Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Theory of Fat Loss: Knowledge Limits to Exercise

In my opinion, one of the most overlooked parts of The Theory of Fat Loss was the chapter on "knowledge limits." It isn't because the information wasn't important. It wasn't because people couldn't understand it either. The reason is that I basically told people that learning was important. It is a good message I suppose, but it is not really all that practical.

Oftentimes stories can be used to illustrate a point much more clearly, and now I have one for you. It demonstrates the power of knowledge when it comes to training with limited resources.

So, as you probably know, I made the move from Alabama to Kentucky about a month ago. In Alabama, I had a really nice set up for my gym in my garage. I had ample space in all three dimensions. I had a yard to do Olympic lifting (so I wouldn't worry about cracking the concrete. I had over 600 pounds of free weights. I had roommates who could spot me. Essentially, I had everything I needed (and almost everything I wanted) to write excellent programs for myself and my clients...

Here in Kentucky, however, I don't have a big garage. I have a bedroom. I also have only 300 total usable pounds of free weights (the weight of the barbell is included as part of that 300). (I do have air conditioning though... which is going to be a plus in the summer). Anyway, here is a picture of what I have to work with.

Here are three things I can no longer do that I used to be able to do:
  1. Heavy bilateral lower body exercises (not enough weight)
  2. Olympic lifting (limited space, but more importantly, I have hardwood floors)
  3. Heavy horizontal presses (no spotter for bench, not heavy enough dumbbells)

You may be thinking that since there are only three movements that I can no longer do, that it isn't that big of a deal. However, considering that my favorite exercise is trap bar deadlifting (and almost all my programs have a day or two per week where bilateral lower body exercises are a core lift), most of my programs have some sort of Olympic movement, and heavy horizontal pressing is almost as important to me as horizontal pulling, then you'd realize the predicament!

So, after a couple of experimental training sessions with my equipment, I realized I needed to make some changes to my programming if I was going to increase my intensity capacity* for training.

*Side note... Jake Skrabacz, who played a large part in my book, told me that one of the people who has read the book said that it was "too theoretical." I suppose this is my fault for titling my book "The Theory of Fat Loss." Scientific theory and the pedagogical definition of "theories" are completely different. The last time I checked, the overload principle (which is the EXACT same thing as "increasing intensity capacity") is one of the most, if not THE most, accepted principle in the field of exercise science. If you combine overload with other things such as intelligent programming, staying healthy, fixing your posture, and remaining injury free... then you have your indisputable recipe for success. I just don't understand what is so "theoretical" about that. Not only that... but I'm pretty sure my "theory" goes hand in hand with the law of thermodynamics... if that counts for anything.*

Anyway, what I decided to do was let my creative side take over. Since I couldn't do heavy t-bar deadlifts, I decided I would work on increasing my power. I shifted my focus from absolute strength to speed-strength. So I invented a new exercise... trap-bar dead jumps. It is a deadlift except I jump as high as I can rather than just standing up. (I have just enough rubber flooring where this isn't a problem for the floor). Originally I was a little worried that I might tear my shoulders out of their sockets because of the inertia and the rapid movement... but they felt strong and stable every set and rep so far. My form has also held up very well, and I haven't had any back pain, so this exercise is a keeper for now.

I also invented another exercise... It solves my second problem. What I did was a TRX rear foot elevated hang clean. I didn't know if this one would work either, but it did. I set up the safety bars on the outside of the power rack in case I lost my balance and needed to drop the bar, put a pad under my knee in case I fell, and then I got to work. This exercise was pretty awesome to do. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone else, but I love it. It is essentially a single leg Olympic lift... if I can use that term. It also challenges your balance and really makes you focus on form. Since the load I used wasn't all that much, I didn't need to toss the bar after each rep. So far, so good. That's another keeper.

Finally, for my heavy horizontal press, I just "borrowed" some knowledge from the powerlifting world. I did a pin press. Rather than do complete reps of bench press, you just lift from the supports in the power rack. It is basically a dead lift but for horizontal pressing. It is a "concentric only" lift that helps train your ability to lock out your bench press. I'm not using it for that purpose. I'm using it because I have no spotter! See, if I can't do a rep, that's okay because I can just rest it on the pins without crushing myself. Again, so far, so good.

So, as you can tell, a little knowledge on how to modify your lifts due to limited equipment or spacing can go a long way when it comes to programming and can keep you on the path to fat loss success or whatever else your fitness goal may be.

What do you think? Have you ever needed to modify your training for any reason such as a change of scenery, a lack of time, or an injury? Leave a comment and tell me what you did.

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