Written By: Austin Colish
In three phrases or less, how would you describe the process of “becoming fit”?
A reasonable response would be: “proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and consistent exercise.” Without a doubt, these components are crucial to leading a healthier life. We commonly hear people say “Oh, I need to get into shape,” or “Wow, that person is really fit!” These statements often have an underlying associative feeling of guilt, stress, or even self-defeat. As a current fitness professional and future healthcare provider, I’d like to break down as many of these barriers to success as possible. Modern media, social pressures and general lack of knowledge provide an unnecessary stigma around beginning the process of “getting into shape.” In my experience, the process of “becoming fit” can be encapsulated in two words: lifestyle change.
Fitness is all about lifestyle change. There are three main components of this process:
Early Success is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a philosophy utilized by all types of coaches, teachers and therapists. Early Success is based on the idea that both performance and adherence is increased when beginners find success at whatever task they are attempting. This is a topic that has been researched by motor learning specialists, and has shown to aid in adapting the properties of neuroplasticity in our brains. Basically, the more we practice something, the better we get at it. When we start a task and succeed early on, we become more motivated to try and keep practicing. For example: when you play a game, how likely are you to keep playing that game if you lose every single time? (Probably not very.) The same goes for lifestyle change.
How do we implement Early Success into our daily lives?
Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely. By setting goals that fall within the SMART criteria, you are more likely to achieve Early Success. For example, if you have never run a mile in your life, do not set a goal to run three miles a week to “get into shape.” Instead, start by walking for 40 minutes a day, four days a week, outside, for two weeks. Comparing these goals: one has specific parameters within a set time frame, the other is generalized and arguably less likely to be successful with a beginner.
Failing to plan, is planning to fail.
Setting realistic goals is such a crucial part of developing any kind of fitness plan. By utilizing the SMART methodology, you can achieve any goal you have in an approachable manner. Common fitness goals are “to lose X amount of pounds.” Try breaking down the steps required into bite-sized solutions. Instead of committing to “eat healthier and exercise,” commit to “substituting Greek yogurt for ice cream, start a walking program three days a week and going to the gym two days a week.” You can then build off those three goals and make them even more specific. What kind of Greek yogurt? Where will you be taking your walks? What will you be doing at the gym? Making little changes early in this process that you can easily accomplish promotes long term development.
In healthcare and in fitness professional settings, there is a technique called the Motivational Interview. Essentially, this tool helps coaches and clinicians gauge their clients’ interest level and measure their ability to open up to change. Ultimately, “becoming fit” is just about making small lifestyle changes. In this interview, the interviewee is placed into a “stage of change” that predisposes the treatment approach the clinician or coach needs to take. Similarly, individuals can begin this process by self assessing and adapting to their own needs. Now that you have a plan, with SMART goals, you need to create an environment that helps facilitate this change (regardless of your current willingness to accept it).
Motivation is either intrinsic or extrinsic. If you are intrinsically motivated, there is a high chance you don’t need to read this post. However, if you are motivated extrinsically (I fall into this group), you have to modify your environment. In order for you to attain success early on and allow growth to be consistent, you have to change your environment as your lifestyle changes. This can take many shapes and forms — so be creative! Examples include: throwing out junk food in your house, setting a budget for how much alcohol you consume on a weekly basis, setting reminders to go to sleep on time, and surrounding yourself with a supportive gym community like we have here at King. Self reflect. Think about how you can modify your environment to meet your goals. If you have difficulty doing this, ask your coach!
Having established goals, reinvented your environment to encourage success and officially begun your own fitness journey, the last piece is to build in time to self reflect. This can come in many forms: journaling, meditating or having a weekly progress discussion with your coach. By self reflecting, this allows room for self evaluation. By reviewing your progress, challenges/barriers to success, you can self correct. Having a reference point based on your goals and identifying how your environment hurts or helps those goals, leads to self correction. Making SMART changes to your current situation can help. Part of the Motivational Mindset is committing to your goals, and finding success by the means necessary to make your goals reachable. When you are able to independently self evaluate and self correct, you can self regulate. The ultimate goal is to self regulate; making changes in the direction of your goals independently in order to be successful.
Fitness is a journey for everyone: the single mother of three, the businessman who works 60-hours/week, the professional athlete of 20 years, the sedentary teen with aspirations of running a marathon. Everyone has their own challenges, and no one is more important than the other.
Fitness does not have a gold standard. Fitness is not defined by athletic accomplishment. Fitness is not defined by physical appearance. Fitness is a culmination of trials, changes, failures and successes. By setting SMART goals, finding Early Success, maintaining a Motivational Mindset and Self Regulating, we can all become more “fit.” Whether you’re a gym veteran or someone who stumbled upon this post who has never worked out a day in their life, I encourage you to spend a few minutes today and reflect.
Where are you now and where do you want to be?
Use these tools and develop the next step in your fitness plan. Perhaps your goal is to deadlift 600lbs. Maybe your goal is to walk up two flights of stairs independently. Either way, your goals are relative to you and should be flexible enough to change or adapt over time. Seek help and advice from your coach or physical therapist. Understand that every day doesn’t need to be a victory, and that always, consistency is King.
We're finishing June's accumulation block where the theme was Escalating Density Training (EDT). For July, we're jumping into an intensification block. We'll be focusing on developing our speed, power and strength. Unique to this block, we're manipulating the rest between reps and utilizing a concept known as Cluster Training.
What is Cluster Training?
Cluster Training involves using short intra-set rest periods (usually ranging between 10-30 seconds) we will being using 15 seconds, which act to allow us to do more reps with a heavier weight.
With Cluster Training, the design is all about the rest between reps, rather than between sets.
How do you do Cluster Training?
There are a number of ways you can set up cluster training, but the most important principle of this training method lies in the short rest intervals between reps, or multiples of reps. Make sure you re-rack the bar when you rest, and utilize the entirety of the rest period - both during and after your set.
We're going to get a rep then rest. Get another rep then rest. And then get one more rep and rest. And that will make up one set. This work-to-rest program design is called intra-set rest and has a lot more rest between reps.
Why do we need more rest? Because rest allows us to lift more weight and hit higher tonnages in a training block.
What the hell is "tonnage" and why is it important?
Tonnage is a term that quantifies overall load used during a period of time.
Tonnage = Weight x Reps x Sets
Example: 100 x 10 x 10= 10,000.
Tonnage has been used for decades as a qualifier for national and international levels in weightlifting. Theoretically, if a person can accumulate a higher total of weight in a period of time, they should be able to compete at a higher level, become much stronger.
How do we manipulate sets and reps to achieve a higher overall tonnage?
We can do 10 sets of 10 to achieve more morphological changes. Like body composition or hypertrophy. Or we can utilize 10 sets of 3 reps to achieve more neuronal changes; such as, power or force production.
There is an interesting concept called Prilipen's chart which describes the volume people can hit at specific intensities in a training session, please refer to the image below:
Below are a few cluster set/rep schemes we may program for you depending on your individual goals.
Before we move onto that, it's important to note that you can utilize Cluster Training on most exercises, but seeing as we're looking for mostly strength and muscular gains, it makes sense that the best exercises to use are the bigger, compound barbell exercises.
Okay, let's look at some ways to set up your Cluster Training. The first thing you'll notice is that the sets/reps for clusters are written in a weird way. Don't freak out, they're quite easy to interpret.
5 ( 4 x 2 ) - 10s w/ a 5RM
In this set up you'll do 5 total clusters (the first number), and each cluster is going to consist of 4 mini sets of 2 reps (the bracketed numbers). You're going to rest 10 seconds in between each mini set, and you're going to use around your 5RM in load.
5 ( 3 x 3 ) - 15s w/ 6RM
Again, this follows in the process as the two examples above, except that in this set up you're going to do 3 mini sets each consisting of 3 reps, with a 6RM. This will allow you to do 9 total reps with a 6RM, and skew the training effect more towards gaining muscle mass.
"THE SPICY CLUSTER"
3-4 sets of AMRAP until you hit 15 total reps - 30s w/ 85% of 1RM
In this example you're going to find a weight that's around 85% of your 1RM, and you're going to do as many reps as possible (without going to complete failure) before racking the bar and resting for 30 seconds. After the short rest you're going to again try and get as many reps as you can, before re-racking the bar and resting for another 30 seconds. Continue in this fashion until you hit a total of 15 reps. Repeat for 3-4 total clusters. Typically you should hit anywhere from 5-8 reps in your first mini set, and then have the reps slowly decrease for each subsequent mini set.
With this data, we can formulate strategies to bang out more out of our training if:
Cluster Training allows us to push past fatigue.
Fatigue is the limiting factor when trying to hit and complete more reps. This is the basic premise as to why we cannot go on forever at a specific intensity. That fatigue could come from central nervous system (CNS) fatigue or from muscular system fatigue. Either way, we are going to have to stop at a certain point no matter how much we want to keep going, which is frustrating.
If we have 3 reps, adding more rest between reps is how we can squeeze 91% when normally we can only handle 90% for 3 sets of 3 reps.
Let's talk about Relative Intensity and see how it relates:
Believe it or not, we do not work at 100% for the entire block. We progress from 70%, 80%, 90% and finish at 100%. With 100% being your 1 rep max.
Working sub-maximally has incredible benefits.
Working sub-maximally builds motor patterns in response to the stress and begins the progressive overload over the four weeks. When we get the fourth week, we are supposed to be able to hit 90-92.5% of our max for 3 reps.
The intent is to handle higher intensities for increased volumes so we can accumulate more tonnage. If fatigue is coming from either the muscular system (replenishment of ATP/PC) or from the central nervous system (update or transmission of neurotransmitters) we can override that by allowing for rest in between sets.
Our training performance all comes down to our limiting factors. If our limiting factors are not as limiting then we can lift heavier weights than we normally can. And if we can use heavier weights than normal, we will obviously become stronger. Gainz.
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