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1 Exercise that will Solve All Your Problems…

Don’t misinterpret the headline, this article isn’t about an exercise that’s going to reduce unemployment rates, pay your mortgage and put your kids through college.

However, it is about how you can build strength, improve your conditioning and get an awesome workout with very little time or equipment.

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5 Ways to Improve Your Conditioning!

I’ve never been a huge fan of the word cardio.  Not because I don’t like cardio but more so because of the stigma attached to it.

When I hear the word cardio, I automatically think of people sitting on a recumbant bike pedaling away while reading the latest issue of People magazine.

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The Great Debate: Russian vs. American Swings

I find the fitness industry so ridiculous sometimes it’s comical.

It doesn’t matter where you turn, there is some kind of controversy or drama.  It’s can be more cliquey than high school sometimes, I swear.

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Fitness Finishers: 7 Lethal Finishers to Get You Shredded!

Growing up, I was a big wrestling fan, I mean huge!  Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, you name it and I was all about it.  I lived to see all of my favorite stars go head to head and beat the snot out of each other (yes, I knew it was fake even back then).  But, what I loved most was watching the way these guys would end their matches.  There was always something to look forward to, a special move that would leave their opponent out for the count – a FINISHER.

This was something that always made the matches exciting and gave everyone something to look forward to.  It was what made each wrestler unique and notorious all at the same time.

You’re probably thinking “what does all this have to do with fitness?”  Two reasons actually.  First, I just really liked wrestling as a kid and I thought I’d make that mainstream information.  Second, the most electrifying and devastating part of a well programmed workout is also known as a finisher.

RandySavageHulkHogan

wrestling sure was good back in the day!

Depending on who you talk to, the finisher may be the most dreaded or the most welcomed portion of a workout. There are a few characteristics that make a finisher truly effective:

  • Highly metabolic – your conditioning is definitely put to the test
  • Includes a variety of compound movements – the more muscles working the better
  • 5-15 minutes long – long enough to do damage but not so long that intensity is compromised
  • You’re spent – it’s called a finisher for a reason

The primary objective of any good finisher is to:

  • Increase metabolic conditioning – both aerobic and anaerobic systems will be targeted
  • Burn more fat in less time – higher intensity yields greater fat burning potential
  • Preserve muscle mass – compound movements help to maintain lean muscle
  • Make workouts more challenging and exciting – beats sitting on a treadmill for an hour

The sky’s the limit when it comes to putting together killer finishers.  The key things to keep in mind are your current fitness level, exercise selection, and how much you’re willing to suffer!  It should go without saying that intensity is definitely the name of the game here.

Over the years, I’ve definitely put myself as well as others through some pretty epic workouts.  However, there are a few spicy ones that come to mind.  Here are 7 finishers that will hopefully one day go down in the hall of fame.

1. “Death by burpees” – Anytime you hear the words “death by” you should be afraid….. very afraid.   The “death by” rep scheme is where you perform 1 rep of an exercise, the next minute you do 2 reps and you keep adding one rep every minute until you cannot complete the full rep count within the minute.  It gets intense pretty fast but makes for a great conditioning workout.  Your workout would look like this:

1st minute – 1 burpee

2nd minute – 2 burpees

3rd minute – 3 burpees

4th minute – 4 burpees

etc. until failure.

A good goal would be to get to 15 minutes or more.  Burpees….Never leave home without them.

2.  Thrusters – The thruster is likely the most feared barbell exercise.  It’s potency is not to be underestimated.  This full body exercise will get your heart pumping and send your metabolism into overdrive in no time! Your thruster workout will look like this:

Every minute on the minute for 8 minutes: perform 8 thrusters.

Start on the minute and perform 8 thrusters. The time remaining in the minute is your rest. Repeat for 8 minutes – 64 reps total).

Use a moderate weight that will allow you to complete all the reps in the allotted time.

Sounds simple enough, but the short rest periods will catch up to you pretty fast leaving you gasping for air and drenched in sweat in a mere 8 minutes!

3. Row 100 calories for time – Rowing sucks.  But it delivers one hell of a workout.

Fellas aim for 5 minutes or less.

Ladies aim for 6:20 or less.

Things to remember:

  • Maintain long and powerful strokes.
  • Don’t go out too hard from the start.
  • Keep your breathing controlled.
  • Try keep a consistent pace.
  • Save some gas for the final 20 calories.

3.  Wall/balls and double unders – These two exercises were made popular by Crossfit and for good reason – they will humble even the biggest and strongest specimens on the planet.  The combination of throwing a medicine ball to a 10ft target paired with a high skill conditioning exercise like double unders will serve up an extra large can of whoop ass! Your workout will look like this:

In 10 minutes, complete as many rounds and reps of:

1a. 15 wall/balls

1b. 30 double unders

(men use a 20lb ball/women use a 14lb ball)

Aim for 6 full rounds or more.

Things to remember:

  • Try to keep a steady pace for the entire 10 minutes.
  • Break up the wall/balls early to prevent “redlining” and taking too many long breaks.
  • Stay relaxed and don’t get too frantic with your double unders.

Wallballs

Tombstone_Piledriver

not sure what’s worse, wall/balls and double unders or a tombstone piledriver

4.  Box jumps and pushups – These are two great body weight exercises that make for an effective full body workout.  Your workout will look like this:

1a.  Box jumps 21/18/15/12/9/6/3

1b.  Pushups    21/18/15/12/9/6/3

You can approach this workout in 2 ways:

  1. Try to keep all sets of pushups and box jumps unbroken and rest 45-60 seconds between sets (rest only after you’ve completed a set of box jumps and pushups).
  2.  Complete the entire rep scheme as fast as possible.

The first option may be better for beginner to intermediate lifters and the second option will definitely challenge advanced lifters.  Either way, you’re gonna get a fantastic workout.

5.  Dumbell snatches and split jumps –  All you need is a dumbell and some heart for this little ditty.  Your workout will look like this:

1a.  Dumbell snatch 5ea/6ea/7ea/8ea/9ea/10ea arm

1b.  Split jumps 5ea/6ea/7ea/8ea/9ea/10ea leg

Again, you can either do unbroken sets with short rest periods (45-60secs) or complete the entire rep scheme as fast as possible.  Choose a weight for the dumbell snatch that is challenging to do 5-6 reps with and use that weight for the entire workout.

dumbbell-snatch-25-of-your-body-weight

sometimes a single dumbbell is more than enough…

Things to remember:

  • Make sure you get full range of motion with your split jumps (back knee touches the ground and full extension of knees and hips in the air).
  • Make sure you get full range of motion with your dumbell snatches (dumbell touches the ground at the bottom and arm and legs fully extended at the top).

6. Clean and Jerk/Back Squat Complex – There’s nothing like a good barbell complex to put hair on your chest (or give you that bikini body if you’re a lady).  Disputably the most effective way to burn calories and hence burn fat, barbell complexes are must if you’re looking to get shredded.  Your workout will look like this:

1a.  Clean and jerk 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8

1b.  Back Squats     1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8

Use the same weight for both the clean and jerk and the back squat.  The limiting factor in this workout will be the clean and jerk so use a weight that you can clean and jerk comfortably 4-5 times.

Try to perform unbroken sets with short rest periods (45-60secs) or complete the entire rep scheme as fast as possible.  Get ready to sweat, this one’s gonna cook.

7.  Kettlebell swings and stairs – Nothing fancy here, just good old fashioned work.  Sometimes keeping it simple is the most effective way to go.  Your workout will look like this:

1a.  Stairs              3/4/5/4/3

1b.  KB Swings 15/15/15/15/15

Fellas try a 24kg kettlebell.

Ladies try a 16kg kettlebell.

Depending on your fitness level and mobility, you can either use the Russian or American swing.  For the more advanced lifter with no injuries, you can use the American swing. For beginners or anyone with shoulder or lower back issues, the Russian swing will be a safer option.

Annie-Thorsdottir-KB-Swing

the American swing definitely packs a punch!

Try to perform unbroken sets with short rest periods (45-60secs) or complete the entire rep scheme as fast as possible.

If you don’t have access to a staircase, you can do shuttle runs instead (i.e. 50/75/100/75/50 meter shuttle runs).

We all want to get the best results in the least amount of time possible but unfortunately that means you’re going to have to endure a little pain and suffering to get there.  It’ll be all worth it when you have herculean strength and a body that would have given the Ultimate Warrior a run for his money.

ultimate-warrior-2

rest in peace Warrior!

What other exercises do you like to use for finishers? Drop a comment below!

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40 Nutrition Tips for Optimal Health and Performance..

Training to become the best possible version of yourself requires time, dedication, persistence, and just plain hard work.  To get the most out of your training, regardless of your goals, you need to get a stronghold on your nutrition.  That doesn’t mean you need to be a Nazi and never indulge in anything outside of mineral water and steamed broccoli,  but you certainly have to demonstrate some discipline and recognize the red flags when they’re placed right in front of you at the dinner table.

Nutrition can sometimes be like a chess game with its complexity, numerous choices, and the need to constantly adjust according to your current situation.  However, with experience comes wisdom.  Just like a savvy chess player, you learn what moves set you up for the greatest chances of success, you make fewer mistakes, and you start to win most of your battles.

To simplify the nutrition game, make more sensible choices, and get better results out of your training, I’ve laid out some tips that I apply to my daily routine as well as others that I’ve learned through years of research.

Let’s take a look at nutrition tips for optimal health and performance:

1.”When it comes to fat loss,  genetics may somewhat ‘load the gun’ but you don’t have to pull the trigger and reload it twice.” I love this quote.  Don’t use bad genetics as an excuse to eat poorly and not make an honest effort to get in shape.  The power to transform your body is in your hands, the question is how bad do you want it?

2. Never be hungry, never be full – Somewhere in the middle is just right.  When your body is in a comfortably fed state, your blood sugar levels don’t spike causing you to store excess fat nor do they plummet causing you too burn valuable muscle for energy.  Think of it this way, when you’re stuffed after a big meal how do you feel? When you’re starving because you haven’t eaten in over 6 hours how do you feel? Neither is a good feeling.  Aim to feel good all the time.

3. If it’s comes in a box or a can it’s not worth eating – Man has created many marvelous things to improve our lives, unfortunately food is not one of them.  Most foods that come in a box or can are highly processed and contain very little real food.  Stick to fresh, whole foods as much as you can. This gives a whole new meaning to “keeping it real.”

4.  “All You Can Eat” is a bad idea – Buffets provide great value but you are pretty much guaranteed to go overboard on your portions.  Especially for those trying to lose fat, this is the last place you want to be.  “All You Can Eat” might be light on the wallet but heavy on the waistline.

5.  Don’t fear fat – There’s a lot of misunderstanding surrounding fat in the diet.  Your body needs both saturated and unsaturated fats to function optimally.  Healthy sources include eggs, fish, avacados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, and lean meats.   The key is to keep your fat intake in the right proportions relative to your protein and carbs.  Depending on your goals, fat should be make up 25-30% of your total intake.

6. Replace your starches with more colorful veggies – With the exception of sweet potatoes and yams, you want to moderate your consumption of starchy carbs especially if you are trying to lose fat.  Colorful vegetables are more nutrient dense and cause less inflammation and bloating than refined starches like bread, pastas, and other grains. As long as you consume adequate protein, you can still build and preserve muscle without a lot of starch.

7.  Don’t drink your calories – It’s pretty easy to start the day with a latte with whip cream followed by a soda or fruit juice to go with your afternoon snack.  These empty calories add up quick and before you know it, you’ve consumed an extra 750-1000 calories and you’ve got nothing to show for it except 2 extra inches around your waist.  Stick to water, dilute your fruit juices if you drink them, and remove all pop including the diet stuff (which is probably more poisonous).

SFS-007-WPS-PST-00862-26-0starbucks

the calories add up faster than you think!

8. Cut out sugar – There’s not a whole lot more to say about this other than sugar is public enemy #1.  With the exception of fresh fruit, you want to avoid processed and refined sugar as much as you can.

9.  Avoid gluten if it affects you – There’s a lot of buzz surrounding gluten these days but it only needs to be avoided if you have an intolerance to it.  For the rest of you, consume moderately and get on with your life.

10. Gluten Free isn’t always healthier – To further elaborate on #9, unless it never had gluten to begin with, like meat and vegetables, then that food is most likely processed and contains minimal nutritional value anyway.

11.  Keep your carb intake highest around training – The body best utilizes carbohydrates during intense workouts and post workout.  This means it’s OK to consume carbs prior to training to make sure you’re fueled properly and fast acting carbs should be consumed post workout to replenish glycogen stores and maximize recovery.

12. Drink more water – Most of us are far too dehydrated which impairs our ability to function and perform in the gym. Start the day by drinking 300-500ml of water.  Depending on your activity level, muscle mass, and water content of the foods you eat will determine how much water you need each day.

13.  Learn how to cook – Eating meals prepared at home will be far healthier than eating out at restaurants.  There are lots of quick and simple recipes that you can use to make healthy meals that actually taste good! For quick and easy recipes click here.

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Robert Irvine knows his way around the kitchen and the gym!

14. Shop the perimeter – It’s safe to say that 75-80% of the foods in the grocery store aren’t designed for human consumption.  Sure they taste great but that doesn’t negate the fact that they’re highly processed and put you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and any other diseases that haven’t been named yet.  The perimeter of the grocery store is where all of the fresh produce and lean meats are found and this should be where you spend most of your time.

15. Prepare meals in advance – “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  Having your meals prepared at least a couple days in advance is the best way to avoid impulse eating.  If you work long hours, having  dinners prepared in advance saves time and reduces the likelihood of ordering greasy takeout.  Packing healthy lunches will save you a few trips to the drive thru as well.

16. Eat enough protein to support muscle mass – There will always be a debate about low carb and low fat diets but no one ever got great results on a low protein diet. Whether you’re training to get leaner or to build muscle, you need to keep your protein intake in check to support the cause.  At least 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight will be sufficient.

arnoldschwarzenegger2

Arnold definitely ate enough protein

17.  Take a greens supplement – Although I’m not a huge advocate of supplements without a balanced diet first, a greens supplement can provide a lot of nutrients to improve energy and gut health.  Start the day with a tall glass of water with some greens.  Who knows, before you know it, you’ll be a morning person.

18.  Supplement only what you can’t get from real food – As mentioned in #16, supplements should be taken when the rest of the diet is in order.  There’s no point in drinking 3 protein shakes a day if you’re pounding potato chips and Pepsi between meals.  Having said that, it can be tough sometimes to always get in enough nutrients from food so supplementing can help to make up the difference.  Don’t get too caught up in buying the “latest and greatest” products, you can’t lose with real food.

19.  Eat Breakfast – There is some debate nowadays about the importance of breakfast but I can say confidently that it has been the most important meal of the day for me.  A high protein breakfast with healthy fats provides you with loads of nutrients to start the day plus you are more likely to eat healthy throughout the day if your first meal is healthy.  Scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions and a side of sliced bell peppers is how I like to get things started.

20. Eat the whole egg but skip the toast – The nutrients the egg yolk provides far outweighs anything you get from 2 pieces of refined toast.  Try a side of avocado or raw veggies instead.

21.  Never leave home without a healthy snack – Like your wallet or cell phone, you should always carry a healthy snack with you.  A piece of fruit or some mixed nuts are easy ways to tie you over until your next meal.  The last thing you want to do is starve then binge on comfort foods.

22.  Avoid dairy – What I like to refer to as “the unnecessary evil.”  Don’t be fooled, there’s nothing in a glass of milk you can’t get from less inflammatory foods.  Again, if you’re trying to lose fat, this is a high calorie food group you can do without.

gotmilk

so right yet so wrong all at the same time..

23. Avoid grains – Speaking of inflammation, grains are a primary culprit.  Bloating, allergies, and lethargy are just a few things to look forward to.  With the exception of steel cut oats and wild rice, there isn’t a lot of value in these foods.

24.  Avoid artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols – Found in a lot of “diet” foods and drinks, these are deceptive chemicals that the body doesn’t really like.  Try to get most of your sugar from fresh fruit. If you want to sweeten things up try stevia.

25.  Breakfast cereal is fast food – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day when it’s not a bowl of Count Chocula.

chocula

I guess I can thank my mom for never letting me have this as a kid

26.  Everything in moderation – If 90% of your eating habits are favorable then you can afford to indulge from time to time in the things you enjoy.  The further away your are from your goals the more strict you have to be.  Don’t always use junk food as way to reward yourself.  Looking better, feeling better, and performing better are the rewards.

27. Eat more raw veggies – Cooking food kills a lot of the nutrients so try to get a good dose of raw veggies on a regular basis.

28.  Eat more locally grown foods – The next best thing to growing it yourself is to eat from a local farm.  The fresher and less preserved the better.

29. Paleo isn’t perfect but it’s a great start – There is no perfect diet for everyone but the Paleo diet sends people in the right direction.  Less processed foods, more lean meats and vegetables and no sugar.  For the majority of the general public, I’d say that’s a great start.

30.  Use more spices and herbs instead of sauces – Cooking with herbs and spices like pepper, basil, garlic and tumeric provide lots of flavor without the preservatives and empty calories of bbq, teriyaki, and soy sauces.

31.  Black coffee and green tea are great engine starters – Jumpstart your metabolism, burn more fat, and have more energy for your workouts with coffee or green tea.  Nix the cream and sugar though.

32.  Avoid seed and vegetable oils – Seed and vegetable oils are highly processed and are high in omega 6 fatty acids which can lead to a number of health issues.  Stick to olive, coconut, and palm oils for cooking and dressing foods.

33. Avoid trans fats – Another highly processed fat that will do nothing for you except increase your risk of cancer.  Instead of margarine, use grass fed butter or ghee.

34.  Bulletproof your coffee only if your diet is bulletproof – Bulletproof coffee is as trendy as a foot long hipster beard.  That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing (the beard or the coffee).  You have to keep in mind that bulletproof coffee is high in calories (400-450cals) and provides very little nutrients other than fat.  It may keep you full longer but unless you are eating a lot of high quality foods the rest of the day you may be sabotaging your gains.  The safer route would be black coffee and a protein rich breakfast.

bulletproof-butter-coffee

cover-sparta

it’s debatable which is trendier..

35.  Bacon is Paleo but that doesn’t mean it should go on everything – Bacon gets a lot of love since it qualifies as Paleo.  This is another example of how the majority of food you eat must be high quality if bacon is going to make the cut.  High fat, high sodium, and filled with nitrates, bacon should be consumed sparingly.  You don’t need to have it with your eggs, on your burger, in your cookies, AND in your salad.

bacon-wrapped-turkey

HONESTLY??!!

36.  Focus on food quality rather than counting calories – Not all calories are created equal.  Just like not all exercise is created equal, the type of calories you consume are just as important as how many calories you consume.  100 calories from a bag of potato chips will be metabolized far differently than 100 calories from a sweet potato.  Learn and understand the types of foods that give you the best bang for your nutrient buck. Eat more of those foods and less shitty foods and you’ll never have to count calories again.  Does a stalk of broccoli have a food label on it? How about a bunch of bananas?  There’s a reason why whole foods require less scrutiny than fruit juices, low fat granola bars, and frozen yogurt.

37.  “Diet” and “Low Fat” aren’t healthier – When a food has been modified to reduce calories or fat it generally means that it has been replaced with artificial sweeteners or refined sugar to make up the difference.  You’re better off eating a smaller portion of the real stuff since it will wreak less havoc on your metabolism.

38. Speed and nutritional value are inversely related – With the exception of raw fruits and veggies, the faster it can be prepared the less nutritional value it has.  What takes longer, baking a piece of cod in the oven or deep frying it? Making a bowl of Wheaties or scrambled eggs with a side of spinach salad? The “slow food” industry is a niche market reserved for the patient and disciplined.  Another example of the tortoise and the hare perhaps?

Michael-Jordan-Wheaties-Box

Sorry Mike, I DID NOT have my Wheaties this morning!

39. Avoid high fructose corn syrup – High fructose corn syrup is like the Justin Bieber of food. It’s toxic, annoying as hell and it’s everywhere!

MV5BMTgzMDI2MTYxOV5BMl5Bbieber

Be careful, be very careful…

40.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – Don’t get too caught up in trends and fads if you are getting the results you want with your current eating habits.  Some of you might be eating more carbs than fats and vice versa and that’s totally fine IF IT’S WORKING!  Having said that, if you aren’t getting stronger, building muscle, getting leaner, or even feeling better then to put it mildly “your shit is broken!”  Take a step back and make small tweaks until you are headed in the right direction.

Hopefully these words of wisdom will help you take one step closer to reaching your goals.

If you haven’t already, subscribe below to download a copy of The Special Nutrition Report. It’s FREE so why not!

 

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The Fitness Bucket List: 16 Must-Reach Milestones for the Die Hard Gym Rat!

If you’re competitive and have spent a fair amount of time under the bar then you’ve probably made some notable accomplishments.  Maybe you’ve dropped a waist size, maybe you can finally do a chin-up, or maybe you’ve managed to get to the gym consistently for 3 months straight.

These are all things to be proud of and definitely deserve a pat on the back.  However, I want to take it one step further and look at some SERIOUS feats that only the truly committed could ever achieve. Lifetime accomplishments if you will.

This is for the die hard gym rat, the intermediate to advanced lifter, or someone that simply lives and breathes fitness.  This is for the top 10% that eat clean, train hard, and can bend a barbell just by looking at it!

Now, you’re certainly not going to win any powerlifting competitions or the Crossfit Games with any of these feats but you can certainly consider yourself an accomplished and fit individual. You’ll definitely be on another level compared to most of the people at your gym.

We are going to look at 4 major performance categories: barbell strength, bodyweight strength, conditioning, and body composition.

This is for that 10% that eat clean and can bend a barbell just by looking at it! Click To Tweet

Barbell Strength – Will measure how strong you are in some of the major barbell lifts in absolute terms and relative to your bodyweight.

Bodyweight strength – Also known as relative strength, will measure your strength in the major bodyweight exercises.

Conditioning – Will measure both your aerobic and anaerobic conditioning with various training modalities.

Body composition – Measured as body fat percentage. Looking good takes hard work and discipline too!

The objective is to reach all of these milestones before you retire your jersey and hang it in the rafters.  Ideally, you will have the ability to hit all of these benchmarks at any given time.  See how you size up.

Here are 16 fitness milestones for the die hard gym rat:

Barbell Milestones:

1. Bench press – 315lbs or 1.5x body weight for men/ 135lbs 0r body weight for women

315bench

2. Back squat – 365lbs or 2x body weight for men/ 205lbs or 1.5x body weight for women

365Back-Squat

3. Deadlift – 455lbs or 2.5x body weight for men/275lbs or 2x body weight for women

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gotta love that “deadlift face”

4. Overhead squat – 185lbs or body weight for men/120lbs or .75x body weight for women

ohsquat1

5. Clean – 275lbs or 1.5x body weight/ 165lbs or body weight for women

6. Standing Shoulder Press – 165lbs or .75-.8x body weight for men/85lbs or .65-.7x body weight for women

A 315lb bench press is probably the gold standard as far as bench press is concerned.   If you’re really scrawny (i.e. less than 180lbs) then 315 probably isn’t in the cards for you.  However, 1.5x bodyweight is fantastic nonetheless.  When it comes to the deadlift, once you cross over that 400lb mark that shit is just straight up heavy!  Kudos to you if you can pull 455.

The overhead squat will possibly pose the most problems for most if you have any shoulder mobility/stability issues whatsoever.  It’s arguably the least trained barbell exercise as well.  The clean is also a movement that takes some time to master making 275lbs quite an accomplishment.  Like the saying goes “If it was easy, we’d all be doing it and we’d all look great with our shirts off.”

If it was easy, we'd all be doing it and we'd all look great with our shirts off. Click To Tweet

Bodyweight Milestones:

7. Strict Pull-ups/Chin-ups – 15 for men/8 for women

pull-ups-chin-ups

8. Push-ups – 50 unbroken for men/30 unbroken for women

9. Dips – 30 unbroken for men/20 unbroken for women

10.  Strict Handstand Pushups – 15 unbroken for men/8 unbroken for women

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11.  Muscle-ups – 5 unbroken for men/3 unbroken for women

Keeping a good balance of absolute and relative strength is the key to being functionally fit.  This is also one of the main objectives in the Pure Payne Method.  Fellas, I hope all those years under the bar didn’t make you too big and heavy cause it would have shown in this section.   This is also an area where the ladies may struggle more due to less strength and muscle mass in the upper body.  It’s not often you see a woman do dips or handstand pushups but when it happens it’s a work of art!  As for muscle ups, one could argue that getting a single muscle up is already enough to start poppin’ bottles! The good news is though, once you’ve got one under your belt, it’s far easier to start getting multiples.

Conditioning Milestones:

It’s time to dust off the lungs and get ready to breathe hard – REALLY HARD!  Despite not being a huge fan of long slow cardio, the distances tested in this section are long enough to test the appropriate energy systems but not so long that you’ll burn 20lbs of muscle trying to complete them. The aerobic system (primary system for activities lasting longer than 2 minutes) is usually trained at low intensity for the purpose of burning fat (although some muscle is burned too).  The anaerobic system (primary system for activities lasting less than 2 mins) is an often undertrained and underestimated one.

12. Run 1 mile – 7 minutes for men/8 minutes for women

13. Row 2000m – 7:20 for men/8:20 for women

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14. Burpees – 100 in 8 minutes for men and women

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15. 100 Meter Sprint – 13 seconds for men/14 seconds for women

The tests that stand out to me are the 2000m row which should not be underestimated as anyone who has ever done this test knows it’s a crippler!  As for burpees, we all know the story with those, you’re just going to have to dig deep into your mental recesses to get through that one. The 100m sprint should also be interesting.  If the last time you sprinted was at your high school track meet or 10th grade basketball tryouts then you might be in for a little treat when you try to turn on the afterburners.  Explosive power is often the most overlooked aspect of any fitness program.

Body Composition Milestone:

16. Body fat percentage – 12% or less for men/ 18% or less for women (can be measured with calipers, hydrostatic weighing, or DEXA scan as long as you use the same measure each time). This is the range where you’ll have some vascularity and you’re abs will show. This is also a range that isn’t too extreme and sustainable with a little bit of work.

Although I’ve never been an advocate of training purely for aesthetics, I would be naive to ignore the hard work and discipline it takes to achieve a lean physique.  For some of you, this might be the most challenging test because it will require you to change your eating habits beyond what you are comfortable with.

If you scored well in one category but poorly in another, don’t sweat it.  You’re probably guilty of training your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses like the plague.  Take it on the chin and use this as motivation to rethink your training and develop a more diverse approach to your workouts.

One last thing, check out this video of Rich Froning overhead squatting 255lbs for 15 reps! Unbelievable!

[youtube id=”qxpv3qaq_AY”]

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How to Build Muscle and Get Extremely Chiseled – 4 Unconventional Methods..

Do you love training as much as I do? Are you constantly searching for ways to make your workouts more effective? Do you live for the endorphin rush you get from a great workout? If you answered yes to all of the above, then there’s a good chance you have what it takes to rise head and shoulders above everyone else in the gym.

In part 1, I stressed the importance of not only “showing up” but making your workouts potent if you want real results.  In the Pure Payne Method, I outlined a basic template for a kick ass strength and conditioning program. Now I want to take it one step further and show you even more ways to improve your strength, build muscle, and just get fit as hell!!

Besides the big lifts and basic bodyweight training, there are some other highly effective and often overlooked training methods that deliver results in a big way.  The methods I’m going to reveal to you all have one thing in common – POWER!

That’s right, if you really want to spice things up, you need to start adding power development to the mix.  Simply put, power is the combination of strength and speed.  Training for power comes with huge benefits including:

  • Increased muscle mass
  • Increased strength
  • Increased explosiveness
  • Increased fast twitch muscle fiber development (the shit that makes you look amazing)
  • Increased athleticism
  • Reduced body fat

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Hershel Walker – the epitome of power!

Now, if that doesn’t get you excited you might as well stop reading now.  But if you’re fired up and want to add more intensity to your training then you have come to the right place.  Now, I’m going to show you 4 ways to develop power, amplify your workouts and take your fitness to a whole new level.

1. Olympic Lifting – The fastest and mightiest of the barbell lifts, the clean and jerk and the snatch, sit on a pedestal as one of the best group of exercises a human being can perform.   These full body exercises recruit a ton of muscle mass and ignite your nervous system making them an ideal choice for strength and muscular development.  However, with great benefit comes great risk due to the high degree of technical proficiency needed to do these movements.  Not to worry, if you’re new to Olympic lifting there are variations you can use that still provide lots of benefits and reduce the risk of injury.  Some typical variations include:

  • Hang cleans/hang snatches – The “hang” position is when the barbell starts above the knee rather than on the ground. This essentially will help to strengthen and develop the major part of the movement – the second pull.  The hang position allows less room for error (i.e. early arm bending and the bar coming away from the body)  and forces you to be more explosive with the barbell.
  • Clean pull/snatch pulls – One of the most difficult aspects of olympic lifting is the ability to receive or “catch” the barbell properly.  This hassle can be avoided by doing “pulls” instead.  Clean/snatch pulls allow you to start with the bar on the ground and generate maximal force without having to catch the weight.  This is a great way to lift relatively heavy loads without risking injury from improper catches.
  • Dumbbell variations – If you aren’t comfortable with a barbell, you can always opt for dumbbell variations that can be quite intense as well.  Dumbbell snatches and dumbbell cleans performed with 1 arm or 2 arm variations are excellent alternatives and far less technical than using a barbell.

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barbell and dumbbell variations both deliver HUGE results

Whatever variation you choose, always remember that these are “fast lifts” and the more explosive you can be the better.  Check out the video below to see how to perform hang cleans with good form.

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2. Sprinting – I remember the good ol’ days when I was a kid in elementary school and we’d spend an entire recess having little 50, 60, 70 yard foot races to see who was the fastest kid in our grade. Man, that was fun and it was damn good exercise too!  I don’t know about you but I can’t remember the last time (with the exception of the Olympics which is once every 4 years) I saw an adult do anything that resembles anything close to a sprint.  It seems we’ve opted for the more convenient and far less effective alternative – jogging.  You don’t need to aspire to be the next Usain Bolt to incorporate sprinting into your training but if you want to get chiseled like a world class athlete then you should strongly consider it.  Here are some options for sprinting:

  • Wind sprints – Good old fashioned all out sprinting.  30-60 meters will get the job done. Walk back and repeat or rest 2-3mins between efforts.
  • Hill sprints – The only thing better than running really fast is running really fast UPHILL!  Hill sprints will definitely put hair on your chest (unless you’re a woman of course, then it will just give you incredible hips and thighs).  Find a hill or use a treadmill (10-15% incline) and try 20-60 second intervals with a 1:1 or 1:2 work/rest ratio.
  • Resisted Sprints – Another great way to intensify your workout.  Like I always say “when in doubt, add a little more weight.” This mantra applies to sprinting as well.  You don’t need a lot of resistance though, just enough to make you work harder but not so much that you lose your running form.  Parachutes, weight vests, and sleds loaded with 10-15% of your bodyweight are great options.

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Usain Bolt – world class power and a world class physique

3. Plyometrics – The former Soviet Union knew what they were doing when they popularized this training method.  Plyometrics is essentially jump training.  The act of jumping recruits a ton of fast twitch muscle fibers and is one of the most effective ways to develop explosiveness.  Popular and effective plyometric exercises include:

  • Box jumps – Basic jumping onto a 20-30″ box is an excellent way to develop lower body power. Single leg variations are also an option for you keeners out there.
  • Split jumps – One of my personal favorites.  Split jumps or jumping lunges can be humbling to say the least.  The glutes and quads will get punished but rewards are well worth the pain.
  • Lateral jumps – There’s something about jumping sideways that slaps you across the face and completely shocks your body.  Jumping over a hurdle or onto a box laterally challenges your athleticism and makes for one hell of a workout!
  • Clap Pushups – A great upper body plyometric exercise.  Your chest, shoulders and triceps will be lit up after a few sets of these. Like a pair of Air Jordan 3’s, the clap pushup is a classic that will never go out of style.

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Air Jordans and clap pushups – timeless classics that never go out of style

4. Sled Pushes – Did someone say prowler? Disputably one of the most intense conditioning exercises in all of fitness, sled pushing will leave you speechless (because there will be no air left in your body to speak).  8-10 intervals of 30-50 meter pushes will have you spent but every muscle in your body will thank you for it. Stay low, push hard, try to breathe, repeat. Check out the video below to see how Joe DeFranco lays the smack down with the prowler!

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The name of the game my friends is power.  If your goal is to pack on serious muscle, build superhuman strength and have a body carved out of granite then power is your ticket to the motherland! You can use these exercises on their own or pair them together  with other strength exercises to really crank things up. It’s time to get in the trenches and get to work. And remember, doing what others are unwilling to do is the key to success.

Have you got your copy of The Pure Payne Method yet? If not, hurry up and subscribe below to become a powerhouse!

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The Secrets to Eating Healthier, Building Muscle, and Becoming Insanely Fit!

Getting to the gym consistently and putting in quality workouts can be challenging enough for most people.  Couple that with the necessity to eat a clean diet can make getting in shape a daunting task.  With the abundance of information available to us, it’s hard to decipher what is accurate and what is complete rhetoric – especially when it comes to nutrition.

Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, vegan, low fat, high fat, the list goes on and on.  At the end of the day, our bodies are all different and respond differently to a variety of foods.  So what is the right way to eat for optimal health and performance?? The answer is a resounding – IT DEPENDS.

Depending on your goals, body type, metabolism and a plethora of other factors, your nutritional intake is going to vary.  However, I’m a firm believer in principles and general rules of thumb.  This means that there are definitely certain types of foods we ALL should be eating more of and others that shouldn’t be within 50ft of us.

I recently stumbled across a great resource that eloquently lays out how to approach our dietary habits.  It’s quite informative and entertaining at the same time (which is why I was able to read the entire thing without falling asleep).  Some of the most popular questions are answered in this resource:

  • Do I need to take vitamins and other supplements?
  • How important is it to eat organic?
  • Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
  • How much should you eat in one sitting?
  • How many times/day should you be eating?
  • When and where should you be eating?
  • When is the best time of day to eat?
  • What are the most dangerous foods you should avoid?
  • What’s the easiest way to tell if the food you’re eating is good for you or not?
  • Should you keep a food diary?
  • How many calories should you eat per day?

All these questions and more are answered in this special report!  Find out how to get a kung fu grip on your dietary habits by subscribing below to get this SPECIAL REPORT FREE!  Plus, you will also receive the Pure Payne Method, a 6 week training program aimed at building a STRONGER, LEANER, and more CONDITIONED  you!!  Trust me, it’ll be well worth your time!!

 

 

 

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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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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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5 Ways to Have a Great Workout When You’re Feeling Tired…

I don’t know about you, but I find it tough to go balls out in every single workout.  Some days it doesn’t matter what I do, everything just feels heavy and I feel gassed just lifting my gym bag out of the trunk of my car.  I still try to give it the old college try but some days there’s just less gas in the tank for various reasons. Not enough sleep, sore from a previous workout or poor nutrition are just few things that leave me feeling weak and sluggish.  Not to worry, just because you’re not feeling 100% doesn’t mean your workout has to be a complete write off.  A few small adjustments can make the world of difference.  Here are 5 ways that I’ve found help to not only salvage a mediocre workout but also make it worthwhile and productive.

1. Longer warm-ups – Sometimes the body can be like an old car when the engine just needs time to warm up before you pull out of the driveway.  An extra 5-10mins of light cardio, stretching, and foam rolling can help to get the blood flowing and wake up that old nervous system.  Getting a good sweat going will also loosen up the joints and mentally and physically prepare you for the work ahead.

2.  Go lighter – Sounds simple enough but sometimes it’s hard to leave your ego at the door and just do what your body will allow on that given day.  You can’t set PR’s every time you step into the gym – at least I can’t.  That doesn’t mean that you still can’t have a productive workout.  Taking your lifts down 5-10% can be just enough to allow you to get through a tough workout instead of quitting halfway and feeling like a complete waste of space.

3. Do more accessory work – When you’re energy is low, this is a perfect opportunity to work on the less glamorous  things.  Lunges, single leg deadlifts, dumbell rows, and pushups are examples of great exercises that attack your weaknesses but are far less demanding than the big lifts. This will give both your nervous system and muscular system a break and a chance to regenerate.

4. Focus on your strengths – This may sound like a slight contradiction to #3 but sometimes when you’re not feeling the greatest the best way to get your mojo going is to pick 2 or 3 of your favorite exercises and have at it!  What better way to lift my mood and redeem my workout than by doing what I’m good at?  Just because my energy is rock bottom doesn’t mean my self esteem has to be too!

5. Suck it up princess – If I only worked out when my body wasn’t sore and tired, I’d probably train once MAYBE twice per week.  At some point, you have to accept that life will always be busy and you have to make health and fitness a priority.  Greatness is never achieved without a certain degree of sacrifice and fortitude.  The Pure Payne Method is a free workout program but there is still one cost – EFFORT! At some point you have to ask yourself how bad do you want it and make a decision.

Next time your feeling 50/50 about training keep these few tips in mind and see how if you can get a better workout.

Do you have a hard time staying consistent with your workouts? What is your biggest obstacle? Drop a comment below!

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15 Ways CrossFit Can Build Muscle, Shed Fat, and Improve Your Life!!

I thought this would be a great time to express my thoughts and feelings about an underground phenomenon (well it’s actually pretty mainstream now) that is taking the fitness industry by storm. I’m talking about the “C” word.  Ok, I’ll just say it – CROSSFIT.  Nowadays, it seems there are 3 things that you don’t openly discuss: Religion, Politics, and CROSSFIT.  There are a lot of critics out there who have their reservations for various reasons (some warranted, some not), however, speaking as someone who is not a certified Crossfit coach, does not workout at a Crossfit gym, does not own or operate a Crossfit affiliate but has competed at a relatively high level in Crossfit (17th in Canada West Regionals in 2011), I think the training system has some merit. I would like to be one of the few (maybe even the first??) people who have no vested interest in Crossfit to speak out about the positive side.  Here are 4 reasons why I think Crossfit is a good thing:

1. For the first time fitness can be defined and measured – I’ve spent most of my adult life in the gym and managed to stay in pretty good shape for most of those years. The problem was, prior to Crossfit, I never really knew how fit I was. I could use different measures like body composition and various strength tests to get a rough idea but even then I would only be testing things that I was good at so it still seemed a little biased.

Crossfit is constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity and defines fitness as work capacity across broad time and modal domains. I think most knowledgeable and experienced fitness professionals would agree that functional movement and intensity are two key ingredients to getting results regardless of the clientele you are working with.

As far as work capacity goes, this is simply a measure of power (force x distance/time), which is a basic scientific formula. Essentially, do more work in less time. So for all the pundits who say that Crossfit has no scientific foundation, I strongly beg to differ. There are some who may disagree with this definition of fitness but I’ve yet to see or hear of anyone coming up with anything more accurate or effective. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe there are many ways to get in great shape without doing Crossfit but if you want a “TRUE TEST OF FITNESS” Crossfit seems to be the only objective measure.

2. The unique and effective blend of training modalities – If you want to get scientific, all the research says that high intensity strength training performed in a circuit fashion (i.e. “fight gone bad” – 3 rounds of push presses, box jumps, sumo high pulls, wall balls, and rowing performed for 1 min each) or high intensity strength training and plyometrics mixed with short bursts of high intensity cardio (i.e. “Kelly” 5 rounds of 400m run, 30 box jumps, 30 wall balls) are the most effective methods for building muscle and burning fat simultaneously. Sounds a hell of a lot like Crossfit to me. So what’s the problem? Exercise selection? Progression? These are all things to take into account whether you are a Crossfit coach or a trainer at Gold’s Gym. Crossfit is hard, there’s no disputing that but that doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from it under the right programming. If anything, Crossfit has taken the most effective and challenging movements and allowed the general public to reap the benefits.

3. The Paleo Diet – There always has and always will be debates over the most effective training methods and nutrition is no different. Crossfit is the first strength and conditioning program that has taken a strong stance on the importance of sound nutrition to maximize the results of their training system. The Paleo diet, which some may find quite strict and difficult to sustain, points us in the right direction of what our everyday eating habits should be. To quote the infamous Crossfit Founder, Greg Glassman “Meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, NO SUGAR.”  Now is this diet ideal for everybody? Absolutely not.  Is it a huge step in the right direction? ABSOLUTELY!

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Remember, Greg Glassman is known for INVENTING Crossfit, not doing it!

4. The Crossfit Journal – The internet can be an overwhelming resource for information. The Crossfit Journal has proven to be a phenomenal one-stop resource for strength and conditioning. Want to learn proper technique for a power clean? Want to learn progressions for handstand pushups? Want to become a better runner? Want to build a kick ass home gym? The Crossfit Journal has it all and more! You can always expect the best as “specialists” from various fields including Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and gymnastics deliver the most up to date information. With articles, videos, and podcasts on wide range of topics, there’s always something to look forward to. For $25/year, the Crossfit Journal definitely gets an A+.

5. Crossfit Kids – We all know the youth of today are lazier and fatter than they’ve ever been. Teaching kids the benefits of regular functional exercise and good nutrition will help to build a foundation of good lifestyle habits that carry on well into adulthood. Not to mention, the potential for developing some fierce athletes. Kudos Crossfit for keeping our future healthy and fit.

6. The Crossfit Games – Not power lifting, not bodybuilding, not strongman, not triathlon, but the sport of fitness. I’m not taking anything away from the previously mentioned sports but the Crossfit Games is something to marvel. I’ve had the opportunity to watch the Crossfit games live on more than one occasion and it is one of the best sporting events I’ve ever been to. The atmosphere and energy are unmatched in any other sport. It’s the first time I’ve watched a sport where everybody was cheering for everybody! No booing, no trash talking, everyone wanted everyone to do well.

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if you’ve never attended the Crossfit Games add it to your bucket list

Crossfit has filled a void in the sports market by creating an entirely new breed of athlete. It is a tremendous feat to be able to run a sub 6min mile, deadlift 500+ lbs, and pump out 50+ unbroken pullups. With Reebok as the official sponsor, credibility and sustainability are becoming less of an issue. Through this, Crossfit has given me the opportunity to compete with some of the best athletes in Canada (even the world for that matter). At the age of 35, that level of competition is far and few between. Knowing that this level of competition is still within reach for me makes training that much more fulfilling.

7. High Rep Olympic Weightlifting – That’s right, I said it. High rep Olympic weightlifting can be extremely beneficial once a certain level of proficiency has been developed. This is probably one of the most controversial aspects of Crossfit.  Crossfit has done a great job of giving Olympic weightlifting more mainstream appeal. The strength, power and athleticism required to perform these lifts is what makes them so beneficial. No one can deny that taking a weight from the ground to overhead is a highly functional movement. However, performing a clean and jerk for a one-rep max is a completely different story than doing 30 reps for time at a sub maximal weight (i.e. “Grace”). The power output and metabolic conditioning this provides far exceeds any other compound movement. With proper progression, the Olympic lifts performed at high intensity can be your best bang for your buck!

Here’s a video of me doing some “high reps” and getting a killer workout!

8. Crossfitters work out with their shirts off BECAUSE THEY CAN! – Let’s face it, aside from leading a healthy lifestyle most people work out because they want to look better. Most guys want that lean and chiseled physique that carries just the right amount of muscle but not too much. Most women want just the right amount of curves and muscle tone without looking masculine. I think Crossfit pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one. Even though the focus was never on aesthetics, Crossfit has helped produce some of the greatest physiques in fitness. High intensity exercise coupled with good nutrition? Novel concept.

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Arguably, some of the most impressive physiques in all of fitness are a product of Crossfit

9.  The community – Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something, a sense of belonging if you will. Crossfit has done a great job of creating a community that is both encouraging and supportive.  A Crossfit box is a lot like Cheers, “it’s where everybody knows your name.”  This definitely makes working out more fun and sustainable.

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minus the beer and excessive loafing, Crossfit is a lot like Cheers!

10. There’s a lot of barbell training – If most of your time in the gym is spent working with a barbell, you have no choice but to get big and strong!  Deadlifts, squats, shoulder presses, cleans, you name it and you’ll find it with Crossfit.  Don’t let the myths fool you, there’s a lot of strength and muscle to be gained.

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there’s no shortage of iron in Crossfit

11. There’s a lot of bodyweight training – The next best thing to pumping iron is effective bodyweight training.  With exercises like dips, pullups, handstand pushups, and muscle ups you are going to get more than your fill of great bodyweight exercises.

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the muscle up is a signature bodyweight exercise in Crossfit

12. There’s a lot of conditioning – There’s no shortage of heavy breathing and lactic acid with Crossfit.  The intensity of Crossfit is undisputed but with that comes elite conditioning and the ability to literally melt fat off your body.  The interval training and intense “metcons” make this an ideal choice for anyone trying to lean out.

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conditioning is inevitable with Crossfit

13. It’s easier on the body – If you’ve been training for a number of years then you know what it’s like to suffer from the aches and pains of repetitive stress.  Crossfit can take a toll on the body if you are competing at a high level but for the average meathead who benches 3 time a week the variety Crossfit provides will work wonders for your soft tissue health.  Rotating from heavy to light loading and from longer to shorter workouts keeps the body guessing and prevents the onset of chronic pain.

14. Competition brings the best out of everybody – If you’ve ever been an athlete at any point in your life then I don’t have to explain to you the feeling that comes from going head to head with your peers.  A surefire way to get one more rep is when egos and bragging rights are on the line. Even if you’re feeling tired that day, a little competition may be all you need to redeem your workout.

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competition is the cornerstone of human performance

15. You stay in shape all year long – No more “cutting” and “bulking.”  The well-rounded approach to the Crossfit methodology allows you to stay lean and strong year round.  No more restrictive dieting and arduous “cardio” sessions.

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not a bad physique to have 12 months out of the year!

These are just a few reasons why I think there are some serious gains to be made with Crossfit.  It’s certainly not perfect but what training program is?  Be open-minded and try new things, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Have you ever done a Crossfit workout? If so, what was your experience like? Drop a comment below!

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