NEAT challenge

March Challenge: The NEAT Challenge

Tomorrow we will be starting a new challenge for the month of March – our NEAT Challenge! It’s free, it’s simple, and it’s open to everybody.

For this month’s challenge, we wanted to take a step back from a focus on our training.

It’s extremely easy to get wrapped up in how much we train – how often we lift weights, how often we do cardio, how much ab work we do – IT’S IN OUR NAME, for Pete’s sake.

But, particularly in the winter months, we can get so wrapped up in our training and exercise that we forget about our activity levels. It’s cold out, so you stop biking or walking to work and start taking the train, you walk your dog a little less, you don’t go to the park or get involved with a weekend rec league; instead, you replace those things with an extra half an hour on a warm couch, in front of a fireplace… why it’s not called “Netflix and warm” I will never understand.

Yet when our activity levels dip down like that, it can require other changes to offset it – maybe a little less food, or another workout each week. And with those reduced calories or increased training stress comes a reduction in your ability to recover. You ache a bit more, you get hungrier more quickly, you feel a bit more sluggish in the middle of the afternoon.

What we want to do is increase something called NEAT – short for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. What does that mean? It means, the calories we burn just by doing things that don’t require any recovery – it’s not exercise or training, it’s just activity. Neat, huh? (I AM THE BEST AT PUNS)

In fact, it’s been shown that increasing your NEAT will actually help you recover more from your training and allows you to keep your food intake higher with no loss of progress. It’s not stressful on your body, it’s just… moving.

Here is the plan:

Week 1: Using a pedometer (you can buy one to keep on your hip, or you can use one on your phone – provided your phone is always on you, which may not be the case), you’ll track the number of steps you take each day. After 7 days, you’ll find the average number of steps you take in a given day.

Each week, your goal will be to increase the number of steps you take each day by 1,000. If your average was 2,000 in Week 1, your goal is 3,000. Pretty simple step. (HA!)

By the end of the month, that should put your daily average a full 3,000 steps (or more) higher than where you started.

Note: I personally would suggest not keeping your pedometer on you when doing any of your training or existing exercise – lifting, running, cycling, etc – the things you’re already doing. We’re not trying to cram in more workouts; remember, it’s Non-Exercise Activity we’re monitoring here, and I don’t want to stack more and more onto your recovery ability.

Are you in?

Are You the Person I’m Looking For?

This went out to all of our newsletter subscribers and clients a few days ago, and now I’m opening it up to all of our social media readers. I am writing this because I have something special to share. If you’re reading this, I think it COULD apply to you. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but I would rather let you make that decision instead of me, as I have been wrong more than once. As some of you may or may not know, I recently began competing in Physique competitions (which I have been thoroughly enjoying, by the way). But this isn’t about me. 52544-zach-trowbridge-11_final It IS about the fact that I am looking for TWO people with similar interests. I am looking to take two people to the stage within the next 12 months. Why? Because it isn’t enough for me to do it myself – if I can’t reproduce the results then it doesn’t really help me continue to grow even more as a coach. So, who am I looking for? I am looking for one client to work with one on one with me personally, as a private client, 4 days per week, for an hour at a time. This person, male or female, should be highly motivated to get into more than just good shape – they need to want something more. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re already a client at All Strength Training or not – it’s open to anybody! I am also looking for one person to work with remotely. This person probably won’t live close enough to train with me one on one, but you’ll get the next best thing. Customized nutrition, programming, and weekly Skype consult, and more. Now, the good part. I am not going into this with a particular set cost in mind. I would rather have the right people who will do what’s needed, rather than just those with the most disposable income. So I’m not putting a price tag on it yet – if you’re the person for the job, we can work that out later. 12 week transformation So what do I get out of it? 1. Promotion. Yes, I will use you to promote our services. On our website, through social media, in print, etc. Consider it a trade for offering this at well below what I would typically charge. 2. Data. You’re a beta tester for all of my nutrition, training, and supplementation protocols. So we will keep lots of records together, you and I. Workouts, pictures, measurements, consistently and regularly. How Do You Apply? Reply to this e-mail or send an e-mail to me personally at Zach@allstrengthtraining.com. In about 500 words (a few paragraphs), describe what you want from me. How you want to look, what competition you would like to do, who you would like to look like, and tell me why I should pick you. Please, also specify if you want to be considered for one on one or remote training. Lastly, tell me what inspires you. People, places, activities, anything. I want to know what drives you to be a better person and motivates you to get out of bed each day. If you read this and think this isn’t for you, I understand. Not everyone wants or needs to go to the level I’m asking for this project. I would ask, however, that if you know someone who fits the bill, that you share this with them so that they might have the opportunity to be considered. Until Next Time, Zach Trowbridge

Ten Takeaways from the BioSignature Convention

I spent most of the early part of September traveling to conferences and seminars through the Poliquin Strength Institute, including 3 days in Las Vegas for the first BioSignature Convention. Here are ten of the best tips that I learned while attending.

#1. Do Your Own Meal Prep.

According to Jeanette Bessinger, the “Clean Food Coach,” even though home meal preparation has increased, there is now an average of less than ONE fresh item used in a homemade meal.  With the lack of fresh ingredients comes a decrease in the amount of time spent on meal preparation each day – in the 1980’s we spent an average of 2-3 hours a day on it, versus in the 2010’s we spend less than 20 minutes for an entire day’s meals.

If being lean and strong is your goal, take more time to prepare your own meals, and use as many fresh ingredients as possible.  Take the time to learn how to make healthy meals that actually taste good.

#2.  Use Vegetables as Substitutes for Starch.

Jeanette’s presentation included her preparing several meals on the spot, with no heating elements or way to cook the food, so she used a lot of raw non-starchy vegetables as the foundation of her meals.  One of the substitutes that I hadn’t seen before was using jicama as a replacement for rice – to peel, chop, and pulse in a food processor takes less than 12 minutes, compared to roughly one hour to cook rice in a rice cooker.  Cauliflower for potatoes and zucchini for noodles are also great options.

#3.  Have the Right Tools.

Anybody trying to follow a Paleo diet, especially a low carb one, should have the following tools in their kitchen:

  • a vegetable spiralizer (for replacing noodles in pasta-style dishes)
  • a bamboo cutting board, with one side designated for pungents such as garlic, onions, and hot peppers
  • a chef’s knife (Jeanette recommended a santoku knife as the best option)
  • a paring knife

Knives should also be honed once a week and sharpened professionally once every few months.

#4.  Food is a Key Part of the Life Experience.

Deanna Minich’s presentation concentrated primarily on how the act of eating is not just a way to keep us alive, but a way to make use feel alive.  The average person interacts with food and eating approximately 200 times every day – that’s about 6 million interactions in a lifetime.

However, most people do not take the time to actually experience their food.  91% of people do something else while eating – reading, working, driving, etc., depriving themselves of the pleasure of the meal itself.  Deanna recommended the book Mindless Eating as a good resource for how to get around that.

#5.  Watch Out for Shady Food Labeling.

A few interesting notes from Kaayla Daniel, “The Naughty Nutritionist” regarding label misrepresentation:

  • agave nectar is the equivalent of high fructose corn syrup
  • foods containing the word “hydrolyzed” in the ingredients list likely contain MSG
  • “fake organic” foods have been found for sale at Whole Foods

#6.  The Many Dangers of Soy.

Soy has been shown to have many negative side effects to body composition, well-being and overall health.

  • Soy has been linked to thyroid and reproductive problems
  • The FDA poisonous plant database contains 256 studies on soy
  • Soy is used in Tibetan monasteries to lower sex drive
  • Chinese restaurants use edamame (soybeans) as an appetizer, using generally about 6 pods,  Americans use handfuls at a time as a snack
  • Men who eat soy twice a week will produce 41 million fewer sperm than men who don’t

#7.  Meat’s Unique Benefits.

Kaayla spoke in depth about the necessity of meat in the diet to fulfill essential nutritional needs.  Vitamin A, vitamin D3, CoEnzyme Q10, carnitine, and vitamins B6 & B12 are only found in natural forms in meat.  Not coincidentally, these are some of the most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in vegetarian diets.

#8.  Not Quite Paleo.

The convention ended with an extensive Q&A with Charles Poliquin, where the topic of the Paleo diet came up almost immediately.  Charles refers to modern Paleo diets as “metro” Paleo diets at best.  If you want to live a legitimately Paleo lifestyle, go kill your lunch with your bare hands.  True Paleo diets use predominantly raw ingredients and would not include things like coffee, protein shakes, etc.

#9.  All About Estrogens.

A few points regarding estrogens and detoxing from Charles:

  • If using DIM to detox estrogens and side effects such as rashes occur, the level of xenoestrogens are too high.  Base nutritional factors need to be replenished first, which can take up to 18 months
  • Low protein intake can create issues with detoxification from a lack of essential amino acids
  • People in certain geometric areas can have greater issues with local xenoestrogens, creating problems replenishing zinc and magnesium, among other things

#10.  Use Probiotics.

In consultations with five of the top nutritional scientists, Charles asked them each to give him their top five supplements, and each of them ranked probiotics at #2, right behind fish oil.  Probiotics should be used twice a day, taken after meals to ensure the highest survival rate.  It is also important to only use medical brands of probiotics – cheap probiotics that are often found at grocery and health food stores are usually dead before you even get the bottle open.  This is one supplement that it is NOT okay to go cheap on.

The convention was, I thought, a great event and I look forward to many more takeaways from next year’s event.

New AST Power Camp In October

On Wednesday, October 5, we will be starting our second AST Power camp, a 6-week camp designed to prepare you for competition at a powerlifting meet as part of Team AST.  Our first camp led a team of 6 members, as well as coaches Zach and Sergio, to the 2011 USPF Illinois State Meet at Lance’s Gym in Chicago, IL.  All 8 members of the team placed in the top 3 in their respective weight and age divisions.

This time, we will be competing at the UPF Power Weekend in Dubuque, IA on November 19.  More information and rules can be found here: UPA Power Weekend.

The camp can have up to 8 participants, and will be held Wednesday mornings from 7:30-8:30am, starting October 5.  Participants will be responsible for their own entry fee for the competition should they choose to compete.

If you are looking for a new way to challenge yourself and enjoy some friendly competition with your training partners, get involved and join the camp!  E-mail Julie, Zach or Christine to sign up.

AST to Raise Money for St. Jude’s

We are so excited to announce our first annual softball tournament for St. Jude!  AST is participating in “Workout for St. Jude,” which is a fundraising event throughout the country where people participate in physical activities to raise money for the research hospital.

We decided that a 16 inch softball tournament would be the perfect opportunity to raise money, enjoy the fall weather, and have a little friendly competition.  The tournament will be held on Sunday, September 25th at Clarendon Park.  The field is very close to the AST facility, there will be tons of food and beverages for anyone who wants to come!

Ideally we would like to have enough people to field a couple of teams, so invite your friends, family, neighbors, and anyone who may be interested.  The more people involved, the faster we will reach our goal of raising $5000 for St. Jude!  Anyone can participate for a minimum donation of $20, although we are definitely encouraging everyone to raise as much as possible.

There is a sign-up sheet on the front desk, and you can also pick up a Sponser Envelope and a set of 16 inch softball rules.  We would like to have everyone’s t-shirt size by Saturday, September 10th so we can have your AST shirt in time.

We have also set up a Donation Site through the St. Jude website.  There is an option to set up your own fundraising website online, and people can donate by credit card, or find out mroe information about our event.  You can go to St. Jude and click on the “Participants” button.  Click “Search for Event” and our event is located in Illinois under All Strength Training.

We are really looking forward to having everybody get together outside of the facility, so block off your calendars now!  Thank you so much in advance for supporting St. Jude!

*Note: this event is open to everybody, including those who are not AST clients!  If you’d like to come out, have fun and support a great cause, please give us a call to get signed up at (773) 868-6656.  We’d love to have you!

Team AST Goes to Nationals!

This weekend, 3 members of All Strength Training’s powerlifting team went to the 2011 USPF Raw Nationals to compete against over 100 other lifters. The lifters included all 3 of AST’s coaching staff – myself and Christine on Friday, and Sergio on Saturday. Another member of AST’s powerlifting team, Mark, had to miss the competition due to family commitments (but I’m sure he’ll be back on the platform as soon as we can find him another meet to do).

All of the lightweight divisions competed on Friday, so Christine and I lifted together. Christine was the only female lifter in the raw division (the raw division allows only the use of wrist wraps, knee sleeves and a belt – no squat suits or bench shirts), and competed without the use of even wraps or a belt. In the process, she set 4 USPF American records in the 123lb open women’s weight class – a 132lb squat, an 83lb bench press, a 176lb deadlift, and a 391lb total (all personal records as well). She also narrowly missed an 88lb bench press.

I also lifted raw with no equipment, in a competitive 165lb weight class (the eventual winner, Troy Smith, opened the deadlift with over 500lbs and ended with somewhere between 540-550lbs). This was my first time lifting in competition with no supportive equipment at all, and ended up coming away with a 248lb squat, 209lb bench, and 358lb deadlift (I was particularly happy with the deadlift, as that had been a lift I’ve struggled to improve on for the last 2 years).

Christine and I both left a little on the platform and felt that we could have definitely gone heavier on 3rd attempts. Christine in particular – she proceeded to break her own deadlift PR in training on Sunday by pulling 195lbs, 19lbs over what she did in competition on Friday.

Sergio lifted on Saturday, and did not have his best day on the platform. He hit his squat opener of 374lbs, but struggled with and missed 385lbs twice. He also was strong enough for his bench opener of 275lbs but was redlighted for jumping the head judge’s “press” command. He then jumped to 286lbs for his 2nd and 3rd attempts but was unsuccessful with both, disqualifying him from the rest of the meet. We’ve already talked about a few errors he made in preparation for the competition and he’ll be back in the gym on Monday ready to get it right next time.

The competition was run incredibly well, and we would like to thank Lance Karabel and Ted Isabella for putting on a great meet. Hopefully Team AST will continue to grow, and will return to the platform later this year.

A Visit to the Compound

Originally published here: http://articles.elitefts.com/articles/training-articles/a-visit-to-the-compound/

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I recently got the opportunity to visit Elite Fitness Systems in London, Ohio for the first (and hopefully not the last) Learn to Train seminar, with all proceeds going to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Even though I’ve followed the company and have been a customer for several years, this was my first opportunity to visit their on-site training area (nicknamed Area S4, or The Compound) and meet their sponsored athletes and the owner of EFS, Dave Tate.

The first item on the itinerary for the seminar was technical instruction of the 3 power lifts – squat, bench, and deadlift. After Dave took us all through some technical points on one of his lifters (Ted Toalston, who looks a lot bigger in person than in their videos), he asked the group, “so who thinks their squat sucks?” I had my hand in the air before Dave could even turn around, and was lucky (unlucky?) enough to be torn to shreds by Dave, as well as Todd Brock, a friend of Dave’s and a great powerlifter himself.

While I don’t have the most impressive squat in the world, I always thought it was rather technically sound, especially since I am pretty good at hammering the technical aspects into my training clients. However, it seemed like this was one of those cases of “even trainers need trainers,” because I clearly wasn’t practicing what I had been preaching.

The first thing Dave and Todd noticed was my grip – specifically, that I was completely incapable of fully gripping the bar with my left hand, no matter how hard I tried. I’m not sure if it’s something to be proud of or terrified by that it was actually something neither had seen before, and didn’t quite know how to fix. The answer seemed to be widening my grip out substantially and it seemed to take care of it.

Dave and Todd then spent the next 30 or so minutes making tons and tons of adjustments to my technique. Never in my life has it been so painful to squat an empty barbell before, but by the time they got done with me I had a list of things to fix and a smile on my face.

Then we all broke out into stations and received additional one-on-one coaching from some of the EFS-sponsored lifters. I think everybody got a little overzealous with the squat, because the group was originally allotted 30 minutes to practice, but ended up going for about 2 hours. Although, since I saw several personal records broken among even just the small subset of lifters at my station, I don’t think anybody particularly cared that it ran long.

From there we moved on to the bench press, with Dave giving a relatively short, maybe 15-minute breakdown of the performance and leaving the rest up to the coaches who were handling each station.  I think everybody was pretty gassed out from a few hours of squatting and we wrapped things up in about 30-40 minutes.

Last in the technical part of the seminar was the deadlift.  Again, Dave did some quick review and left the coaches to make the bigger corrections.  Although, I did hear Dave give one of the most logical, yet interesting, ways to get males to set up right for the sumo deadlift, which was, simply, “try to drop your nuts onto the bar.”  The best part was seeing all of the metaphorical light bulbs going off over a good twenty heads after he said it.

Since we were running late from a long squatting session, lunch was already there, so Dave told us to alternate between lifting and eating.  Again, we broke out into groups, and Todd Brock was the coach working my station.  Having helped coach my squat with Dave at the beginning of the seminar, he took one look at my deadlift and said, “well, at least we know you’re good for something!”  Which is good, because the deadlift is the one lift I feel pretty comfortable with so it was nice to have a little affirmation.

After we wrapped up the last of the technical part of the seminar, we moved into program design.  While a lot was covered, I think one of the best takeaways for the day was the concept of making sure your programs fulfill 3 requirements – 1. Is it sufficient?, 2. Is it necessary?, and 3. Is it safe?  The idea is that if you have to answer no to any of those things, the program is flawed.  An example given was somebody who makes 3 attempts at a max weight and misses every one – were those last 2 attempts really necessary for the program to work, or was it just motivated by ego?

Finally, maybe about 40% of the group stuck around for the business discussion, where Dave shared the timeline of Elite Fitness Systems and covered a lot of the mistakes that he made in developing and growing the company.  The thing that really impresses me is that Dave is so incredibly open about where he’s gone wrong and doesn’t sugarcoat anything.  I posed a question during the Q&A about a problem I had been having with one of my coaches not catching on fast enough, and after some back and forth he pretty much said (I can’t recall the exact wording) “you’re the one who’s fucking up by not making it clear enough what you want.”  I know some people wouldn’t be as straight-up in their response, and I appreciated the no-BS answer.

I can absolutely guarantee that if Dave ever holds another one of these seminars, I will be going again and taking my entire staff.  Those of us who got to attend this year are definitely a lucky bunch.  Thanks again to Dave, Todd Brock, Jason Pegg, Ted Toalston,  Steve Diel, and everybody from EFS who helped out.  With any luck I hope to see you all next time!