body composition

Why you should use performance based goals to track progress

Something that has become quite apparent to me in more recent years, is that most people make the decision to join the gym and start training as a way to make changes to their body.

And while there are certainly some exceptions to this rule (there are no doubt a select few who want to get stronger, or improve athleticism), you can guarantee that the vast majority of people who enter the gym want to feel better about themselves, and ultimately, look good naked.

And there is nothing wrong with this.

Improving body composition is a worthy goal, and working hard to make changes to your body can be extremely rewarding.

The issue is that when trying to improve body composition, people often measure progress through the use of weight related goals - for example: I want to lose 10 kilograms. And while I admit that I am not in the position to determine whether your individual goal is acceptable or not, I can say that in my experience weight related goals rarely provide any value at all.

Although it may sound like a good idea at the time, most people don’t realize that our weight tends to fluctuate massively in accordance to what we have eaten the past couple of days, how much fluid we have consumed, and how much exercise we have performed (among a myriad of other potential factors).

Moreover, if we are using weight training (as ideally we should be) to promote fat loss, then we will most likely see increases in muscle mass that coincide with reductions in fat mass. This would result in a relatively unchanged scale weight, despite actually losing fat tissue.

As a result, if your goal is ‘to lose 10 kilograms’, you might become disheartened despite actually making some pretty serious changes to your body composition.

In this situation the scale is not really indicative of all the progress you have made.

So what can we do instead?

 

Performance based goals

Performance based goals pretty much describe goals based around improvements observed in the gym or on the field.

For example, completing 5 strict chin ups, deadlifting 1.5X body weight, or performing 15 strict push ups are all fine performance based goals. These performance based goals have much more merit than weight related goals because they don’t rely on something as variable of body weight to track change.

And more importantly, these goals are truly indicative of the hard work that you put in.

If you start at the gym and can’t perform either a single chin up or a single push up, and then after 3 months of training can complete 3 chin ups and 10 push ups, you can be certain that you have made progress. These improvements are a tangible measure of all the hard work you have put in to your training over the last 90 days.

And seeing the cumulative results of your hard work is extremely rewarding.

Furthermore, I can guarantee that some serious changes in body compassion (aka a loss of fat mass and an increase in muscle mass) will have come along with these performance based changes.

And while these changes may not be identified as clearly by the scale, you can certainly see them (in both physical appearance and improvement in performance).

 

So In Summary

It’s unfortunate, but too many people seem to think that a reduction in scale weight is progress. I say unfortunate, because realistically speaking, I could go to the bathroom and see more weight loss in 10 minutes than most would see after 2 weeks of solid training.

While the scale does measure ‘weight’, it can be extremely deceptive. How do you know that you have lost fat and not muscle? or just fluid for that matter?

But if you see genuine improvement in your performance, then you can guarantee you are making quality progress.

Seriously, the sooner you make your goals performance based, the better off you will be (trust me).

 

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Training vs Exercising. There is a Difference.

There are many different ways to describe the attempts and efforts we make to improve our body composition or physical capacity, but ‘Exercising’ and ‘Training’ are hands down the two most common terms I personally hear on a daily basis.

And so what, right?

People can call it whatever they want, if it refers to the same thing?

well, maybe not?

What if i said that Training and Exercising are actually inherently different from one another?

Because In my personal opinion there is a significant difference, and by changing your mindset and the terminology you use from’ exercise’ to ‘training’, you can begin to make massive jumps forward in achieving your personal goal.

Hunter Bennett Performance, Adelaide Personal Training, Lose Fat Build Muscle

 

Exercising

Firstly, exercising.

Exercise is physical activity for the sake of physical activity. 

It is exercise performed for TODAY, and for today only.

Exercise is often done for the sake of raising the heart rate and getting a bit of a sweat on.

People who ‘exercise’ typically perform the same sort of routine over and over because it does meet their immediate needs - to perform physical activity today.

And honestly, there is nothing wrong with this.

It is great way to meet the recommended weekly requirements for physical activity, ultimately providing us with the minimum required stimulus to stay healthy and manage weight gain.

This is fine. It keeps our cardiovascular system working efficiently, and significantly reduces our risk of developing a number of diseases and disorders.

But what if you have a specific goal you want to achieve?

I don’t care whether it is strength related, performance related, or body composition related.

Merely ‘exercising’ will not cut it.

Training

Enter training.

Training is different.

If you have a specific goal in mind, then training is essential to effectively achieve that goal.

If you want to run a marathon, become a better athlete, or compete in a physique contest, performing a group exercise class 4 days per week is not going to cut it.

You need to follow a clear track that will lead YOU to YOUR specific destination. 

Training involves reaching small, specific goals that lead directly to the achievement of your overall goal.

Each individual exercise you undertake is a small, specific step leading to the end of your journey.

Each set and every individual repetition is well thought out, and implemented with this final goal in mind.

You do these things not because you can do them, but because to reach your goal, you need to do them.

With that in mind, training is performed efficiently.

If you don’t have a valid reason for doing a specific exercise (AKA it doesn’t help you reach your overall goal), then you shouldn’t be doing it.

If you’re a sprinter, you don’t need to be jogging 10km on your rest days.

If you’re a powerlifter you don’t need to be doing 4 sets of Bicep curls at the end your session.

If you’re a marathon runner you don’t need to be bench pressing double body weight.

This doesn’t mean you throw out entire rep ranges, or stop doing certain exercises forever, it just means you need to focus on what is specific to your current goal and make that your priority.

Training has a focus on your individual needs.

This may mean addressing weak points, or correcting individual imbalances or dysfunctions.

It means addressing the areas where you are deficient, while also improving those which you are already good at.

Using a running as a specific example, your goal might be to run a marathon. You have good aerobic capacity, but are weak and have poor movement quality.

Increasing strength becomes a priority, as does improving your efficiency and quality of movement.

This occurs through specific exercise and training recommendations. Not through doing ‘whatever you have always done’ in the weight room.

Training results in measurable improvement.

This means that you actually PROGRESS through training. Whether it is getting stronger, getting faster, or getting leaner, when you are training (and training EFFECTIVELY) you will see improvements in yourself.

 

Now, exercising is fine. Some people enjoy working hard and getting a sweat on for the sake of it. And again, there is nothing wrong with that.

BUT

If you have a specific goal you want to reach, and find yourself doing the same thing over and over, you are exercising when you should be training.

And it is now time to make that change.

 

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Full Body Training – Why the bad rap?

Full body workouts are hands down the most time efficient way of working out, without question. If you’re limited to 2-3 three sessions per week, then full body sessions are definitely your answer. But then, even if you’re not limited by time, they can be a seriously efficient and effective way of training.

But for some reason they are genuinely underutilized, often considered only for beginner or novice routines, with most people tending to opt for a body part split instead.

Whilst body part splits can still lead to some serious gainzz if implemented correctly (and with right population), they do not have the same set of advantages that full body workouts do.

hunter bennett performance. full body. training. workout. gym. fitness. health. fat loss.

Advantage 1: More energy spent

Full body workouts revolve around one or two compound movements per movement pattern, ditching the use of any isolation movements. These exercises often require the integration of the entire body, and as such means that they use multiple muscle groups per exercise. This in turn, results in wayyyy more energy being used per session than we are likely to see during other programming ’styles’. This in turn can contribute to fat loss and body composition goals.

Advantage 2: Greater training frequency

Full body workouts provide the opportunity to train particular muscle groups and specific lifts more than once per week, which therefore provides greater opportunity to build strength in those movements, and increase the size of those muscle groups.

An increase in training frequency can often be enough to stimulate some serious strength gains in people who tend to train a particular lift or muscle group only once per week.

Advantage 3: Greater opportunity for recovery

It could be argued that we don’t get bigger or stronger from the training we undertake, but rather the way in which we recover from it.

By training 3 times per week we give ourselves more time to recover, which could theoretically further increase our improvements in strength and further contribute to muscle hypertrophy.

Advantage 4: More Free time

Training 3 times per week is probably going to take less time out of your week than training each individual muscle group once per week, which leaves you with a bit more time for other things, whether it be an additional cardio session, going to dinner with your significant, spending time with your family, or watching season 1-5 of Game of Thrones (again....).

Programming Considerations.

Rather than body parts or muscle groups, full body workouts are better built around movement patterns.

For example:

Knee Dominant: Squat variations, Split Squat variations
Hip Dominant: Deadlift Variations, Single leg deadlift Variations, Hip Thrust Variations
Horizontal Push: Bench Press, Push ups etc.
Horizontal Pull: Bent over rows, Dumbbell Rows, face pulls etc.
Vertical Push: Overhead Press, handstand push ups, etc.
Vertical Pull: Pull Ups, Lat pull down, etc.

Using one or two movements from each of these categories would be a fantastic way to produce a balanced full body training program, which might look a bit like this.

1A: Front Squat
1B: Pull Ups

2A: Deadlift
2B: Weighted Push Ups

3A: Bulgarian Split Squat
3B: Face Pulls

4A: Barbell Overhead Press
4B: Bent Over Row

Add in some core work at the end there and BOOM! You have a time efficient full body program that you can use.

Now obviously this program isn’t perfect for everyone. For those aiming to increase their Big 3, they are much more likely to prioritize the Squat, Bench and Deadlift. For those who prefer bodyweight training, they can prioritize gymnastics based movements.

What I wanted to demonstrate is that full body workouts are an efficient and effective way of training that can be tailored to your individual goal, and shouldn't be discounted just because your favourite bodybuilder has a chest day on youtube.

 

If your not sure where to start, fill out the contact form below and i will be in touch soon!

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Do agility ladders really make you faster and more agile?

Hunter Bennett Performance. Agility, agility ladders, reaction time, speed, acceleration, power

Not really.

Now I will be upfront here. I am not a big fan of agility ladders. I feel they are over utilised, and don't deliver what they promise.

'But they make your feet faster right?'.... well maybe. But what does that even mean? So if my feet move quicker I will be faster? If we think about it, It’s not particularly shocking that that’s not really how it works.

Defining agility

Agility can be broken down into two components:

Change of direction (COD) speed. The speed at which we alter the direction of travel in a PRE-PLANNED manner. Note the emphasis on pre-planned. COD speed is completely physical, and simply the rate at which we can alter direction of movement.

And

Reaction Time. The time taken to react to an unknown or unpredictable stimulus. This is effectively the time taken to assess a situation or stimulus, and then react to it. This is a mental process.

So Agility is therefore both the process of making a decision and moving in accordance to that decision, in response to an un-controlled stimulus.

An example of Agility would be a rugby player making a tackle on another player who is coming towards them with the ball. The player with the ball is likely to move in one direction in an attempt to evade the tackler. The tackler must cognitively react to the unknown stimulus (the direction of the side-step), and then change direction in accordance, as means to make the tackle.

Soooooo? What about agility ladders?

So agility ladders don’t have a cognitive component, so they don’t directly train agility. But they do kind of train COD speed right? And that may transfer to agility?

Again, not really.

Speed, whether it be COD speed or straight line speed is function of power ((force x distance)/time). If you apply a greater amount of force into the ground in the same or less amount of time, you move faster. It makes sense. The more force that goes into the ground, the further you travel per step in the same amount of time.

To improve speed you therefore have to train at maximum speed, and produce enough force to increase maximal power production.

Now do you see the issue?

When using an agility ladder, you are not producing enough force to elicit a training response. Also worthy of note, is that when you use an agility ladder, you move inefficiently, in a way that does not replicate sprinting or changing direction. You’re just moving your feet quickly, while they stay within your base of support. Changing direction quickly involves the foot producing high levels of force rapidly whilst outside the base of support, producing lateral movement. If the foot is not outside the base of support the ability to move laterally is limited.

So now you can see the issue I have with agility ladders?

Again, this is a bit of an opinion piece, and one could argue that they may have some usefulness as an effective warmup tool, or potentially in a rehab setting. But  just don’t try and sell them as something that will significantly improve speed or agility, when in reality, they will not.

So what should we do instead?

Improving strength and power through resistance training exercises would be an important step. This will improve our ability to produce force, which is integral to speed. This could be followed by some speed/agility specific training, such as straight line sprinting, or lateral movement work. This specific training will allow us to develop the ability to use our increased strength in a speed/agility specific way.

4 Delicious Reasons for Deadlifting

Deadlifts – 4 reasons Why you should be doing them

I’m not shy about the love I have for the deadlift. If I’d have to pick a favourite exercise it would be right up the top of the list (bit hard to choose one favourite, right?). Not because I’m particularly good at them, but because as an individual exercise they provide a huge amount of benefit. Seriously, in terms of bang-for-your-buck exercises, deadlifts are king.

You can’t cheat a deadlift. Either that bar is coming off the floor or not. Sure you can quarter squat a ton of weight, but a quarter deadlift doesn’t count.

So in this little post I am going to outline a few of the reasons why I think deadlifts are hands down the most beneficial exercises you can implement into your program.

Hunter Bennett Performance. Adelaide. Deadlift Strength Fat loss


They reinforce the hip hinge

The hip hinge one of our fundamental movement patterns. It allows us to lift considerable loads through the loading of the posterior chain. This loading (if done with a neutral spine) spares our lower backs from any undue stress.

Learning to hinge at the hips is important in relation to both pulling huge ass weights off the floor, and lifting things in day to day life. By learning to stabilise the trunk in a neutral position, while applying a concentric load through the hips, we can limit stress placed on the lumbar spine, and avoid any issues associated.

Good deadlift on the right, not so good on the left. Notice the nice, neutral spine on the right.

Good deadlift on the right, not so good on the left. Notice the nice, neutral spine on the right.



Dat Posterior Chain

The posterior chain refers to the back of the body (AKA spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, calves). You know, all those muscles that tend to get missed during the third (or fourth? I can’t remember) chest and bicep workout for the week.

And the deadlift crushes it. Every muscle on the backside of your body is working overtime to stabilise the spine against flexion forces, extend the hips, and maintain retracted scapula. Both hitting muscles that often, and undeservedly, get neglected By training these muscles we can also reverse the negative postural deviations caused by the excessive sitting (something that a lot of us do too much of).

Not to mention the important role that the posterior chain plays in the explosive hip extension seen during sprinting and jumping. Increased strength of the posterior chain could significantly improve athletic performance by making an individual faster and more powerful.


Grip Strength

Believe it or not, hanging on to a really heavy barbell increases your ability to grip stuff. Hard. Important when doing heavy rows, chins and presses, if your grip strength is not up to scratch it can limit your improvement in heap of other exercises by giving out before the target muscles do.

Not to mention the importance a firm grip can have in day-to-day life, from unscrewing the lid off a jam jar to shaking someone’s hand.  Heck, deadlifting may actually improve first impressions by both improving your handshake quality and making you looked jacked.


They can be regressed and progressed to suit any scenario

The deadlift is extremely versatile. Want to teach someone to hip hinge but they lack the necessary mobility to deadlift from the floor? Deadlift from blocks or do rack pulls.

Have a solid deadlift but lacking single leg hip stability? Single leg deadlift variations can help.

Solid hinge but a weak upper back? Snatch grip deadlifts could be your answer.

Anywho, you get the point. Very versatile, with a heap of variations that can be implemented to target a heap of different goals.


*Bonus Point*

You look like a boss ripping a loaded barbell from the floor.

Truth.

This weeks health and fitness articles - Novemeber 21

Brutally Honest Guide to Losing Weight

This is the story of how a man lost 80lb's over the course of a year. While it doesn't necessarily sit perfectly in sync with my training/diet philosophies it provides an accurate and unglorified  depiction of what it actually takes to lose weight.

Hint: alot of hard work and dedication

 

The Sticking Point in the Squat: What Causes it and What to do about it

A fantastic Article by Greg Nuckol's breaking down what causes the sticking point in the squat, and what you can do to become stronger in that position.

 

Is Skipping Breakfast Bad for You?

Interesting article that should provide some clarification on whether eating breakfast is as important as what your mother thought. 

Strength Training and Fat Loss?

Its pretty common knowledge that to lose fat you simply need to eat less and exercise more right? Most likely of the cardio variety?

Would you be shocked to hear me say no?

Well maybe not a flat out No, but more of a 'not necessarily'....

While it might seem unconventional to some of you, heavy resistance training (think lifting big weights) may be a better way to go.

In this blog post I explain (or at least try too) the large role strength training can play in improving body composition. Although this notion may go against some ‘conventional’ thoughts and opinions on the topic of fat loss, it will hopefully help provide you with a greater understanding of the different tools and training methods we can use to get promote fat loss, without spending hours of our week on the treadmill.

 

Strength as a Cup

The best analogy I have heard (pretty sure I can thank Dan Jon for this one) is strength being described as a cup.  All of the other fitness components are the liquid inside that cup. By fitness components I am talking about our absolute work capacity, our ability to demonstrate muscular power and muscular endurance and obviously our ability to express force (be stong).

In regards to fat loss, the larger the cup (the greater our strength) the more load we can lift per rep, the more total work we can perform in a session, which in turn increases the amount of total energy we use complete, and recover from, the session.

 

Strength training builds lean mass

That ‘toned’ look people are always talking about. You know the one - ‘I don’t want to get big, I just want to tone up’ – sounds familiar right?

Interesting fact: you can’t ‘tone’ your muscles. Better muscle definition occurs by building muscle and losing fat around those muscles, making them more visible and ‘defined’.

Heavy resistance training builds muscle. By building more muscle we not only create more lean mass relative to our fat mass (which therefore causes a subsequent decrease in body fat percentage), but as muscle is highly metabolic tissue, we also increase our basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy we burn at rest). By increasing our basal metabolic rate, we increase the amount of energy we burn every day, irrespective of the exercise we perform that day! By adding lean mass you can literally increase the amount of energy you burn when you’re at work, on the couch or lying in bed! All it takes is performing heavy resistance training 2-3 times per week.

 

Heavy strength training requires muscle mass

Heavy resistance training stimulates high threshold motor units, and therefore recruits a near maximal amount of muscle fibres. This neural stimulus reinforces a need to maintain muscle mass. As decreasing fat mass typically involves an energy deficit, lifting heavy can help maintain muscle mass whilst in this deficit. Adding to the point above, it can help maintain a high metabolic rate whilst still reducing caloric intake, potentially increasing the amount of lean mass maintained during a ‘cutting phase’, so to speak.

 

Strength training is both hard and rewarding

Heavy strength training is hard. Busting out a new 5 rep max for deadlifts is taxing. Very taxing. Not only does it require physical strength but mental strength too. That ability to push through is important, and necessary. It builds confidence in your strength and ability both inside and outside the gym, and has carry over to everyday life. Once the set is done there is a sense of accomplishment. This sense of accomplishment is important, as it keeps you motivated and drives you to continue training. Arguably the most important thing required to incur significant changes in body composition is consistency. If that sense of accomplishment improves adherence to training it can go a long way to help you reach your physical goals.

 

I have only touched briefly on the HUGE benefits strength training can provide, but hope to have altered your perspective on training to improve body composition, if even a little.

If you’re not particularly confident in introducing heavy resistance training into your workout, or don’t really know where to start, please feel free to contact me via my about page.

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