Monthly Archives: September 2012

How to de-clutter your training – Part 1

Have you ever thought about how many people in the world workout/train trying to look, feel and function better? Ever wondered how many of those people actually see results? The answer to that question is, not many. Only a very small percentage of people who workout regularly actually get results and chances are very high that you are not one of those people.

Genetics and laziness – the two greatest determinants of success or failure – aside, one other aspect that influences the extent of your results is, shockingly, ‘doing the right thing’. This doesn’t really say much because ‘doing the right thing’ can be very different things based on who it comes from. That said, every great mind, every seasoned master, every passionate soul, every legit being will tell you that in order to be successful, you need to focus on the things that matter the most. Like how focussing on family, good health, education etc., helps with a better future, focussing on a simple set of effective training tools helps with awesome results.

Here are my top 4 tips to de-clutter and simplify your training.

Kill the fluff.

The problem is always fluff. All day everyday in everything. Fluff causes undue anxiety, confusion, overdoing and, eventually, failure. Fluff here is ‘the flashy but unnecessary’. In all walks of life, there is such fluff. Being very attractive, it confuses, mesmerizes and captivates you forcing you to forget the basics and fall prey to ‘fads’.

The solution is to fight the temptation to do what you want and focus on doing what you need to do. Stated differently, quit doing something because it looks fancy and focus on exercises that matter. It doesn’t matter if your goals are to lose weight or get strong or perform better athletically or look awesome naked. Without mastering the squat, the hinge, the push, the pull and the run (which are the most basic human movements)  in one form or the other, you’re getting no where close to where you want to be.

While performance seekers ‘get this’, that isn’t always the case with people who train to look good. Understand that, in the raw sense, your looks are a visual representation of your physical capabilities (of course assuming your nutrition is fairly on target). Today, I can do about 20 pullups and can deadlift double bodyweight and what do I look like? I look like someone who can do 20 pullups and can deadlift double bodyweight. If I want to look like that guy there who can do 30 pullups, well, I need to train and become capable of doing 30 pullups. What I’m trying to say is, you’re not going to look like a greek God(ess) just from walking on a treadmill and lifting 2kg dumbbells. Awesome looks result from great capabilities which result from simple but hard work.

Summary: 80% of your training should be squatting, hinging, pushing, pulling and running in their most basic form. The remaining 20%, call it ‘f*ck around time’ and do whatever it is that floats your boat.

Worry less about what you use and think more about how you move. 

It doesn’t matter if you work with barbells or kttlebells or dumbbells. It only matters that you don’t work with the Shake Weight that you do the right movements. Not exercises, movements.

The only requirement is resistance and that can be generated from any object that obeys the laws of gravity, be it the oh-s0-awesome looking kryptonite coated pink colored dumbbells or a beat up paint peeling kettlebell or a backpack with a bunch of books in it or a rock or even your own body. What you need to focus on is not the tool (equipment) but understanding and mastering the movement. If you can’t do 10 perfect pushups, you have no reason to even glance at that monster bench pressing 300 lb. If you can’t do a single pullup, you’ll only waste time curling iron. If you can’t activate your hamstrings when doing a hinge, bedroom time isn’t going to be too much fun lifting heavy loads off the floor will only beat up your lower back. If you cant bend down and touch the floor, rest assured that you will hurt your spine sooner or later.

Summary: Change the way you look at fitness. Forget what equipment you use. Remember that training is all about moving efficiently and without that you’re just wasting your time. Nothing more and absolutely nothing less.

Keep that intensity high.

It isn’t about how long you train for or how many reps you perform. It is about intensity. The higher the intensity the lesser the time you should train for and the better the results. When training for strength, it isn’t just your muscles that are fatigued. Your Central Nervous System (CNS) take a beating too and the more you let it recover the better you will be able to recover and hence, the better you’ll be able to train in the long term. Too much work too frequently will only result in mediocre results and plateaus and overtraining and, almost undeniably, injuries.

Summary: Rest plenty between sets where plenty = time taken for complete recovery of target muscle group/movement, but work uber hard during each set. 

Rehabilitate everyday.

I believe everyone is injured at all times. An injury needn’t mean only an injury in the traditional sense but also an incapability. Not being able to touch the floor, in my opinion, is a bigger injury than a strained muscle and needs more attention than a traditional injury would. Keep in mind that training is about working on aspects that need work. If you have a painful joint, then you need to dedicate time to rest, rehab and recover until the joint is back to normal before worrying about doing anything else with it. Similarly, if your mobility is compromised, you need to dedicate time to work on that. If you’re super mobile but weak, then strength and stability should be your focus. You get the idea.

Summary: See what needs work and take time everyday to work on it. Most rehab and mobility work takes 15-20min per day and results in a drastically better quality of life. 

In part 2, I’ll write about the same 4 topics, but will get more specific about who needs to do what, when, why etc.

Peace out.

De-cluttering training and nutrition

It’s been a long time since I blogged and today seemed like a perfect day to do so. One thing I’ve been thinking about is how I started writing this blog as a way to record my experiences with health and fitness and how it slowly moved away from that and became an information dump of sorts (while helping thousands of people, of course). Considering how busy lazy I’ve been to keep this blog alive and thriving, I think, like everything else in life, it is time to get back to the basics. Make a plan and stick with it. And here is my plan.

Start writing.

Just so we’re clear, this post won’t have any amazing insights about nutrition or links to studies that prove that a certain food is a superfood/poison or how training exactly 17.32 minutes after waking up will help you lose more fat. Posts like this might very well be boring for many, but they are what I need to write and read.

– – – – – x – – – – –

My battle with fitness related progress has always been because of the ‘switch’ mentality. I’m an all or nothing kind of guy. When it comes to training, I’m in it or out of it. Moderation never works for me. In other words, I walk into a training session either to dominate the session or I explicitly half-ass it or don’t train at all. And honestly, most of you are like me.

I approach, not just training sessions, but even training programs with this mentality. When I start a training program, I’m super excited looking forward to everything about the program and start off with a bang. With time though, my excitement drops and I see myself crawling to the finish line. What is interesting here is that I do stick with the program entirely and I get the results I’m looking for, at least most of it. What I lack is the motivation to keep going beyond the finish line. The problem is not the lack of commitment or lack of variety in the program. The problem is the finish line. The problem is that there is a finish line.

It took me years to understand that fitness never ends. There is no such thing as ‘completion’ when it comes to fitness. Programs, be it a self-conducted one like Starting Strength or a professionally conducted one like The Quad, are short spurts of intense effort providing you visible results. But the point of such programs is to lay a foundation on which you can build on and continue your never ending journey towards fitness.

This all or nothing mentality worked well for a good chunk of time but, like everything else, it got old. It became harder and harder to psych myself up before each training session, to stay committed and focussed to my oh-so-ambitious goals and, most importantly, to make continuous progress.

I decided to fix this once and for all. So here is what I did – I came up with rules to de-clutter my training and nutrition and hence, life. Simple small rules that will help declutter my fitness-life. Here are the rules.

  1. Push, pull, squat, hinge and run. Waste no time on fluff.
  2. Forget equipment. Forget muscles. Focus on movements.
  3. Train hard. Keep total volume low.
  4. Do some form of rehab work everyday.
  5. Stop being a brat and sleep.
  6. Eat protein with every meal.
  7. Keep starch to a minimum on rest days.
  8. Eat more organic produce.
  9. As an immediate response, say no to junk. You can reconsider later.
  10. Supplement wisely.

Details about each one of these rules and how they have helped me stay strong and in great shape without dedicating too much time or sanity to follow in the upcoming posts.

More soon.


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