4 Popular Childhood Behaviors Sabotaging Your Fat Loss

pretty child-4 Childhood Behaviors Sabotaging Your Fat Loss
Photo by Eric Montfort

As a native southerner and minority, I grew up in a culture where portion sizes were astronomical; the more butter the better; sweet tea (aka sugar tea) actually exists; everything is fried.

What is baked or sauteed chicken? It’s rude to turn down someone’s made-from-scratch-homemade pound cake or whatever the hell else is made-from-scratch.

You get the idea.

No one is checking macros. We’re not worried about if the ingredients are gluten free.

Food ideologies and behaviors are engineered into us starting from the time we’re little kids. Our respective cultures and environments play a pivotal role in the development of our food behaviors from a psychological and physiological standpoint.

There’s a section of the brain called the hypothalamus, which plays a starring role in your eating behaviors.

Your hypothalamus is going to relay to other cells within your body on regulating how much and what to eat. Various chemicals (neurotransmitters) in your brain create feelings of satiety or hunger in response to the various sensory information and messages going on in your body.

Your brain is highly susceptible to the pleasure response. Food stimulates your brain to produce these “feel good” chemicals such as dopamine, which seduces you into a continual eating frenzy.

This factor is single-handedly one of the biggest causes for emotional eating and various food addictions. There are some in the scientific and research community who state the more obese someone is, the fewer dopamine receptors they have.

Why is this so important and what does it mean?

It means that they are more likely to overeat and practice bad behaviors in order to stimulate their “pleasure” response.

This is a big reason why I despise hearing some random bro dish out “eat less, and move more” bullshit rhetoric as their solution to obesity. That logic disrespects and disregards the psychological and physiological elements operating within our bodies.

Ok, the science class and mini-rant are over.

Using food to deal with your emotions and problems is going to create unhealthy relationships toward food; thus creating a habit of eating anytime something uncomfortable (i.e any emotion or a bad situation) flares up.

This type of behavior prevents you from resolving the core issue. By avoiding the issue, you’re storing that particular emotion in your body and creating further problems down the road.

Below are four childhood behaviors sabotaging your fat loss. These detrimental behaviors are habitual in nature and operate in secrecy.

1. Food as comfort

Food for comfort started as soon as mommy pampered us and fed us our favorite baby food. Throughout childhood, we’re told to “eat this pudding, soup, or insert whatever snack here, and it’ll make you feel better.”

Various emotions ranging from sadness, boredom, loneliness, or frustrations with various aspects of our lives causes us to resort to food as a way to satisfy our need for happiness and pleasure (aka dopamine).

The idea of consuming particular foods and our moods magically elevating is scintillating. It’s natural for us humans to look for a mystical genie in a bottle solution to our problems. However, feeling better has nothing to do with the foods we’re consuming—this is a weak psychological excuse.

An investigation into comfort foods

Example: You’re feeling down. Work is an abomination. Your date was a nightmare (they give love a bad name). You’re not happy with your body and the rate of progress.

When you’re feeling like dog poo—what better way to make yourself feel better than to eat some “good ole comfort food”.

Nothing soothes the soul and turns your frowns upside down better than chocolate ice cream or homemade donuts.

Right? Not exactly.

childhood behaviors sabotaging your fat loss
As tasty as they may be, they won’t provide a cure to what ails you.

Traci Mann, author of Secrets From the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again and professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota along with her colleagues conducted several research studies on comfort foods and their effect on our moods.

In one study, they took 100 college students and made them watch clips from sad movies; thus lowering their moods. Half the students were fed their favorite comfort foods and the other students ate foods they enjoyed, but wouldn’t necessarily consider comfort foods.

After eating, the researchers asked the students “how they felt”. The conclusion to this was that all students felt better, regardless of what they ate.

In a totally separate study, half the kids ate comfort foods and the other half ate nothing. After a few minutes, both groups felt equally better. The comfort foods were a moot point.

 Using comfort foods as your crutch is an excuse to indulge in junk food and avoid the real issue that’s brewing.

At the end of the day, if you want ice cream, cake, wine, or cookies—just eat it and drink away, but don’t lie to yourself about why you’re doing this.

Solutions to comfort foods:

1. Ask yourself why you’re eating– Is it boredom, anxiousness, nervousness, emotions stemming from work, or peer pressure from friends and family?

2. Rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10– Are you a 10, which indicates you’re absurdly hungry or are you around a 6 which indicates satiety, but not overly full. Maybe you’re a 3, which equates to eating only out of emotional reasons.

3. Practice pausing & assessing– Before eating, take a walk, meditate, draw, or dance for 5-15 minutes. Try to occupy your mind briefly to determine if it’s true hunger or eating to cover up another issue.

2. Food as punishment

Many gamers heard this sentence:“Finish your food or no video games for you.”

For example, as adults, food becomes punishment through two different, but equally damaging scenarios.

1.“I’m removing all ice cream because I weigh ‘x’ amount”– You’re punishing yourself because you didn’t hit your goal. Using food as punishment is a secretive and unassuming behavior. To many people, it appears that you’re making the necessary sacrifices in order to elicit amazing results. However, deep down you’re psychologically hardwiring yourself with skewed perceptions of food.

2.“I’ve already failed with my diet, might as well finish this ice cream since I’ve failed”– You further indulge because you already feel defeated for slightly indulging earlier, creating a compound effect which adds up over time.

This behavior creates a negative cycle of actions and self-pity within your decision making. Someone who eats ice cream when they told themselves that they wouldn’t—starts to feel guilty—leading them to eat the remaining tub of ice cream due to feeling the day was lost (aka waving the white flag).

This cycle manifests because your thoughts lead to your feelings, and your feelings lead to your actions.

Solutions to food punishment:

1. Are you using food as a way to nourish yourself or as a way to punish yourself? Food is medicine and a tool for enjoyment, not a device for pain and depression.

2.Are your food decisions entirely based on emotions?- Relying entirely on emotions is a dangerous game due to being caught up in the heat of the moment and not having the big picture/long-term view in mind.

3.Even when you slip up on your diet, are you using that as an excuse to binge due to feeling like you let yourself down.-One mistake isn’t the end of the world. What separates the successful from the almost successful people of fitness is their ability to climb back into the ring and get back to work.

Splurged on junk food earlier in the day?

Big deal.

There’s plenty of time left to make healthy decisions. Finish the day strong. The journey isn’t a straight road—it’s one of many steep hills and steep declines.

3.Food as guilt

As children, we’re told to “clean our plates before leaving the dinner table”, “why are you being wasteful and not finishing your food—there are plenty of people who would be grateful to have this food”, and “it’s rude to not eat all of your host’s food”.

childhood behaviors sabotaging your fat loss
Everything must go.

As adults, we continue the trend of guilt with statements like “I shouldn’t have…”, “If I eat this, I…”, “I had three glasses of wine, I let myself down”, “I had too much dessert, now I have to do 60 minutes of extra cardio to burn “x” amount of calories”.

The inner voice of guilt delivers subtle jabs and roundhouses before you eat that piece or two of cake. That inner voice makes you feel like dog poop after you indulge in a couple glasses of wine.

Guilt is tough, and as a person who has personally struggled with guilt—it takes time and compassion to gain back control.

Combining food and guilt potentially leads to various eating disorders and throws your daily life into a tailspin.

Allowing guilt to spiral out of control leads to self-loathing, shame, and hopelessness towards achieving a healthy median between enjoyment of foods and fitness.

The battle of good vs. evil

When suffering from food guilt, one of the worst mistakes is to label food as good or bad. Labeling food as either good or bad prevents you from enjoying foods and developing a proper mindset towards food.

Food isn’t good nor bad. Your food isn’t involved in a war. It’s something you should take pride in, enjoy, and not resent.

Beer isn’t an evil doer. Wine isn’t a part of the evil empire. Cookies and pastries aren’t guaranteed physique killers. These foods and drinks wreck your goals only if you don’t keep them in control. Without awareness and control, you can make almost anything you consume a negative when consumed in excess.

Let go of good vs. evil. Re-frame your mindset and realize that some foods are better at providing optimal health (internal & external); thus making those foods the ones that need to be consumed the majority of times.

Solutions for guilt

1. Sit with the feeling– It’s not sexy, nor eye-catching, but the best way to control guilt is to feel the very emotion of the guilt setting forth. It’s most likely overwhelming, but starting internally is how you build up your external world into something positive. This act allows you to develop the powerful and essential skill of being aware of that moment of guilt.

2. Question yourself– When you feel guilt settling in or you’re questioning something—ask yourself why three times about why you’re feeling guilty and assess afterward if this guilt is warranted.

3. Have some perspective– At the end of the day, Webster (aka the dictionary) defines guilt as an emotion experienced when you feel you’ve violated a moral standard.

Look at it this way, you aren’t running someone over, looting, stealing, or disrespecting Jamiroquai—you’re only eating a cookie, enjoying a slice or two of pizza with friends, or enjoying a soothing glass of Merlot (it’ll be ok).

Life needs to be enjoyed—stressing over the little tasks steals precious energy needed for the big decisions.

4. Food as reward

As a kid, were you told that “If you get all A’s on your report card, you can go to Chuckie Cheese (don’t act like you don’t know what that is)?” Were you told, “If you clean your room and make your bed all week—you can go out for ice cream?”

When we grow up, we’ll tell ourselves “I’ve been eating so clean lately, I totally deserve to eat these brownies.” “I strength trained four days this week, it’s okay to eat these dozen cookies.” “I was on good behavior this week in addition to doing extra cardio, I deserve these wings and bloody mary’s after my good workweek.”

The logic of rewarding ourselves makes sense if we’re dogs.

Rewards also make sense if you went through a horrible treatment (think torture) or something that goes completely against you, but we’re only talking about food here.

Rewarding yourself with extrinsic rewards is a slippery slope because you’ll start to lose your intrinsic motivation. The task at hand becomes only about the extrinsic reward and the original goal of becoming healthier takes a backseat.

One of the first steps to living a healthy life and becoming the architect of your own body is designing an eating template that specifically fits your lifestyle. Your eating template shouldn’t be so much of a burden that you need to gorge yourself in order to jolt some happiness into your life.

Why reward yourself for eating healthy by stuffing yourself full of unhealthy foods?

Partaking in the occasional “unhealthy” treat or alcoholic beverage is one thing, but doing this reward system just to make yourself eat some veggies defeats the entire purpose of this healthy lifestyle.

childhood behaviors sabotaging your fat loss
Eating grilled chicken and sauteed veggies to justify the wine consumption makes no sense.

This reward feasting system isn’t the same as a normal weekend re-feed or dining out with friends. One is about integrating occasional and strategic indulgences into a healthy lifestyle. The other scenario is about partaking in healthy behaviors in order to justify binging on unhealthy foods later in the week—this is psychologically counter-productive.

You’re not forming long lasting habits; thus you aren’t truly re-framing your food behaviors.

Solutions for reward-based eating

1.Pamper yourself– Get a massage, a new book, a manicure, pedicure, fancy haircut, or treat yourself to an artist’s date.

2.Expand your comfort zone with new experiences– museums, weekend getaways, exploring uncommon paths in your own city, go on an adventure date—the possibilities are endless.

3.Use momentum to build your repertoire– take a yoga class and keep up with your punch cards. Use your calendar and mark an “x” after each session and if 100% compliance, treat yourself to some new workout clothes to go with your new body (remember gym performance increases by 13.3% when you feel sexy and have nice workout clothes on).

4. But, what if you need to reward yourself in a culinary sense because you love the subject of food?– Then buy yourself a new cookbook, a set of knives, or replace your least favorite kitchen utensil—then prepare a new, healthy, and physique friendly dish.

5.Do an activity you couldn’t do before– Maybe you couldn’t participate in a walkathon before or run around with your kids the entire time.

Maybe you weren’t confident within your own body to take a yoga class. Maybe you weren’t confident to take a salsa class or any other social activity because of your figure. But, after incorporating strength training and eating healthier—what once wasn’t possible can now become a reality.

If you enjoyed this article or know someone who’s struggling with their nutrition, be a good friend and send this article their way (many thanks). Let’s stop some of this nutritional nonsense floating around.

How to Stop Information Overload in Fitness (aka The Gift That Keeps on Giving)

“Generally, beware of dissipating your powers, and strive to concentrate them.” -Goethe

how to stop information overload in fitness (aka the gift that keeps on giving)- information overload in fitness
Photo Credit: PRAM Consulting via Compfight cc

“The gift that keeps on giving” originally was a positive, uplifting, and valuable marketing strategy. This catch-phrase, first introduced into the world in 1924 was originally used to describe the phonograph—later trademarked in 1927.

What’s the purpose of this random history lesson?

Nothing much besides curiosity and to remember that this catch-phrase originally served as more than a term used to describe various sexually transmitted diseases in today’s time.

Humans love receiving gifts (the good ones of course). Gifts make us feel wanted, appreciated, and as I recently discovered, receiving gifts is one of  The 5 Love Languages that Gary Chapman describes in his immensely popular book.

However, one of the best gifts received over the last few decades is the Internet and technology.

Now so, more than ever, information—no matter the subject is a few keystrokes away from your disposal. Anything you want to learn, Google has you covered.

With a simple search, you can discover…

“What’s the best fat loss diet?” (23,700,000 results)

“What’s the best workout program?” (23,900,000 results)

“Which diet should I use to lose fat the quickest?” (28,200,000 results)

“What’s the best methods to pick up girls?” (258,000,000 results)

“Why are men so stupid?” (53,300,000 results)

“Who’s the best band in the world? (Jamiroquai…right?)” (479,000,000 results)

“How to potty train a flying squirrel?” (13,800 results)

Welcome to the age of information overload

Information overload was first coined by Alvin Toffler back in 1970 from his book Future Shock, where he (accurately) predicted that the increasing amounts of information being produced would eventually cause problems for people.

What exactly is information overload?

If you desire to appear vastly intelligent, want to impress a date or friends, you can call it “cognitive overload” due to the “brain being able to process vast amounts of information depending on the form it’s presented in.”

In simpler terms (which I prefer), information overload is when you’re dealing with more information than you’re able to process to make sound and sensible decisions.

What typically follows after being flooded with information is usually a delay in making decisions, or flat out making the wrong decisions.

According to Daniel Levitin, author of the The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, states that “we’ve created more information in the past few years than in all of human history before us.”

In fitness, many people receive the gift that keeps on giving in the form of spammy and emotionally baiting information products designed to make us feel less than.

Information overload in fitness is one of the biggest detriments in people’s quest for fat loss.

Our minds can maybe handle three, perhaps four things at once. However, after that, shit hits the fan and we start to exercise poorer judgment; fail to take action, and lose our focus.

The dangers of information overload in fitness

From a beginner being paralyzed about which workout and diet to start, to an intermediate deciding upon which routine to implement to carry forth the momentum from his beginner program—information overload shows no mercy.

Living inside a world where information overload is unregulated brings about a huge state of unresolved anxiety and stress as you can’t meet the ongoing demands of hearing about, yet, another diet that someone claims are the best one to use for fat loss.

One of the most crippling aspects of this dilemma isn’t the information available, it’s often times the feeling of not having any control of direction on the specific task (i.e.fitness goals)

These feelings ultimately lead you down a highway to suffering from paralysis from analysis.

Fitness overload leading to paralysis from analysis

Desire fades away. Motivation vanishes into thin air. Status quo starts to sound alright. That initial vision of transformation seems like a fantasy. The next logical step is to stop altogether due to feeling overwhelmed.

Sound familiar?

Should it be Paleo? 6 meals a day or 3? Fasting or not? Are carbs at night okay? What carbs at breakfast, how many for lunch? Organic or not? Is sugar really toxic? Will fruit make me fat? Do I really need to put butter in my coffee (hell no!)?

It’s not just nutrition.

Everyone has an opinion on training programs.

Should you train full-body? Bodybuilder training? What about body pump classes? Upper/lower splits? Push/pull splits? Powerlifting? Do I need to kick my ass into the ground at every workout session (absolutely not)?

On top of the metric ton of options available, our ambition and desire to be 100% correct is playing a starring role; thus making us doubt our choices and delaying making a decision until we’re absolute certain.

Our minds can become so full about “what might happen”, or “what we should do” that you can’t think past those possibilities to make a decision to even start (some might call this failure to launch).

I know this too well.

I wanted to write for years, learn a language, learn to actually dance (not the drunken monstrosity they call dancing in some of these clubs), public speak, and become a better communicator.

Gathering information is always a good thing; thus allowing us to evaluate the best possible options and weigh the pros & cons. But after awhile, the laws of diminishing returns takes in effect.

Instead of helping and educating yourself—“analyzing”, “studying”, or whatever else you want to call it starts to stump your growth and development.

information overload in fitness- start sign
It ultimately comes down to “just starting”- Photo Credit: iova.design via Compfight cc

By continuing in this process without applying or taking action, you cripple yourself and start to second guess yourself because all the excess (and often times contradictory) information swimming inside your brain—thus putting a stop sign on taking action.

Combating information overload

The very first step to eliminating information overload and becoming action oriented is to become conscious of the issue. If you aren’t present, then you stand no chance of creating a solution. After all, being in the present moment is only when change is a possibility.

Most situations, whether it’s tackling a fitness or creative goal—studying and planning is a discreet and gentler form of procrastination and fear settling in.

Reading more books, listening to more podcast, watching more health shows, reading more fitness blogs isn’t the answer to taking action—that resides inside of you.

In order to remove, or at least negate the effects of information overload and not let analysis from paralysis set in—try out these questions and thoughts when it comes to why you’re doing something.

Random questions, observation, and exercises to try for minimizing information overload

No need to try each and every suggestion below all at once, read them over and decide which ones look implementable to you.

1.Use the power of why– I believe I first heard this on Tim Ferriss’s podcast when describing why we have to do things.

More often than not, the things we think we have to do aren’t as dire and necessary as they initially feel. A way to combat information overload is to ask yourself “why” three times before deciding on an action or adding new material into your regimen.

Do you really need to add another rule to your diet or exercise program? Are you creating limiting beliefs within your mind about why you can’t do something?

Asking “why” three times allows you to dig deeper into the root of the issue.

2.Pack only the essentials– Ask yourself “what do you absolutely need to do” for your fitness goals to become a reality and leave everything else by the waste-side.

3.What actions are an absolute no ifs & buts in your daily regimen? -We all have activities, hobbies, or things that are a necessity for daily pleasures and improvement; without it, we feel the day wasn’t as productive or accomplished as it should’ve been.

4.Do you have too many commitments? – Ask yourself and analyze “what are the true commitments that I really want to do; which ones are adding value to my personal life and positively supporting my fitness goals?”

Which ones do you say “yes” to because of guilt, obligation, protecting others feelings, or expectations placed by norms and rituals?

Regardless of the reason, learn how to say “no”—it’s your best friend. No opens the door for you to say “yes” to what truly matters most to you; thus allowing you to flourish in fitness and your personal life.

5.The worst case scenario game? You’re trying something new and there are some initial fears and hesitations (everyone has them). You’re wondering if you know enough or if you’re looking stupid.

To remove this mental cloud, think about the worst thing that could possibly happen and then think about the actual probability of that happening.

Ask yourself, “What could actually go wrong and is it even a big deal if it does go wrong? Could I live with the worst case scenario?”

how to stop information overload in fitness - roll the dice
Just take a chance and roll the dice- Photo Credit: shes_so_high via Compfight cc

Is the worst case scenario actually going to hurt you or just cause a little discomfort? 

6.Don’t multi task– Pick one goal and task at a time. This is single handily one of the biggest mistakes people new to fitness and those stuck in a seemingly never-ending plateau commit.

Most people want to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously (aka the holy grail of the fitness world). This sounds good in theory, except these two objectives require opposite approaches—especially in regards to nutrition.

One needs a caloric deficient and the other needs a surplus. Taking this approach will leave you spinning your wheels with the ignition stick stuck in neutral.

7.Opt for efficiency and only spend as much activity on your goal as needed– Less is better and more is often times a waste of time and life better spent living the good life and having experiences.

Opt for efficiency and effectiveness over duration and quantity. An intelligent designed 45 min workout is better than a 90 minute workout all over the board.

8.Take some breaks and rest– No one is “beast mode” 24/7 (if they tell you anything otherwise, they’re full of shit).

No one is firing on all cylinders 24/7. Everyone needs to rest, recover, and decompress.

9.Adjustments are normal– The real learning comes from the work inside the trenches. You won’t develop flawless squatting technique studying at home, you practice at the gym.

You won’t become a dazzling salsa dancer reading articles on salsa. You won’t become a proficient and effective writer by only reading about writing.

You won’t lose fat just by knowing the biochemistry of fat loss.

You only achieve and receive by doing. By doing, sure mistakes will happen, and that’s when you assess what worked and throw away what didn’t while bringing some new tools to the mix.

10.Is there really a certain thing as not making a decision– Technically, there isn’t such a thing as not making a decision, when you procrastinate, you’re making the decision to let life, your body, circumstances, and randomness become the default deciding factor on your fitness progress.

11.Limit, curate, and take breaks from the consumption of information– One of the best decisions (albeit difficult) I made was to take an extended break from the Internet and public eye in general.

Over the course of that break, I wrote a little, didn’t publish anything but most importantly, I gained my sanity back.

I re-established my identity and remembered my mission and what I wanted, not want what I was expected to want.

In fitness, we see new trends each day, what this person did to lose weight; even if it weren’t our plan, we start to sub-consciously doubt ourselves and have the urge to jump to their program.

Put a limit on how much facebooking you’re doing, the more facebooking, the less happier you’ll feel about yourself .

Be mindful of the information you’re consuming on a daily basis. If the majority of your information is reality TV, gossip, click-bait news articles, and cat videos—expect to have a junk food mindset that isn’t serving any value.

Your challenge

Think about something in fitness that is giving you fits? Think about your approach with those challenges and assess whether you can start to trim some of the excess fat (information) from the challenge?

Start with at least 2 of the 11 options from above and allow some time to see if those tools help.

 

An Architectural Blueprint to Designing World-Class Workouts

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”- Steve Jobs

An architectural blueprint to designing world-class workouts
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Before we we’re able to record history, humans were busy constructing pre-historic monuments such as the Stonehenge in England and Cliff Dwellings in the American southwest region.

From those pre-historic monuments, to the Great pyramid of Giza and Great sphinx of Giza from the Ancient Egyptian period; to the Gothic architecture which gave rise to those massive cathedrals such as Chartres and Notre Dame; to the beautifully proportioned architecture of the Renaissance Age; to the brief, but zigzag jazz age of the Art Deco period; to the modernists; and postmodernism of today’s architecture—architecture plays an instrumental role within our lives.

Beyond being aesthetically pleasing, those monuments serve as a way for us to communicate with past civilizations.

Do you ever stop and think, “How did they build those marvelous monuments without modern technology (I have my theories)?”

Before we fall deeper into a architectural and ancient civilization rabbit hole, what does architecture and fitness have to do with each other?

Plenty.

Creating monuments of wonder requires diligence, working bodies, and time. Most importantly, they require functionality and practicality (that’s the secret sauce of all monuments).

The majority of the historical structures that we marvel at, not only were aesthetically pleasing, but served a vital role in their respective communities. They couldn’t afford to have a nice looking building that didn’t ultimately serve it’s community (appearance can only go so far).

sphnix- world-class workouts
I wish I could time travel back to Ancient Egypt (maybe one day)- Photo Credit: MK_girl via Compfight cc

This logic needs to remain at the forefront when it comes to training programs. Most programs look good on paper and the idea of the training program sounds amazing. However, there’s one big flaw in the operation—most training programs floating around aren’t transferable into the real world.

Whether building world-class training programs or monuments, it’s crucial that you address in detail these five essential steps to creating world-class workouts.

1. Prepare a blueprint

Before any hole is dug, the first brick laid, or the first brush stroke—you have to figure out what you’re trying to build.

What’s your goal?

What’s the purpose of this specific fitness mission?

Attempting to step foot into the gym without a blueprint is as logical as an engineer attempting to design The Golden Gate bridge, but forgetting to measure and consider the various loads to support the bridge.

The most important objective of your blueprint is to determine a primary training goal that connects with your overall purpose of why you’re training.

Are you here for fat loss? To build Juggernaut worthy strength? Or, to add quality size to your frame (i.e. muscle gain)?

After determining your primary goal, think about another goal that could serve as a tag along. A tag along goal is your sidekick (Robin), which complements your primary goal (Batman).

If you’re losing fat, then maintaining strength or increasing various performance metrics (athleticism, speed, or work capacity) could serve as a worthy tag along goal.

If you’re building world-class size, then increasing strength fits perfectly with this goal.

Determining your primary (i.e. Batman) and secondary (i.e. Robin) objectives when drawing up your blueprint is essential because this determines what tools (reps, schemes, etc) you’ll be using to construct your masterpiece.

batman v robin) world-class workouts

2. How will you approach the project at hand

A movie isn’t made in one week. A skyscraper doesn’t sprout up in two weeks. Your training goals won’t come to fruition in three weeks.

Building ten lbs of muscle is tough. Losing 15 pounds of fat takes a hell of a lot of work. Power lifting requires dedication and consistency.

These types of ambitious feats sometimes fail to launch because of the goal itself. Wanting these goals and visualizing them is one thing; taking action is a different story.

The difference between successful projects, movies, and fitness programs that become a reality compared to the unsuccessful ones is the attention to detail from a micro standpoint.

Everyone wants the big goal (end result), but it’s the daily execution that morphs the big (macro) goal into a reality.

How to execute from a micro standpoint?

For simplicity sake, let’s assume that each training session breaks down into one hour sessions.

The optimal number of training days ranges from 2-5 days weekly. Experience, daily stress levels, and various hormonal factors need to be considered when configuring how many days of training you’re going to commit to.

At the beginning of each session, always start with some mobility work consisting of foam rolling, the lacrosse ball, & various mobility drills.

Afterwards, it’s time to execute on your specific lifting regimen for the day, which will consist mostly of compound exercises due to their efficiency and effectiveness.

The last portion of this 60 minute window will consist of fillers. Think of these as polishing a car; examples are working on lagging body-parts, sport specific movements, giving extra attention rehabbing specific body-parts, or conditioning work (i.e. metabolic work).

A summary of an average 60 minute approach to training:
• 5-10 minutes of Mobility work/warm up (lacrosse ball, foam roller, dynamic movement, etc)
• 40-45 minutes of strength training (mostly compound movements)
• 10-15 minutes of fine tuning (beach muscles, lagging parts, rehab work, conditioning, extra mobility work, etc)

3. The essential tools needed to build your masterpiece

Whether you’re building an awe-inspiring skyscraper, creating a bridge to unite towns, painting an emotionally charged picture, or constructing an awe-inspiring body—the arsenal of tools implemented will make or break you.

Fitness offers up a plethora of tools (i.e. exercises) at your disposal. Some tools aren’t as effective in constructing the body you want as others.

To simplify the process of constructing your body, divide your body into 4 key areas.

1. Upper body pulling movements– These movements are bringing your body closer to an object (ex: chin-ups lifting yourself closer to the bar) or bringing the object closer to yourself (ex: think cable rows, lat pull downs, barbell rows, and t-bar rows).

2. Upper body pushing movements– Think of these exercises as movements that push you away from the object (ex: push-ups from the ground), or pushing the object away from you (example: bench and shoulder pressing).

3. Lower body (quad focus) movements– These movements are focused on the front (anterior) portion of your lower body region. These exercises primarily focus on the quadriceps with a secondary focus on the hamstrings and glutes depending on the exercises. Examples of these types of exercises include: any squatting movement, Bulgarian split squats, any lunge variation, leg press, step-ups, and squat jumps to name a few)

4. Hip-dominant (glute & hamstring focus) movements– My favorite region and one that serves immense value beyond aesthetic purposes. Your glutes provide more than a picture worthy treat to share on social media. Weak glutes are one the primary causes of back pain; along with causing chaos on your hips and knees due to other muscles having to over-compensate.

When you’re thinking of exercises for this region, think posterior chain (everything behind you). Examples of these types of movements include: any variation of deadlifts, hyperextensions (the glute version), glute-ham raises, any variation of hip thrusts, any variation of glute bridges, and sprinting.

Don’t forget about the supporting cast members

The secret behind all Academy Award winning movies isn’t just the main actors and directors—it’s the supporting cast. There’s a reason awards are given out to supporting cast members; it’s their ability to add the icing on the cake to the movie.

In fitness, this story isn’t any different.

While there are four main actors to your blueprint, the supporting cast is equally as important when constructing a world-class body to full completion.

Implement these supporting cast members as needed depending on your goal:
Core (planks, leg raises, pot-stirrer planks, suitcase crunches, and v-ups to name a few)
Rotator cuff (Mainly for prevention and to compensate for our daily lifestyles along with optimal shoulder health. I would implement these in every session). My favorites are band pull-aparts, face pulls, and shoulder dislocators.
Grip work– No one wants to walk into a meeting and give weak handshakes (unless you like to hide your superhero strength at times…guilty of this). In addition to working on grip work, movements such as: farmer walks, overhead walks, and trap-bar walks increase strength, provide excellent conditioning, and gives off the appearance of a total badass.

4. Determine the appropriate techniques for approaching your specific masterpiece

As you get ready to start working toward your masterpiece, it’s essential that you apply the correct techniques to your specific masterpiece.

In the fitness world, these techniques are your rep ranges. For simplicity sake, we’re only going to cover the fundamental rep ranges that are used predominately and disregard the advanced techniques.

1. High rep work (10-15 reps)– You could push this rep range upwards of up to 20 (in some cases). This category focuses primarily on building size (i.e. hypertrophy) with endurance and small strength gains. The majority of bodybuilders will typically train in this rep range.

2. Middle ground (6-9 reps)– For the majority of lifters, this is going to be the sweet spot in terms of what reps you should be implementing into your sessions. Besides this range of repetitions providing a good mixture of size and strength, this range is the sweet spot for beginners due to the accumulation of repetitions needed to build their skill up.

3. Low rep work (2-5 reps)– This is probably my favorite range to lift in, but I also have a strong love affair with strength work. This rep range isn’t recommended at the beginning to people new to strength training as the required skill-level and muscle hasn’t been developed.

View low rep work as being for the more technical, skilled, and veterans of the fitness world. For beginners wanting to work on their strength, starting with five reps (perhaps 5×5) is perfect.

Lifting in this rep range is for those mostly concerned with strength and increasing those numbers (muscle gain can occur here, just not at the same rate as the high rep category).

However, at the end of the day, building size and losing fat is predominately determined by your nutrition.

Bonus work to transform your body into a world-class superhero

While the above is the Nuts’ N’ Bolts of strength training, these two methods below are the icing on the cake.

Cake Girl by Hyeyoung Kim - foundation first then then you can get fancy world-class workouts
Foundation before anything else- Cake Girl by Hyeyoung Kim

1. Explosive/dynamic work– Adding this type of work into your workouts helps increase athleticism and build strength along with burning fat due to the intensity of the movements.

However, before jumping gung-ho into these movements, assess where you currently stand in terms of conditioning and skill level—then choose from there. Examples of these type of movements include: Olympic lifts, sprinting, medicine ball drills, and chain exercises to name a few.

Start small and stay conservative, then gradually build up from there.

2. Conditioning work- This is another type of metabolic work, which is great for fat loss along with increasing your training endurance (i.e. work capacity). These type of workouts are great at the end of sessions or can serve as a excellent standalone session—depending on the volume and intensity of the workout.

Examples of these type of workouts: density training, complexes, strength circuits, sleds, battling ropes, sprints, and kettlebell swings.

Summary of this section:

After determining your goal, intelligently pick your rep ranges that align with your goal.

If you want to melt fat while maintaining strength, here are a couple options:
• Implement low reps with explosive or conditioning movements
• A beginner could use medium rep ranges with conditioning or explosive movements
• Use medium repetitions with high repetition work at the end

If you want Incredible Hulk strength, here are a couple options:
Use low reps with high reps (hypertrophy)
• Use low reps with explosive work (this is a great fat loss and performance strategy)

If you want academy award-worthy size (hypertrophy), here are a couple options:
• High rep work with medium rep work
• Low reps with high reps consisting of most of the session

There isn’t a one size fits all strategy when it comes to selecting the appropriate techniques for your goals. As long as you consider the key metrics (current skill level, conditioning, goals, daily stress levels, and etc)—experiment until you find something that is enjoyable and jams with your particular lifestyle.

5. Make sure you’re mixing the right tools for your masterpiece

You could be onto painting your very own Mona Lisa until you mix the wrong color into your bucket (there goes the masterpiece). You could be constructing the next great wonder of the world, but then you implement the wrong bricks or forget an essential measurement to constructing your monument (that would be unfortunate).

What’s the point of all this?

You can possess all the knowledge in the world. You can possess all the tools that one could ever wish for. You can have the best network and know all the ‘insiders secrets’.

But if you don’t implement the right tools with each other, your assets mean nothing.

A brief rundown of some laws of lifting

While there are a couple ways to mix these tools, there are still a few rules which you should be mindful of.

Avoid committing these crimes…
● Performing highly technical lifts and extreme heavy loads if you’re a beginner
● Avoid pairing together two heavy movements that work in the same region (i.e. joint)
● Super setting muscle groups of the same area when both are heavy loads or highly technical lifts

Instead work around these crimes by…
● Combining similar muscle groups when it comes to hypertrophy
● Combine a highly technical lift or heavy movement with a low technique or lighter movement
● Combine antagonistic movements

Examples of crimes (bad) vs. A work around (good)

Bad crime (bad)
A1) Barbell squats
A2) Barbell row

Why? Both of these exercises involve the lower back and by the third set, your back won’t be too happy with you.

A work around (good)
A1) Barbell squats
A2) pull ups

Why? Barbell squats involve the lower back, while pull-ups are still working your back just as the barbell rows were, but the big difference is that pull-ups don’t involve stress on your lower back.

6. Examples of constructing a world class workout

Below will be an example for each of the three goals we’ve discussed. The methods below are far from the only options available, my goal is to share a method of each that is easily applicable to any person to head to the gym and immediately get started.

Adding world-class size to a world-class body

Here’s a couple reminders and rationale for why this workout is set up this way

***It’s important to remember that pure hypertrophy training isn’t recommended for those who still need to lose an appreciable amount of fat. Due to various hormonal factors, I strongly recommend you to lose fat before attempting a purely muscle building program (plus even with some extra muscle, no one will see your hard work with the extra layers still hanging around).

1. Rep ranges are going to be in the middle to high ranges with ample amounts of volume due to the goal and being in a caloric surplus (i.e. taking in more calories than being burned).

2. Pairing exercises to keep the intensity up while staying under the allocated 60 minutes; thus improving work capacity

Example muscle building workout (full body)

A1)quad dominant: barbell back squats- 4×6-8
A2)upper body pull: chin ups- 4×6-8

B1) hip dominant: Barbell hip thrust- 3×12-15
B2) upper body push: overhead press- 3×10-12

C1)hip dominant: barbell Romanian deadlift- 3×10-12
C2)upper body push: (db or bb)incline bench press- 3×10-12

D1)upper body: pull cable rows- 2×15
D2)rotator cuff: band pull aparts- 2×15

E1)grip/conditioning: farmers walk- 3×40 yards or 60 seconds
F1)core planks: 3×30-45 seconds

Adding world-class strength to a world-class body

Here’s a couple reminders about adding world class strength and the rationale behind the workouts.

*** Super low reps aren’t for beginners, build some muscle and learn the patterns of the movements before anything else.

1. Stick with heavy and middle rep ranges

2. Use rehab movements to prevent injury and protect the body

3. Feel free to add some extra ‘bro work” (arms, etc) at the end or high rep (hypertrophy) work at the end

4. Depending on skill level and goal, explosive movements can help you move the weights faster; thus increasing strength

Example workout for strength

A1)Hip dominant: deadlifts- 5×5
A2)explosive/hip dominant: band hip thrust- 5×20 (explode up)

B1)upper body push: barbell incline press- 4×5
B2)quad dominant: barbell front squat- 4×6-8

C1)upper body pull: lat pulldowns- 3×12-15
C2)pre-hab/rotator cuff: band pull aparts- 3×12-15

D1)grip/fat loss: farmers walks- 3x60secs or 50 yards

Incinerating fat to uncover a world-class body

Fat loss is the most versatile out of the three areas discussed in terms of what kind of workouts to implement. From rest periods to intensity, fat loss training is a choose your own adventure (nutrition is the ultimate de-facto king in determining your fat loss).

*** The goal on the example workout is to increase work capacity and maintain strength.

Keep these reminders in the back of your head when it comes to fat loss.

1. Goals is to lose fat, but build a small amount, or at least maintain the current amount of muscle there.

2. Get creative with pairings, formats, and exercises

3. Keep that heart rate up (but don’t drive yourself into the ground—tempo is your best friend)

4. Intensity over duration

Example of a fat loss workout

A1)quad dominant: barbell squats- 3×6-8
A2)conditioning: Bw squat jumps 3x30seconds

B1)hip dominant: hip thrust- 3×12-15 (pause 2secs at top)
B2)upper body pull: chin ups- 3×10-12
B3)upper body push: push-ups -3×10-15

C1)quad dominant: step ups- 2×12
C2)core: pot stirrer planks- 2×15-20 (each side)

D1)grip/conditioning: farmers walks- 4×60 yards or 4×60 seconds

Final takeaways on designing your world-class workouts

There’s a plethora of methods that could have been discussed. But, the methods discussed were the high yielding ones and until you’re a master of the fundamentals of strength training—there isn’t a need to flirt with advanced techniques.

As you embark along your strength training journey, I want you to keep these five high yielding principles in mind (even if you forget everything else).

1. The quality of jabs is better than the quantity of jabs– In boxing you can have someone throw hundreds of punches per round, while his counterpart is selectively jabbing, but connecting. At the end of the day, you win the boxing match by connecting on your opponents face more, not by wildly throwing punches.

Your workouts are the same.

It’s not about the duration of your workouts nor the quantity of exercises you do—the importance lies in the quality of the session. 40 minutes of efficient lifting trumps 90 minutes of talking and performing 15 different lifts.

2. Variety isn’t the spice of life- When it comes to performing workouts, each session doesn’t need to be completely different compared to the last one. Companies, trainers, and other fitness “gurus” preaching no two sessions are the same is a key indicator for you to walk in the opposite direction.

You want some familiarity week in and week out with your sessions.

How else can you judge progress in the gym?

Pick a couple lifts and focus on improving those.

3. Don’t fall into a fitness pissing contest- It’s one thing to geek out in the gym or at the health store with your fitness friends, but in the normal everyday world—the majority of people could care less.

No one gives a shit about how much you squat or bench. Also, feel free to tell your annoying crossfit co-worker that you “give zero shits” about their WOD (workout of the day).

If you catch yourself getting into this type of conversation with the bros, remember—are you trying to impress the bros at the gym or attract the opposite sex?

I’ve never heard someone get laid off their bench press max nor their WOD time.

Rant through. Next point.

4. Patience is your ally- Rome wasn’t built in 48 hours. Michael Jordan wasn’t the greatest of all time after 2 weeks. You’re not going to be a lean-machine in four weeks. I’m not going to be waling on the guitar like Lenny Kravitz in 5 weeks (but dammit I’ll try).

lenny kravitz- world-class workouts
One day, I’ll get on this level- Photo Credit: zapata74330 via Compfight cc

I apologize if you thought otherwise or were promised this fairy tale. Unfortunately, contrary to the bullshit that marketers and shady fitness “gurus” in my space unfortunately preach, your transformation is going to take time.

The process and logic is simple, but the effort required isn’t easy.

Remove the unreasonable expectations and enjoy the ride.

5. Symmetry and balance is sexy- The mirror muscles or beach muscles (chest, biceps, abs) get all the glory (not for long if I have a say). However, the posterior of your body needs some love.

Building a world-class body equates to giving proper attention to every aspect of your body.

Living in the age of texting, video games, office jobs, driving everywhere, and general laziness as a society—we’ve become the land of sleepy and sometimes saggy glutes with bad posture to serve as the icing on the cake. It’s even more imperative that we train our backsides to compensate for the over-usage of the front.

To compensate for this, think of training your body with a 2:1 ratio. For every one push/front movement, perform two pull/posterior movements to compensate.

Besides…working your back and glutes a little extra is never a bad thing. Is there even such a thing as over-working the glutes?

Absolutely not…Glutes make the world go round.