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How New York Lifts Weights

Posted on 17 January 2009 by Jason White

Weight Loss and Strength Training New York Style

Weight Loss and Strength Training New York Style

After some of my recent posts I heard some feedback about this notion of pushing harder and making exercise more difficult. There is fear there for some people. Who wants to get hurt? None of us do.

But what’s the point of having a body that you aren’t thrilled with? What is the point of having a body that’s like ‘eh, it’s okay.’ Why not have the body of your dreams? It’s certainly the goal that I’ve been in hot pursuit of. It is certainly the reason why I started strengthnation.com. And I believe it is the reason for all of us to come together at a place like this or strengthnation.com and support each other in this effort. I think that attaining the body of your dreams is an honorable and worthwhile goal.

I understand that value is different for each of us. It also means that we have to come to a clearer understanding of what it means to push and how to go about it in a way that produces a result and not an injury.

I got an email recently that was from a man overseas who was having a little bit of trouble, kind of justifying what it meant to be intense. So we need to define intensity and define what that means. So let’s take a look at it from a purely mechanical point of view.

Intensity is referred to as the amount of effort in a given situation. Let’s call it a given lift. So, if we take for example, a bench press. Now, I can’t say do an intense bench press at one hundred pounds, because for some people that might not be very intense and for others, that might be so intense it’s impossible to even press it once.

So what intensity is a measure of, is typically a measure of your one repetition maximum. Your one repetition maximum for any given lift, is the most amount of weight you can successfully, with good form, lift for one repetition, not two. And that’s a big distinction. People have written a lot about intensity over the years. Mike Mentzer was famous for his one set protocol. And if you listen to the interview I did with Fred Hahn the author of Slow Burn on strengthnation.com you will hear how he promotes super slow training, which is the most amount of weight you can lift for more than sixty seconds, but less than ninety seconds. Doing very slow, very controlled repetitions. Perhaps one or two repetitions per set.

The theory behind it is that intensity is the trigger. Intensity is the trigger that tells your body whether or not to build muscle. And what we’re all trying to do when we go to the gym to lift weights is build muscle. Some people are trying to build enormous amounts of muscle. Some people are just trying to do enough weight lifting to stimulate muscle tissue to stick around, so that when they do their cardio and their diet and they’re losing weight, they’re not losing muscle, they’re losing fat.

So I’ll review that thought in a second, but I want to make sure we’re clear about intensity. Intensity is a measure of your one repetition maximum. So, if you can complete one repetition of a given weight, but not two, that’s as intense as you can get for that lift.

Some people train for single reps, especially power lifters train, gradually stepping up to a one repetition maximum. So that when they get to a meet or a competition, they can perform their biggest lift ever, their most intense lift ever. That’s part of a very specific training protocol. Most of us don’t need to do one repetition maximums, except when we’re checking in to determine how strong we are. And the reason why we do that is because a quality weight lifting program is going to prescribe repetitions based on a percentage of your one repetition maximum and your desired personal goals.

Body building type endeavors, muscle building type endeavors are typically seventy or seventy-five percent of your one repetition maximum. And you can usually do about twelve repetitions based on that number. And when I say twelve repetitions, I mean twelve, but not thirteen. So that’s a measure of intensity. And the lower that percentage gets, the less intense you are exercising.

So when you are trying to determine intensity for yourself, the most important thing to remember, is to perform with good form…in control. It doesn’t count if it’s bad form. It doesn’t count if you have to kick and scream and blah, blah, blah to get a second repetition or to even get your one repetition.

Your intensity level is an expression of your ability in its strictest form. For you, that might mean one single pushup from your toes. Touch your chin to the floor, nothing else touches and you press back up. Smooth and steady. You can’t do it twice. That could be your most intense effort. We all have a most intense effort, a personal best and that is going to be true for each and every one of us. That’s the grand unifying theory of weight lifting. Everybody has their own benchmark that they’re trying to lift against. That they’re trying to do better than. That they’re trying to achieve. It’s true for you, it’s true for me.

Typically, it’s measured in terms of body weight. If you can bench press your body weight, if you can bench press one and a half times your body weight, you are an incredibly strong individual. If you can squat twice your body weight or more, you are an incredibly strong individual. That is a measure of your intensity. So when I talk about intensity and when I say you have to up the intensity if you want to produce a result, what I’m saying is, you have to find your strictest form. Your best form. You have to find the most effort, the most amount of weight you can lift for that form and your goal. And then base your workouts on that.

And you can test and retest and test and retest depending on where you are in your strength development. But it’s very important that we understand this concept. Intensity is not an objective number (100lbs). It’s a subjective number (10 lbs more than I lifted last week!). It’s an expression of your ability in your strictest form to achieve a single repetition lift. And then you can base your repetitions for other workouts on that.

For example, seventy five percent of your One rep Max is probably going to be a muscle building type workout. If you are new weight lifting what we would do is we would get you in the weight room and say, ‘okay, press this and see how much you can press.’ We would find that one repetition maximum. And then probably start you off at sixty or even fifty percent of that one repetition maximum to develop your body’s ability to adapt to the form and the movement of weight lifting. But if you’re an advanced weight lifter, if you’re used to weight lifting and you’ve been doing this, then you should have an idea of your one repetition maximum for a variety of lifts.

Typically, I say the big three. Dead lifting, squatting and bench pressing. You should know at a given moment how much you can lift for each of those lifts one time. Quick side note…The interesting thing about dead lifting is that your hands might be the weak link in that factor. And your hands might fatigue before your legs, your glutes, your hamstrings, your quads fatigue, and you might actually have more effort in your body, but not enough in your hands to hold the bar. So it’s important to remember that intensity is a reflection of your ability with strict form to successfully complete one lift.

Now, if you are an advanced weight lifter, you can also up the intensity by getting gradually closer to one repetition maximums. So you can spend a few weeks in the hypertrophy phases of lifting at seventy five percent. Then you can step it up to eighty percent. Then you can step it up to ninety percent.

This is all carefully outlined in terms of the workout program for my Rhythm System E-Book which is on strengthnation.com. And it’s spread out over a twelve week period. Gradually getting more and more intense until you’re lifting at roughly ninety five percent of your one repetition maximum. That’s very intense.

Eventually you are going to be attempting these type of intense efforts. Your repetition scheme is probably going to be about two, maybe as much as four. That’s heavy, heavy lifting. And it does produce a result. And it produces a result whether you’re male, whether you’re female, whether you’re young, whether you’re old.

So it’s important to remember that intensity is an expression of your ability with good form. You can’t hurt yourself if you’re using good form. You can hurt yourself if you’re using bad form.

So let’s say you’re, you know, seventy-five years old, you’ve got a bad shoulder, you’ve got a bad knee, you’ve got a bad hip, but there’s things that you can still do within your range of what you can accomplish successfully without pain, is going to measure your intensity level. Does that make sense? I hope it does. And I’m glad it does.

Whatever it is that is the personal best for you is the same energy, intensity and passion that is the same personal best for me even though we’re all different bodies. We all have different body types. We all have different amounts of time and energy we are able to sacrifice in order to achieve that which we want. But in our efforts we are united. In our goals we are united.

And that is truly valuable. I know that over the past few weeks I’ve been talking a lot about goals. I’ve been talking a lot about intensity. We’ve been trying to debrief ourselves and come back from the minor abyss that the holidays may have been and get on a track that is going to produce for us results. All I am trying to do is my best. I am seeking the edge of my ability and attempting to live there. That is all you can do too.

I just wanted to finish with that incomplete thought from above and that is on the subject of lifting in a way that retains muscle while burning fat. When you are dieting specifically to lose weight lifting becomes the pivotal factor upon which your success is determined. It tells the difference between someone who is simply smaller than they were before the diet and someone who looks ripped, defined, toned, healthy and in shape.

You see weight lifting when done properly with a diet and cardio program will help your body retain muscle tissue. In the event of caloric deprivation your body your body will attempt to make up the deficit by converting muscle into fuel for locomotion. this has the unfortunate effect of making you smaller but not less fat. If you want to get that lean, in shape look then the weights will tell your muscles to stick around and afford your body the chance to use its stored fat to make up the caloric deficit making you leaner and more toned.

So throw that idea in with the intensity concept and yuo are well on your way to becoming a leaner, healthier, better looking, better feeling version of your pre holiday self.

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The only diet book that will ever work

Posted on 06 January 2009 by Jason White

Years worth of diet and exercise notebooks

Years worth of diet and exercise notebooks

Have you tried Oprah’s Acai Berry diet Book? The Three Hour Diet? Joel Marion’s Cheat to Lose Diet? Remember South Beach or Fit for Life? Atkins of course…There’s one simple problem that all the guru’s out there in the world, all the guru’s out here on the internet or in the bookstores have…

They can’t do it for you.

You have to take the best that everyone can offer and you have to take the best that he or she can offer, all those other guru’s out there and you’ve got to put it all together in your own particular format and determine for yourself whether or not it works for you.

You know, the best possible solution I can come up with is for you to get this stuff written down in a notebook and start asking the questions: Well, how did this work? How did that work? If you make a record of your diet and exercise routine and you notice that you’re not getting leaner, losing fat weight, or gaining the strength you want… well, then you have some investigating to do.

Go to the dollar store, go to the drug store, go to Staples, go anywhere, spend one dollar and get a notebook. One of those, you know, seventy page school notebooks. Spiral bound. Get one of those and write down every day what you ate, what time and what kind of exercise you did and then specifically how much of that exercise you did. How far you ran at what speed for example. Do you have a heart rate monitor? Could you measure your heart rate? Write down your resting heart rate in the morning. Write down your goals and objectives. Make little notes. Talk about how you feel. I got stacks of those things at home.

That’s how I’ve managed my fitness for the last 20 years. That’s how I have ridden a steady wave of progress even as I approach 40 years old. I just set two personal best records in strength: at 140lbs I bench pressed 200lbs for 1 repetition and I performed a weighted dip with 75lbs chained to my waist for 3 repetitions.

About 15 Years ago now when I first moved to New York City, the first thing I did was go and find a gym I could afford. I think it was $400 for the year. It was called Serge’s gym and it was about as big as a 1 car garage (which is what I think it used to be) over on Greenwich St. just above Christopher. I loved that ittle gym and that is where I continued the investigation I had started in 1991 in my college weight room. I was working out one day and this guy rolled up on me. He happened to be a little bit overweight, although he was working out. He’s like, ‘you know, pretty soon you won’t have to write it all down.’ I looked at him and I said, ‘what do you mean?’ He’s like, ‘well, you know, as you get more experienced.’ ‘Like, what makes you think I’m not experienced? Because I’m writing it down? I’ve been writing it down for years. That’s why I’m in good shape.’

That ended that conversation.

You can do that too (write it down I mean, not throw atttude at a stranger). And guess what? By the end of several of those notebooks, you’ll have collected a couple hundred pages and you will have written your very own best selling diet book that will tell you, better than any diet book, better than any guru, better than myself in fact, about how what you’re eating and what you’re doing for exercise is producing the kind of results that you want or don’t want. It’ll tell you right there!

You can look back in a couple of months and look at your body and say, ‘did it work?’ If the answer’s no, then you have the evidence in front of you. Whatever’s in that book, you can’t do it like that anymore. You’ve got to change it. You’ve got to start doing something different. Doesn’t that make sense?

And I’ll tell you what, if you can’t figure it out for yourself you can easily hire a personal trainer to review your notebook with you and help you troubleshoot where you’re going wrong. And for those of you who think you’ve got to be some kind of billionaire to hire a personal trainer it’s absolutely not true. I’ve worked with many people very successfully and they see me infrequently, maybe a couple of times a month.

You know why? Because they’re highly motivated, they’re curious and they are their own scientists. They are asking their own questions and they’re investigating their own fitness and they come to me and they say okay, well this is what I’ve done. And they show me notebooks and they show me records and they show me designs and they say well I tried this and I tried that and I tried this, why doesn’t this work? And so I’m able to use my expertise to help them troubleshoot.

The same is true for any nutritionist or life coach you want to go see. They are going to do the same thing. Well, show me a diet log, or the records you have kept and I will be able to help you. Oh well, you know, if we look back over the last two weeks it’s obvious, this is where you’re going wrong. Here’s what you want to change in order to go right. All right?

As human beings we want it easy. Everybody wants it easy. It’s always going to be: Find the easy road. Which is why so few people have the body they truly desire. So, few of us are getting fitter as we seek ways to make things easier. There are very few of us who seek ways to put ourselves through the pain and anguish of effort. It’s difficult. And I think that the real pain of it is, is that there isn’t a diet that works for everybody. Otherwise, we’d all be on it.

I think that’s the reason why there’s such a tremendous turnover in the amout of diet books and exercise guru’s out there. If you write a big diet book and put a bunch of exercises down and get recipes and some testimonials and some case studies in a way that makes it seem easy… you can have a best seller. I’m surprised that the Three Hour Diet didn’t do any better. Or Volumetrics, or Oprah’s magic acai berry diet didn’t do better than it has. I would’ve expected those things to be best sellers for years and years and years, no problem.

The issue is that as individuals each of us is a little bit different. A little bit different enough that one diet from another diet from another diet doesn’t work foreverybody. Even if one did it would also depend on what you’re doing. It depends on what your goals are, what your objectives are, your cultural background and bloodline, your bloodtype, your genotype, your metabolic type and so on.

All these things come into play to account for bio-individuality. And as we’re trying to account for bio-individuality, there are very few people who are actually capable and willing to sit down and do the investigative work in a systematic manner:

Does this work for me?

Is this something that could work for me but needs fine tuning?

Is this something that helps me to get closer to my goal?

Is this something that helps me get a better understanding of myself and how my body operates?

And that’s the work that I’ve been doing for years and years. You know, I’ve read diet books and I’ve read exercise manuals and you know, I’ve taken it as far as I could. I’m taking it even further. I continue to study. I continue to go to courses and continue to get updated on the best fitness information.

And at the end of the day, what I think it really comes down to is, the people who are successful at losing weight, building muscle, getting in good shape, creating healthy fat loss, are the people who are willing to sacrifice. And the sacrifice that needs to be made is taking the time to build an understanding of how your body works. It’s an investigation. It’s the ability to seek out the answer to your questions:

Why am I gaining weight?

How come I’m not in the best shape of my life?

How come get tired when I run up stairs?

How do I create the ideal fat loss solution for myself?

And that has to be a never ending line of thought. That has to be a line of thinking that continues no matter what. Because as soon as you get to one level, you’re going to get to the next. As soon as you get to that level, you’re going to get to the next. Your body is an infinitely, adaptable mechanism. It will adapt to the circumstance that it is presented with provided there’s adequate rest and adequate nutrition, enough water and so forth.

So, if those things aren’t present then obviously you can’t create your ideal healthy, low fat, lean and muscular body …it’ll just end up in a state of stress. So that’s what the Rhythm System I wrote was about. Years ago I wrote my first book. It is an exercise prgram and philosophy that has at its heart a method of investigating and a method of managing the stress of exercise and its fraternal twin the recovery. Stress, recover, stress, recover. Creating a rhythm. It’s no good in isolation. It’s no good one off.

How many people do you know who got up and went jogging one day in the first week of January because they realized all of a sudden they were out of shape and they haven’t been running since? Or they bought a gym membership and then they went a couple of times in a year?

It doesn’t work unless it’s rhythmic. It doesn’t work unless it’s integrated into the rhythm of your life. It doesn’t work unless it’s a rhythm in and of itself. Once you can mange that rhythm, once you can establish that rhythm, then you can establish the kind of experience that fosters steps towards reaching your goal.

And I think that if you’re reading this, if you have read this far, then that’s the kind of person that you are. The kind of person who’s willing to take those steps. And that has to be honored. That’s – that’s incredibly valuable. You are one of the people who are creating a stronger nation. You’re not gong to listen to the garbage on TV. You’re going to do what it takes. You want to know as much about how your body works as best as you possibly can.

That notebook costs only 1 dollar.


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How to Make 2010 your fittest year ever!

Posted on 04 January 2009 by Jason White

I just read that 95% of all new year’s Resolutions FAIL within the first few weeks of the new year.

There is really only one way to prevent this from happening. You must be able to see in your mind clearly how strong you want to be, how powerful you want to feel, how flexible you want to be, how thin (or thick) you want your legs, how defined you want your arms and shoulders, how flat you want your belly to be. You’ve got to be able to see all that if you’re going to achieve it. And you must be able to do that because it provides you not only with motivation and inspiration, but it also provides you with what I call the panacea.

It’s a pain reliever. Because in order to get to where you want to be, you’re going to have to sacrifice. Now we all have to sacrifice and a lot of times that sacrifice is really painful because it includes doing…doing things or not doing things that we really like to do.

When I sat down and interviewed Doug Joachim for Strengthnation.com, we talked a lot about the emotional and psychological ramifications of getting in shape. And one of the things that you’ve heard me speak about on The Strengthcast has been the movement toward or away. And Doug categorized this as the movement of fear or the movement of love.

This is a powerful concept because years and years and years ago before I became a personal trainer, I used to work in the restaurant business. When I worked in the restaurant business I was just out of college and I smoked cigarettes a lot in college. I also worked out a lot, but I also smoked cigarettes a lot (something about the restaurant business I guess).

As I established my life when I was just getting started here in the city a lot of that had to do with hanging out and partying. I really liked to get out and socialize and party and I also really liked to workout. During this time I noticed that the more I drank and the more I smoked, the worse my workouts became (duh!). So I had to start making a certain kind of choice about how I wanted to live my life. I realized this as I was sucking wind on the Stairmaster one day saying “god-damn I’ve got to quit smoking if I’m going to be able to do this for twenty minutes and you know… not feel like an idiot”.

So I made a commitment. I said I’m going to quit smoking cigarettes and I have. I haven’t smoked cigarettes in years and years and years, but the way I did it was I didn’t actively set out to not smoke. That would be moving away from something (fear). In effect, what you’re setting up is a negative story that you’re telling yourself (fear again). If you ever listen to any self-help gurus or any guys that do NLP stuff, what they talk about is the brain’s inability to interpret a negative. In fact, at the gym recently one of the guys was talking about a baseball pitching coach and how he helped his pitchers to improve. What they found was a pitcher couldn’t accurately pitch if he was thinking: “don’t throw it over there” (you start to see fear at work).

You see this in golf a lot when you stand on a tee and you’re facing water and you have to hit the ball over water. The more you picture in your mind the water, the more afraid you become of the water, the larger it looms in your mind, the more likely it is you’re going to put the ball in the water. The same with the pitcher, the more he thought about not hitting the batter, the more likely he was to hit the batter.

And the same is true for you.

The more you focus on where you’re not going to go, the more likely it is you’re going to go there.

So this included for me (way back then) not smoking. I couldn’t focus on not smoking. What I had to focus on was the health and vitality (and love) that I wanted to experience. So now I wasn’t moving away from smoking, I was moving towards a health and vitality that I wanted to experience. This is a very positive effect. It is a loving effect It had a very positive effect on my attitude. It had a very positive effect on my mind and it created a positive outcome because it made it so easy to quit smoking.

It wasn’t as if I was quitting smoking, I was simply embracing (love again) more and more every day a movement towards a healthy lifestyle. It’s critical to understand this because if you focus on for example: “I’m not going to be fat” You are going to move closer to being fat, not further.

The focus has to be on what exactly it is you want. The more you focus on this, the more your mind, your body, and your very being will carry towards this image in an effort to resolve this image into a manifest clarity that is actual, that is IN reality, that is tangible. This is really critical to understand because it can help determine whether or not you are successful. So a constant massaging of the image of your perfect body does nothing but infiltrate the movements of your daily life and you’ll find it infiltrates the decisions that you’re making on a day-to-day basis.

You’ll find that it’s infiltrating the amount of weight you’re lifting in the gym or the strength of your commitment or the power of your emotional experience as you go into your workout. Remember, your workouts should be stimulating enough to cause a bit of trepidation. You should have in your body a feeling of nervousness as you start moving towards your workout because you know it’s going to be stimulating enough to effect change in your body.

This means it might be strenuous, it’ll be difficult, challenging, fearful. So rising to the challenges, experiencing love (of your body, of the opportunity to express yourself) are going to be experiences that you want to have. Rising to the challenge is something that you want to pursue because that is going to lead you ever closer to this image in your mind that you’re trying to resolve.

I know people who do this with confidence and clarity. It’s as much a part of their workout as actually lifting the weight is and you’ll find it works to get your workout up to the next level. And the thing about it, which is really compelling, is that you can’t really rest on it. It has to be an ever-present movement towards this body that you want, movement towards this feeling that you want and you want to be able to feel that feeling in your bones.

You want to be able to feel that feeling in your muscles, in your heart, in your lungs and you want to be able to push yourself into this place by allowing the image to call you out of your comfort zone, by allowing your desire to call you out of your comfort zone and into places that you’ve never been before.

The loving image you see yourself as becomes the panacea that eliminates the pain of fear.

This is how you will become successful in fitness. Frankly, it’s how you’ll become successful in almost any endeavor, but in terms of what we’re trying to do it will absolutely aid you in your fitness endeavor, whether it’s gaining muscle or whether it’s losing weight. They’re equally difficult for all of us.

We all face similar problems.

I have a weight loss problem. I have difficulty keeping muscle on my body and there are many people who have the opposite problem, they have a difficult time keeping weight off their body. So we are all compelled to move towards something that we are not in this moment. And I think that’s fine. I think it’s healthy. I think it’s smart, I think it’s excellent, I think it’s half of the engine that drives the economy, commerce and the desire to reach out and connect with other people because we can help each other.

I can help you get closer to where you want to get to because I can teach you how to do it. And the main kernel of it is creating this loving image that is you at your best, you at your most perfect, you at your most stellar and giving yourself the permission to move towards that image, to move towards that feeling and the more you do that, the more it becomes a habit. And the more you do that, the more the things that are in your way will fall to the wayside.

Remember, I didn’t not smoke back when I was trying to quit smoking so much as I moved towards a healthy lifestyle, which naturally doesn’t include smoking cigarettes. I still like to drink and socialize and that can be a conflict with my fitness goals. So I have to manage that and I have to be prepared to work on the imagery, to work on the desire, to work on what it is I want and make it so secure and make it so solid, make it so large in my mind that it draws me towards my goal and it draws me out of my comfort zone into the zone of my fittest year ever.

Yours too I bet.

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