fat loss

Is Stretching Really Dead?

With the rapid rise of foam rolling and a host of other effective (and often brutal) modalities of self-myofascial release, stretching has experienced a huge decline in popularity.

This has also coincided with some studies appearing within the scientific community demonstrating that prolonged periods of static stretching can lead to significant reductions in power production and force output (AKA it makes you weaker).

But, does that mean that stretching has no place in our training programs?

hunter bennett performance adelaide based personal training

 

Stretching and power output.

The first point I do want to address with this blog post is the impact that static stretching has on power output. After the initial research undertaken on this topic, stretching was demonised as useless, pointless, and harmful.

As such, while it is often considered common knowledge that static stretching leads to reductions in performance, this isn’t actually the whole story.

While longer duration static stretching (greater than 60 seconds in duration) can lead to reductions in power output immediately after stretching, this effect is not seen for stretches performed for 45 seconds or less.

And seriously, who actually stretches an individual muscle for more than 60 seconds at a time?

So this suggests that short bouts of static stretching will have NO negative effects on performance, which means that you can stretch without the fear that your workout will suffer.

 

Should we stretch?

So if stretching doesn’t affect our physical performance, does that mean we should stretch?

Like almost all of my answers to any training related question…… it depends.

We know that stretching does indeed increase flexibility – that is fact. But whether we need to stretch is a different story entirely.

In my opinion, stretching certainly has its uses – when used correctly.

With the excessive (and often detrimental) amount of sedentary activity we perform each and every day, some muscle tissues will become short and stiff. It is these shortened tissues that, in my personal experience, respond well to stretching.

By stretching these specific muscles, we can return length to muscles are in a shortened state, while also improving joint range of motion, and movement quality as a whole. This can often lead to improved performance, and a decreased risk of injury.

AKA it is good.

But, there is a bit of a kicker.

It is extremely rare that those muscle groups that feel tight, are actually tight.

I have written about this extensively HERE, but often, those muscles that feel tight are actually in lengthened state, due to; A) An antagonistic muscle group being in a short and stiff state; B) excessive weakness of that lengthened muscle group; or C) a combination of the two.

A simple example of this would be the guy who is always stretching his hamstrings because they feel tight, despite them never getting better. This is probably because those hamstrings are in a lengthened position and already under stretch (hence why they feel tight). The issue is most likely tight antagonistic muscle groups (rectus femoris and the hip flexors) and weak hamstrings.

Not tight hamstrings.

 

hunter bennett performance stretching

 

So how do we know what to stretch?

This is pretty simple.

Assess and then reassess.

Check movement, and If movement is poor check range of motion at specific joints. If ROM is limited, then a specific muscle is likely tight. Stretch that muscle (or muscle group), then reassess. If A) range of motion has increased, or B) movement has improved, then you have probably found the tight muscle.

An example of the process might look something like this.

We assess a squat, and get early pelvic tucking. We then perform the Thomas test to assess hip flexor length and find that they have tight hip flexors. We then stretch the hip flexors and ideally, Thomas test improves AND the squat improves.

Now this is an extremely simplistic (and idealistic) scenario. In the real world there is a chance that the squat performance will not improve despite and improvement on the Thomas test – this would suggest either a stability issue, or a motor control issue.

But, I am getting a little off topic here.

With all that in mind, I am trying to demonstrate the potential benefits of stretching, and why it should not me discarded completely.

More so, stretching can become an extremely useful tool to improve both movement and range of motion when used correctly, and should not be ignored because of some of the early research showing its influence on performance.

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Why Gender Specific Training is Bullshit

Misinformation within the health and fitness industry is rampant.

Unfortunately, this is an unyielding truth that we have to come with terms with.

While I feel that exercise professionals (such as myself) can help play an important role in changing the poor practices that this misinformation does produce, it is not as simple as it may sound.

This misinformation is spread frequently and expertly within mainstream health and fitness magazines, TV commercials, and YouTube videos AND despite zero scientific evidence (and arguably zero logical thought progression) to support it, it is gobbled up due to clever marketing that plays heavily on our insecurities.

One such claim that seems to circulate a lot more frequently than some others, is the suggestion that females should train differently to men.

This suggestion is an absolute joke that does nothing more than perpetuate the myth that if a women lifts heavy weights she will become ‘big and bulky’.

This, from my perspective, has two negative repercussions.

1.       It leads to the suggestion that weight training is not a suitable form of exercise for women – which the title of this post suggests, is a load of rubbish

2.       It continues to build the idiotic perception of an ideal female body. Seriously, who has the right to suggest that a female with a muscular physique is unattractive? What people find attractive is none of your business. Furthermore, people show a large number of anatomical and physiological differences (AKA we look different) – as such there is no such thing as an ideal body.

So building on that first point, I am here to tell you that women should lift heavy ass weights, and subsequently, gender specific training is misinformed jargon spread by mainstream fitness 'gurus' who haven’t trained a real client in their lifetime.

Lifting heavy and building strength is key (photo from T-nation.com)

Lifting heavy and building strength is key (photo from T-nation.com)

 

Strength is King

Lifting heavy weights build strength.

I don’t care what anyone says, strength is incredibly important for EVERYONE, no matter their goal or current training level. Strength limits the amount of work we can perform in a session, it dictates our upper limit of power production, and it plays a large role in our rate of functional decline.

By increasing strength, we can improve the amount of volume we can handle in a given session. This can improve our ability to achieve body composition related goals (AKA losing fat and building muscle).

Furthermore, as we age our strength declines. This will eventually limit our ability to perform general tasks of daily living. Subsequently, by maintaining strength we can maintain our functional capacity into our older age.

This will allow us to maintain a high quality of life for our lifetime.

I don’t think you would find a single person who would say that those are not important for females (or males for that matter - EVERYONE should strength train).

 

BUT wont lifting heavy weights and getting strong make me big and bulky?

In short, no, probably not.

While building strength (and lifting heavy) does unquestionably play an important role in building muscle tissue, this process is actually quite difficult for females.

This can be put down to a a number of various gender specific differences in hormone levels and physiological factors.

Ultimately, to summarize without getting too wordy, women will have a much harder time putting on a muscle mass than men.

While lifting heavy will add a small amount of muscle mass, it is not going to turn you into a body builder (not that there is anything wrong with that).

In fact, I have written extensively HERE about how strength training can improve body composition and promote fat loss WITHOUT causing massive increases in muscle mass.

 

Bone Density

While this may be a little on the boring side, it still holds significant importance.

Females are susceptible to becoming osteoporotic later in life (even more so than males). This susceptibility actually increases after the onset of menopause.

While there are a number of dietary factors that can play a role in maintain a high level of bone density, so can strength training.

Heavy loading has shown to stimulate an increase the production of bone cells. This can lead to a significant increase in bone density, reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis. As a result, strength training can play a HUGE role in osteoporosis prevention both before and after menopause.

Strong Bones...

Strong Bones...

 

Strength Training Builds Confidence

There is nothing better than hitting a new PB in the gym.

Overcoming something that you have been working towards steadily for months truly shows that the hard work you have been putting in has been paying off.

I believe this is truer for strength goals than body composition goals as they provide a tangible measure of improvement.

Getting stronger and achieving new strength goals is rewarding – way more so than lifting a 3kg dumbbell repetitively (unless your into that of course – who am I to judge?).

And maybe more important than the knowledge that you are getting stronger in the gym, is the knowledge that this strength carriers over to other aspects of life too.

This might be as simple as being able to move your own furniture without assistance, change a car tire easily, or escape from a horde of hungry zombies.

All silliness aside, you get my point.

Being able to do difficult things independently is both empowering, and a massive confidence booster.

 

So, to conclude.

Gender specific training is a joke.

Lifting heavy has HUGE benefits for males and females alike. This holds true from a health perspective, a body composition perspective, and a performance perspective.

 

 

If you want to start strength training, but don't know where to start, fill out the form below!

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Training frequency: The forgotten factor for building muscle and strength

When writing a training program people normally think about two key factors.

Volume and Intensity.

While there is no question that these two factors are integral to promoting the growth of muscle tissue and neuromuscular strength development, there is one other factor that needs A LOT more consideration than it is getting.

Training frequency.

Training frequency refers to how often we train a specific movement or muscle group.

While body building splits (where we train each individual muscle group one time per week) are extremely popular, they may not actually be our best option for increasing muscle mass or strength.

It is commonly accepted that muscle tissue takes 48-72 hours to recover from a solid training session. As such, we actually have opportunity to train a muscle group more than one time per week without running the risk of overtraining (which honestly occurs VERY rarely in the weekend warrior…).

Klokov trains frequently, and hes jacked.....

Klokov trains frequently, and hes jacked.....

 

Training frequency and muscle mass

Increasing training frequency is a great option to provide muscle tissue with additional weekly stimulus.

By increasing training frequency, we can effectively increase the amount of work a muscle or muscle group gets each week. We know that increasing weekly volume is a great wat to stimulate muscle growth.

Additionally, by increasing training frequency, we also increase the amount of mechanical tension our muscle tissue receives over any given training week. This increase in mechanical tension considered another key factor in triggering muscle growth.

 

Training Frequency and Strength

While increasing training frequency can have considerable influence on increasing muscle size, it is the way in which it can influence strength development that is arguably most important.

Demonstrating maximal strength requires the integration of both the nervous and muscular systems. The role that the nervous system plays in recruiting motor units and muscle fibres to produce force is extremely important in this demonstration of strength.

This becomes even more important during large compound movements (such as the squat, deadlift, and bench press…) where a large amount of neuromuscular coordination is required.

By increasing training frequency, we can increase our ability to recruit muscle fibres during these complex movements. This allows us to become more efficient (and subsequently stronger) at these specific lifts.

In fact, within most training circles, the completion of these complex movements is considered a skill. Put simple, the more we perform these skills, the better we become at performing them. These improvements come through an increase in neuromuscular coordination and increased in muscle fibre recruitment.

Furthermore, these increases in neural development are likely to have a greater carryover to our endeavours of athletic performance.

Increases in motor unit and muscle fibre recruitment will make use more efficient and more powerful during athletic movements such as sprinting, jumping, and bounding.

 

Practical Considerations

So we know that increasing our training frequency can have significant improvements in our ability to develop strength and build muscle tissue, but how do we implement it into our weekly training program?

The easiest way is to split up your training week into upper body and lower body days, in which each day has a slightly different emphasis.

For example, we might have a squat dominant lower body day and a hip dominant lower body day where both squats and deadlifts are performed on each day, but the core lift changes slightly.

The same can be said of the upper body days, where we might have a push dominant day and a pull dominant day, where although we perform both pushing and pulling on each day, the primary focus differs slightly.

For example:

Monday – Hip Dominant Lower Body Day

Deadlift 5x5
Front Squat 4x8
RDL 4x8
Walking Lunges 3x10
Single led RDL 3x10

Tuesday – Push Dominant Upper Body Day

Bench Press 5x5
High Bench row 4x8
Overhead Press 4x8
Chin Ups 4x8
Incline DB Press 3x10
Batwing rows 3x10
DB Fly’s 3x10
Single Arm DB Row 3x10

Thursday – Knee Dominant Lower Body Day

Back Squat 5x5
Sumo Deadlift 4x8
Front Squat 4x8
Bulgarian Split Squat 3x10
Reverse Lunges 3x10

Friday – Pull Dominant Upper Body Day

Bent over BB row 5x5
Overhead Press4x8
Weighted pull ups 4x8
Bench Press4x8
Seated Row 3x10
Seated Shoulder Press 3x10
Single arm cable row 3x10
Decline DB Press 3x10

So while this program is not perfect (certainly no individualisation...) it does provide a good example of how we can integrate an increase in training frequency into our training program.

As a bonus, the increased use of compound exercises associated with an increase in training frequency can stimulate greater muscle growth and strength development due to further increasing the amount of load (and subsequently mechanical tension) we lift for any given week.

 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about training frequency!

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Do the Inverted Row to build strength and integrity

Majority of my training is based around compound, multi-joint exercises.

Those that provide the most bang for your buck, so to speak.

Within these, I find the inclusion of body weight exercises (such as pull ups and push ups) extremely beneficial for promoting good quality movement and enhanced trunk stability.

One bodyweight exercise that I don’t believe gets the recognition it deserves is the Inverted Row. 

The inverted row is the bodyweight equivalent of a bent over barbell row, but arguably less complex, as its easier to maintain a solid neutral spine. 

Pretty simply, you lie flat on your back and reach up to a bar (or a TRX), and pull your chest towards the bar. 

Hunter Bennett Performance, lose fat, build muscle, increase strength

 

Why the Inverted Row? 

There a few great reasons for incorporating the Inverted row into your training program; 

They require minimal equipment – no dumbbells, weights or benches are required. They can be done outside or inside any gym, and they are really easy to set up. 

They can be progressed and regressed really easily – you can either increase the height of the bar or TRX, or bend your legs to regress the exercise, or add load to progress the exercise. 

The also improve trunk stability – During the inverted row you are required to maintain a neutral spine while, as such it directly works the muscles of the trunk. Maintaining a neutral spine also requires strong glute contraction to keep a neutral pelvic position. 

They crush the upper back – As the rowing movement is fairly horizontal, the muscles of the upper back (think romboids, traps rear delts) really drive the movement. These muscles play an important role in maintaining good postural alignment (and are often missed in a lot of other exercises). 

They aren’t particularly technical – they are safe to perform, and as such can be performed to failure safely. As such, inverted rows are Ideal to incorporate into your program when training for hypertrophy 

 

Key Points 

Keep the spine neutral. Really squeeze abs and glutes to hold a tight, neutral spinal position. 

Keep the chest up tall and really drive the middle of your chest towards the bar (or TRX). 

Keep the elbows relatively close to the body. The grip is likely to be closer than that of a bench press. 

 

Programming Considerations 

These should be done on your upper body days, either before any pressing to warm up and activate the muscles around the rotator cuff / shoulder girdle. This will promote greater stability to the shoulder joint during pressing. Or at the end as a way to really fry the muscle of your upper back (for those back gainzzz). 

I typically like to aim for 2 sets of 8 (not to failure) if done at the start of a workout, or 3-4 sets of 10-12 when done at the end of a workout.

 

If you would like to contact me, fill out the form below and i will get back to you ASAP!

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Muscle Confusion is a joke - How to Actually see training results

We have heard it all before.

The suggestion that constantly changing our exercise selection is good because it either;

1) ‘confuse the muscle into growing’
or
2) ‘keeps the muscle guessing’

The thought process behind this is that by constantly changing exercises, workloads, sets, reps etc. the body cannot ‘get used’ to a specific training stimulus. And , as a direct result, we see greater muscle growth, greater increases in strength, and a greater rate of fat loss.

Funny fact.

Muscles don’t have the capacity to get ‘confused’ or make ‘guesses’. They are muscles.

They can contract, causing them to get shorter, which creates movement at a joint.

The End.

Ok so maybe not the absolute end.

BUT.

There a couple of big issues that come with trying to 'confuse' our muscles through excessive variations:

1) It doesn’t allow the central nervous system (CNS) to adapt to movements. By allowing the CNS significant time to adapt, we become stronger at those movements, which results in greater improvement in strength and hypertrophy.

2) It doesn’t involve any specificity. We normally train towards a specific goal. Whether that goal is to improve athletic performance, increase lean mass, jump higher or bench press a Mack track, it doesn’t matter. Each goal is specific, and as such needs a specific, individualized exercise plan that leads us towards that goal. By changing exercises every week we lose that specific, goal orientated, aspect of training.

muscle confusion, hunter bennett performance, strength, fat loss, muscle

 

The real way to progress.

Fortunately, there is something that we can do to ensure consistent results from our training.

Unfortunately, it isn't new or sexy, it doesn't have cool catchy name like 'muscle confusion', and it will require ACTUAL effort.

But, on a positive note, it works.

In fact it is arguably the only thing that can cause legitimate, long term change.

 

Progressive Overload.

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed on the body during exercise over time. This allows the body to gradually adapt to this increasing stress, growing bigger and stronger.

A great example of this:
step 1). Pick 1 big exercise (think deadlift) that you can perform twice per week.
Step 2). Find a weight you can lift 5 times.
Step 3). Do 5 sets of that weight.
Step 4). Once you can lift that weight for 5 sets of 5 reps, increase weight by 2.5kgs.
Step 5). Repeat step 3 and 4 again, and again, and again.

Now I realize this is a very simple example of progressive overload, and in regards to specificity, is probably only going to work towards someone’s goal of deadlifting a shit ton of weight (which is a pretty solid goal). But I can guarantee if you did this for 6 months (with the occasional deload programmed in) you would be bigger and stronger at the end of it than if you had changed exercises every week.

Now how would you apply this to a more complex goal? For example improving someone’s acceleration?

You might start using unloaded box jumps as a way to improve power, and split squats to improve single leg strength. Over time we can increase the external load added to these exercises to stimulate strength and hypertrophy (progressive overload). Once you feel the individual has ‘maxed out’ these exercises, you can then progress them to more complex exercises (for example, squat jumps and a reverse lunges). The external load used during these new exercises can be increased gradually ('progressively', even......) until we start to plateau, and then we repeat the process. Change the exercise SLIGHTLY and continue to add load. 

This way we can progressively overload an exercise that is aimed at achieving a specific goal, and we only vary an exercise when progress stalls on that specific exercise. Additionally, the exercise variation should be small (for example a split squat to a reverse lunge). This allows continual and gradual progress, as the new exercise builds on the components of the exercise that came before it.

See, it shouldn’t be confusing. It should be simple and logical (and actually produce RESULTS).

If you want to get in contact me, or are interested in training with me, please fill out the form below. 

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Sprinting for Fat Loss, Strength and Athleticism. The Ultimate Guide.

Whether you are a high level athlete, a weekend warrior or completely new to the gym, sprinting should be an integral component of your training program.

Not only is sprint speed an extremely important factor for athletic success, the act of sprinting can help promote fat loss, increase our strength, and improve our overall athleticism.

Lean, strong and athletic

Lean, strong and athletic

Sprinting for fat loss

Let’s start with how sprinting can cause fat loss, and help us maintain a high level of leanness.

Firstly, sprinting is taxing.  I mean REALLY taxing. It ultimately requires the integration of every muscle in the entire body working at near maximal capacity to sprint at (or close to) our top speed. This alone is using up a HUGE amount of energy during our sprint session.

Additionally, due to the accumulated fatigue sprinting causes we also get a significant increase our metabolic rate up to 24-48 hours after our sprint session. This rise in energy expenditure is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (or, EPOC), and can lead to serious energy use for a significant time after exercise.

These two factors are what allow sprinting to promote fat loss effectively.

A sample sprint workout aimed towards fat loss might look something like this:

-          Sprint 85% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 90% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 95% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 100m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 80m distance

-          Repeat 2 times

These workouts should be performed on upper body days, or on cardio specific days. They should NOT be performed before lower body workouts because the fatigue associated will limit your performance in the gym. On the same note, they should NOT be performed after your lower body workouts as the fatigue form the gym session will increase injury risk while sprinting.

 

Sprinting can improve our strength performance

Undertake short, non-fatiguing, sprint work after your dynamic warm up is a fantastic way to prime the nervous system before a heavy gym session.

After sprinting, you central nervous system is fired up. This improves your ability to produce force rapidly (rate of force development for you science nerds out there). By sprinting before heavy lifting our nervous system is primed to produce maximal levels of force at a rapid rate, this means that we can lift heavier and more explosively in the gym, which can lead to serious strength gains.

A sample sprint workout aimed at priming the nervous system might look something like this.

-          Sprint 75% max speed for 40m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 85% max speed for 40m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 95% max speed for 40m distance

-          90s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 40m distance

The idea here is to NOT accumulate fatigue. You should finish the sprints feeling quick and powerful, not tired and shitty.

 

Sprinting for Athletic Performance

Sprinting is a great tool to use to improve athletic performance.

Sprinting requires significant effort from the hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings) to produce force rapidly. These muscles are important for jumping, changing direction rapidly, and accelerating and decelerating, and as such, play an integral role in successful athletic performance. As sprinting can improve the ability of these muscles to produce force quickly, it can have a direct carryover to these other important movements’ as well.

Sprinting also improves our anaerobic capacity. During sprinting we are working at a speed well above lactate threshold, which requires the integration of our ATP-CP and anaerobic (or glycolytic) energy systems. By spending time where these energy systems our under significant stress, we promote physiological adaptations that improve the capacity of these energy systems. This results in an improved anaerobic work capacity, meaning we can work anaerobically for longer, and at a higher intensity!

A sample sprint workout here might look something like this:

-          Sprint 75% max speed for 40m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 85% max speed for 40m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 95% max speed for 40m distance

-          90s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 40m distance

-          Repeat ONCE more

-          Sprint 85% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 90% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 95% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 100m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 80m distance

In this scenario, we use short sprints to improve our maximal force production rate of force development, and then finish using longer sprints, which allow us to spend more time above anaerobic threshold.

 

There are some considerations.

Now, before you head out and start sprinting straight away there are a few things that you need to consider.

Firstly, if you haven’t sprinted since your last high school sports carnival 7 years ago,

Take it SLOW.

This means not exceeding 90% of your maximal speed for the first 4 weeks. This may seem excessive, but is important. Sprinting at speeds between 90 and 100% maximum speed is extremely demanding on the body, which increases risk of injury significantly. If you haven’t sprinted for a couple of years, this risk of injury becomes much, MUCH greater.

Don’t worry, HUGE benefits still occur within the 75-90% speed range. In fact, I like to keep the bulk of most people’s sprint work within this range, with occasional jumps up to 95% and 100%. This limits accumulated fatigue and associated injury risk while still maximising the benefits of sprint training.

In the same vein of thought,

Hill sprints before flat ground sprints

If we think about running mechanics for a second, a lot of people tend to get injured as they ‘over stride’. This is when the front leg extends too far in front of the body, which can result in hamstring injury. Running uphill is a great way to avoid this.

Additionally, the ground reaction forces are significantly lower as we sprint up hill, which reduces the amount of stress placed on the knee and ankle joints, reducing the risk of joint injury.

Similarly, try and keep most of your sprint work on grass or turf. Concrete, bitumen and pavement should be avoided as they are very unforgiving and create unnecessary load through the joints.

Focus on your sprint movement quality

This is an important factor to focus on that allows us to reduce soft tissue and overuse injuries. Keep the chest up tall, shoulders back and head in a neutral position. This will ensure that we are not leaning over at the hips, placing unnecessary stress on the hamstrings.

The movement should be fluid. This means nice smooth arm movement and smooth rotation of the thoracic spine. Elbows should be bent to 90 degrees and the arms shouldn’t cross the body’s midline – they should move only forward and backwards along the side of the body.

The knees should be kept high, and the foot should strike directly under the hips, NOT out in front of you.

Warm up effectively!

Lastly, make sure you warm up. And I mean warm up properly!

This means making sure we have prepare ourselves for movement by working on hip and thoracic mobility. We then need to warm up dynamically, promoting muscle activation and blood flow to the extremities. This should be followed by gradual build-ups, where we slowly build up sprint speed to our working speed of that day.

You should feel primed and ready to go before you start your sprint session. If you feel stiff and sore then you are not ready to sprint!

 

If you want to incorporate sprinting into your program but don't know where to start, or are interested in joining my coaching program,  fill out the form below.

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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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Single leg secrets. Why unilateral training may be the missing piece of your training puzzle.

I love squats and deadlifts. Like really love squats and deadlifts. You can bet that if I’m writing a program, there’s a pretty good chance it will feature a number of squat and deadlift variations.

And why shouldn’t it? They are important motor patterns, they build strength and size, can improve posture, all whilst having a direct carry over to athletic performance.

But with that in mind, I feel like we can sometimes fall into a bit of trap, and focus too much on these exercises alone. If we take a step back and a look at an individual’s goals, the inclusion of single leg exercises can often go a long way in helping achieve our desired results.

Here are a few of the main reasons why I like to include single leg work into my programs.

Hunter Bennett Performance. Single leg training, stability, athletic performance, single leg stability, unilateral training, hypertrophy, strength.


Single Leg Stability

When training one leg at a time using single leg squat or deadlift variations, there is a significantly greater stability component than when training bilaterally.

This means that the muscles around the hip (think Glute max and glute med in particular) and trunk have to work that much harder to maintain proper pelvic alignment and femur position (avoid valgus collapse of the knee).

This increased stability has the potential to carry over to everyday movements such walking up and down stairs, or stepping down from something high, as well as improving our athletic performance during sprinting, rapid changes of direction, or single leg bounding movements.

Because if we really think about, most sport specific movements (with the exception of powerlifting and olympic lifting) are performed on one leg, and developing an adequate amount of stability on one leg is only going to improve our ability to perform these movements.

Increased workout density

When doing single leg work, we effectively have to do twice the number of reps. I realise that each leg is only doing the prescribed number of reps, but in regards to the rest of the body, its working hard to maintain stability, hold heavy weights and maintain postural position for twice as long as it would during a bilateral exercise.

This means that there is going to be an increase in total work done per session, which has the potential to improve strength and hypertrophy, and also promote fat loss.

On top of that, assuming your using dumbbells as your main form of external loading, it wouldn’t be unlikely to see increased grip strength along with an increase in mass through the forearms and upper back as well.

So to summarize. More Gainzzzz.

Reduced Neural Fatigue

Large bilateral exercises use greater total load, and as such are heavily taxing on the nervous system. By reducing the amount of bilateral exercises we do, and substituting them for single leg exercises (not forever! – just occasionally, like during a deload, or a period where you’re getting considerable fatigue from life’s many stressors), we reduce total load used and therefore neural fatigue.

This is a way that we can still see improvements in lower body strength and hypertrophy, without completely running ourselves into the ground. Do something like this may be beneficial for a  4-6 week period, as a way to refresh whilst still seeing improvements in strength and size, which are likely to carryover to bilateral exercises when we start performing them more regularly again.

Awesome. So now what?

Start doing some single leg work!

I would try to include both knee dominant (think split squats, lunges and pistols) and hip dominant (single leg deadlift variations) single leg variations into your training programs 1-2 times per week to start with and just watch the awesome happen.


If you want to incorporate single leg training into your program but aren't sure where to start, see if you qualify for my coaching program here.

Can you eat too many Eggs?

This blog post comes from a place very close to my heart.

I enjoy food. A lot. And one of my favourites are eggs. But unfortunately, they have a pretty negative reputation, which has been created through misinformed, fear mongering eggophobes (look it up, its a thing).

Hunter Bennett Performance. Eggs, Strength, Protein, Fat loss, Hypertrophy

Eggs tend to get a bad rap based on the moderate amount of cholesterol they contain, and the assumption that dietary cholesterol intake directly increases blood cholesterol (which is also perceived as bad). Interestingly, our body is a pretty clever piece of machinery, and doesn’t quite work like this.

Your body actually produces cholesterol. A heap of it each day (up to 10 times of that found in an egg). And interestingly, when you consume more cholesterol (eat eggs), your body makes less of it. And vice versa. In fact, consuming more eggs has actually shown to cause increases in blood HDL (good cholesterol) with subsequent decreases in blood LDL (bad cholesterol) 

This means that the consumption of eggs won’t negatively impact blood cholesterol, and therefore doesn’t increase the risk of heart disease. Now that we hunderstand why we don’t have to avoid eggs, here is a few reasons as to why we should eat more of them.

Whole eggs are one of the most nutritious food on the planet

Eggs are nutrient dense. They are full of vitamins, minerals, good fats and a heap of other nutrients. They contain significant amounts of Vitamin A, B12, B2, B5 and selenium, with small amounts of Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Zinc, Folate and a HEAP more (all of which are in the yolk, so eat your yolks people).

Not to mention a large egg contains 5-7 grams of protein (with all 9 essential amino acids!). Seriously, one of the easiest ways to eat more protein is to eat eggs at breakfast. Breakfast Gainz.


Eggs are rich in antioxidants

Eggs are rich two important antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthine.

These antioxidants have been shown to gather in the eye and protect against various eye diseases such as Macular Degeneration and Cataracts

Improved night vision? Maybe.


Eggs are filling and have shown to aid fat loss

Eggs score fairly high on the Satiety Index, which suggests that they have the capacity to make you feel full, irrespective of their relatively low energy content. It has been seen that those who eat eggs for breakfast rather than a carbohydrate dense food such as bagels tend to eat less throughout the day.

They have also suggested to improve rate of fat loss compared to carbohydrate rich foods when eaten for breakfast, as demonstrated in an interesting study by Vander Wal (2008). In which, overweight men and women ate either eggs or bagels for breakfast for 8 weeks. The breakfast contained the SAME amount of calories. After the 8 week period the egg group had significantly greater reductions in BMI, weight loss, waist circumference, and body fat compared to the bagel group, despite both meals containing the same amount of energy.


To summarise: Eggs are boss. The next time you’re out for breakfast don’t feel guilty when ordering an 8 egg omelette, and if by some chance the waiter decides to make a snide remark about 'egg cholesterol', feel free to drop some of the knowledge bombs mentioned in this post.







References

Fernandez, Maria Luz. "Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations." Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 9.1 (2006): 8-12.

Mutungi, Gisella, et al. "Eggs distinctly modulate plasma carotenoid and lipoprotein subclasses in adult men following a carbohydrate-restricted diet."The Journal of nutritional biochemistry 21.4 (2010): 261-267.

Gale, Catharine R., et al. "Lutein and zeaxanthin status and risk of age-related macular degeneration." Investigative ophthalmology & visual science 44.6 (2003): 2461-2465.

Delcourt, Cécile, et al. "Plasma lutein and zeaxanthin and other carotenoids as modifiable risk factors for age-related maculopathy and cataract: the POLA Study." Investigative ophthalmology & visual science 47.6 (2006): 2329-2335.

Vander Wal, Jillon S., et al. "Short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects." Journal of the American College of Nutrition 24.6 (2005): 510-515.

Vander Wal, J. S., et al. "Egg breakfast enhances weight loss." International Journal of obesity 32.10 (2008): 1545-1551.

What the research tells us about Foam Rolling

Most people have a bit of a love hate relationship with their foam roller. They seem to make you feel and move better, but tend to also cause a fair bit of discomfort. In the following little post i hope to take a brief look at foam rolling, and what the recent research tells about it

Foam rolling is a type of self-myofascial release therapy (self-massage) that has been suggested to break up adhesions between layers of fascia (the connective tissue sheath that surrounds our muscle tissue). It has also been thought to reduce the neural tone of hyperactive neural receptors within the muscle tissue, and also rehydrate muscle tissue at the cellular level through the equal redistribution of fluid. And what does that mean exactly?

Pretty much all of that is thought to lead to an acute, and over time, chronic return in Range of Motion (ROM). This ROM has often been reduced by the muscle stiffness caused by heavy exercise and repeat sedentary activity in altered postural positions (AKA sitting).

Now I need to mention that this is merely a brief overview of the POTENTIAL mechanisms that have been suggested in regards to what foam rolling MAY actually do,  and this is by no means a definite description on how foam rolling works.

Hunter Bennett Performance. Foam Rolling, Foam roller, Self myofascial release, athletic performance, rehab, strength, fat loss

 

For starters, does foam rolling actually work? What the science says.

Research on foam rolling is fairly minimal, as an intervention protocol it is difficult to regulate. How could you ensure each individual undertaking the foam rolling is actually rolling the exact same spot as everyone else, applying the same amount of pressure as everyone else, and applying that pressure for exactly the same amount of time as everyone else? Exactly, you couldn't.  Despite that a couple of studies have been published looking at the effects of foam rolling on flexibility.

Foam rolling has shown to improve flexibility acutely in a number of papers (Macdonald, 2013; Button, 2014; Halperin, 2014; Jay, 2014: Grieve, 2015), in a variety of situations, suggesting that foam rolling does have the capacity to improve passive range of motion in the short term. Interestingly, one of these studies (Jay, 2014) showed increased range of motion only lasted ~10 minutes, which means you might have to use the new found ROM or you will lose it pretty quickly.

It has also shown to improve measures of ROM chronically (Ebrahim, 2013; Mohr, 2013), with as little as two weeks of consistent foam rolling required to improve chronic flexibility.

As for the practical implications of this, we could foam roll tight, restricted tissue and expect to see immediate improvements in ROM, and if which we continue to perform consistently over time, chronic improvements in ROM.

Building on this, if we incorporate foam rolling into our warmup, and then begin to move in a way that uses this ‘new found’ ROM, we create a need to maintain these seen improvements. This is  more likely to create long term changes in ROM.

An example of this would be stiff adductors limiting squat depth. By rolling our adductors we would see an increase in ROM and therefore an increase in squat depth. By proceeding to train, using this new found depth, we would begin to build stability and strength at the ‘new’ end ROM, creating a demand to maintain it. By now improving our capacity to squat deeply whilst maintaining stability through training, we become more comfortable in this position, and are able to achieve it more comfortably over time, resulting in a reduction of chronic stiffness. If we continue to foam roll consistently during this period, we are likely to further contribute to improving ROM and reduce tissue stiffness, making more permanent changes.

Anecdotally, whilst the improvements in ROM are apparent and beneficial, it is the way that people tend to feel immediately after foam rolling stiff and adhesed tissue that I think has significant benefit. Releasing restricted tissue feels good, and performing movement unrestricted feels really good. This sense of improved and unrestricted movement starts the session on a positive, and makes movement in general more enjoyable. Don’t discount the way someone feels when performing exercise, if they feel like they are moving well and enjoy it, it can go a long way to improving adherence and performance in the gym.

 

 

 

 

References.

Ebrahim, A. W., & Elghany, A. W. A. (2013). The effect of foam roller exercise and Nanoparticle in speeding of healing of sport injuries. Journal of American Science, 6, 9.

Halperin, I., Aboodarda, S. J., Button, D. C., Andersen, L. L., & Behm, D. G. (2014). Roller massager improves range of motion of plantar flexor muscles without subsequent decreases in force parameters. International journal of sports physical therapy, 9(1), 92.

Jay, K., Sundstrup, E., Søndergaard, S. D., Behm, D., Brandt, M., Særvoll, C. A., & Andersen, L. L. (2014). Specific and cross over effects of massage for muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. International journal of sports physical therapy, 9(1), 82-91.

MacDonald, G. Z., Button, D. C., Drinkwater, E. J., & Behm, D. G. (2014). Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(1), 131-142.

Mohr, A.R., Long, B.C., & Goad, C.L. (2014) Effect of foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip-flexion range of motion. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation

Grieve, R., Gooodwin, F., Alfaki, M., Bourton, A. J., Jeffries, C., & Scott, H. (2014). The immediate effect of bilateral self myofascial release on the plantar surface of the feet on hamstring and lumbar spine flexibility: A pilot randomised controlled trial. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.

Button, D. C., Bradbury-Squired, D., Noftall, J., Sullivan, K., Behm, D. G., & Power, K. (2014). Roller-Massager Application to the Quadriceps and Knee-Joint Range of Motion and Neuromuscular Efficiency During a Lunge. Journal of athletic training.