Why Women Should Love the Bar

It’s been an often debated topic with old school beliefs, myths, and science all mixed together, but there is no doubt that barbell work is extremely beneficial for females, especially if they are looking to get strong and burn some fat.

Of course there are other pieces of exercise equipment that will get fantastic results – we all know that!  Your own body is the absolute best piece of equipment out there.  I would argue it’s the strongest, fastest, and best machine known to mankind as well.  Don’t believe me?  Think about the evolution of the computer over the last 20 years.  We’ll have walking, talking AIs before you know it!

Now as I was saying earlier, there are plenty of pieces of equipment you can get your hands on to build beautiful lean muscle and burn fat.  Dumbbells, medicine balls, suspension trainers and kettlebells are just a few.  Certifications and national challenges have been designed with a single kettlebell being used.

I’m not here to argue that a barbell is better than any other piece of equipment.  Frankly, your routine workout routine should include a plethora of exercise equipment.  What I’m saying is that a barbell holds a different kind of value to women.

A barbell holds true that a woman knows her way around a gym.

A barbell holds a value of progress. 

A barbell holds a value of being strong. 

A barbell holds a value of a mission. 

A barbell holds a value of confidence.

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This isn’t to say that every woman should be using barbells.  There’s a progression that she would need to go through to make sure barbell work is safe.

Planks, goblet squats, bridges, and anything done in single leg (which includes balance exercises) are fantastic pregression exercises to get fundamentally good at before working with a barbell.  It takes time, patience, and great coaching to handle a barbell effectively.

There’s nothing more than I want for our females to see progress, to feel strong, to have a mission, and to boast confident.  Meaning I want to try to get the females I work with under or over a bar as soon as I can because I know what a bar represents.

A barbell is intimidating – there’s no doubt about that.  That’s why there’s time and progress that goes into your program before you ever pick up a barbell.

Barbell-ickly speaking, time and progress mean speed and weight (strength).  And that’s exactly what we want in the strength training world: moving weight faster.

Faster means stronger and stronger means more muscle and more muscle equates to more fat-burning capabilities and sustained results…and sustained results mean confidence.

It’s true when I say our barbells at Unity Fitness are my favorite bars in La Crosse (we get all of our bars from Rogue Fitness, by the way).  There’s magic to them, but it comes after you’re ready.

 

The first step is to get moving.  There’s no better time than right now.  And now is now a moment that was one second ago.  Get moving already!bar-pic

Fitness Like a Sport

Think of every sport out there.  From football to baseball to swimming to fencing to horse racing, all of these sports have their differences in rules and scoring while also sharing a few things in common.  For the sake of this post, let’s take having an in-season and an off-season, for example.

Now imagine having football season all year-round where there is no off-season.  Injuries would surge, performance would decrease, and the sport itself would plummet.  As a matter of fact, this statement would be relevant for any sport.

The same scenario holds true for strength training and exercise.

What we tend to forget that we’re using strength training and exercise to provide fuel towards some sort of goal.  Those goals can be narrowed down to four: 1) Look better, 2) Feel better, 3) Move better, and 4) Play/Perform better.  No matter what your goal is, it is proven that exercise can help.

Now look at exercise, or fitness, as a sport.

The first thing that may come to your mind is CrossFit and their annual CrossFit Games that recently took place.  To CrossFit, the Games are the pinnacle of the sport.  Now let’s say your goal isn’t competing in the Games, let’s just say your goal is to lose a few pounds because you want to look better and feel more confident.

How do you go about preparing for that goal?

Do you set yourself up with a 30 day plan?  Or a 90 day plan?  What about a 12 month plan?  Do you plan for an in-season and an off-season?

At my gym, we operate in 90 day or annual (12 month) plans.  We actual prefer the 12 month plan because we can create a 12 month program (macrocycle), broken down into phases (mesocylces), or seasons, and completed within a week’s worth of workouts (microcycles), or games.

That’s a full year containing the ups, downs, and go-arounds aka the victories (results), setbacks (injuries), and whatever else comes into play (life).

The point I’m getting is that if we physically, mentally, and emotionally can’t/shouldn’t sustain a full year’s worth of a particular sport, again say football for this example, then we should also treat your exercise and fitness routine the same.

Oh, and by the way, congratulations!  You are now an athlete!

If your goal is to lose 10 pounds because you want to look better, your in-season just became your fat-loss phase.  That phase can last anywhere from 60 to 180 days.  The other days consist of phases, or “seasons”, that include maintenance, strength (muscle-building), and resets.  This allows your body to recover, adapt, and improve which will allow you to get incredible results.

Staying too long in one season will be a surefire way to become fatigued.  Your muscles will start to breakdown, your tendons and ligaments will become rigid and inflamed, your joints and bones will start to ache, and your nervous system aka your brain, will become fried.  This is a really easy way to become demotivated and pissed off at the world, especially at fitness industry and/or your trainer.

If we continue to walk down that line, this is the same reason why you shouldn’t be training to muscular failure, a mega burn, or maximum effort every time you step foot in the gym.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a special time and place for that, but it’s not every day.  Even the most gifted athletes in the world know this, possibly because they found out the hard way, but that’s not something you should test to find out.

I recently got to hear from Chris Frankel at a mastermind in California.  Chris is the director of human performance of TRX.  I remember watching videos of him 5 years ago, in awe of his knowledge and coaching abilities.  Well, the man showed up to our mastermind and impressed again, leaving the attendees in utter amazement at his expertise.  He said two things in particular that really stuck with me in regards to training philosophy:

“The best ability is availability (meaning we, as trainers, shouldn’t be running our clients to the ground every chance we get because if they are not available to train due to soreness or injury, that’s on us), and

“There’s a difference between high-intensity work and high-fatigue work.”

High-fatigue work is what gets us in trouble.  The key is recognizing the difference.

High-fatigue essentially leads to the dreaded over-training response that your body produces when too much is applied to it and there hasn’t been enough recovery.  When we over-train, we overuse.  And we overuse, we fatigue tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, brain, etc.).  And when we fatigue tissues, we get injured.  Dr. Carla Murgia noted this type response is “abundantly evident” in her study Overuse, Tissue Fatigue, and Injuries posted in The Journal of Dance Medicine & Science.

We need to start treating fitness like a sport, included with in-seasons, off-seasons, assessments, and programming.  If you haven’t played basketball for 4 months, 4 years, or have never played, you can’t expect just to pick up a ball and run the court in a game of 5-on-5.  You need to become conditioned, get your shot back, or learn the rules of the game.

The same goes for fitness.  If you step into a gym and expect to deadlift 300 lbs without warming up or without proper technique you might as well say “Sayonara” to your ego as you simultaneously feel your L4 shooting across the room.

As an industry, we trainers need to create better programs.  Actually, we need to design expert programs with integrity that accommodate all of our client’s goals, abilities, knowledge, and history.  We need to stop looking at quick-fixes as an easy cop-out.

It’s up to the trainer to educate, motivate, and empower clients and their families as they better their lives through health in fitness.  We can do all of that without making our clients go through a year’s worth of fat loss workouts, do 10 straight minutes of burpees, perform an overhead press 150 times without checking an overhead assessment, and not warm them up before each workout (for the record, all of these scenarios actually exist and have all led to injury).  We can do all of that with awesome programs that get incredible results and keep our clients injury-free.   That’s what we value here at Unity Fitness.

Now take a moment, what does your gym or routine value?

Pat Summit’s Impact on Unity Fitness

When I was a younger lad in high school, there were several sports figures that I looked up to. LeBron James, so was Brett Favre (for a time), Coach K, Bob Knight, Muhammad Ali, and many, many more. One that seemed to always stick out to me a little more to me was Pat Summit because I held value into what she accomplished not only off the court, but off the court as well.

 
Pat Summit passed away earlier this morning, after a statement was released by her son. I’m sure there are excellent pieces all over social media today, but if you haven’t had a chance to see this one on ESPN, do yourself a favor and check it out.

 
Not the kind of news you like waking up to and hearing first-thing on the radio on your way to work. The reason I bring this up is because I wrote several papers and gave many speeches in high school and college regarding Pat Summit’s tenure as the best basketball coach in history. She coached for 38 seasons at the University of Tennessee, where she made her claim to fame by racking up championships and graduates. Even though she is the winningest coach in Division 1 for both men’s and women’s with 1,098 victories, she had done something no other coach has ever done and (I would argue) no coach will ever be able to do.

 
What was that feat? Every one of her players graduated with a degree. Her players didn’t leave early. They didn’t just show up to play ball. They showed up to get expert coaching on basketball and life.  Not many coaches are actually that great at coaching basketball to their kids, let alone preparing them for life. Very rarely is there a coach that can do both at such a high-performing level for even a year while Pat made it work for over 38 straight years.

 
To me, it was her visionary philosophy towards coaching for life that really hit home. I feel like I’ve carried that attitude with me into everything that I coach and I relate it into some shape or form of coaching for my athletes/clients.

 
That same attitude exists within the core values of my gym to this day. Sure, it’s easy to relate it to “functional training” as everything we do in Unity Fitness serves a purpose for how we do things (physically speaking) outside of Unity Fitness. But I’m also trying to prepare our members for having a better attitude, vision, and mindset toward their life. Our core value Learn and strive to be better each and every day reminds us to do this, well, every day.

 
Having an outlook that is positive is the first part I help bring to the forefront for my clients. Unfortunately, as personal trainer, we tend to see people when they are at their worst and they are usually in a bad mindset. After we establish the positive outlook, we then start using the results and newfound positive energy to help people grow and develop in and out of the gym. We literally get a chance to change people’s lives for the better!

 
A lot of people that I’ve worked with in my short time in the industry have noted that they’ve never had anyone in their life care for them as much as I do. That’s a true statement, and a pretty awesome one at that! I’ll support my client in his or her endeavors as much as I possibly can, keeping their safety and results in mind, of course. And the thing about it, I just feel like I’m doing my job because I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

 
That’s how I know I’m in the right place and that’s how I know I’ve followed the right people, like Pat Summit and co.

 
One of my personal goals to be of some influence to anyone I come in contact with so that I can have even the tiniest positive impact on their life. I also tell people that if I can influence their decisions for about 100 hours a week then my client is most likely making decisions to better him/herself and taking a step forward towards reaching the goal. Soon that becomes a habit. The next goal in my book is to having a lasting impact to that person, so that they continue to accomplish new goals, face new battles, and know that they have my utmost support.

 
A lot of my philosophy has stemmed from Pat Summit’s incredible journey that we viewed as coaching. Her values, her demeanor, and vision all spoke wonders to me and how I coach people today. If I can be a part of influence as Pat was for her players, her family, the game of basketball, and all of sports, I would say I’d be doing a heck of a job. That’s how amazing she was at what she did.

She was and still is a life-changer. A hall-of-famer. A legend. She is Pat Summit and she will be missed.

The Tip of the Exercise Iceberg Theory

There’s a lot that goes into your health and fitness. There’s also a lot that goes into your week. No matter whom you are, no matter where you are, your week is made of 168 hours.

Have you ever mapped out your week?

Do you know what you’re spending your time on?

Some people manage their weeks better than others. Some have more free time, others have to spend more time at work, while others spend more time just a workin’ on their fitness, as Fergie would say.

If we think in hypothetical terms, you will spend 40 hours/week at work. If you’re a student, your 40 hour work-week is dedicated towards school plus an additional 15-40 hours towards another part-time/full-time job. Or if you are a parent, you’re going to dedicate 40 hours to your family. Regardless of your position, that’s a whopping 80 hours already gone, potentially.

Now let’s add in sleep. Experts say we should get about 6 hours of sleep per night. That number depends on which expert you look at, as some say 5-7 while others say 6-8 hours/night. Let’s say we use 6 hours (multiply that by 7 for the days in a week) and now we’re at 42 hours in addition to the 80 hours we already mentioned. That brings us to 122 hours with 46 hours left to work with.

The average American watches 5 hours of TV per day. Tap on another 35 hours to your week. And just like that, BOOM!!! We’re down to 11 hours left in your week.

(Side note: have you ever thought about what you’re actually watching when you’re watching television?  You’re watching someone live out their dream!  Actors, actresses, anchors, and athletes are all living out their dream for us to watch!  I digress as this is a topic for another day, but I had to bring it to the attention for the sake of this article.)

Again, this is all a hypothetical, but let’s take another peak at that those 157 hours we just calculated. Did you notice how many of those hours are spent sitting? A lot…probably close to +60 hours to be exact.

They say sitting is the new smoking, and I have to tend to agree. You put your body into compromised positions from sitting for an extended length of time. Your movement quality decreases and your injury risk increases (not the type of relation you want to deal with).

Which brings me to the question: what kind of exercise plan are you on?

How many hours per week are you putting towards your health and fitness? Are you doing a cookie-cutter program or are you doing one that is customized to you? Is it a program that values your goals, while also keeping your lifestyle in mind?

If you spend 5 hours each week exercising in an attempt to improve your health and fitness you will be left with a hefty 163 hours towards making those petty 5 hours of exercise worthwhile.

You want to make the most out of your 5 hours as possible.

You shouldn’t be doing what works best, you should be doing what works best for YOU and YOUR goals and YOUR lifestyle.

A completely customized, exercise program consisting of cardio, strength training, mobility, and success coaching are absolutely necessary. You want to be part of a program that holds you accountable and allows you to be part of a community of like-minded individuals who are seeking the same or similar goals.

I’ve stressed this philosophy to my clients over the last few years, but I’ve also taken it to another level by asking: If you’re working out with me for 3-5 hours/week, what are you doing the other 163 hours to help accomplish your goal(s)?

Smart, healthy choices with food, physical activities, alcohol intake, and much more comes into play here. It’s not just about working out anymore. If you want serious results you have to be aware of all the pieces of the puzzle that fit into your puzzle.

I’ve referred to this as the “Tip of the Exercise Iceberg Theory” aka The If-you’re-working-out-for-3-5-hours/week-then-what-are-you-doing-the-other-163-hours Theory.

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This theory goals well behind exercise though. We see some of our peers, family members, and idols accomplish their goals, but we don’t truly know what it takes to get to where they are. We only scratch (or see) the surface of their success. Ultimately, that’s all we want to see. Our minds don’t want to know all the sacrifice, hard work, dedication, and time put into such efforts…

There are some that are willing to put in the effort, the discipline, and patience to see success.

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It’s not all as easy as I’m making this sound. You can see all the content that is underneath the surface and that equates to all that really goes into accomplishing goals and achieving success on any account.

This Theory is precisely why our programs at Unity Fitness are created the way they are. We don’t just have a gym “membership.” We have customized programs.

We take your goals, motivation, lifestyle, and budget in consideration and create a package that is best for you. We help set you up on a program where all you have to do is show up. We know that the hardest part is stepping through the gym doors, which is why we have something planned for you every day of the week and we map that out for you during the program design process.

Not only that, but we also assign you your very own trainer that you can communicate with and help keep you accountable during those times away from the gym. Oh yeah, and we have that handy dandy Newsletter too!

Your goals and success are yours and yours alone. What you do to get yourself there is different than the next person, but the same feats and hard work must be put in to accomplish and succeed. Don’t settle for what you see. Ask yourself “Why?” and dive in to conquer and do what you never thought possible!