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When to start using a lifting belt

When to start using a lifting belt

Photo Credit: Moffitt Photography

“At what point am I lifting heavy enough to use a belt?”

This is a question we get a lot from new clients who are just starting to learn about powerlifting. Nearly all powerlifters utilize a lifting belt during meets and during most of their training. It’s a very rare occasion that you see an experienced powerlifter who does not use a belt during competition simply because it can help you move more weight. Period.

When people ask about this, I find that they think you have to reach a certain level of expertise, or certain amount of weight lifted before you can even put on a belt. They have this understanding that a belt is like the holy grail, or something that you need to earn and be gifted with upon reaching elite-level status. That couldn’t be farther from the truth!

Using a belt can be a great tool for beginners to powerlifting or just lifting heavier in general. When you’re lifting heavy, you need to properly brace your core. What does that mean exactly? Basically, you want to stabilize your entire core area by breathing into your stomach. This will help make your trunk stable enough to support moving heavy weight. This can be confusing to most people simply because they don’t have a good understanding of what the core consists of. If you think your core is just your abs, we hate to break it to you but you’re wrong.

Here’s a great graphic showcasing all of the muscles of the core:

Credit: https://www.acefitness.org/blog/3562/muscles-of-the-core

 

As you can see, the core is made up of a series of muscles not only on the anterior side of the body, but also on the lateral and posterior sides. Establishing a strong core goes a lot further than doing some crunches or sit-ups. In fact, your core is utilized in almost every exercise or movement that you do.

Training without a belt is obviously going to help you increase your core strength and stability. Training “beltless” is something you can use as a training tool when in the off-season to do just that. However, we like to suggest our beginners try out a belt when learning how to brace and breath for the main lifts.

Why is that?

When you breath into your stomach, your stomach is going to expand. The expansion of your stomach is what is going to give you that stability while going through a loaded movement. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. Learning to breathe into your stomach properly is the first step. A lot of people naturally want to suck IN their stomach when learning how to breathe and this is incorrect. When you suck in, that means the air isn’t in the right spot, therefore you’re not going to be stable. The goal here is to honestly look as fat as possible by sticking that stomach out.  A belt comes in handy here because you can cue the individual (or yourself) to think about filling out their belt or pushing their belly into the belt. Here, the belt becomes the teacher to ensure the athlete is properly breathing therefore bracing before attempting to load the movement.

Here’s a great video we recommend on learning how to breathe properly: Breathing + Bracing Technique

Now comes the ever so popular question of,

What belt is the best?

Our friends over at BarBend.com put together a great article discussing different types of belts and what would be best for you here: Best Lifting Belts.

Hopefully this cleared up any confusion you had about using a belt or how to properly brace for the main lifts. We are always available for questions and further discussion at FitnessTeam@sd-evolution.com. Now go put these brain gains to use!

5 “rules” for beginners in the gym

5 “rules” for beginners in the gym

rules for beginnners

 

I have posted plenty of blogs on why resistance training is beneficial to our health, and I have also posted many blogs on why (if you’re a female) you shouldn’t be afraid to lift heavy weights (SEE HERE). Now that you may be convinced incorporating weight training into your life is a good idea, there’s one problem: you’re clueless when it comes down to how to begin.

I think that a lot of people could LOVE resistance training if they had the confidence to give it a shot which is why I chose to blog about this topic today. So here we go!

LIFTING RULE #1

Find a gym in your area that you can easily attend. The closer the gym is to your house or work, the more likely you are going to go. Easily incorporating this into your daily routine is what is going to keep you motivated.

LIFTING RULE #2

Create a plan. If you’re a total newbie to lifting, chances are you aren’t going to be very familiar with the machines. I usually have my beginner clients stick to dumbbell/barbell exercises that can easily be referenced on YouTube. If you are more familiar with your gym’s equipment, make sure to still set a weekly lifting schedule. Does this totally uninterest you? Luckily we do offer Online Training Plans HERE  which are 100% personalized to your goals, body & availability. Having a set schedule not only holds you accountable to your workouts, but (for me at least) gets me pumped up all day knowing what I have to do in the gym later.

LIFTING RULE #3

Start simple. There are SO many exercises out there which can be confusing and overwhelming. It is important to know that you don’t have to do EVERYTHING you see and at the same time it is also important to switch things up once in a while. I have witnessed people doing the same workouts years later and guess what….they look exactly the same. Our client plans change every 4 weeks which keeps the body guessing but also allows you to improve on those set movements for a duration of time.

LIFTING RULE #4

Find a training style that works for you. So many people go into the gym and perform a boring, basic bodybuilding style workout day in and day out not realizing there are multiple ways to reach their goals. I used to be one of those people. I thought 3 sets of 12 reps was the only way. Did it give me results? At first, yes however then I reached a halt in my progress. My body adapted and honestly, I was pretty bored with those workouts. I found powerlifting at the end of last year and I thoroughly look forward to going to the gym every day because I am so excited to do my set workout. I’m not saying you have to become a powerlifter, but do some research and see what else is out there besides your average bodybuilding split. For example, I like to start a lot of our beginner clients (depending on their goals) with a simple Upper/Lower Body split. This means 2 Upper Body days per week and 2 Lower Body days with 1 or 2 full body days. This keeps it simple at first, and down the road we change things up.

LIFTING RULE #5

Choose a starting weight that you can perform about 80% of the amount of reps with, leaving the last few reps as more of a challenge. A lot of clients ask me how much weight they should start off with and honestly, the answer is different for every single person. I cannot simply tell you where to begin. This is your job during your first week of training to “feel” out the weights. You don’t want to be too easy on yourself but at the same time leave your ego at home until your form is on point.

 

With these tips I hope we have inspired you to create a plan, step out of your comfort zone and go try a strength training workout that challenges and excites you! As always, E-mail us with questions or more information about the Online Coaching plans that we currently offer.

 

~Alessandra

 

 

 

5 Common Misconceptions About Females & Lifting

5 Common Misconceptions About Females & Lifting

I’ve done posts similar to this before but I thought it would be a good idea to address again since I’ve been hearing the word “toned” far too much lately. There has always been a bias towards females and lifting weights. As a personal trainer, I’ve heard just about every excuse in the book when I ask a female client or friend why they don’t want to lift weights (or heavy weights for that matter). The words “manly” & “bulky” come up often which we shall address in this blog post.

Misconception #1

The heavier I go, the bulkier I get.

This couldn’t be further from the truth and I have experimented with my own body to prove that. When I started lifting weights, I did what felt comfortable. I used maybe 10b dumbbells max. This is what my body looked like.

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I was certainly heavier than my non-lifting body but to blame that on the weights is unfair since I also binge-drank every weekend and did not have control over my nutrition at all. Fast-forward to this year and here’s where I stand with my nutrition in line, no alcohol & lifting HEAVY. (Current squat max is 245lbs, bench is 135lbs and I can deadlift 265lbs). It is CLEAR that my waist is smaller and my body fat in general has decreased.

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Misconception #2

Weights will make you look like a man.

I don’t think some people realize how hard it is to gain muscle. Even if you tried your hardest there is no way you are going to look like a shredded bodybuilder after lifting weights unless you are eating a crap ton of food/protein & also taking supplements for years and years. It just is not in our genetics to be built like a man and building muscle takes serious amounts of time. We lack the testosterone in our bodies to even naturally gain that much muscle so you can throw that excuse out the window.

bodybuilder

Misconception #3

I just want to lift baby weights and get more “toned”.

I have gone on rants about the word “toned” before so let’s clear that up- what exactly do you think “toned” is? More definition in your body, right? Well that definition my friend is muscle growth. In order to see those lines in your core, or “toned” arms or legs, you must lift weights to grow the muscle. Hypertrophy is the increase in size of the skeletal muscle which is a result of lifting weights- and not the baby weights. To put it simply, let’s say you start by lifting the baby weights and MAYBE you see some results in the first few weeks of your training, then it seems your body comes to a halt or pause. No more progression…what gives? It’s called Progressive Overload. You must continue to increase the demands on the musculoskeletal system in order to increase muscle size, strength, and endurance. Your body will adapt to that baby weight at some point so in order to keep progressing you must go heavier. Heavy weights will overload the muscle, allowing you to get “toned” faster. Who doesn’t want that?

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Misconception #4

I just need to run more, or do more cardio. That will make me lean.

Cardio is certainly important for heart health, however when it comes to getting lean or losing weight, it actually takes 2nd place to lifting weights. When you have more muscle on your body (from lifting weights), your body has to work harder to feed those muscles, therefore you burn more calories throughout your day as opposed to someone who simply does cardio. If you enjoy running, I’m not telling you to stop running, but I am telling you that ALSO lifting weights will increase your metabolism and probably help with your runs as well. Not to mention it will increase your bone density and set you up for a long living, healthy body as you get older. If you perform steady-state, long-duration cardio 5-6X per week you may be lean, but you are probably also lacking muscle and have stubborn fat in certain areas. Here is an example of what my body looked like when I ran between 20 and 40 miles per week (no lifting). Next to my heavy lifting body with 3-4 HIIT cardio sessions per week. Huge difference, right?

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Misconception #5

I have to perform all of these crazy lifting movements that I am just not comfortable with. I can’t do that!

I think people tend to complicate weight lifting, yet I totally understand why with the volume of endless of information on the internet. It can be confusing when a beginner is looking to increase their strength or lose weight yet they aren’t sure how to perform a movement or don’t know where to start. There’s SO many different exercises you can do and so many fitness guru’s telling you to do 100 different things when in reality you should start with the basics. Squats, deadlifts, bench, military presses lunges, etc. While every person should have an individualized plan to help them achieve their goals efficiently, you don’t have to overcomplicate your workout. Here at SD Evolution we provide our clients with personalized training programs based on their goals, body & availability. If you are interested in your own 12 week training program visit our website www.sd-evolution.com or email us FitnessTeam@sd-evolution.com for more information.

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I hope that I have swayed your thoughts about females and lifting weights after reading this article. Lifting has indefinitely changed my life. My physique, confidence and mentality have all changed postively since incorporating this lifestyle and I can only hope it does the same to my clients & readers.

 

Alessandra

 

 

What you need to know about rest day

What you need to know about rest day

rest day

We’ve all seen the funny pictures on Instagram. Rest day… Who needs it? This is becoming a more widely asked, and speculated, question around the fitness community. Routines are being taken to new extremes each day. And this is good, because it means we are pushing our limits to new heights. You can’t discover how far your body can actually go until you push past every threshold. And here comes the but… BUT there are limitations on how long you can push your body that hard.

People have started questioning whether there was any truth to the concept of “overtraining”. That is where these pictures, articles, and discussions gained momentum. A main argument was that if you feel good and you aren’t sore, your recovery time has reduced and you can now workout more frequently on less rest (if any). But there are some other factors being overlooked that don’t have to do with how your muscles are feeling today. Your body is a very, very complicated thing. So I’ll get into what those other factors are in a second but first I want to ask you if you’ve felt any of these lately, or if you remember having any of these after a week where you tried pushing yourself to a new extreme..

Your outsides:

Persistent muscle soreness (not your regular “that was one hell of a workout” soreness but the kind that lasts longer than it was supposed to), elevated resting heart rate, past injuries begin hurting again or you are recognizing new pain, not getting as good of a pump or not feeling as refreshed after a workout (you don’t get that “ahh” moment when you’re done), weight loss, stuck in a plateau (working hard but haven’t made any progress)

Your insides:

Irritability, depression, loss of appetite, loss of motivation, fatigue throughout the day, not mentally sharp- can’t focus and can’t concentrate well, insomnia (this is a big one.. trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.. very restless), lack of interest, getting sick (cold/flu)

These are all signs that you aren’t getting enough rest AKA overtraining! But your body was feeling so good and you thought that removing that rest day was the only way to capitalize on it. Well your body was feeling good because you had a great balance of exercise and rest. Now it’s all exercise and there is no balance.  Your body is constantly being broken down when you workout, but without rest, it doesn’t get to rebuild itself. So let’s breakdown this process. Here is the point of working out in a nutshell. Workout- breakdown body. Rest- recovery and growth. Workout- breakdown body. Rest- recovery and growth. RESULT- a stronger, healthier body. Now here is overtraining in a nutshell. Workout- breakdown body. Workout- breakdown body. Workout- breakdown body. Do you get the picture? There is no rebuild. You are breaking down what is still broken down and actually making yourself WEAKER! Now if that counter-productivity isn’t frustrating, I don’t know what is.

Earlier I mentioned that there was more to this concept that your muscles and your body feeling good. Working out places a HUGE stress on your central nervous system, or CNS. The CNS is responsible for controlling muscular contractions. When this becomes fatigued, it creates a reduction in the output of the motor control regions in the brain. This, in essence, causes a decrease in performance. Every time you move, your brain has nerve impulses generated by chemical activity. After intense training, that neural drive is reduced. So even if your muscles feel great, that workout also took a toll on your CNS.

So all of those “outside” effects may have made sense to you as general side effects of working out, but those “inside” effects may have seemed a little outside the box. Well that’s all tied into everything else that overtraining affects that often gets overlooked. Even something like getting sick seems silly, but when you place that added stress on your body with no recovery, everything starts to breakdown and your immune system gets much weaker, because yet again, YOUR BODY CANT RECOVER WHEN YOU ARE CONSTANTLY BREAKING IT DOWN.

I won’t pretend I’ve never pushed my boundaries and tried to go without rest days. I did. I love pushing my body to new levels. It’s an addiction. I want to see how far I can go in everything I do. And in our minds, taking a day off seems like a wasted day. But we have to remind ourselves, rest is just as important as the workout because the workout is where we break ourselves down, and the rest day is where our bodies recover and get STRONGER. Yep, that lazy day you take every week… That’s the day you are getting better at everything you worked so hard at. That doesn’t mean lay in bed 6 days a week… Balance…

Push your body to it’s limit and find YOUR perfect balance. For myself, and many others, a 3 days on 1 day off schedule is extremely effective. You are still working out 6 days a week, but never more than 3 days in a row. For others, a 2 on 1 off 2 on 2 off schedule works better. As with everything else, we are all created differently with different needs. Play around with it. If you feel great, it’s working.

Until next time,

~Josh

The Most Overlooked Tool for Success.. You Probably Aren’t Using It!

The Most Overlooked Tool for Success.. You Probably Aren’t Using It!

Visualizations

We often overlook the power of our minds, especially in its simplest form. A little bit of imagination goes a long way. I’m talking about visualization. You don’t need to be an artist to be able to use this tool. You know what you want right? Ok so imagine it. Imagine fitting into those old clothes, that special dress, imagine packing on those pounds of muscle! I’m not talking about taping that picture of the model you idolize to your steering wheel.. You need to use your mind to create the image of what you’re looking to achieve. If it’s weight loss or muscle gain, you need to see yourself already at that form. Guys, that might be a chiseled 225 with abs carved like a washboard. Girls that might be the slimmed down, toned up look in your new bathing suit. PICTURE IT. This is actually an incredibly powerful tool.

Some of you may or may not have heard of the mind-muscle connection, but it is a much talked about topic in the fitness industry. It’s about focusing on the feeling of every single rep. The lift, the contraction, the stretch, the burn. You feel the growth as it’s happening. It may sound silly, but if you try it, it’ll take your workouts to another level. Anyway, visualization is the same concept in a bigger picture, longer-term aspect. You create the image of yourself in your perfect form. By doing this, your mind’s next step will be to create the path to get there. You will do whatever it takes to get there.

This may sound silly until it is put to practice. I can’t speak for the rest of you, but as far as I go, I was always very down on myself. The progress was never enough. Even though the results were there, I never saw them. I put on 20 pounds of muscle over about 4 months, but I still saw myself from where I started. I literally thought I looked EXACTLY the same. This is actually extremely common and is joked about in fitness magazines and social media posts as “Big-orexia”. This may seem a little insensitive, but it really isn’t a joke. It’s like a disease. “The day you started lifting is the day you are forever small.” That’s another joking “meme” you see on Instagram, but again, many of us have this mindset.

I recently read an article by Arnold Schwarzenegger detailing his use of visualization to build his legendary body. That got me thinking about my mindset, and lead to the writing of this blog so that I could share it with you all. The power of our minds is undeniable. Our outlooks on everything in our lives stem from our minds, they are 100% in our control. One of my all-time favorite quotes is this- “You can’t have a bad day with a good attitude and you can’t have a good day with a bad attitude.” I’ve done my best to incorporate that into my life, and it does make a HUGE difference. But I never thought about using that to my advantage in the gym. That has been my goal this week, and I challenge you all to do the same. Every time you look in the mirror, every time you get out of the shower, look at yourself and SEE YOURSELF where you want to be. The purpose of this blog was to use that in transforming your body, but it doesn’t have to stop there. See yourself in that new car, see yourself getting that big raise, see yourself buying your dream home! I will leave you with this: if you can’t even imagine it, how the hell are you supposed to accomplish it? The challenge has been extended. It’s up to you to put it to the test.

 

Until next time,

Josh