If you’ve ever been lifting in a commercial gym, you’ve probably heard a trainer in there with a cutoff tee shouting “brace your core!”, with absolutely no context of how to do it.
Or maybe you’ve heard a trainer in an exercise video telling you to draw your bellybutton in to “engage your abs”, which just happens to be the exact opposite of bracing your core.
In this article I’m going to teach you exactly how to brace your core for lifting.
We are going to talk about why it’s important, and what it does to level up your lifts.
How To Brace Your Core For Lifting
Why Brace Your Core In The First Place?
How many times have you heard of someone hurting their back deadlifting or squatting?
A lot of times this is due to a lack of bracing, which causes spinal instability,
By properly bracing your core, your diaphragm contracts and presses down into the empty space of your abdominal cavity, and creates pressure to support and stabilize the spine.
This is called Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP), and is a vital piece of any heavy lift.
Think of your abdominal cavity like a water bottle.
If you have an empty water bottle, and you press down on the top of it, its going to instantly flatten.
If you take that same water bottle that is filled, and press down on it, it is supported and stable.
Now imagine that with a barbell on top of your back, crushing and compressing your spine, with an empty abdominal cavity. As you increase load, if you do not brace your core, it will flatten like an empty water bottle.
If you fill that abdominal cavity with pressure, it will stay strong under the heavy load.
This is why bracing your core is so important.
Safety should be the first and foremost concern of your lifting. But now that that’s out of the way, we can talk about the fun part. How this makes you stronger.
Creating intra-abdominal pressure creates a stable foundation for the body to perform heavy lifts. By creating this stable foundation, the body can produce more force and power, which will be directly translated into how much weight you can load on a barbell.
By creating strong IAP, force is transferred more efficiently throughout the body to your muscles and joints. The increased pressure in your abdominal cavity pushes against the walls of your abdominal cavity, which presses against the organs and muscles in the area. The pressure created here transfers to the spine, which is stabilized by the surrounding muscles.
Creating more IAP helps you to recruit more muscle fibers and generate more force. More muscle fibers are recruited from the abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor, the and the back muscles. More muscle recruitment means more force exerted. Thus you generate more strength gains.
You can think of intra-abdominal pressure like putting on a superhero suit. Without it, you are weaker, more vulnerable.
With IAP, you’ve put on your supersuit, and it has made you stronger. The suit is made up of the muscles in your abdomen, back, and pelvis that work together to create superhuman pressure, to allow you to lift heavier things.
How To Brace Your Core For Lifting
So now you know the basics of IAP, let’s discuss how to apply it.
Let’s walk through an exercise you can do right now to first get the breathing technique down.
- Lay down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly.
- Take a few normal breaths and notice the movement of your hands. You should feel your chest and belly rise and fall with each breath.
- Now, take a deep breath in through your mouth and focus on expanding your belly with air, while keeping your chest relatively still. You should feel your belly rise and your hand on your belly move up.
- As you exhale, focus on contracting your abdominal muscles and pushing the air out, while keeping your chest still. You should feel your belly fall and your hand on your belly move down.
- While maintaining the bracing sensation in your core, take a few more breaths, feeling the difference between normal breathing and breathing with IAP.
By laying down and feeling the movement of your hands on your chest and belly, you can more easily differentiate between normal breathing and breathing with IAP. By focusing on expanding your belly with air and contracting your abdominal muscles, you can create the necessary intra-abdominal pressure for lifting. Practicing this technique will help you to improve your core stability and increase your strength and safety during lifting.
Now that you’ve got the breathing portion, let’s focus on how to engage the adbominal muscles.
Remember that engaging your abdominal muscles is not pulling your bellybutton in. In fact it’s the opposite.
You want to push your abdomen out.
Let’s walk through another drill on how to do that.
- Stand tall and place your thumb on your lower back, and your fingers on your belly.
- Imagine that someone is about to punch you in the stomach, and engage your abdominal muscles by pressing your belly into your fingers.
- You should feel a tightening sensation in your core muscles, including your abs, obliques, and lower back.
- Try to maintain this tension while still being able to breathe normally.
- Hold this position for a few seconds and release, repeating the process until you feel comfortable with engaging your abdominal muscles.
Putting it All Together
Now that you have learned the proper breathing and pushing techniques, it’s time to combine them to brace your core for lifting.
Start by taking a deep breath in through your mouth, expanding your belly with air, and pushing your abdomen out. This should create the necessary intra-abdominal pressure for lifting.
As you lift the weight, continue to push your abdomen out and maintain the bracing sensation in your core. Exhale as you reach the top of the lift, and inhale before you the weight back down.
Remember to engage your core muscles throughout the entire lift, from the start to the finish. Practicing this technique will help you to improve your core stability, increase your strength, and prevent injury during lifting.
Reset that brace before the start of every single rep.
How To Brace Your Core For Lifting
When To Brace Your Core
Now that you’ve learned to brace properly, we need to discuss when to do it, and at what intensity.
One thing to learn is that bracing your core is more of a dial than an on/off switch. You can brace your core at an intensity of 10, or you can brace it a little at an intensity of 3.
If you’re doing a more accessory/isolation type exercise, you may want to dial the switch back to a 2. But if you’re doing a max effort deadlift, you’re going to want to turn that dial to 11.
Compound exercises are exercises that involve multiple joint movements, and more than one muscle group. They require a high degree of strength and stability in your core to perform the exercises safely and effectively. Some compound exercise examples are: squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, rows.
When doing a compound exercise, you should brace your core throughout the entirety of the movement, from the moment you begin the lift, to the moment you end. This will stabilize the spine, engage the abdominal muscles, and help you exert maximal force.
When performing exceptionally heavy sets, you should turn the brace your core dial all the way up. When your dial is all the way up, we will be using the Valsalva maneuver.
Using The Valsalva Maneuver
The Valsalva maneuver is a breathing technique that involves taking a deep breath and holding it while bearing down against a closed airway by pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth. This creates a significant amount of intra-abdominal pressure (IAP), which can help stabilize the spine and support heavy lifting. This creates a “locked-in” feeling, making your core muscles more rigid and stable. By doing so, it can increase the amount of weight you can lift and reduce the risk of injury.
When you perform the Valsalva maneuver, you essentially turn your core bracing dial up to 10, creating a maximum amount of intra-abdominal pressure. This can be useful during exercises that require maximal effort, such as a 1-rep max deadlift, where you need all the stability and support you can get to lift the weight.
To perform the Valsalva maneuver, take a deep breath in and hold it while you contract your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. The sensation should be similar to when you are bearing down to take a poop. Extremely important… don’t actually poop. Continue to hold your breath and the bracing sensation throughout the lift, and exhale once the weight has been successfully lifted or moved.
It’s worth noting, however, that performing the Valsalva maneuver carries some risks, especially if you have a medical condition that affects your heart or blood pressure. Holding your breath can increase your blood pressure and heart rate, which can be dangerous if you’re not used to it or if you have an underlying condition.
Setting The “Core Brace Dial” Lower
Not every compound lift requires you to turn your brace all the way up to 10. If you are doing a max effort repetition of one, on a barbell deadlift or squat for example. Yes, turn it up to 10. Even on a heavy set of 3, yes turn it up to 10.
But let’s say you’re doing a set of 10 goblet squats. Your core brace dial should be turned up to a moderate level. This means you should engage your core muscles enough to maintain proper form and stability throughout the movement, but not to the point where you are holding your breath or straining excessively. You should still take a large breath in, and push your abdominal muscles. But you should be breathing relatively normal.
The size of the brace should match the size of the intensity of a single rep for each set. Your heavy set of 3 will require a big brace, your lighter set of 10 will require a moderate brace
When doing accessory/isolation exercises, you won’t need to brace as hard as you would for a max effort deadlift.
But a small degree of bracing is still going to help provide stability through the spine, and help you to exert more force.
If you’re doing a set of bicep curls for example, you may want to still push your abdominals out, like Mike Tyson were about to come punch you in the stomach, but you will want to breathe normally.
Pushing through your abdominals will help keep the spine neutral and stiff, and reduce any swaying through the spine that can stress the low back.
When doing a set of lunges, or Bulgarian split squats, you will need to brace your core through pushing your abdominals out, to help maintain single leg balance. But you don’t need to breathe in so deep that you turn blue in the face. Don’t be the person passing out from holding their breath doing a bicep curl or a lunge.
How To Brace Your Core For Lifting
Using A Lifting Belt
Should I Use A Lifting Belt?
Using a lifting belt is a personal choice, and it depends on various factors such as your fitness level, the type of exercise you’re doing, and your personal preference. A lifting belt can provide support and help maintain proper form while performing heavy lifts. It can also help to reduce the risk of injury to your lower back and spine by stabilizing the torso.
However, using a lifting belt doesn’t replace the need for proper form and technique. It’s crucial to learn proper form and technique for each lift before incorporating a lifting belt into your routine. The very first thing you need to do before even considering using a belt, is to learn the proper bracing technique. The belt provides you a firm object for your abdominal muscles to push against.
It only works if you are creating the necessary intra-abdominal pressure to push into it. It does not magically provide protection to your lower back just by strapping the belt on and hoping for the best. It is a tool to use to help get a stronger brace than one you already have without the belt.
If you have mastered the skill of bracing, then a belt can be a useful tool to provide additional support and stability during your heavy lifts. But it doesn’t need to be used all the time.
When To Use A Lifting Belt
A lifting belt should be used for exercises that place significant stress on the lower back and core muscles, such as squats and deadlifts. These lifts require the use of multiple muscle groups and can cause significant stress on the spine.
If you’re performing exercises with weights that are less than 80% of your 1-rep max, you may not need to use a lifting belt. However, if you’re lifting heavy weights that are above 80% of your 1-rep max, a lifting belt can help to provide additional support.
You should not rely solely on a lifting belt for support. You should still focus on developing proper form and technique and building core strength.
How To Use A Lifting Belt
When using a lifting belt, it’s important to position it correctly. The belt should be placed snugly around your waist, just above your hip bones. Make sure the belt is tight enough to provide support but not so tight that it restricts your breathing.
When lifting, take a deep breath and push your stomach out against the belt, you should feel the tightness of the belt as you push out into it. This will help to create intra-abdominal pressure, which will stabilize your spine and protect your lower back. Maintain this pressure throughout the lift, and exhale at the top of the lift.
Exercises To Strengthen Your Core
The absolute best way to strengthen your core bracing, is to practice it.
By doing compound lifts like squats/deadlifts and practicing proper bracing, you are building your core strength, and placing demand on the abdominal muscles.
These exercises require a strong core to maintain stability throughout the movement.
Isolation Ab Exercises
The abs shouldn’t be worked just from compound exercises alone, it’s important to include exercises that directly target your abs as well.
Squats and deadlifts are amazing exercises, that challenge your core strength and stability. They work your core isometrically. Meaning that your core does not move throughout the movement, and it’s job is to stay as stiff and stable as possible. But if you want a well rounded and strong core, you’re going to have to work your core through movement as well as isometric contractions.
That’s where more targeted abdominal work comes in.
Here’s some examples you can try for a well-developed and strong core.
These exercises focus on preventing your lower back from arching excessively, which can cause strain or injury to the spine. Examples include:
These exercises target the muscles on the front side of your body, which can help to improve your posture and overall core strength. These exercises work by moving the spine forwards. Examples include:
- Cable Crunches
- Reverse Crunches
These exercises work to strengthen the muscles on the sides of your body, which can improve your stability and prevent injury. These work by resisting the movement of your spine bending sideways. Examples include:
- Bicycle crunches
- Russian twists
These exercises focus on preventing your torso from rotating or twisting, which can help to improve your stability and prevent injury. Examples include:
- Pallof Press
- Cable rotations
Anti Lateral Flexion
These exercises target the muscles on one side of your body while preventing your torso from bending to the opposite side. Examples include:
- Side Plank
- Suitcase carry
How To Brace Your Core For Lifting: Final Thoughts
Now you’ve learned how to brace your core for heavy lifting by creating intra-abdominal pressure. Using the methods of breathing properly, and engaging your abdominal muscles, you’ve learned how to brace to exert as much force as possible, and keep yourself as safe as possible. A winning combo!
You’ve learned when and how much to brace your core for every applicable situation.
You’ve learned to push your abdomen out, and not draw your bellybutton in.
Now you’re ready to go slay your biggest of lifts! Let’s practice these techniques and be your strongest self yet.
Any questions, drop a comment below, or e-mail me at [email protected] and I’m happy to help.
Does sore muscles mean muscle growth?
If you’ve lifted weights before, you’ve felt sore muscles before.
You woke up the next morning after your workout feeling like you got hit by a Greyhound bus that exclusively serves passengers who are world class heavyweight boxing champions.
You’ve thought to yourself, “Was my workout that hard, or do I just have the flu?”
You’ve also thought to yourself, “This soreness must mean my muscles are growing so much.”
In this article, we’ll uncover the truth about muscle soreness.
You’ll learn why muscles get sore, whether they need to be sore for a good workout, and how you can be sure that your muscles are growing.
Why Do Muscles Get Sore?
One of the reasons muscles get sore, is through strength training, you are causing microscopic tears to your muscle fibers.
The microscopic tears cause an inflammatory response, which is a response needed to heal those tears.
These tears are in part, what causes muscle growth. Along with other factors such as progressive overload, mechanical tension, etc.
But microscopic tears aren’t the only thing that cause muscle soreness.
Some of the pain also comes from the connective tissue that holds muscles together, not the actual muscles.
Why muscles get sore is multifactorial. While the above are the main drivers of muscle soreness, it can also be caused by training specificity, training experience, nutrition, genetics, recovery, sleep, stress, and many other factors.
Some people get more sore than others. Sometimes you will be sore, sometimes you won’t.
It’s all highly individual and variable.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Delayed onset muscle soreness is pretty self explanatory when you break down the term.
24-72 hours after you workout, the muscles you worked feel sore.
DOMS is experienced worst by those who are new to weight training.
This is your body’s alarm reaction to introducing a new stimulus.
Every single person who’s ever picked up a weight and done their first leg day, has experienced feeling like you’ve been bitten on the thigh by a diamondback rattlesnake.
Luckily, the more you do it, the easier it gets. And the less DOMs you experience over time.
The extreme soreness you feel as a beginner to strength training is your body’s way of saying “Why the hell are you doing this to me?”
Once your body starts to understand this as the new norm, it stops having a temper tantrum.
That doesn’t mean you magically won’t get DOMS ever again. But the effects will be less severe.
Does Sore Muscles Mean Muscle Growth?
I have an online client, whom when we first started working together, would always tell me about how sore her first trainer used to make her.
“These workouts were so great, I could barely even walk up the stairs after them. I felt soooo good after.”
So I asked her, “So did you get good results?”
“Yeah! You have no idea how sore I felt, it was incredible.”
It took her a while to realize that I wasn’t asking how sore she was, I was asking about her overall results.
I took a more direct approach. “When you’re time with her was done, what kind of changes did you notice? Did you feel stronger? Leaner? Did you build more muscle?”
She thought long and hard about it, but realized the answer was ultimately, no.
Because muscle soreness is not directly one of the factors for muscle growth.
So let’s talk about what does matter for muscle growth.
1. Progressive Overload
Progressive Overload is a fancy way of saying over time, you are increasing the demands on your muscles. Whether that is through increasing how much weight you lift, how many reps you do, improving form, etc.
For example, if you are able to do a bicep curl for 10 reps with a 15lb dumbbell, and then you can do it for 12 reps, that’s progressive overload. From there, you are able to do a 20lb dumbbell for 10 reps, that’s progressive overload. The more you are able to apply this principle over time, the more you will see muscle growth.
2. Mechanical Tension
Mechanical tension is the forces that act on your muscles. This can be through gravity, or through a load like with a dumbbell, barbell, kettlebell, etc.
Mechanical tension occurs through the eccentric, concentric, or isometric phase of a muscle contraction.
3. Muscle Damage
We’ve already touched on how causing microscopic tears in a muscle allows it to have an inflammatory response, and then grow.
Like I’ve said earlier, this contributes to muscle soreness.
But I’ve also said that you won’t always be sore after workouts.
So if you are causing muscle damage, but not feeling sore, you are achieving muscle growth over time.
So while muscle soreness can be associated with muscle growth, as a result of the 3 topics listed above, it is not a requirement for muscle growth.
If you’re not applying these three principles, you’re not achieving muscle growth.
Final Thoughts: Does Sore Muscles Mean Muscle Growth?
As long as you are applying the principles of progressive overload, mechanical tension, and muscle damage, your muscles will grow.
That may or may not mean that they will get sore as a result.
Sometimes, they will, sometimes they won’t.
But chasing the feeling of soreness is not a valid metric to indicate whether you are inducing muscle growth.
If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below.
You’ve probably been told that if you want to lose weight, you have to eat a certain way. But what if I told you that you could lose weight and eat whatever you want?
Have you ever tried a diet where the number one rule was to cut carbs?
And then you find yourself having wet dreams about a loaf of thinly sliced Italian bread?
Have you ever tried a low-fat diet? And you go all week without eating cheese.
And then you find yourself in trance, wandering to the refrigerator, shoveling shredded cheese directly into your mouth, like a cheese goblin that just escaped from captivity, and wandered into a store that exclusively sells shredded cheese.
I get it, because I’ve lived it.
For the vast majority of people, elimination diets don’t work.
Because the moment that you tell yourself you can’t have something, it’s the only thing you want.
And then you tell yourself “No, I’m an adult. I can have whatever I want.” And since you’ve been restricting yourself of that one sweet thing you really want, it turns into an all out binge fest, because you then tell yourself this is the “last time” you’ll ever have it.
Pro Tip: It won’t be the last time.
How To Lose Weight And Eat Whatever You Want
What Is Flexible Dieting?
Flexible dieting is a simple weight loss plan that allows foods that fit within your calorie budget.
If it fits your calories, you can eat it.
If it doesn’t… well, technically you can. But it’s not going to be conducive to your weight loss goals.
So that means, if you really want a slice of pizza, and it fits your calories, you can eat pizza and lose weight.
So I Can Eat Whatever I Want?
Yes! But that doesn’t mean you can eat however much of whatever you want.
Because you still have to stay within your calorie limit.
Fat loss works by being in a calorie deficit.
Which is when you give your body fewer calories than it uses.
And while this is the founding principle for weight loss, it doesn’t mean you should eat a diet consisting of solely Blueberry Pop-Tarts with butter smeared on the back.
Though believe it or not, this actually does work for weight loss.
The Twinkie Diet
For 10 weeks, Dr. Mark Haub, a nutrition professor at Kansas State University did something that become dubbed as “The Twinkie Diet”.
His diet consisted of mainly convenience store items. Twinkies, snack cakes, Doritos. He also included a multi-vitamin, and a protein shake. So he wouldn’t… you know… die.
But the key, is that he limited himself to 1,800 calories. Which for a man of his size, puts him in a calorie deficit.
And at the end of experiment, Dr. Haub dropped 27 pounds.
So with that being said, should you try the Twinkie Diet?
I want to be very clear here.
I do not think you should try the Twinkie Diet, and I do not recommend for this for any of my online coaching clients, nor anyone reading this article.
While it did work for Dr. Haub, this is a study with a sample size of one.
But it does illustrate the point, that you can eat whatever you want and lose weight.
How To Lose Weight And Eat Whatever You Want
Does Calorie Counting Work?
Calorie counting can be a great tool to know how much you’re actually eating.
And when you’re tracking accurately, it can be a great tool for fat loss, to make sure you have achieved a calorie deficit.
This is my online coaching client, and good friend Kate
After tracking her calories over the course of the time we’ve been wokring together, she’s lost 70 pounds.
And she didn’t have to give up any of her favorite foods.
She also refused to take off those stupid glasses.
My online coaching client Heidi, who lost 45 pounds working with me.
And while she did fight me every step of the way, through counting her calories, she was able to lose the weight she wanted.
And she was able to do it while eating pizza, completely guilt free.
So yes, calorie counting does work.
But for some, calorie counting can lead down a dark hole of obsessing about every gram of spinach, and if you go one calorie over your target, it triggers a complete breakdown.
The key is knowing which type you are.
So if you are the type of person that feels anxious by the idea of tracking their food intake, as to what it might do to your relationship with food, then this option might not be for you. And that’s okay.
Good Calories Vs. Bad Calories?
Everyone knows that given the choice between blueberries, and brownies. Blueberries is the more nutritious option.
The blueberries has a much healthier nutrient profile. It’ll fill you for fewer calories, it has more vitamins, minerals, nutrients.
But if you have 100 calories of brownies, or 100 calories of blueberries. It’s still 100 calories.
Calories are a unit of measurement for energy.
Just like a mile is a unit of measurement for distance.
If you run one mile, whether it’s on a flat road, through waist deep water, or at a 20 degree incline, it’s still a mile.
It may be harder for you to get through that mile based on the conditions, but it is still a mile.
It’s the same thing with a calorie.
The nutrients may change across different foods.
Which, depending on how many nutrients you get across your foods, may make hitting a calorie target more or less difficult, and energy levels may change based on the nutrient profiles you receive from food.
A calorie is still a calorie, whether it comes from blueberries or brownies.
And when it comes to fat loss. Calories are what dictates whether or not you lose fat.
Not how many nutrients you get, not how many vitamins, minerals, or gallons of kale you force feed yourself.
It’s the relationship of how many calories you eat, versus how many calories you expend.
But, that doesn’t mean calories are the only thing that matters for your consistency.
Emphasize Nutritious Foods
For this whole flexible dieting thing to work, calories is number one.
Aside from that, is a heavy emphasis on food that will help you Feel Full In A Calorie Deficit.
Making sure that roughly 80% of your diet comes from things like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein, is going to go very far for you to be able to stick to being in a calorie deficit.
Because while going to McDonald’s is awesome, it doesn’t fill you up.
Think how much you’d have to eat at McDonald’s before you felt full.
I could easily eat two Big Macs, and 1,100 calories later, still reach for the fries.
Not because of gluttony, but because a Big Mac is not rich in nutrients, and is not a satiating food that fills you.
If I were to eat a salad, however. Filled with lettuce, cucumbers, chicken, and other vegetables, it would make me feel a lot more full, for a lot less calories.
This is why, it’s so important to build a diet based mainly of nutrient dense foods.
A nutrient dense food is high in nutrients, and low in calories.
Satiety Vs. Satisfaction: The Balance of Nutritious Vs. Delicious Foods
Feeling full is important for being in a calorie deficit. But what about foods that don’t make you feel full?
This article is titled How To Lose Weight And Eat Whatever You Want right?
Well, we as humans don’t always want chicken, rice, and broccoli.
We want to have ice cream, and tacos, and pizza.
Because these foods are satisfying to the palate.
While you might feel physically amazing eating broccoli, it can leave you wanting a little something extra.
So while it’s of the utmost importance to prioritize nutritious foods, I also believe it’s important to include some foods that you enjoy from time to time.
Because if you are eating nothing but nutrient dense foods all the time, you’re restricting yourself from all the things that you actually enjoy.
And what you restrict, is what you ultimately binge.
The key is, to include these foods as part of your calorie deficit.
If you are allowing room for delicious foods, and staying in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight.
How Many Calories To Eat To Lose Weight And Eat Whatever You Want?
In order to make losing weight stick for good, it’s crucial to make sure you’re eating less calories than you body burns.
But, it’s also crucial that you eat enough calories.
Because eating too few, even though you are in a calorie deficit, can have some serious negative effects.
If you’re calories are too low, you are not providing your body with enough energy to support its daily functions.
Which will leave you feeling exhausted, unenergetic, and so cranky your head might burst into flames.
It will also make it nearly impossible for you to stick to. And you won’t have the flexibility to fit whatever you want into your day.
So you have to balance eating few enough calories that you are in a calorie deficit, but also enough calories so that you can stick to it long term.
In order to find that sustainable range, you can use my Free Fat Loss Calorie Calculator.
This way you can lose weight sustainably, and not rip your boss’s head off when you get an e-mail from them.
How To Lose Weight And Eat Whatever You Want: Final Thoughts
So yes, it is absolutely possible to lose weight and eat whatever you want.
But the key is to above all, be in a calorie deficit.
Include plenty of highly nutritious foods, and save some room for the delicious foods when you want them.
I hope this has helped you, and if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.
If you look on social media, magazines at the grocery store checkout, or ask your creepy uncle Frank, they all have some fitness products they swear by.
Some products for fitness are great, but the vast majority are not backed by any science, or weak scientific evidence at best.
Today, I’m going to tell you which products to not waste your money on.
And as a bonus, I’ll give you some recommendations as to what may be worth your money, depending on your individual situation.
Let’s get into it.
Fitness Products To Not Waste Money On
Fat Burning Supplements
Fat burners have a very misleading name. The name implies that they burn fat. But they don’t, because the only way to get rid of body fat is by being in a calorie deficit.
Anyone who has claimed to lose body fat whilst taking a fat burning supplement also was in a calorie deficit.
Think about it, do you logically think it’s possible to take a fat burning supplement, eat like garbage, and lose fat because you’re taking a pill or a powder?
That’s not how it works.
Well, good news to the supplement industry, because most fat burning supplements don’t actually claim to melt the fat from your body (though some do make this bold, and inaccurate claim).
The supplements work in other ways to aid in your fat loss.
For example, one thing they do is elevate your blood pressure to attempt to increase how many calories you burn throughout the day.
To me, increasing your blood pressure, which is a firm marker of health, just to burn more calories seems like a pretty stupid idea. Not to mention the overall amount of calorie burn is miniscule.
When really, you could just go outside and take a walk and burn probably the same amount of calories that you would from the elevated blood pressure, and improve your health markers while doing it. Not to mention, walking is free.
Fat burning supplements also claim to curb your appetite. Now, if you’re really struggling with appetite, this can be helpful in the short term.
But it doesn’t teach you anything to keep body fat off in the long term, because now you are relying on a pill to keep your appetite down.
Which is kind of like walking on crutches forever and never learning to walk on your own two feet.
If you really want to keep hunger down, you can use some easier, and more cost effective tricks to Keep Yourself Full In A Calorie Deficit.
Again, the tricks in the article linked above are going to help you improve your health markers, instead of relying on a pill.
Fitness Products To Not Waste Money On
Waist trainers are believed by some to aid in weight loss.
But as we learned above, the only thing that leads to weight loss is being in a calorie deficit.
And as far as I can tell, putting a piece of cloth around your waist doesn’t change how many calories your taking in or burning.
It does provide you a “slimmer” look… while you are wearing it.
Similar to the archaic idea of the corset which was popular in the 1800s.
The idea is to literally compress your body so tight that you can barely breathe.
Compressing yourself to skinniness is not the way to go about it.
Again, there are no long term benefits, and as soon as you remove the waist trainer, literally nothing has changed.
There are also some health risks associated with waist trainers
It’s very well agreed upon among the actual experts of the fitness industry that waist trainers actually weaken your core/abdominals over time.
Since they are so tightly cinched to your body, it makes it almost impossible for you to use your core muscles while wearing it. Over time, this has some diminishing effects to your core strength.
Fitness Products To Not Waste Money On
Greens supplements and promoted by social media fitness influencers as a way to get vitamins, minerals, and all those good micronutrients in. And there’s one thing they are right about. Those are very important
But you know what else is a great way to get micronutrients in? Eating an actual, real life vegetable.
Now for the crowd out there who says “well Nick, I don’t like eating vegetables, they don’t taste good.”
I get it. But have you ever tried a greens supplement? Because they taste like liquified Purina Dog Chow.
I guarantee you that eating some broccoli or a carrot once in a while is better than plugging your nose and trying to force this bile-like substance down your gullet.
Just eat some vegetables instead, it’s going to be more cost effective. And bonus, if you’re in a calorie deficit, vegetables are going to help you feel full, because you can fit a lot of vegetables in your stomach for a very low calorie amount.
Fitness Products To Not Waste Money On
Beachbody, Optavia, Plexus, Arbonne, Herbalife, ItWorks, these are all examples of “health and wellness” multilevel marketing companies who’s job it is to sell you their product, then recruit you to start selling their product as well.
In my opinion, these products are very overpriced, and you can purchase similar products from non-multilevel marketing companies for a fraction of the cost.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about someone trying to recruit you to sell the product as well.
Because according to the FTC, 99.6% actually lose money in mutli-level marketing after expenses.
For more information about Anti-MLM, you can check out the podcasts From Huns to Humans, or Life After MLM.
Bonus: Fitness Products That Are Actually Worth The Money
Having a place to exercise is crucial if you want to get fit and be healthy. Gym memberships are fairly inexpensive, depending on what gym you go to.
Make sure to tour the facility before you sign up, and ensure it has everything you need. Some gyms will even off a day pass for you to workout there before you sign up to see if you like it.
If you’re the type of person that likes to work out from home, then investing in some equipment for a home gym can be a great option.
This gives you the convenience of never having to leave your house to workout, which can sometimes be a barrier.
Some starter product recommandations:
Adjustable Dumbbells, Resistance Bands, Foam Roller
As you get a little more advanced you can consider:
A barbell set with bumper plates, a squat rack.
I want to first point out that there is no such thing as a necessary supplement. The bulk of your progress is going to be made up of the consistent daily actions that you make to move your “fitness needle” in the right direction.
Meaning things like what you’re eating, whether or not you’re exercising, drinking enough water, sleeping well, etc.
These are the determining factors in your health and fitness, not whether or not you take a supplement.
That being said, some supplements can make a small impact which can be helpful. But they are never your end-all-be-all.
Creatine Monohydrate is the most well researched supplement on the market. It’s also one of the most inexpensive.
It can improve your performance when strength training, and improve your recovery between sets. It’s also very safe to use.
Just make sure you’re getting Creatine Monohydrate, and not some other form. The only ingredient in the type you buy should be Creatine Monohydrate. And don’t pay a lot for it.
It’s not supposed to be expensive, here’s the one I use
This one can be a good one for overall health. Omega-3 fatty acids are typically found in fish. And in western culture, fish is not often a regular part of our diets.
Now, if you’re regularly eating fish, you 100% do not need this supplement, because you are already getting it from food.
It’s important that we get a good ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 6 is found more in meats, and in todays culture, we are getting a much higher concentration of Omega 6.
It’s much more common to see a 20:1 ration of Omega-6 to Omega 3. A more ideal range would be a 4:1. This ratio will help reduce chronic inflammation, and lead to a longer, healthier life.
If you’re not getting enough fish in your diet, you may want to consider supplementing with this.
You may also want to consider taking a multivitamin. This can help fill in any nutritional gaps you may not be getting in your diet already.
This is really only needed if you do have any vitamins/minerals you are regularly missing out on in your diet. If you have any kind of vitamin deficiencies, this can be a big help.
If you don’t, you don’t need it.
Hiring A Fitness Coach
Hiring a fitness coach can be one of the absolute best things you can do to optimize your fitness. No matter your fitness level, from absolute beginner to highly trained athlete, a coach can absolutely change the game for you.
You’ll have someone who has your best interests at heart, and has the expertise to help you get the best results.
Someone to write programs specifically for you based on any limitations you may have, and based on the exact goal you want to achieve.
You’ll also have someone to hold yourself accountable to, that way if you fall of the wagon, they can help pick you back up and put you back on, so you don’t get left behind and die of dysentery.
– If you’re looking to be able to strut in your workouts confident, proud, and ready to go.
– If you’re looking for someone to take all of the guesswork out of it for you,
– If you’re looking to learn how to include all of your favorite foods, while still reaching all your fitness goals.
Then apply now for online coaching.
Otherwise, I’m always here for any questions you have.
Calorie counting can seem like a daunting process, and most people’s biggest fear is that they won’t have enough time to do it. So I thought I’d provide some tips on how to make counting calories easier.
I get it, sometimes it’s hard, and downright frustrating.
But don’t worry, because I got your back.
All you gotta do, is read this whole article.
No skipping, no skimming.
Read the article left to right, top to bottom, then read it backwards, and then one more time while standing on your head.
I guess you can skip the last part if you really want to.
Okay so we got a deal? Let’s do it.
How To Make Calorie Counting Easier
Does Calorie Counting Work?
For some, calorie counting is a great tool to bring some awareness of how much you’re actually eating.
For others, calorie counting can lead down a dark hole of obsessing about every gram of spinach, and if you go one calorie over your target, it triggers a complete breakdown.
The key is knowing which type you are.
So if you are the type of person that feels anxious by the idea of tracking their food intake, as to what it might do to your relationship with food, then this option might not be for you.
If you struggle with an eating disorder, calorie counting is not for you. And your first priority should be working on that. I highly suggest visiting psychologytoday.com and seek out a licensed mental health professional to help you.
However, if this is not an issue for you, than calorie counting can be an amazing tool for not only weight loss, but also increased strength, and gaining muscle.
Just ask my online coaching client, Kate
Who’s lost 30 pounds over the last 9 months working with me, all while counting her calories.
Thankfully, she wears those douchey sunglasses in every progress picture, for the lulz.
You can also ask my online coaching client, Heidi.
Who’s lost 45 pounds over the course of about 10 months working with me. Again, all while counting her calories.
And she used a lot of the strategies I’m going to outline below. And she still enjoyed some pizza from time to time.
Unfortunately, she didn’t wear any douchey sunglasses though.
Calorie counting works so well because weight loss comes down to being in a calorie deficit.
Weight loss, gain, or maintenance ultimately comes down to a simple equation of energy balance.
And if you are tracking your calories, this gives you a direct view as to whether you are taking in the correct amount of calories for your goals.
When you want to save money, it’s a good idea to keep track of a financial budget.
It’s a lot easier to save money if you are keeping track of your finances, and where your money is going.
It’s a lot easier to hit your goals if you keep track of your calories, and what you are eating.
How To Make Calorie Counting Easier
Tip #1 Don’t Change Things Up All The Time
Important to remember, that this is an article on how to make calorie counting easier.
So before you pushback at this and say “Nick, I don’t want to to eat the same thing all the time.” I get it.
But it is going to make it easier.
The more you change up your diet, and have different recipes and foods, the harder tracking calories is going to become.
The cool thing about MyFitnessPal is that it remembers your habits.
If you’re having similar foods, you can literally copy and paste them from one day to the next.
I’m the type of person that has the same breakfast every day.
And every morning, when I start tracking my calories, I swipe from the right to “Add Breakfast From Yesterday”
Not only does this save you time in opening the app, and selecting the foods that go in.
It also saves you time on making the decision of what to make for meals, and what to buy at the grocery store.
It creates a habit, and once a habit is formed, it’s easier to stick to.
Tip #2 Foods With Barcodes Can Be Your Friend
“But Nick, calorie tracking takes so much time.”
How much time does it really take to open your phone and scan a barcode?
You did it with restaurant menus for all of 2020, and it took you all of 7.3 seconds.
The great thing about foods with a barcode is, you know exactly how many calories are in the package.
Not only that, but there is little to no preparation involved.
Take this yogurt for example
It’s as easy as scanning the barcode, opening the lid, inserting spoon, and increasing enjoyment.
You don’t have to worry about how much is in each serving, because it’s already portioned out.
Okay fine, sometimes it’s more complex than that.
Let’s take this package of rice for example.
It’s still as simple as scan the barcode, follow instructions, enjoy delicious rice within a minute.
Food with a barcode are convenient. And if you’re worried about how much time it’s going to take to count your calories, convenience is key.
Tip #3 It Pays To Plan Ahead
I’ve already touched on how it pays off to eat similar foods, and how this helps you to not have to think too much about what you’re eating.
So if you already have an idea of how you’re day is going to look, you can log it all ahead of time.
Either the night before, or morning of, start entering what you plan on having into MyFitnessPal, that way you don’t have to do it throughout the day.
So now, you’re day is already setup ahead of you, all you have to do is follow the plan you’ve laid out.
Sure, it takes a little front end work to set this up. But it shouldn’t take you any more than 10 minutes of your day, and it leads to less time worrying about decision making.
If you end up deviating from the plan a bit, you can always go back and edit, you’ve still got a great groundwork set up for yourself.
How To Make Counting Calories Eaiser
Tip #4 Estimate When You Have To
But hold on, Nick! I just got my white New Balance sneakers all polished up, and my wife and I are going out to Outback Steakhouse tonight to split a Bloomin’ Onion!
No problem, search for the entrée, appetizers, drinks, etc., you’re having today, most chain restaurants have their calories in MyFitnessPal.
Going out to the local town diner? No problem there either.
Search for a dish that’s relatively close to what you had. It may be a few calories off in either direction, but at least you’re close.
A lot of people get deterred from calorie tracking when they go out to eat. You don’t have to let it come to a grinding halt the minute you want to go to lunch with your co-workers at the office.
You can stay on track and go out to eat.
It may not be perfect, but it at least gives you a bit of accountability.
Tip #5 Eat The Right Amount Of Calories
The most common reason people feel restricted around calorie counting isn’t from the counting of calories itself.
It comes from the over-restriction of calories.
Many people trying to lose weight will set their calorie target to 1,200 calories, which you should not be doing.
If you set your calorie target too low, it’s going to be nearly impossible to stick to.
So if you really want to make calorie counting easier. Find the correct amount of calories for your goal.
You can do that by getting my Free Calorie Calculator, and find out what your goal calorie target is.
How To Make Counting Calories Easier
How To Make Calorie Counting Easier: Final Thoughts
Okay so there you have it. If you want to make calorie counting easier, keep it simple.
The less you can overcomplicate everything, the more successful you’re going to be.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you have any thoughts, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
You may have seen some lifters go into a gym, and set up for a bench press, with an arch that would make The Exorcist look like a kids movie.
Maybe you shrug it off and think that it’s weird, and then carry on with your workout.
Or maybe you’ve found this article, since you were wondering what the hell they were arching their back like that for.
And wondering if it’s a safe an effective way to bench press.
Let’s talk about it, and by the end of this article, you might want to consider arching your back when you bench.
An Arched Back Is Safer For Your Body
Whenever you bench press you want to have your shoulders pinched together and pulled down (scapular retraction)
If the shoulders are not pinched together and down, this is going to cause your shoulder to pop forward when you bench, which is going to place a lot of stress on your shoulder joint, and rotator cuff musculature. Which is one of the most common areas of injury during the bench press.
By pinching your shoulders down and back, this is going to create a natural arch your thoracic spine (upper back), and will allow your pectoral muscles and triceps to handle more of the load, while placing less stress on the shoulders.
So what happens when you don’t arch in the bench press?
When you don’t pull your shoulders back, the front part of your shoulder will have to come forward.
And when we get to the bottom of the movement, the shoulder being pulled forward is going to place a lot of pressure on your joint, which over time, will lead to discomfort and injury.
Here’s a video of what that looks like. Watch the shoulder pop forward.
Your Spine Isn’t Loaded In The Bench Press
At first look, it looks like an arched back in the bench press may contribute to a spinal injury.
To the untrained eye, it can look dangerous.
But let’s talk about how the two ways the spine can get injured, axial loading and shearing force.
An axial load simply means a load that compressed, in the case of the spine, from top to bottom, like when a barbell is compressing your spine in a back squat.
A shearing force is where the vertebrae in the spine may be moved in opposite directions.
An axial load would occur on the spine in say, an overhead press.
Since the barbell is overhead, the force is pushing down on the spine.
And if you arch your back here, that would be quite dangerous.
But you arch in a bench press, you’re not getting the same load on the spine.
Since the load is perpendicular to the spine, that’s not where the load is being handled,
Since the spine doesn’t get loaded top-down in the bench press, it is safe for your spine.
And since creating an arch positions the bar over the upper back and shoulders, there’s even less tension on the lower back.
It’s A Stronger Bench Press Position
Full Body Tension
By arching your back, you can create more tension throughout your body, and creating more tension means you can more more weight.
So if you want to build a really big bench press, arching your back to create as much tension as possible is ideal.
Creating full body tension makes the bench press become more than just a chest exercise.
It becomes a full body movement, and the more muscles you can recruit the stronger you will get from top to bottom.
Leg drive is when you’re pushing the weight off your chest, you are driving your legs and feet into the floor.
This helps drive both your hips, and your shoulders into the bench, producing more force output.
If you use leg drive properly, if you weren’t holding the bar, you’d slide yourself right off the bench.
Using leg drive naturally accentuates a bench press arch, which allows you to push more weight in this stronger position.
Can A Bench Press Arch Be Dangerous?
If your butt leaves the bench, then force is placed on the spine.
The shoulder and butt act as an anchor point.
And if the butt is not in contact with the bench, then the spine does get the axial load we talked about above.
So if you are benching with proper form, then no it is not dangerous.
As with any exercise, if you are doing it with improper form, then yes, it is dangerous.
Use good form, always.
When arching in the bench press you want to maintain 4 points of contact at all times.
The head, the shoulders, the butt, and the feet.
When the weight gets heavy, do not lift any of those things up, or you are at risk for injury.
How Much To Arch Your Back When You Bench Press
It all depends on your goal.
If your goal is to get to your maximum strength with the bench press, then practicing your arch is going to be extremely helpful for you.
This is going to lessen the range of motion needed to complete the movement. And it’s going to allow you to create as much force as possible.
If your goal is to maximize muscle growth with the bench press, then a significant arch is not necessary. However, you still want to keep your shoulders pinched down and back to keep them safe, and maximize activation of the chest.
Bench Press Arch: Final Thoughts
Despite it looking dangerous, it’s actually not.
Looks can be deceiving, and the bench press arch is the safest position to bench press from.
So next time someone tells you that arching your back is “cheating” or “unsafe”, send them this article.