I read somewhere not too long ago that the strength of the average person peaks at age 30. Well, I turned 30 this past weekend and I’m out to prove “them” wrong. Actually, at 30, I’m in the best shape of my life and still see plenty of room for improvement. At the very least I still plan to dominate a 500lb deadlift since that goal has been on hiatus with all that is going on with planning my training facility.
My goal is to not only hit 500 but to crush it and prove that hypothesis wrong. The fact is that I’ve only been serious about strength for the past 3 years or so but in that amount of time I have had a multitude of a-ha moments that changed my whole outlook on strength as well as fitness in general.
In no particular order, here are 30 truths that changed my strength and overall fitness for the better…
1. Training movements (eg. deadlift, squat, pull, etc) trumps training individual muscles (biceps, quads, etc) for overall fitness, longevity, posture, athleticism, and aiding in injury prevention.
2. You can’t train through a poor diet. Period. Conversely, you can lose bodyfat with a stellar diet/nutrition plan and a poorly planned fitness program.
3. Bicep curls are okay if you desire huge biceps. If you have tight pecs and poor shoulder mobility (most desk jobs) you may increase the risk of elbow tendonitis if you do too many. Just saying.
4. Deadlifting and training hip extension in general will help most people/athletes run faster, jump higher and prevent injury when done properly.
5. The best combination for fat-loss is 2-3 days of strength training for 30-45min sessions along with 1-3 days of cardiovascular work for 10-20min each week AS WELL AS regular activity daily (eg not sitting). That is a minimum of 1.5 hrs per week and a maximum of 3.5 hrs per week of training. Too little or too much will not provide great results. Nothing will work without decent nutritional habits.
6. Kettlebells are perhaps the best tool for the general fitness population when it comes to functional training.
7. It is important to squeeze your butt during most exercises for many reasons. Safety, posture, strength to name a few. And honestly, we all want nice butts!
8. It is easier for those who move well to gain strength, decrease body fat, prevent injury, and become more athletic. Move well then move often.
9. Farmer carries are easily the best bang-for-your-buck exercise when it comes to both beginners and pros who haven’t learned to utilize this exercise in their training. They will help you improve almost every aspect of your fitness instantly.
10. Most people have an irrational fear of dietary fat. As long as you don’t consume too many calories (are in a caloric surplus), dietary fat WILL HELP DECREASE AND HELP YOU BUILD MUSCLE. Eggs, dairy (as long as you are tolerant), nuts, oils and avocado are perhaps the best fat-fighting foods.
*don’t consume too much fat circum workout. A little is okay.
11. If you can bench 2x bodyweight but can’t do a perfect pushup it may be time to go back to the basics.
12. Zumba should not be categorized as exercise, it is an activity. It will not help you get stronger or lose a significant amount of body fat. I’m not saying don’t do it if you have fun Zumba-ing, it can be a great mental release. I did Zumba once….these hips don’t lie.
13. Strength training and joint mobility work trumps everything else. Nuff said.
14. Sometimes less is more. Diminished results will occur before over training which means if you DO over train you have wasted valuable time and energy and now have to take a forced break. Not beneficial.
15. It is easy to make yourself (or your client sore). Getting ridiculously sore on a regular basis does NOT mean you are getting results. It just means you are getting sore which will provide inferior results, risk injury and cause you to move less the rest of the week. It is okay to be a little sore at certain times like at the beginning of a new program or after learning a new exercise.
16. The most common thing I see done wrong in the gym is static stretching and how most people do most stretches is either completely useless and/or detrimental to health fitness. Yes, most of the time you are making things worse. If you haven’t been coached or trained stick to active mobility exercises and using full range of motion when training to get superior results.
17. Most daily activities promote pushing and reaching. When in doubt, do more pulling exercises such as rows, pullups and pull downs.
*side note: make sure to pull your shoulders back, don’t just bend your elbows to ensure you train the proper muscles.
18. Healthy food will not necessarily help you decrease body fat. Eating the right amount of protein, fat and carbs and not eating too many calories will, no matter what the food choices are. Eating healthy food will, however, improve your health, prevent illness, provide energy and keep you looking and feeling young. If I can’t sell you on that, try the Twinkie Diet.
19. The Turkish Get-Up wins for the best all around exercise. Get good at doing these and you will get good at doing everything else.
20. You CAN lose fat by running. It is not optimal but is possible. It will work even better if you add in a few days of strength training.
21. Spending time before any program, whether it is strength or nutrition, to plan and set yourself up for success could be the one factor that determines whether you succeed or fail. You can plan your own training program but I recommend buying an 8 to 16 week program from a reputable trainer or coach. Many have written books.
As for nutrition, get all the crap out of your house (you know what I mean) and plan some healthy meals for the next few weeks. Pick up a copy of Dave Ruel’s Metabolic Cookbook. It changed the way I eat!
22. A 5-10 minute warm-up that focuses on your individual muscle imbalances is perhaps the most important thing you can do to move better, prevent injury, and keep getting stronger. 5 minutes at the beginning of a workout is way better than several months of physical therapy in my opinion.
23. Beginners need more core work and should focus on body positioning and control. More advanced lifters probably don’t need to plank for 10:00 after each workout.
24. Sleep more. Results on any program will be minimal at best if the quality and length of sleep are poor. High stress levels are closely related.
25. The goblet squat is the single best lifting movement of all time. This movement can be utilized by beginners and advanced lifters alike with great success.
26. The sled is not only of the greatest conditioning tools in history it is also good for rehabbing from injury and beginners to safely train hip drive. Push, pull and drag!
27. The only supplement you NEED is fish oil (omega-3s). The supplements you should take are whey protein, Vitamin D (especially in the Northeast), a multi-vitamin and a greens powder supplement. An optional supplement to aid in building strength, muscle and fat loss is creatine.
28. Sprinting and box jumping isn’t the safest activity for MOST people. Learn how to swing a kettlebell instead.
29. 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. That 20% is usually deadlifting, squatting, doing push-ups, pressing exercises, pull-ups and rows. Spend more time doing those things and you will get better results. Period.
30. You can get stronger, more mobile and fit at any age. I have had an 80 year old client do multiple chin-ups and a client in his 50′s deadlift over 400lbs. Keep training!