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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!

The Reason Why You Aren’t Getting Stronger or Progressing Towards Your Goals

The Reason Why You Aren’t Getting Stronger or Progressing Towards Your Goals

We’ve all been there. There was a time in our training where the progress just seemed to stop. It became the un-bustable plateau. Maybe it’s getting stuck at a 225 pound bench press for 10 reps. Maybe it’s getting stuck at 150 pounds. Somewhere along the line that “beginner magic”, where the results came almost easy, just wore off. Now it’s been two years and you’ve gone to the gym consistently busting your ass but you haven’t made any noticeable progress from where you were. Why? How can all this work count for nothing? We’ll, I’m going to tell you.

 

Let’s keep it really simple.. I’ll start with a question. How do we progress? We make small progressions over time, right? We can’t expect to PR every workout over the lifetime of our fitness careers, but we can put a plan in place that lets us PR every time we plan to test our maxes. But what do we consider small progressions over time? If you’ve been stuck at 225 pounds for 10 reps on the bench press and you’re waiting to feel like you’ve progressed enough to add more weight, when is it time to do so? Well the problem that most of us have is that we spend more time waiting than necessary. Maybe it’s waiting for a day we have a workout partner who pumps us up and we add an extra 10 or 15 pounds. But how often does that happen?

 

The truth is that we all progress differently. But in order to adapt, we need to progress. So our plan of action needs to ensure that it does happen. Some people (especially if you’re new to working out) seem to progress every single week. They might add 5 pounds per week to their 8 rep max. Every single week they can do the same workouts and they just keep throwing weight on the bar. That’s progression.

 

But what if you can’t do that? We don’t want to go to failure every single set, and we certainly don’t want to sacrifice form to get more reps up because we had to add weight. So how do you progress from there? Maybe you couldn’t add 5 or 10 pounds this week, but could you do an extra set? Could you bump up your 3 sets of flat bench to 4 sets? Again, this depends. If you’ve been recovering well recently, you can probably add a set. That’s progression.

 

If you feel like you’ve been beaten to a pulp and there’s no way you can add a single set to your workout, you’ve got a couple things to consider. 1- When was the last time you de-loaded? Your cumulative fatigue may be at a point where you are best suited to take a de-load week to reduce it. And 2- Is your workout routine designed optimally?

 

There is a magical line that we should all recognize in the pursuit of our goals. It’s the line that tells us we’re working too hard or not hard enough. We want to work right up that that line to optimize our results as efficiently as possible. Going over that line is called overreaching, which is ok as long as it’s planned and usually followed up with a de-load. Staying well under that line means we are just spinning our tires and not doing enough work to progress and force adaptations within our body. Does this line have a name? Yep.. It’s your Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV). And unfortunately, this line is not universal. It depends on a long list of factors (like training experience) and is different for everybody. But it’s name is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the most amount of work that we can do that allows us to recover and not interfere with our next workout.

 

It’s not that hard to figure out your own MRV. It just takes some time to test it. Let’s say you use 100 pound dumbbells for 3 sets of 10 on flat bench. Next week do 4 sets. Then try 5 the following week. If during that week, your reps looked like this: 10, 10, 10, 10, 7- your MRV for that exercise at that weight was the 4th set. You failed on the 5th, so that was a little bit past your MRV.

 

Do we want to train to our MRV every workout? We suggest working up to your MRV over the course of three weeks, then overreaching on your fourth week, and then you would follow that up with a de-load on your fifth week. (FYI: when I say de-load, that doesn’t mean a week off. It’s a week at a calculated lesser volume). Then you could start the cycle over.

 

So that should help us in deciding how to maximize the efficiency of our workouts, but how do we parlay that back into progressions? Well, that will help us calculate what the overview of our program should look like. But in the day to day of each of our individual workouts, ON AVERAGE, each workout should have increased volume from the last. That doesn’t mean every single workout, but on average that should be the rule… Increased volume=progression.

 

This part can get pretty technical when it comes to designing your program. But for those of you who aren’t sure exactly what volume is: weight x sets x reps = volume. If you bench 100 pounds for 4 sets of 10, your volume is 4000 lbs. So whether you add 5 pounds next week, or increase that same load for an additional set, your volume is increased. The extra set increases volume a lot more than the 5 pound increase at the same number of sets. So both should be incorporated at different times in the program to ensure you are progressing, but not overreaching too often.

 

Everyone has heard the phrase, “Train insane or remain the same,” right? There’s a little more to it than that, but it’s true. If you train the same, you remain the same. You need an overload to progress. You need to progress to force adaptations. We need adaptations to go to the beach every summer or to leave a competition with something shiny. You have to train harder AND smarter.. We can help with that! Join the Evolution and find the success that so many of our members have already!

 

http://www.sd-evolution.com/services.html

Client Spotlight: Liana Ross

Client Spotlight: Liana Ross

This week’s client feature goes to Liana Ross. Liana has been working with us since May and has been such a positive addition to the team. Initially we started with fat loss and then progressed her through a reverse diet which she is now maintaining.

1) Hey Liana! Tell us about your dieting history and journey with not only flexible dieting but with food in general. 

Throughout my child hood i was not the most healthiest eater.  This caught up with me by the time i reached high school and therefore ONLY focused on wanting to lose weight.  So during this time i thought the only way to lose weight was to restrict my eating.  I would eat sparingly throughout the day which resulted in binge eating at night due to the restriction, paired with long extensive time on the cardio machines.  This continued until college.  During college i became involved in a lot of partying and with partying comes poor diets.  I had gained 25 pounds while at college and knew when i came home this needed to change.  During my third year of college i became introduced to the idea of counting my calories and incorporating the 40/40/20 rule.  This is when my cooking began due to wanting to fuel my body with healthy meals.  Even though i was not restricting food as bad as i had in the past, i was still afraid of eating more..but i knew i NEEDED to in order to lose weight.  I trusted the process and immediately saw results.  This peaked my interest about nutrition which resulted in my own research of how to lose weight, workout, and basic nutrition principles.  Yes, i became knowledgable, but i became obsessive about “clean eating.”  Many people do not see this type of eating as restrictive due to eating the necessary amount of food for my body, but it was restricting any food that was made out of processed ingredients.  Yes this produced results, but i quickly plateaued and i did not know why.  About 2 years ago throughout more of my research, I came across Layne Norton who was the first person who had introduced the idea of IIFYM or flexible dieting.  I knew i did not want to be a “clean eater” any more and wanted to enjoy the foods i loved.  I knew I HAD  to once again trust the process.  I experimented with configuring my own macros through certain websites which increased my experience with IIFYM and flexible dieting. I had the freedom i wanted, while also getting the results i wanted. I believe both of these aspects combined is what helped motivate me and grow my passion for lifting and fueling my body today.

2) What has been your favorite part about learning to incorporate flexible dieting? 
My favorite part about incorporating flexible dieting is being able to have freedom.  Freedom from feeling guilty over eating certain foods, and freedom to eat a variety of foods, from oatmeal and egg whites to Reese’s puffs cereal and double stuffed oreos.  I am able to attend social events, restaurants, and vacations without feeling the need to turn it into a constant “cheat day.”  Flexible dieting has also allowed me to learn so much about my body, nutrition, and fueling my workouts which has given me relief after being obsessed with the idea of “clean eating.”  Lastly, one of my main passions include cooking which flexible dieting has allowed me to experiment with a variety of recipes.  Restriction does not need to be a part of my story anymore.

3)How has incorporating an untracked day of eating helped you along this journey? 

Incorporating an untracked day has helped me mentally and physically.  At first, I knew i wanted to do it once the idea was brought to my attention, but i was nervous and hesitant.  In the past, having an untracked meal meant saying “fuck it” or turning it into a cheat day, as a result of my history of binge eating.  This time i knew it was going to be different.  It has allowed me to recognize the knowledge and experience i had gained through flexible dieting while also allowing me to recognize my true hunger cues.  Often times, we can turn to flexible dieting and macro counting for all the right reasons, but it is very easy for it to act as a crutch rather than a tool.  This was the situation for me and i did not recognize this until recently.  This is something i am still consistently working on as it is not an over night switch, yet incorporating the untracked day is helping improve my mind set and confidence.

4) What do you eat in a typical day?

Breakfast: Egg white scramble with veggies like spinach, mushrooms, and peppers, topped with some salsa, with a side of a carb choice (either oatmeal, frozen hash browns, toast, or fruit are my favorites)

Mid morning: Chobani flavored or plain greek yogurt mixed with almonds and french toast crunch cereal

Pre workout: Sweet potato, broccoli, lean protein (chicken, turkey meatballs, salmon are my favorites)

Post workout: 3 slices of Cinnamon raisin ezekiel french toast topped with banana and sugar free pancake syrup

Dinner: Baked spaghetti squash chicken parmesan boats

Evening snack: One serving of Edy’s slow churned cookie dough ice cream topped with sprinkles, and cookie dough peanut butter, with a side of strawberries

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

 

 

 

Fitness Friday: Happy May!

Fitness Friday: Happy May!

Hello Fitness Warriors!

Can you believe we’re already 5 months into 2015?? Pure craziness. 5 months ago many of you set goals for yourself, and whether you achieved them or not, I always use the start of a new month as an excuse to set the bar even higher. The weather is now officially getting warmer and that is always something that tends to motivate me. So today, even though it is the end of the week, it is May 1st and I challenge you to set some new goals for yourself to achieve this month!

I actually want to share with you what I have come up with for my personal goals. As many of you know I began focusing on a more powerlifting style of training for the past 6-7 months. Changing my focus from aesthetics to just strength has not only changed my mindset but it allowed me to get the results I was stressing so hard to achieve before. When I stopped focusing on perfecting my body, it was then that I started to make the progress I wanted. I have discussed what exactly powerlifting is and why I have become sort of obsessed with it in a guest post on our friends Nick & Anthony’s blog: The Bacy Bros so definitely check that out to get a little more of a background on it. To sum it up, powerlifting consists of performing the three main lifts: the squat, bench press & deadlift. I perform these three lifts 3X per week as well as some accessory work. Up until yesterday, I was powerlifting simply for fun and because I enjoyed it. It is constantly challenging for me and I love how it pushes my mind and body in ways that simple bodybuilding couldn’t do. (NO I’m not hating on bodybuilding at all! I just needed something new!) I created a DUP or Daily Undulating Periodization block for myself and fell in love with the feeling that lifting over double my bodyweight gave me.

 

powerIMG_3288

I have officially decided to compete in powerlifting this week and I couldn’t be more excited! This is my new summer goal for myself and my first meet is set for July 19th through the RPS Federation. It is a Push/Pull meet so I will only be deadlifting and benching but I think it will be a great starting point for me. This sport is certainly as not as glamorous as my past bikini competitions, but it is safe to say it has become a passion of mine. I will be documenting my progress and entire prep on this blog and through YouTube so stay tuned for some Vlogs as well!

REvPS

I think that goal setting is something that everyone should do on a regular basis. I not only set bigger goals like this one, but smaller goals for myself to achieve throughout the week. It can be something as small as sticking to my macros, hitting a small PR on my squat, or even making a special healthy recipe for dinner. By having these small achievements, you are constantly setting yourself up for success with your larger goals.

What are you going to achieve this month? Let us know and comment below or tag us on Instagram or Twitter @sd_evolution

 

Have a great weekend you guys!

Alessandra

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