Keep It Interesting and Avoid Plateaus

Some fitness programs out there give a month’s worth of workouts; others may even go up to 90 days.  But what do you do then?  Rest a week and do it again?  One big problem with that:  you’re asking for a plateau.

100_0754

No Endless Loop

One of the key reasons that a program like ThriveFit is superior to many of the month-long of 90-day DVD sets is that not only does it come with 200 workouts (which should last you about a year), but once you reach the end, you’ll have the tools to create more workouts for yourself.  Once you understand the philosophy of varied programming using functional movements, the sky’s the limit for the number of unique combinations you can create.  This makes your workout more enjoyable and less monotonous  but also minimizes your propensity for plateaus.

Apply the Principle

A personal example of this happened to me recently in my 1-rep max squat.  Several months ago, I had plateaued at a squat of 315 pounds.  Traditional programming would have led me to simply keep doing squats week after week.  Instead, I intentionally built for myself workouts involving squats, but sometimes back squats, sometimes front squats, and sometimes thrusters.  Not only that, I also varied how many reps of squats I’d do and whether to do them heavy or light.  Examples of these types of workouts would include:

1. Three rounds for time of

2. As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of:

  • 5 squats 255#
  • 25 pushups
  • 15 box jumps 24″

3. For time:

  • 21 thrusters 125#
  • 21 v-ups
  • 15 thrusters 125#
  • 15 v-up
  • 9 thrusters 125#
  • 9 v-ups

With this type of programming, I was able to train my squatting muscles without repeating the exact same movement in the same way week after week.  As a result, when I retested my max squat last week, I found I had jumped from my previous max of 315 pounds all the way up to 345!  While this won’t get me anywhere near the Olympics, it was a huge gain for me and a big victory in an exercise I’ve struggled with for some time.

Try It Yourself!

I hope you’ll take a moment to check out the ThriveFit page and learn the philosophy and techniques.  I look forward to hearing about your success reaching new heights by mixing things up!

Fill Your Toolbox

As you probably have noticed, most of the time here at TotalThriver, we typically feature an article each week to share ideas or concepts about how you can thrive in your fitness, finances, or faith.  I hope these articles encourage you to think and reflect on the various issues and take action based on new knowledge or understanding.  However, most of the how is usually left to you.  Today, we’ll try to remedy this by getting a bit further into the details!

snatch5

Find the Perfect Fit for You

If you’ve never taken the opportunity to look over the ThriveFit page previously, let me encourage you to go there now and check out the first five workouts of our recommended program.  Click the link above or the ThriveFit tab at the top of the homepage.  All workouts are conveniently split into three difficulty levels, so no matter your current fitness level, we have the perfect fit for you!

Hot Off the Press

For those that have seen the ThriveFit program in months past, we have a great new addition for you:  demonstrations and descriptions of some of the most important movements in the ThriveFit program.  Check out the Exercise Demos page here, and spend a few minutes learning a new movement–I promise each one will challenge you in a useful and different way, helping you to become a more rounded athlete and person.

One Movement to Improve Your Entire Body

In particular, today I’d like to highlight a brand new addition to the exercise demo page:  the snatch.  This powerful and complex movement can unlock new levels of fitness and strength for you, and though it’s difficult to master, the reward is great.  Incidentally, the video used in this demonstration was recorded just a few days ago, and came due to my competing in the 2013 CrossFit Open.  If you’d like to see the entire workout in context, feel free to check out my athlete profile page or watch my complete video here.

Why a Watch?

When you visit the ThriveFit page, you may notice that an unusual piece of equipment is required for nearly all of the workouts recommended there:  a stopwatch.  Unlike many workouts that you’ll see people doing in your local gym, our regimen involves completing a certain number of repetitions during a discrete period of time.  Is there a good reason for working out this way?  What are the advantages and benefits?  In today’s article, we’ll answer these questions and unpack how this strategy can help you reach your fitness and physique goals!

C&M Posing!

Better Challenge, Better Results

Most ThriveFit workouts take a form like the following:  with a continuously running stopwatch, complete three rounds of:  15 pushups, 20 lunges, 30 jump rope jumps.  Your goal is to complete all the reps in as little time as possible.  One of the beauties of this method is that whether you’re very fit or a complete beginner, this workout can challenge you.  The fitter you are, the lower your time will be, but as long as you’re pushing yourself as hard as you can, you’ll be worn out by the last rep.  And if you’re super fit, you can always adjust the workout up by adding more rounds.

Intensity Through Competition

A second benefit of keeping track of the time it takes you to complete a workout is that it promotes competition.  This competition could be between (1) you and a friend, or (2) you and yourself.

In previous articles, we’ve explored the many ways that having a training partner helps push you to greater heights and keeps you motivated and accountable.  By committing to a program like ThriveFit with a friend, you have the added benefit of being able to compete for the fastest time.  If you and your friend have a fitness disparity, you can even adjust the workouts up or down for one of the partners to cause a close finish every time.  For example, perhaps the workout for the day is: as many rounds in possible of: 8 clean and jerks 115#, 15 pushups.  If one training partner is a little stronger, he may use 135# while his partner stays with the recommended 115#.

A Worthy Competitor

Even if you aren’t able to find a workout partner right away, timing your workouts allows you to compete with yourself.  As you progress through the ThriveFit workout plan, keep track of your scores and times in a notebook or a spreadsheet.  Them, make sure to go through the list from time to time and recomplete workouts that you’ve done previously.  You’ll have your old time in mind while you’re doing the workout, which will push you to move faster and leave your old records in the dust!

Not only do your previous times help you push yourself harder and faster, but you’ll also have a clear basis for tracking your progress.  As your times go down and your loads go up, you’ll feel a strong sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  Depending on your fitness goals, you may be tracking things like your weight and body fat percentage already, but an even more test of how you’re doing is to track how long it takes you to do 3 rounds of: 15 snatches 95#, 15 pull-ups!

Improve In Multiple Ways

And finally, keeping time while you complete an entire workout turns a strength-only scheme of exercises into a strength, endurance, and stamina challenge.  Most people’s workout program involves doing 10 reps of bench press, stand around for 5 minutes, 10 more reps, stand around more, 10 reps, etc.  Not only are they wasting lots of time getting through a workout, but that rest between sets allows them to catch their breath each time.  Conversely, the ThriveFit workouts keep your body moving constantly, resulting in a challenge to your cardiovascular system as well as your muscular strength and stamina.  Incidentally, this is a good reason to keep your rest periods short in the cases where you can’t complete a full ThriveFit workout without stopping.  Keep your rest periods to just a few seconds if you must take them, and get back in and knock out a few more reps.  Having shorter, more frequent rests will give you a shorter time and a better challenge than taking longer, less-frequent rests.

Our Network is for You

Today we’ve shown just a few of the many benefits associated with working out with a timer.  By timing the entire workout, you promote competition between yourself and others (or at least yourself and yourself), you have a means of tracking your progress, and you get to challenge your body more completely, which ultimately leads you to reaching your fitness goals more effectively.  Be sure to let us know how you’re doing along the way by sharing comments on the ThriveFit workout pages!  Happy training!

Why Not Machines?

Here at TotalThriver, we’re always emphasizing bodyweight exercises and barbell lifts.  Why don’t we ever suggest using those machines that fill the typical “fitness center?”  In today’s post, we’ll take a look at where these recommendations come from.

What Are You Aiming At?

Why did you first decide to adopt a fitness regimen?  To look better? To be able to climb a flight of stairs without getting winded?  Or perhaps to improve your performance in your favorite sport?  The great thing about bodyweight workouts and free weight workouts is that they are ideal for every one of these things.  The fundamental reason for this is that when you lift your bodyweight or pick up a barbell with correct form, you’re using your body as a complete system, with each muscle automatically being used in proportion to how your body was designed to function.

Avoid Huge Biceps and Tiny Calves

Not surprisingly, by training your body in this way, you’ll naturally develop a proportional look.  Unlike in bodybuilding, where you isolate muscles using machines and pulleys, a bodyweight and free weight regimen involves compound lifts.  For example, to take a barbell from the ground to your chest, then up over your head, you must use your calves, hamstrings, quads, abs, back, chest and shoulders.  By doing this lift within a circuit, as recommended in the ThriveFit program, you’ll also challenge your heart and lungs.  Over time, this will build you into a versatile and proportional athlete, capable of physical feats you won’t believe.

Move Your Friend’s Piano

In addition to working large muscle groups proportionally, bodyweight and free weight lifting strengthens all the small stabilizers throughout your body.  For example, in the “press,” you take a barbell in the standing position, and push it up over your head.  This movement not only strengthens the entire shoulder and upper pectoral muscles, but in order to control and balance the weight throughout the lift, your entire core needs to be engaged, along with the traps and small muscles in the neck and upper back.  Over time, this will strengthen your entire body as a system, not only making you capable of moving more weight easier, but helping you avoid injury as well.

Getting Cut

The final benefit we’ll discuss today relates to fat reduction.  One common reason for exercising is to trim down and get a leaner look.  A regimen like ThriveFit is ideal for fat burning, because compound lifts like clean and jerks or pull-ups recruit lots of energy from the large muscle groups involved.  Not only does this burn large amounts of calories during the workout, but as your body recovers post-workout, it will consume a great deal of energy rebuilding your muscles after the workout.  And with stronger muscles, your body will need more calories in the days and weeks to come simply to operate your now-stronger muscles.  Keep the same diet (don’t increase calorie intake) and you’ll quickly develop a significant calorie deficit, leading to a lower body fat percentage and a great lean look.

Start Today!

Of course, there are a great many more benefits to a high-intensity bodyweight and barbell training regimen than the few I’ve outlined today, but these will give you a good idea of some of the great benefits available to you through ThriveFit.  As with nearly everything we suggest around here, you can give this a try for yourself and take note of what happens!  I’m confident that if you dive in and stick with the program, you’ll quickly find the truth of these claims.  Enjoy your healthier and fitter life!  🙂

Getting Fit and Loving It!

The following article is a guest post from Steven McClain, a member of the TotalThriver community.  Steven recently began following the ThriveFit workout program and describes his experience and excitement for this new fitness regimen.

For the last several years I have been doing workout regimens that didn’t do much besides maintain strength or maybe even lose it gradually. I did what the typical gym rat would do which consisted of bench, dips, tricep extensions, flys, curls, rows, leg curls, leg press, and squats with terrible form.  I’ve always tried to maintain a proper diet with lots of fruits, veggies, good quality fats, and proteins. I thought that I should be feeling awesome from this great lifestyle but one week ago I tried something very different. Chris took me on as his ThriveFit apprentice, and with the aid of some Double X vitamin supplements a new journey began.

Trial by Fire

It all started Thursday with a Metcon consisting of 4 rounds of 5 deadlifts, 10 pullups, 15 pushups as fast as possible. The next workout was called death by squats (one squat in minute one, two squats in minute two, and so on until failure) and here I learned the proper form for squats which engages your entire leg, lower back, and parts of the upper body. Lucky for me Chris was there in the 13thminute to pick the bar up after I dropped it and have me do another rep before failing a second time. The weekend offered some rest to the weary legs that felt like they had been ripped to shreds and stairs had become their arch nemesis.

Powering Through

On Monday the pain of soreness was still there for sure but that didn’t stop the 3 rounds of 8 pullups (kipping), 4 handstand pushups, 16 pushups, and a quarter mile run all in about 11.5 minutes. So far all the workouts had been Metcons which challenged both my cardio and muscular strength. So on Tuesday we did a 4 rep max of cleans (an Olympic lift), starting from low weight and adding on 10 pounds at a time for about 6 rounds. Although I was not on the verge of cardio death the workout was great and provided for some great technique work and its fair share of muscle soreness.

 The Payoff

Most workouts I give a month or more before giving any assessment but after only a week I can’t deny the huge difference I’m feelingand seeing. I went from feeling like a normal human being a week ago to some sort of steel reinforced powerhouse today. Here I sit in my chair with good posture, no tired feeling after lunch, and with the energy to run at least a 5k just waiting to be used. While my shoulders are and legs may be a little stiff from the cleans there is no doubt that the power and energy increase is there along with mental alertness and just feeling great overall. What’s the big secret to this euphoric state? Compound crossfit lifting that challenges both the cardio and large muscle groupings combined with the Double X would be my scientific hypothesis (since I am a chemist J) because all other conditions in life have remained normal during that week. Are there any side effects to all this? I’ve experienced an increased metabolism so I’ve had to eat more delicious food while likely lowering my body fat and increasing lean muscle mass as the weeks continue.

Thanks for all the help and great advice Chris! I haven’t felt this good since being a senior on the high school wrestling team.

 

Keys to an Effective Fitness Regimen

We’ve spent a good deal of time lately discussing the many benefits of a good fitness regimen.  Maybe some of these ideas have made you interested in fitness, and you’re ready to dive in.  But before you embark on a new regimen, it’s important to have a good gameplan as well as some strong support.  Without these, your fitness habit will struggle to pass the 3-week mark, and you’ll have lost the strong motivation which could have been used to launch you to a new level of success.

The following principles are vital to a sucessful fitness regimen.

Permanence

Just like with diet, it is absolutely essential that your fitness habits be permanent.  Your program can certainly change as you move through life’s different stages, but thinking of a fitness regimen as something that you’ll do for a few months, then go “back to normal” will not only lead you to disappointment and frustration, but can be hard on your body too.  Your body is made to move, lift, and run.  Consider exercise like food or worship of God–you need it perpetually to live life as it was meant to be lived.

Support

While it may well be possible to stick with a fitness program in isolation, I’ve not yet met someone who’s done well that way.  Even Rocky had Mick!  Give yourself the boost of a training partner.  Ideally, this person can work out right beside you in the same gym, but even a friend who’s far away can be a good training partner if you can push each other to get out there on the tough days when you don’t feel like it.  I also enjoy competing with friends who are of a similiar fitness level as myself, so we both always know that the other person is probably nipping right on our heels.  As the Good Book says, “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

Intensity

Though some fitness programs can be useful without intensity, I find that most people who are truly successful in fitness incorporate high intensity training into their regimen.  And practically speaking, most of us simply to not have the time luxury to spend hours in the gym every day.  The good news is that you can achieve a remarkable level of fitness in 20 minutes per day, 5 days a week, if you will work at high intensity.  Do that calculation, and yes, I’ll bet that’s a good bit less than the number of hours of TV you watch each week…

Functionality

This principle was a component that I sorely missed in my early years of fitness training.  Like many others have done, I spent way too much time on 3 sets of 10 bench presses, lat pull downs, and machine shoulder raises.  While these movements aren’t bad, they’re not particularly useful in real life.

When I began my current program, however, I found a whole new world with barbell lifing and other functional movements.  For example, the snatch, a complex barbell lift, recruits large muscle groups and requires a great deal of energy, while simultaneously honing timing and balance skills.  Not only this, but the strength built this way seamlessly travels into real life, whether it’s carrying a suitcase up a flight of stairs or hoisting a child up to see a parade.

Functional movements like pullups, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and lunges work big muscle groups and the cardiovascular system.  Your body reacts to this by building more muscle.  The new muscle requires your body to expend more energy all day long to keep everything running.  Thus, in addition to the stronger muscles that you’ll have, you’ll also have a larger calorie gap (the difference between the calories you consume and the calories you require).  If you keep your diet under control, your body has no choice but to recruit energy from fat cells–resulting in a thinner, stronger, and happier you!

More to come

Much more could be said on this topic, but these ideas will get you started on a rewarding fitness regimen.  Check out the ThriveFit page for a few sample workouts to get you going, and let us know how you’re doing–we’re here to help you thrive!

To get where you’ve never been, do what you’ve never done

If you’re ever began a new fitness program, you’ve probably found great results (and the associated soreness ;)) in the first few weeks.  The amount of weight you can lift jumps up and up.  The time it takes you to run 400m drops by large margins.  But after a few months, you seem to stall out.  It can feel like you’re hitting a glass ceiling.  Where you used to gain 30 pounds per week on your deadlift, you now strain to add 5.  What’s going on??

To avoid these frustrating plateaus, it is essential that your fitness regimen be varied.  As Arnold Schwarzenegger explains in Pumping Iron, “you have to keep zee muscles guessing!” If you repeat the same program week after week, your body will adapt to the stress, and what challenged you last week won’t stress your body this week.  This is good in one sense, because it means that you’re making progress.  But it’s bad if you don’t vary your program at this point.  You’ll find yourself stalling out, leading you to frustration and tempting you to drop your fitness program altogether.

In order to provide you with the best long-term results, our ThriveFit program includes dynamic and varied programming.  We use a plethora of different functional movements, training your whole body as an integrated system.  This keeps your body perpetually “on its toes” so that your muscles are always adapting to new stresses–thereby avoiding plateaus and promoting a high rate of improvement.

As you progress through each workout posted in the ThriveFit section of the site, feel free to be creative with the exercises involved and rep and set schemes.  And don’t forget to post those scores to build the ThriveFit community–as we compete with each other, everyone is motivated to push their limits and we all win!