Six-pack abs. Tight butts. Lean, vibrant, flawless health. That’s the image the fitness industry is selling. But have you ever wondered what it costs to achieve that “look”? What you have to do more of? And what you really have to give up?
Make no mistake, there are real trade-offs as you attempt to lose fat and improve your health. Let’s talk about what they are. So you can consider how to get the body you really want while living the life you really enjoy.
Not long ago, one of our successful clients — we’ll call him Bill — came to us with a question.
Now that he’d lost thirty pounds (going from 22% body fat to 15%), he could run up stairs and haul heavy bags of garden soil without getting winded.
He could genuinely enjoy weekend bike rides with friends. He could wear clothes he used to be able to fit into but had long given up as hopeless.
But what next?
“Don’t get me wrong,” Bill said. “I’m happy with the way I look and feel.”
It’s just that he also wanted six-pack abs.
“Oh, I don’t have to look like a cover model,” he mused. “It’s just that I’m really close to looking… awesome.”
Bill figured that with just a little extra work, and a little more time, the abs would start popping and his physique would be “finished”.
Meanwhile, another client, Anika, had the opposite concern.
She just wanted to lose a little weight, and get a little more fit.
But she worried that in order to do so, she’d have to give up everything, become a “health nut”, and make massive changes.
Changes that probably included 6 AM bootcamps, kale shakes, lemon juice cleanses, and 1000 situps a day… forever.
“No way,” thought Anika. “That’s too much work.”
Our two client stories reflect two common misperceptions:
With just a few small, easy, hopefully imperceptible changes to one’s diet and exercise routine, you too can have shredded abs, big biceps, and tight glutes, just like a magazine cover model.
“Getting into shape” or “losing weight” involves painful, intolerable sacrifice, restriction, and deprivation.
Of course, neither of these are true.
The process that helps you lose “the first 10 pounds” isn’t the same one that’ll help you lose “the last 10 pounds”. Indeed, it usually takes a lot more work as you get leaner.
If you do aspire to “fitness model” or “elite athlete” lean, you might be surprised. Images are photoshopped for effect. Bodybuilders only look like that for competition. And achieving that look comes at a high cost; one most people aren’t willing to pay.
However, if you’re okay not being on the next magazine cover and aspire to be “lean and healthy” even small adjustments can — over time — add up to noticeable improvements. Sometimes these improvements can change, perhaps even save, lives.
With that said, we’re about to share something a lot of people in fitness and health don’t want you to see.
It’s a chart outlining what it really takes to lose body fat, improve your health, move from one fitness category to the next.
Some fitness people think you’re too afraid. Or too weak. Or that you won’t buy their products and services if they’re honest with you.
We think otherwise.
We think it’s necessary to weigh the pros and cons so that you can make informed decisions about your body and your life.
Bonus: We even created a cool infographic that summarizes this article. Click here for: The cost of getting lean illustrated. Is it really worth the trade-off?]
At some point, many of our coaching clients decide that being severely out of shape costs them too much energy, health, quality of life, and longevity. So they choose to change their behaviors and choices. With our help.
Other coaching clients decide that they want six-pack abs. Then, they discover that this option costs them something too. Some folks are willing to pay that cost. But most aren’t.
Even if you think you’d like that six-pack, it might turn out that you actually want something else a little bit more. And we wouldn’t blame you.
Here are the two basic principles:
1. If you want to make further changes to your body, you’ll need to make further changes to your behaviors.
2. The leaner you want to get, the more of your behaviors you’ll have to change.
What you decide to change, and how much you decide to change it, is up to you. What’s most important here is that you understand what it actually takes to do what you want (or think you want).
First, for the sake of context, let’s take a look at some numbers.
Data tell us that most men can be healthy somewhere between 11 to 22% body fat. For women, its between 22-33%.
Right now in the U.S., the average man is about 28% fat, and the average woman is 40% fat.
In other words, the average adult in the U.S. (and throughout most of the West) is carrying a lot of excess body fat. Unhealthy levels of body fat.
The good news is that it’s not that hard to go from over-fat to the higher end of “normal”.
You can do it with a few relatively small, easy-to-implement changes.
Assuming there are no other factors involved (such as a chronic health problem), if you make a few small changes like these, and do them consistently, in six months to a year, your body fat percentage will drop and fall into a much healthier range.
Now of course, not every change will feel simple, small, or easy. Especially when you start out.
You’ll need to put a little extra effort and energy into making those changes happen every day. And having a trainer or a coach support you — and hold you accountable — will probably help you feel more confident and on-track.
Nevertheless, if the changes are small enough, and you practice them consistently, you’ll probably find that eventually they’re just part of your regular routine.
In fact, one day in the future, you might even say, “I just don’t feel like myself without my daily walk!”
Suppose you’ve made a few changes like this.
Maybe you pack an apple in your lunch instead of apple juice. Or you include a salad with dinner, or you stick to one or two drinks with friends.
And you’re feeling good! Your knees have stopped hurting, plus your pants now button comfortably.
Now you’re somewhere in the zone of “a little extra padding, but not too bad”. You’re more mobile, healthier, and high-fiving yourself.
What’s the next step?
Well, if you’re a man who wants to reduce body fat from 20% to 14% (or 14% to 8%), or a woman who wants to go from 30% to 24% (or 24% to 18%), you’ll need to make some bigger changes.
You’ll need to invest more time, energy, and effort. You’ll need to plan more.
And you’ll also have to make some trade-offs.
If you’re a man and you want to go from 20% to 14% body fat, or you’re a woman and you want to go from 30% body fat to 24%, it’s all a question of doing more…and less.
You’ll probably need to do more stuff, such as:
You’ll probably need to do less stuff, such as:
And you’ll need to make these small changes consistently, over a period of time.
Many folks will decide that these changes are worth making. They want to look and feel better, get a good night’s sleep, get off medications, and so forth. So they’re ready to compromise.
Other folks will decide that they’re not yet ready to make more adjustments. And that’s fine too.
The most important thing is that you realize: In order to change…you have to change.
At next stage — going from athletically lean to bodybuilder lean — the tradeoffs get even more serious.
Here’s something that you may not realize:
Elite bodybuilders getting ready for a contest and models getting ready for a shoot are basically in a slow starvation process.
Adhering to an extremely strict and precise regimen of eating and training (and perhaps adding some drugs into the mix) is the only way way they can drop their body fat to extremely low levels.
Males can get to body fat levels under 6% with this process, and females can get to under 16%.
But this process is not for the faint of heart.
It goes against biological cues. It requires exercising when exhausted. It demands ignoring their desire for food in the face of powerful hunger cues. It involves intense focus and dedication.
And it often distracts from other areas of life that these athletes might enjoy and value.
Imagine all the practical things that are involved in very strict dieting and training.
So forget having a sex life, social life, parenthood, school, and probably a regular job.
Is that level of leanness worth it?
Having a six-pack doesn’t automatically make you healthy. In fact, getting toolean can be actively unhealthy.
Some elite bodybuilders rely on drugs like stimulants, diuretics, and other drugs just to keep themselves going.
Many folks even rely on cosmetic surgery. Which creates its own health risks… and certainly doesn’t add health on its own.
In short, being really lean has almost nothing to do with being really healthy.
Indeed, being too focused on getting lean may lead you away from good health.
Meanwhile, on the subject of six-packs, it might surprise you to learn that even among the super lean, not all abs are created equal.
That’s right. Strip away all the excess fat, and some people will never reveal a magazine cover set of abs.
Why? Because — quite apart from that airbrushing we referred to earlier — we’re all built differently.
Some folks have staggered abdominals. Some have angled abdominals. Some people might really only have four abdominals that are visible no matter how lean they get.
Don’t believe us? Go to any amateur physique competition for a first-hand view.
Who knows? The experience might prove enlightening. It might even contribute to greater body acceptance and self-compassion.
Because what you’re sure to notice is that in real life, nobody’s “perfect”. Not even elite bodybuilders and fitness competitors.
Clarity is essential in change.
If you think you may want to change how much body fat you have, start by getting a clear idea of where you’re at.
Now you have your action plan.
And you know where you are on the cost-benefit continuum.
In the table above, we’ve provided rough estimates for what it might take to achieve specific levels of leanness or muscularity — or even simple health improvements, like getting off medications.
This is just a general guide. It’s a start. Something to get you thinking.
You may need more tailored guidance or coaching. Age, gender, genetics, medical conditions, and pharmaceuticals can all affect what you’ll need to do to get and stay lean.
If tracking your body fat is important to you, make sure you have a valid way to do it, such as a skinfold caliper measurement by a trained professional. If you don’t care, and use other indicators like your belt notches, that’s cool.
Whatever change you want to make, remember: It will take time.
Eating one big, rich meal won’t make you wake up overweight. Fasting for 24 hours won’t give you six-pack abs.
A simple plan followed consistently is better than a complex plan followed intermittently.
To reduce your body fat from unhealthy to healthy levels
You only need to make a few changes, and follow them about 80% of the time.
To go from normal to reasonably lean
You need a few more changes, and a bit more consistency.
Now you might need to eat protein and veggies at every meal, and get 7+ hours of sleep 85% of the time.
To go from lean to very lean
You’ll have to put in more time and more effort. Plus, you’ll need to follow your plan even more consistently — with almost obsessive accuracy.
This means adding a few more habits, such as monitoring fat and carbohydrate intake, and exercising at least 5 hours per week 95% of the time.
For instance, if you eat 4 meals per day, in any given month you’ll need to ensure that 114 of your 120 precisely calibrated meals are perfectly executed, in order to achieve your desired level of leanness.
That’s a serious commitment right there.
Review the “getting clear, getting real” list.
What matters to YOU?
What are YOU willing to do… or not? Why?
There’s no right answer. What’s most important is that you understand what it takes to get a certain outcome.
And now YOU have the power to choose. Healthy, athletically lean, or super lean: It all depends on your priorities and goals.
Now you can make the decisions — and get the body you really need, while still living the life you want.
[Bonus: We created a cool infographic that summarizes this article. Click here for: The cost of getting lean illustrated. Is it really worth the trade-off? If there’s someone you think might benefit from seeing it, please pass it along.]
Reblogged from: JTFITNESSPERFORMANCE
BY JTFITNESSPERFORMANCE · OCTOBER 13, 2013
One of the simplest yet rewarding routines out there is the “Push/Pull/Legs” split. It is an easy template mould which harnesses all the required criteria for a full-proof program – balanced time spent on each individual body part/movement and consistent overall training volume. It is also one of the best programs for optimal recovery, which puts it right up there.
The split is based on the idea that your body is essentially split into three parts, in terms of “movements”:
As I have said in the past, if your goal is to be athletic, or athletic and aesthetic you should train movements not muscles (http://jt9797.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/movements-not-muscles-program-included/). I favour this split over any other mainstream program for that very reason. By splitting the program up this way it allows the individual to strengthen the basic human movements required for almost all athletic activities, while also delving into the muscle building side of things. It is perfect for athletes who are looking to gain mass, especially in the off season.
Sets and Repetitions
You cannot rely on the movements alone to develop performance and muscle mass simultaneously. To build both athleticism and muscle you must tamper with the sets and repetitions ranges, as well as the exercises (we’ll look into this later). As a general rule of thumb a single session should consist of 4-6 movements (exercises) and 16-24 sets. Here are the ideal sets and repetition ranges you should perform for each exercise:
As you can see we begin with strength and athletic development exercises that focus on low repetitions and heavy weight which are used to develop strength. These require the most amount of energy and technique; therefore they must be performed at the start of the session. We slowly fade into mass building parameters, focusing on slightly higher repetitions.
Exercise selection is easy – on pull day you do pulling exercises, on push day you do pushing exercises, on leg day you do leg exercises. You begin with compound movements and slowly move onto isolation movements. Here are some exercises you could use:
|Days||Primary Exercise||Main Assistance and Compound Mass||Mass Assistance||Mass|
|Push||Bench PressOverhead PressPush Press||Overhead PressBench Press (and any variation e.g. close grip)DipsDumbbell Bench Press
Dumbbell Overhead press (single or double)
|Push upsDipsCable fly’sFly’s
|Triceps PushdownTriceps ExtensionPush upsCable fly’s
|Pull||DeadliftOlympic LiftsRack-pulls||Olympic LiftsRows (any type)Chin upsPull ups
|Chin upsPull upsShrugsRow variation (lighter)
Straight arm pushdown
|ScarecrowsBand-pull apartsFace pullsCurls (any arm work)|
|Legs||SquatOlympic LiftsDeadlift||Olympic LiftsBulgarian Split SquatsHip TrustsGood mornings
|Glute-ham raisesPull-throughSwiss ball leg curlReverse hyperextensions
|Sled dragsLeg extensionsLeg curlsGlute-ham raises
Swiss ball leg curl
Pulling It All Together
Why didn’t I just hand you a readymade template for you to follow? I decided to lay out the structure for a reason. Too many trainers hand out generic programs that do not meet the needs of individuals. By giving you the opportunity to pick your own exercises, repetitions, sets and training days you have the chance to make an individually moulded program that will be focused towards your own goals, take responsibility. A personalized program will always out perform a generic one.
I will lay out a ready to go program, but this is only for beginners and people who want to see what the finished product looks like. If you know what your goal is and have a basic knowledge in training, channel your program towards attaining your goal. Pick exercises that strengthen your weak areas and train how you want to train! Here we go:
Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic program but it will never outdo a personalized program.
3 Day a Week vs 4 Days a Week
Push/Pull/Legs can be split into a three or four day a week program:
|Day||3 Days a Week||4 Days a Week|
Both have their benefits, if your goal is purely strength and size based or you’re going through a bulking phase, you may find the four day a week to be beneficial. However, I personally prefer the 3 day a week program as it gives athletes plenty of time to work on skills needed in their sport, as well as sprinting and other conditioning sessions, while still gaining great amounts of strength and size.
In conclusion, this is a fantastic program for people looking to gain strength and mass. I regularly use this style of program with rugby players and other contact athletes who need to gain muscle mass, while still developing athleticism.
Author: Alex Borja B.S. SPT, HFS
The P.H.A.T. program or “Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training” program is unique in that it involves the combination of powerlifting and bodybuilding training. If you are new to the scene, powerlifters are often regarded as using lower reps and higher weight in their workouts to mostly gain strength whereas bodybuilders strive for mass using a higher rep and less weight approach in comparison to powerlifters.
Well if you haven’t heard of him by now I will explain. Layne Norton is a professional natural bodybuilder, powerlifter, and writer. Oh, and did I mention he has his Ph D? He is very experienced in the fitness industry and sought after highly for his articles and thoughts. So Layne Norton is highly qualified to introduce his newest training system: P.H.A.T. training.
Well you can pretty much use common sense when thinking of the possible outcomes from using both powerlifting and bodybuilding approaches to training – at the same time!
Typically when one is training for strength, he will inevitably need to gain mass once he hits a wall. That is just fact. He will someday reach a plateau where he can no longer get any stronger without adding some more muscle to help with the motion. The opposite holds true to: the bodybuilder will evenetually need more strength to add more mass to his body. P.H.A.T. hopes to aid with this…
So in conclusion: Strength and Mass are directly proportional. (To a degree)
So one can draw the conclusion that putting the two types of training together, for mass and for strength, the outcomes can be very impressive. Does P.H.A.T. really work? Can we really train for strength and mass within the same week to boost our overall results and accelerate to new heights we never thought possible? There’s only one way to find out.
This is a very intense, volume heavy program that is meant to push you to your limits. No person has achieved more than they were able to by not pushing themselves to places where they thought they couldn’t reach. Having said this, P.H.A.T. training can be highly demanding and as such you should always distinguish real pain to “training pain”. If you feel yourself taking it too far, back off for a day or two. An injury can set you back months to years while knowing your limits will set you back a few days. Train hard but train smart.
Day 1: Upper Body Power
Day 2: Lower Body Power
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy
Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy
Day 6: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
Day 7: Rest
Also: See Layne Norton’s Interview with Directlyfitness.com!
Alex Borja B.S. SPT, HFS
The Kushti wrestling program in India is a training program that definitely proves to be hardcore!
Newly minted physique pro Tish Shelton has lofty goals in mind for her first season in the IFBB ranks—namely earning a trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Olympia next fall. Challenging expectations to be sure but certainly legitimate considering the rising star from Mobile, Alabama brings a notable and striking package to the stage.
In fact, we just discussed a coterie of contenders for the upcoming season in the previous post that could have easily included the steely 5-foot-1, 125-pound powerhouse and reigning NPC North Americans short class champion. Pro physique continues to be intriguing with newcomers like Rikki Smead, Erica Blockman, Tracy Weller and Tish Shelton all joining the mix this year.
Following Tish’s dazzling, pro card-winning routine, highlights from a contest shape debut shoot in Pittsburgh, Pa. last summer feature a tantalizing combination of sinewy and sinuous. Tish’s tremendous development is on display—wide, detailed back
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