Archive for Dedication

Do You Know What You Are Training?

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

Training can be a tricky thing. Most people will tell you it’s just about effort, and for the most part that is where it starts. If you put in lots of work, good things will happen. If you don’t, it becomes hard to make change. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s talk specifics…

If you are looking to improve body composition, sometimes it doesn’t matter WHAT you do, as long as you are doing enough work in general. If you have plenty of room for improvement, then almost anything works, as long as you are doing SOMETHING. However, when your goals are more specific, you need more specific ways of structuring your training and I’ll outline some of these.

You can learn more about this from THIS ARTICLE.

In general, training needs to be focused on a specific characteristic. The one’s we’ll discuss here are Strength, Hypertrophy, Power/Speed, Body Composition, and Conditioning.

NOTE: These categories overlap, and improvements will generally be seen in multiple areas, but the biggest improvements should be seen in the area of FOCUS.

Strength

Typically this is where you will see a lot of the focus for athletes and powerlifters. The average gym goer will opt more for hypertrophy or fat loss due to the aesthetic effects rather than the performance gained from a strength-focused block of training.

When training for strength, a large portion of the adaptation comes from the nervous system and its ability to coordinate the use of your muscle tissue. Synchronization of motor units, inhibition of antagonist muscle groups, and increased recruitment of motor units all contribute to lifting heavy weight on top of some increases in muscle mass.

Here are a few examples of strength work. This is typically compound movements (lots of muscles used) for high load and low repetitions.

Hypertrophy

This is definitely the most popular category for young men, because your biceps can never get big enough. Truthfully, having a decent amount of muscle mass is important for self-confidence and filling out half your wardrobe, so I definitely don’t know it. I think almost every guy has thought about putting on 10lbs of muscle, and every woman has thought about seeing a nice flat stomach. There is nothing wrong with being sexy.

There are a lot of different programs and approaches that are used for hypertrophy but there is definitely a best-way and all the rest. The catch is whether you want muscle mass and strength and power to all improve together. This goes back to the concept of specificity. You can accomplish all 3, but much slower.

Ideal hypertrophy training involves a high amount of volume per body part along with reaching that dreaded fatigue mark (1). In strength and power training this is discouraged, but with hypertrophy training this is the way to go…

Here are a few examples of the kind of volume you want to get for hypertrophy gains!

Conditioning/Fat Loss

If you think about the Crossfit approach, that is definitely the path to go for the best in conditioning and fat loss training. You want to work in a high-intensity heart rate zone with low amounts of rest. The key here is to build circuits with a strong resistance training component so that you are either building muscle mass or maintaining what you have, while shedding body fat. That will ultimately make for the best body composition (Think Percent Body FAT!). If you could do a 30-40 minute mixed workout while avoiding going over the 40 second rest mark you will probably build quite a body composition workout. If you take this version of a Hypertrophy program, cut some of the volume down and make it full-body, you’d have a great workout.

Power/Speed

This is the bread and butter for athletes, but should not be the primary focus year round. The key to power/speed is that you need a sufficient base of strength in order to express high levels of power. Power involves moving high amounts of force quickly. Moving a tiny weight quickly is just annoying, not powerful. There are a few different approaches for working on speed and power. First, are the weightlifting exercises, clean and jerk, and snatch. These are difficult to master so if you want to do them well, find a coach who knows how to teach them. If you are weak, go figure out the strength part first! The second method is complexing a strength and speed movement to maximize power in the second movement. This is also an advanced technique that works best in experienced strong lifters, so feel free to try it out, but don’t make it a staple of your program if you aren’t strong (think 2x bodyweight squat for STRONG). Finally, strictly plyometric (jumping) or sprinting workouts are great ways to improve speed/power. These can be box jumps, bounding, broad jumps, sprints, hill sprints, etc.

Here are a few variations of speed and power work..

Conclusion

The key to getting the most out of your training is knowing WHAT you want to accomplish, then executing properly on the HOW. Think about sticking in one category for 4-6 weeks in order to see some adaptations!!

It’s About Getting Better!

Razor’s Edge Performance

1.    Burd NA, West DW, Staples AW, Atherton PJ, Baker JM, Moore DR, Holwerda AM, Parise G, Rennie MJ, Baker SK, and Phillips SM. Low-load high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men. PLoS One 5: e12033, 2010.

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Achieving Your Best…At Anything!

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I am proud to announce that I had the pleasure of reading the book of former Blue Jay Shawn Green two weeks ago. In fact, it was so good, that I also need to confess that I read it all within an afternoon/evening. I legitimately could not put it down. It’s called The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph and it chronicles his time in the major leagues, and the secret to accomplishing the many amazing feats from his career. In case you don’t remember, Shawn Green was an absolute monster in the late ’90s and early 2000’s. Don’t believe me? Google him and check out his stats. Better yet, pick up his book and read all about ’em.

Why it was so powerful…

This book definitely transcends baseball, and can apply to anything you do in life. Shawn talks about how he overcame some conflict (for you this can be internal or external) by immersing himself in meditation. There were two really important aspects to take away from his meditation. First, his meditation involved hitting a baseball. This means you can literally meditate doing anything that makes you happy. For many this might involve working out. I’m not trying to press it or anything, i’m just sayin’. Secondly, he had a small history with eastern philosophies, but it didn’t seem to make a huge difference with the actual performance. So if you haven’t studied any, then don’t sweat it. The key is that it is flexible to your conflict, your favourite activities, and your experience level.

What is the key?

The key to achieving success through this practice is the concept of flow. Flow is about being in a state of total engagement in a task. If you’ve ever done something where you’ve ‘lost track of time’ then you have definitely been in a state of flow. In fact, flow is also characterized by low levels of stress, improved focus and attention to detail, and improved mood. For many athletes, training and playing their sport of choice will usually put them in flow, and that helps to perpetuate success. For others it can be writing, reading, or any number of hobbies. Since flow is such a powerful tool for building positive self-efficacy, it’s no wonder that meditating/entering flow through swing practice helped Shawn become one of the best hitters in the majors over a 6 or 7 year span.

What is the takeaway?

As a strength and conditioning professional, I find that the mental aspect of success in sport or life in general are extremely understated. For some people. this casual meditation and flow may come naturally and help lead to magnificent accomplishments. For others, it takes a little bit of focus to practice these same concepts but with appropriate attention to detail. Also, working out can definitely be a meditation-like behaviour for many people trying to get away from something else in their life. Not only that, but if you are trying to get bigger, stronger, faster, or leaner, then losing yourself into the moment of training can be just as important as the exercises you do.

Do me a favour and read the book. Once you’ve finished, sit down and think about the things in your life that put you in flow!

FLOW

It’s About Getting Better!

What are the things that dictate our performance?

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I got a Kindle for christmas this year from my girlfriend and I absolutely love it. I always considered myself a fairly avid reader but my appetite for books has been voracious so far this year. It hasn’t hurt that since there has been a lot more snow this winter (instead of last year’s surprise) I have spent the past two months commuting on the TTC instead of biking and driving around. It’s amazing how much reading time this adds everyday!
Today I want to share some thoughts from a great book I just finished called Drive , by Daniel H. Pink.

The main premise of the book is to explain the key factors in what truly motivates people, based on plenty of research and experiments from the past 100 years. For the most part, it’s fair to say that there is still a large disconnect between what we consider the important factors for motivation and what has been shown in the research.

Let me go over a few of the things that I felt were powerful take-homes. First, quantified performance goals are only effective in the short-term, and preferrably for activities that require little thinking. If you are focused on losing those 10 pounds of fat, you are much less likely to be successful in the long run than someone who is focused on process (making exercise a habit) or qualitative goals like looking, feeling, or moving better.

Second, in order to be succesful in your chosen activities, you need to have some level of autonomy. This means that you have control over your actions and some of the circumstances surrounding your task. If we are talking about fitness and health, this part is easy to accomplish because everybody needs to actually complete their workouts and for the most part prepare meals.

The third important aspect of success is the concept of flow. To me this is one of the more powerful concepts I have come across in a while. If you haven’t heard of flow, it is the concept of being completely engaged in an activity so that focus is at an all-time high. This is the moment where Picasso is painting a canvas or Kenny G is vibing on his saxophone. When you spend lots of time in flow, you tend to also have better mood, feelings of well-being and are very productive. No matter what you are trying to accomplish, it’s important that you find out what kinds of things put you into flow and do more of them. If we are talking working out, it probably means leaving your cellphone in the locker, playing something awesome on your ipod and trying to wait until the end of the workout to talk to the hot chick on the elliptical. I think this is one of the reasons why static stretching and long distance running are so popular, it is very easy to get into flow doing these things, which in turn will make you feel good.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I opened the book, but I was really pleased with what I got out of it. Anybody who wants to learn more about getting the best out of themselves or others should go pick this book up and give it a read. Don’t forget, take control of your situation, set meaningful process goals, and find flow, to get more out of your workouts, more out of your job, and more out of your life.

Awesome Results From…

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , on February 10, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Awesome efforts. I’ll repeat that. Awesome results come from awesome efforts. We here at REP love to talk about awesomeness because when you see some it really makes it all worthwhile. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who wish for awesome results but just aren’t ready to put the effort in to make it happen. You would be surprised how often I get a client who asks me “what is the minimum amount of work I have to do to accomplish this goal?” Unfortunately, with that mindset you’ve already ensured you won’t make it there. I’ve never understood why people imagine they can get amazing things out of a workout program without putting much in. Sorry to say that this formula isn’t balanced.

Now, we will be the first to tell you that excessive volume will keep you from optimal results. Instead, I’m talking about intensity. Do you need to workout for an hour or two hours a day? Maybe not. But trying to only workout 2-3 days a week won’t cut it either. If you only worked out 15 minutes a day, 7 days a week, but they were AWESOME EFFORT workouts, you’d be blown away with AWESOME RESULTS. If you are only coming in twice a week and plodding through a 2-hour workout, I wouldn’t call that awesome.

Take 3-4 weeks and dedicate yourself to AWESOME EFFORTS. You’ll be surprised what you get out of it.
“The best program is the one you’re doing” – A wise person once said.

It’s About Getting Better!

The Pursuit of Awesomeness

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , on January 26, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Let’s start off with a definition to make sure we’re all on the same page here. Awesome – to inspire awe. Pretty simple, so why is it so hard to find?? As a trainer, my first session with a new client is basically an interview. Question 1: What is it you’re looking for exactly?? Whenever I hear the response, “to get/be healthier”, I call bullshit right off the bat. Let’s face it, you’re not dropping all that cash and time to be healthier. For that, I’ll tell you to stop smoking, drinking, ingesting chemicals, and taking the elevator. Problem solved. So what do you really want? Athletic performance? More muscle? Less fat? There’s usually something specific which was important enough for you to actually seek out a professional. The difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t is the pursuit of awesomeness.

We at Razor’s Edge feel so strongly towards this idea that we even have a lead developer of awesomeness (thanks Zak). He’s basically a consultant to make sure what we’ve been doing is awesome and what we will continue to do is awesome; he’s earned this title by being awesome himself. Our clients are basically divided into two categories, athletes and non-athletes. Most athletes are focused on sports performance and most non-athletes on body composition/aesthetics. The other real difference is in their drive and dedication. Why is that? They want to be awesome. They have found something in their lives where they are completely dedicated to being awesome at that particular endeavor. That makes all the difference. So for those who are lacking in the awesomeness category, you need to search yourself and find that particular thing. It can be whatever you want, but until you find something that you want to be awesome at you’ll never really put in the effort necessary to achieve your goals. You’re not going to build muscle/lose fat by going through the motions. You need to work hard in the gym, eat well, sleep well and reduce stress. Coming to me for an hour or two a week will not give you what you’re looking for and that looks bad for both of us. Plus, if you know specifically what you want, it makes my job much simpler. How do you know if you’re on the right track? Go back to the definition. You need to inspire awe in someone else (and yourself as well!). Some examples…”Wow you look awesome!”…”You can do 5 pullups? That’s Awesome”…”Look how high you jumped/fast you ran, that was Awesome!”… To summarize this entire post, here’s a quotation from Barney Stinson:

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