can barely move. They have different levels of fitness / capacity (at least for that task).

Performance Health Longevity Optimal Venn Diagram

Having a performance bias may be at odds with health and longevity. Loads of endurance training may lead to oxidative stress, immune compromise and suboptimal dietary requirements necessary to fuel such efforts. If endurance sports are your thing, that’s fine. It’s perhaps good to know some of the down sides so one might make smart alterations to nutrition and training plans. Similarly if you aspire to be a Super Heavy Olympic Lifter you may need to consume an amount of food and carry a body mass that is absolutely at odds with health and longevity.

Another model is the notion that to be fit one should have a good balance in the development of all the engines that drive human activity: the ATP/CP pathway, glycolytic, and aerobic paths. The specifics of these energy pathways, ways to train them and implications for everyday life will feature in future articles.

What all this boils down to is for general fitness you need capability in various modalities, physical adaptations and metabolic engines, and capacity across a wide variety of tasks and time-frames. This offers a quantifiable way of measuring fitness. Do more work in less time and you are fitter!

Once again – Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.

Try this Paleo Banana Pancake Recipe

paleo banana pancake recipe

This Paleo Banana Pancake recipe is simple to make.

It’s also quick to prepare, nutritious and delicious.

Typically pancake mixes many ingredients. Most of them fail the “can you eat it by itself?” test. They have ingredients such as flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, caster sugar, eggs, milk and butter.
(For example check out . Have a look on the side panel of ready-made pancake mix next time you’re at the supermarket.

My recipe is way easier and better for you.

This Paleo Banana Pancake recipe has 3 or 4 ingredients. It can be ready in less than 10 minutes. It’s good for you and tastes fantastic.

To make about 6 pancakes the size of a bread plate you will need:

  • 1 banana
  • 2 eggs
  • a big pinch of cinnamon
  • salt to taste (optional)

  1. Mash the banana with a fork or potato masher
  2. Whisk the eggs until fluffy
  3. Combine the banana and eggs and mix well
  4. If using optional salt – add it now
  5. Poor the mixture into pan or hotplate (low/med)
  6. Sprinkle on the cinnamon
  7. Turn when the middle is starting to firm up (about 5 mins)

Add blueberries or strawberries as a garnish or side.

Enjoy the yummy goodness! Please also try delicious Paleo Chocolate Brownies!

New Year Resolutions: How to make them work

This is a special guest post from Lachlan Heasman.

New Year’s resolutions have the same reputation as pre-election promises. As early as the second of January you find yourself keeping the resolution that you actually made, rather than the one you might have liked to have made. Having these good intentions can sometimes be effective, but most of the time are not as our past behaviour is the strongest indicator of our future behaviour.

One simple way of to overcome this problem is to be specific and challenging in what you intend to achieve. For example having a resolution that you will “get fit this year”, is not as effective as “being able to do 50 push ups – in one go – by Easter”. Here you’ve moved from the vague to the specific and (maybe) challenging.

Specific Goals

Another simple way to stick with your resolutions is to make a simple plan. If the goal is 50 push ups, then the plan could be “whenever I go to turn the TV on I will do as many push ups as I can”. This plan has three important elements, 1 – you need to goal (specific and challenging), 2 – you need an action that will help you attain a goal, 3 – you need a situation that will trigger you to do the action. You then put your plan together like this: “When situation X arises, I will perform action!”.

Intentions

Intentions

For a reminder on SMART goal-setting, click here.

Of course this is not the panacea for keeping your resolutions. You need to actually care about goal you have set in your resolution, you also need to be committed to taking action, and the situation needs to be something appropriate and workable.

So here’s a test for you when kicking back in front of the cricket on the 2/1/2014. Ask yourself the following;

What do I want to achieve this year? Or this quarter?

How much do I care about this?

What am I going to do to make this happen?

What are the situations where I will be making this happen?

Recipe: You want Paleo Pizza? Hello Meatza!

Paleo Pizza, known as Meatza is delicious and nutritious.

When I went Paleo I missed pizza. Thankfully, there is something you can have that is even better.

Try it and you’ll see. It is at least as good as, if not better than, pizza.
This is a recipe suggestion. As with pizza tastes do vary considerably.
If there’s something on here you don’t like then by all means remove it or substitute something else. Better that than not trying meatza-goodness!

Try googling Meatza and see the variety.

Preparation Time: About 10 minutes
Cooking Time: About 40 minutes

Ingredients:

(For the base)
1 kg beef mince
1 egg
Herbs (chilli, basil and oregano)
Tomato paste or passata sauce

(Toppings)
Olives
Tinned Peas, Carrots and Corn
Tinned Asparagus
Tinned Pineapple
Fetta Cheese
Shredded tasty cheese

Cooking Instructions:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Crack the egg into a large mixing bowl
Add herbs
Add mince
Mix thoroughly
Grab a flat baking tray with a decent lip as there is some meat juice
Flatten the mixture on to the baking tray about 1/2 cm thick
(You could make it square, circular or make multiple mini ‘pizzas’ at this point

When the oven is at temperature bake the base for 20 minutes

Take it out and drain the juice (you could keep it for stock)
Add tomato paste or passata sauce in a thin coat – leaving space at the edge for fingers!
Add olives, peas, carrots, corn, asparagus, pineapple and fetta.
Layer the tasty cheese over the top and put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Bon apetite!

Goal Setting: Planning to Succeed – this is really Important!

Do you know how to set a goal that will help you achieve what you want?

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
– Rabindranath Tagore

Goal setting may be one of the most important skills you can learn.

In fitness, knowing what you want means you and your trainer can put together a plan to work towards your goals. Whether you want to lose ‘weight’, improve your strength, get leaner, improve your core strength, get more flexible/improve mobility, increase your cardiovascular or muscular endurance or have sport-specific goals has a huge impact on the programming – exercise selection, timing, rest, sets, reps and loads.

In martial arts, knowing whether your true interest lies in MMA, fitness, kata (patterns), tournaments or street-realistic self defence can have a huge impact on the style you choose or the emphasis you want to put on different aspects of your training.

Start the process by choosing 1-3 targets. Limiting the number means you won’t get discouraged if you have lots of things you’d like to improve. Map them out – making sure they are SMART:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant
Time-based

Specific
This means the goal is clear and unambiguous; without vagaries and platitudes. To make goals specific they must say exactly what is expected and why is it important.

A specific goal will usually answer five “W” questions:
What: What do I want to accomplish?
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
Who: Who is involved?
Where: Identify a location.
Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

Measurable
This stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if it is not measurable, it is not possible to know whether progress is being made toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to you stay on track, reach target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:
How much?
How many?
How will I know when it is accomplished?

Achievable
This stresses the importance of realism and attainability. While an attainable goal may be a stretch to achieve, the goal is not extreme. That is, it is neither out of reach nor below standard performance, as these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and capacity to reach them.
An attainable goal will usually answer the question:
How: How can the goal be accomplished?

S.M.A.R.T goalsGoals-mistakes

Relevant
This stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. A bank manager’s goal to “Make 50 peanut butter sandwiches by 2:00pm” may be specific, measurable, attainable, and time-based, but lacks relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish it. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered relevant.

A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:
Does this seem worthwhile?
Is this the right time?
Does this match my other efforts/needs?

Time-based
This emphasizes the importance of grounding goals within a time frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps efforts to be focussed on completion on or before the due date. This part of the SMART goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in life. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.

A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
When?
What can I do six months from now?
What can I do six weeks from now?
What can I do today?

Using these criteria – think hard about what you really want. Write it down. Start planning. Start achieving your goals!

Paleo Diet Position Update

Science encourages us to constantly update our ideas – so here’s my update on my position on “Paleo” eating.

We start with a hypothesis, work out measurement criteria, and rigorously test.
If the hypothesis is supported by evidence we accept it – until such time as something better comes along. If the hypothesis is not supported by evidence we reject it – and hopefully something better comes along.

As someone who tries to base decisions on these tenets – I feel it’s time to give you an update on my position on “the Paleo diet”.

Those of you who know me know that I’ve been a proponent of the Paleo diet for a few years now. The reason for choosing it was at the time it seemed to have a sound internal logic to it that elegantly encapsulated what is now starting to be referred to as “evolutionary medicine.”
A fundamental principle being the Dobzhansky quote “Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.” Paleo espouses:
“eat what your ancestors ate because that’s what you have adapted to eating.” The ‘trouble’ is there is no one “Paleo” diet. Depending on your latitude you may be eating a huge variety of food, and to suggest there is only one way is misguided.

I would describe humans as opportunistic omnivores.
There is no such thing as a toxic substance – only a toxic dose.

Rather than thinking about food in binary terms: as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, perhaps a more useful way would be so visualise a scale or continuum. I would grade the scale based on nutrient density per kilojoule (this is the volume of vitamins and minerals relative to the energy load.) “Real food” tends to be at one end, some processed foods appear in the middle, and what everyone would agree is ‘junk’ appears at the bad end. Then the trick is eating the ‘good’ stuff, having some ‘middle’ stuff, avoiding the ‘bad’ stuff – and not eating too much of any of it.

Paleo Diet

The common theme that’s running through the “optimal diet” is eating real food.
Unlike processed foods there tends to be high nutrient density relative to kilojoules contained.

Wild Salmon Broccoli Sweet Potato Potato White Rice Pasta Kit Kat

The links above point to nutritiondata.com. Here you can find nutritional breakdowns of a huge variety of food, including macro and micro nutrient ratios (vitamins and minerals), protein profiles, inflammation factor, glycaemic indices, fullness factor and other information.

The Best Strength Training Program

What is the most successful strength gain program?

Starting Strength? Wendler 5-3-1? Stronglifts? Madcow? Texas Method? Smolov? OPT? Catalyst? A hybrid system? [Insert other serious sounding name here]?

The most successful strength building program is:

is…

The one that you stick with!

I know, I know – you really want to know which program will give you the best “bang for your buck” to get you lean/jacked/cut/shredded/toned/pumped/(flayed?) the fastest, ideally with the least effort.

Sorry to burst the bubble. Real, lasting progress takes time and effort. If it was easy – everyone would be doing it. It takes determination to show up week-in week-out, when you don’t feel like it, when it’s cold, when it’s hot, when you’re tired, when you’re [insert excuse here]…

Just show up.

The world’s best strength coaches do have differences in their philosophy, approach and programing. They may differ on small stuff like “a huge impact on the programming – exercise selection, timing, rest, sets, reps and loads”, but I challenge you to find a decent (reputable and respectable) strength coach, be it Mark Rippetoe, Jim Wendler, Jason Ferruggia, Greg Everett*, Charles Poliquin or anyone else who would say that for consistent gains you can or should do anything other than “show up consistently”. Anyone who would say that you should do anything other than low reps and high load on Back Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Press and Power Cleans. The auxiliary exercises may differ, but the main lifts are the main lifts for a reason.

*Greg Everett has an Olympic Lifting focus, so would put more emphasis on development of the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch – two AWESOME strength and power development movements, but I’m sure if you asked him about the utility of ‘the Big 3’ and presses and power cleans for strength development he would agree they do get the job done well.

Yes, your exact sets and reps are open to debate. Do I do 3 sets of 5, or 5 sets of 5 for maximal strength gains with some size development? Answer: it depends. Are you a beginner who needs volume? Are you an intermediate lifter who is closer to your genetic potential where doing 5 heavy sets would be too much volume and stress on your central nervous system? How old are you? How did you sleep? Are you eating properly? How much recovery do you get?

What ever program you do – to get progress you need to train consistently and train hard. Almost all strength programs call for at least 80% of your 1 rep max for the work set(s). The idea of progressive overload is shared universally. The way to get stronger is to lift more than you did last time. Expand your comfort zone by working outside your comfort zone. You only know what you can do when you try to do more than you can.

That’s not to say you should always train all out. If you’ve had 3 hours sleep, are stressed to the eyeballs or are sick. If you’re contagious stay home – but otherwise, show up “oil the groove”, de-load if you need to but show up and lift.

You might even do what Mike did last night. Really not feel like it, show up anyway, eventually get into it and hit a clean and jerk PR!

So show up – even when you don’t feel like it.

Weight Training and Size

A common misconception about resistance training (weights) is that they’ll make you get big and muscular. Some women especially think that doing weights will make them look undesirably big and masculine (like a lady-wrestler).

The type of weightlifting, sets and repetitions will dictate the result. This is the science behind the training.

There are 4 types of resistance training outcomes possible and they are dependent on a number of factors.

Some hypertrophy (size) can occur from training in all of these types, but muscle gain can be as fast as 3 weeks from the start of training whereas fat (which is closer to the surface than the muscle – making it look like you’ve gained size) takes longer to reduce. Generally the strength training type is the one that can make people ‘bulkier’ but even then – only if they’re also eating for ‘size’ (especially milk).

If you’re a BEGINNER STRENGTH trainee then you’ll be looking at using a heavy load, 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps at a slow-medium pace with 2-3 minutes rest – training 2-3 days a week.

If you’re an INTERMEDIATE STRENGTH training athlete then you’ll be looking at using a heavy load, 1-6 sets of 2-6 reps at a slow-medium pace with 3-5 minutes rest – training 2-3 days a week.

If you’re developing POWER then you’ll be looking at using a medium-heavy load, 3-6 sets of 4-8 reps at a fast-max explosive pace with 2-5 minutes rest – training 2-3 days a week.

If you’re training for LEANNESS then you’ll be looking at using a low-medium load, 1-5 sets of 6-20 reps at a very slow-medium pace with 1-2 minutes rest – training 2-3 days a week.

If you’re developing ENDURANCE then you’ll be looking at using a light load, 2-3 sets of 15-30 reps at a medium pace with minimal rest – training 2-3 days a week.

(Adapted from: ‘The Fitness Leader’s Handbook’; Egger, Champion, Bolton; Table 6.1: Resistance Training Regimes)

So pay attention to what you’re doing. If you are doing a heavy load – is it fast or slow? (Strength / Size or Power)

If you’re doing a light / medium load is it at a moderate pace and between 15 – 20 reps? (Leanness and Endurance range)

The more you know about how to do weights – the better able you are to discern the right exercises for you.