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DECK THE HALLS! – 9 Ways to Stay Fit During the Holidays…

It’s that time of year again! The holiday season is officially upon us – LET THE GLUTTONY BEGIN!  Chocolate, egg nog, cake, cookies, gravy, mashed potatoes, wine, beer, you name it – BRING. IT. ON.   Studies have shown that the average person gains 5-10lbs over the the Christmas holiday season.  This would be a pretty impressive stat if they were talking about muscle.  With busy schedules filled with corporate parties, and dinners with family and friends combined with little to no physical activity makes the body a prime fat storing facility.

The good news is the holidays don’t have to derail your training or destroy your physique.  With a few simple tips and a little bit of discipline you can avoid the holiday bulge and actually make some gains during this festive time.  What better gift could you give yourself than a stronger and leaner physique?? I can’t think of one.  Enough semantics, let’s get down to business and take this holiday season by storm. Here are 9 tips to stay fit during the holidays.

1. Keep working out – If you already go to the gym, now is definitely not the time to take a break and if you don’t there’s no better time to start. Maintaining a regular training regimen is key to keeping your metabolism revved up and maintaining that precious muscle tissue.  Programs like the Pure Payne Method can definitely help you stay on track.  Things can get hectic during the holidays but staying consistent with your training will save you a lot of headache come January.

2. Lift heavy – There’s no better way to build and preserve strength and muscle mass than to simply lift heavy shit.  Further, this will make you more efficient at burning fat and fending off all those empty holiday calories.  You can’t go wrong with the bench press, squat, and deadlift to keep your body in check.

3. Use intervals – Keep your training intensity high with intervals so you can burn more fat in less time.  This is a great way to train if pressed for time and want to get more bang for your buck.  EMOMS are an effective way to get full body workouts in 15 minutes or less!

4. Eat a healthy meal before you go out – One of the worst things you can do is show up to your company Christmas party absolutely starving.  You don’t want to be that guy with his head buried in his plate shoveling food in his face like it’s the Last Supper.  This will certainly guarantee that you will over indulge pushing you over your caloric limit.  Having a small, healthy meal before hitting the town will allow you to eat more sensibly when you arrive and curb any temptations.  Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.

5. Don’t have seconds – If you’ve followed #4 then this will be less of a problem.  Food quality is important but is meaningless without proper food QUANTITY.  9 times out of 10 having a second helping is never in your best interest.  Avoid the food coma and have ONE well balanced serving of food. That’s all your body really needs anyway.

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Even at the Last Supper there was portion control

6. Replace starches with colorful vegetables – An easy way to increase the nutrient density of your meals is to replace your starchy carbs with more colorful veggies. For example, replace mashed potatoes and gravy with a garden salad with a vinaigrette dressing on the side or replace pasta with steamed broccoli and bell peppers.  More nutrients, less bloating. Everybody wins.

7. Mix alcohol with soda or water – If you’re gonna drink, which you probably will, then reduce the damage by mixing your drinks with soda or water. This reduces your sugar intake which reduces the consumption of empty calories and the severity of hangovers.  Having less drinks overall will probably help the cause too.

8. Have only one dessert – If there was ever a time to demonstrate some self control, it would be at the dessert table.  Pick your favorite one, have a small piece and step away from the table. FOREVER.  Like I mentioned in #7, sugar will sabotage all of your hard work and effort in the gym.

9. Stay hydrated – an easy way to curb your appetite and suppress cravings is to simply stay hydrated.  Staying hydrated will help you to snack less and regulate your blood sugar levels. Keep a water bottle with you and sip periodically throughout the day.

A little common sense, discipline, and moderation will get you through the holidays unscathed.  This year is your chance to be in the small percentage of people that actually get FITTER in the month of December.  Make every meal and workout count this month and you’ll be laughing in New Year.

What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to nutrition? Drop a comment below! Don’t forget to subscribe below to get The Pure Payne Method and other great articles FREE!

 

 

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5 Quick Fixes to Improve Your Back Squat…

When it comes to training, it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or if you’ve been pushin’ weight for 20 years; you can never stray too far from the basics.  Exercises like the bench press and the deadlift should always be in the rotation.  There’s another big lift  you can always count on, “old reliable”, “the godfather”, I’m talkin’ about the back squat.  Like the saying goes “when in doubt, SQUAT.”  I’m not sure if that’s an actual saying or just something I like to say but it sounds pretty good to me!

Just like a house that stands on a solid foundation, the back squat is fundamental to a good strength and conditioning program.  The benefits are countless: lower body strength development, lower body muscular development, athletic development, core strength, and a faster metabolism to name just a few.

As important as the back squat is, it’s value is in direct proportion to the ability to perform it correctly.  In other words, if you can’t squat you ain’t doing squat.  That’s a lot of squats in one sentence.  There are a few key things to keep in mind in order to get the most out of this exercise.  Let’s take a look at some quick and simple fixes to get the most out of this exercise.

1. Keep your shoulder blades pinched – It’s important to keep your shoulder blades “pinched” together while holding the barbell.  This provides more support for the barbell and prevents unnecessary rounding of the back throughout the movement.

2. Break at the knees first – The squat is initiated by bending the knees first THEN pushing the hips down and back.  If you try to  break at the hips first, there will be a tendency for excess forward lean at the torso. Keeping a relatively upright torso will take stress of the back and onto the legs where you want it.

3. Turn your feet and knees out slightly – By rotating your feet and knees out in an “11” and “1” formation will allow your hips to descend more freely making it easier to reach full depth. Also, if you have poor ankle mobility, this make it easier to squat without your heels coming off the floor.

4. Push your knees out – With your feet turned out, it’s important to remember to push your knees out both on the way down and the way up.  This will prevent the knees from coming to far over the toes and maintain tension on the hips rather than the knees.

5. Maintain neutral spine at the bottom – Ideally, you want to be able to squat below parallel but only if your strength and mobility allow you to.  If your lower back is rounding at the bottom, you’ve gone too deep and adding stress to your lower back.  Squat as deep as you can with the best form you can.

Not enough good things can said about the squat but training smart and staying pain free are critical to your success. Keep these tips in mind the next time you get under bar.

The video below illustrates some of the key points to squatting effectively.  Check it out.

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Are there any other exercises you struggle with? If so, drop a comment below! Don’t forget to subscribe below to get more great articles!

 

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My 10 Favourite Rep Schemes that ALWAYS Deliver!!

The internet has been a gift and a curse.  Information has never traveled faster.  Also, the amount of information that is available to us is downright overwhelming.  I’ve found this to lead to paralysis by analysis.  As someone who enjoys acquiring new and useful tidbits, I’m often overstimulated by the simplest of Google searches.   For example, the other day I was looking for a new restaurant to try out only to find myself completely glazed over by how many choices there were.  In the end, I just picked a place that I was familiar simply because it was too stressful to make a decision.  The fitness game is no different.  With so many experts and so many philosophies on how to get results, it’s easy to find yourself confused about what the “right” program is.  How reps/sets should I do? How much rest should I take? Is 12 weeks too long? The reality is, MOST programs are good as long as you stick to them and put in your best effort.  Now when I say MOST programs, I’m referring to the ones that incorporate proper progression, intensity, and good use of the big lifts.  As you know, I’m a big believer in the big lifts serving as the foundation of ANY effective strength and conditioning program.

In the 14 years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen and tried a lot of different things.  I can say without a shadow of a doubt that there are definitely some tried and true rep schemes that will always deliver.  If your goal is to increase strength, muscle mass, or overall work capacity, these rep schemes will never get old. In no particular order, here they are:

1. 5×5 –  A classic strength building rep scheme that never disappoints.  Bench, squat, deadlift, it doesn’t matter.  Pick one challenging weight for all 5 sets or slowly increase to your heaviest 5.  Either way, if you hit it hard, you’re gonna get strong.

2. 5/3/1Jim Wendler is world famous for bringing this rep scheme to the masses.  A simple but effective progressive overload scheme that works for lifters of all levels.  If you’re pressed for time, give 5/3/1 a try.

3. 10/5/5/5/10 – This is one I use with my clients a lot.  I like to sandwich the heavy sets with higher rep sets.  The first set of 10 is to ensure proper warm up prior to hitting the heavy sets and the last set of 10 is aimed at muscular endurance after they have been pre-exhausted from the heavy sets.  That last sets of 10 can be quite deceptive after some heavier loading.

4. 9/6/3/6/9 – Inspired by old school bodybuilding, this pyramid scheme is a great strength and muscle builder.  Essentially,  a “light/medium/heavy/medium/light” scheme that can be very challenging with the right loading (i.e. 70%/80%/90%/80%/70%).

5. 21/15/9 –  If you’re a Crossfitter and you’re reading this, I don’t need to say anything more.  This is arguably one of the most potent rep schemes in when performed at high intensity.  “Fran”, a classic Crossfit workout, comprised of thrusters and pullups paired together and performed with this rep scheme will have you begging for mercy in 5 minutes or less! Again, simple but very effective.

6.  3/6/9/12/15/etc. – Another great rep scheme courtesy of Crossfit.  Set a clock for a desired amount of time (i.e 8mins), pick two movements (i.e. deadlifts and burpees) and perform the designated reps for each movement climbing the ladder as high as you can within the time limit.  A beautiful blend of strength and conditioning. If you want something quick and dirty, I highly recommend this one!

7. 10/15/20/25/30 – That’s code for 100 reps.  This high volume rep scheme is great for conditioning and bodyweight (i.e pushups, pullups, situps) movements. Pick an exercise and follow that rep scheme with a 60-90sec break between sets of  pair it with a heavy barbell movement and you have yourself quite a meaty workout!

8.  30 – A somewhat random and very open ended number but can be quite potent depending how you approach it.  For example, you can pick an exercise and weight and do 30 reps at that weight. You can pick a weight that you can try to do unbroken reps or heavier loads and get 30 reps done in the least amount of sets possible.  You also have the option of doing 30 reps for time which can be quite devastating.  Any way you slice it, 30 is great!

9. Max reps – This requires a little more mental fortitude but if you can endure a little suffering it will be well worth it.  Pick a weight and do as many reps as you can unbroken or as many reps as you can in a certain amount of time.  All aboard, lactic acid city here we come!!

10. Every minute on the minute (EMOM) –  Although not a specific rep scheme,  this form of interval training is great for building muscular endurance and work capacity.  Generally, whatever exercise you choose, your reps shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds to complete leaving you with a least 30 seconds rest prior to the next interval.  8-20 minutes of this type of training and you’ll get one kickass workout!

The world of strength and conditioning is constantly evolving but as much as things change they also stay the same.  As long as you attack your workouts and step out of your comfort zone from time to time, the rep scheme you use is simply a formality.  Don’t sit on the sidelines trying to find the perfect program; get in the trenches and start doing work!

P.S. When you train with me, you’ll get workouts that use these highly effective rep schemes and a lot more!

Apply to train with me below.

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5 Quick Fixes to Improve Your Deadlift…

There is something very gratifying about lifting heavy things.  It satisfies a carnal instinct to be in control and exude power.  One of the best ways to demonstrate this is with the deadlift.  I’ll be first to say that a training program without deadlifts is like a cheeseburger with no ketchup – it’s alright but with a little fine tuning it can be PHENOMENAL.  The bench press and the squat pack a punch but being the biggest of the big lifts, the deadlift has tremendous benefits that can’t be denied.  Grip strength, glute/hamstring strength,  and upper back strength – yes UPPER BACK are just a few of the benefits of this great exercise. If a deadlift was food, it would be broccoli.  Raw broccoli – not the stir fry stuff that’s drenched in soy and teriyaki sauce.  Like any exercise though, in order to reap the benefits, it must be executed with proper technique.  For that reason, the deadlift can sometimes get a bad rep due to crappy lifting form leading to injury.  Here are a few tips to make this lift both safe and effective.

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The 7 Habits of Highly Fit People…

We are all creatures of habit in some way, shape, or form.  I enjoy a cup of black coffee every morning while I check my email and prepare for my day ahead. As well, my afternoon naps are a definite must to get me through the day.  Our daily routines are what shape and mold us into what are.  In Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he outlines 7 key habits that a vast majority of successful people share.  These traits were found to help people become successful in business and in everyday life.  Similarly, there are habits that are shared by those that are killin’ it at the gym and getting great results.  Here are 7 habits of highly fit people, see how many of these are a part of your repertoire.

1. Journal your workouts – It has been said that those who keep journals of their daily activities and write down their goals are more likely to be successful than those who don’t.  Keeping a journal of your training helps keep you accountable and allows you to better track your progress.  Making note of little things like you’re energy levels  during your workouts or any aches and pains you may have had that day can provide a lot feedback for future workouts.

2. Post workout nutrition – We all know how important nutrition is to training – at least I think we all know. Making sure to get adequate protein and carbohydrate intake after a workout is important for recovery and replenishment of nutrients.  It does you no good to break your body down during training if you aren’t refueling it properly to rebuild and repair.  Get a shake or some high quality food in you within 60 minutes of training – PERIOD!

3. Sleep – With our lives becoming more hectic, sleep is becoming more and more of a limited resource.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that our body still needs it.  In order to get the most out of your workouts and recover efficiently our bodies need sleep and lots of it – I’m talking 7-9 hours a day.  This will help regulate your cortisol (stress hormone that prevents your body from burning fat)  levels and rejuvenate your nervous system.  If you don’t want to be slob, get to bed earlier and try to increase the quality of your sleep.

4. Intensity – This could be one of the most neglected habits of 98% of gym goers.  I’d like to thank Crossfit for not only defining what intensity is but also getting people to work harder than they ever thought possible.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, showing up is only the FIRST step to making gains.  Ask anyone who is in great shape and they’ll tell you that you’ve got to go hard if you want to go to the next level.  As they saying goes “everything you want lies just outside of your comfort zone” including that 6 pack and 500lb deadlift.

5. Consistency – Doing something right is good. Doing something right OVER AND OVER AGAIN leads to greatness.  The biggest, strongest, and fittest all put in time and lots of it.  They say it takes 10,000 hours to become and expert at something and building a body that looks and performs well is no exception.  Guys like Matt Chan, Jason Khalipa, and Dan Bailey (all pictured above) didn’t just wake up one day with physiques like that.  What you’re looking at is the cumulative effect of putting in solid work day in and day out.  Take each workout one day at a time and remember – the journey is the reward.

6. Mobility/Active Recovery Days – When you’re putting your body to the test on a regular basis, it’s important to take a step back and focus on the less glamorous things every once in a while.  Stretching, foam rolling, massage, chiropractic are examples of ways to keep the body supple and revving on all cylinders.  Deloading and  low intensity conditioning are also great ways to restore the body.  The better you get at the big things, the more the little things matter.

7. Train your weaknesses AT LEAST once/week – One of my favorite athletes of all time, Michael Jordan, came into the NBA demonstrating superior scoring ability. That wasn’t enough for him. In 1988, after a couple of seasons under his belt , he went on to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.  He also won the MVP award that year, making him the first player in history to win both awards in the same season.  That’s what I call turning your weaknesses into strengths!  Now, for the rest of us mortals, if your list of weaknesses is too long  just keep training and take it one workout at a time.  For the more advanced lifters, take the time to balance out any deficiencies at least once per week.  If you’re conditioning sucks, do some more interval training, if your overhead strength is lacking, work your shoulder presses and push presses. Whatever the case may be, don’t shy away from weaknesses and maybe one day you can walk with the athletic gods too.

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The late, great Aristotle once said ” we are what we repeatedly do, excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”  I’m pretty sure he was talking about jacking weights when he said that too.  Regardless, the take home message is great habits lead to great results.  If you aren’t already practicing these habits, step your game up and start now!

Are there exercises that you struggle with? Let me know and drop a comment below!

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