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How to Get Fit

How to get fit, now there’s a vague statement. But there is a purpose in the naming of this article. A large portion of the population is always searching for new ways and means on getting fit, but it is poorly defined. Mens health magazine for instance posts workouts fairly randomly each month. Most often it is aimed at the guy looking to be lean and muscular but not much else. However in the past few years they have been adding a small amount of sports performance information.

This is where the inspiration for this article came from, mens health. I was flipping through and noticed a section on various public sporting events that anyone can enter. There was a 2km swim, a triathlon, a marathon, some adventure race thing, the urbanathlon etc. See a pattern here? Yep, that’s right, all targeted at endurance. You see ever since jogging was introduced to the western world endurance has been the standard yard stick by which to measure “fitness” in vague and general terms. A marathon runner, road cyclist or triathlete is the image people most often conjure up when they think of someone “fit”.

Then there is the other side of fitness, especially when it comes to men, but women are fed this one too. That is bodybuilding muscles. Gyms many decades ago took their training guidance from the most muscular looking people in the world, bodybuilders. A lot of it came from that big bloke, you know the one I mean? What’s his name? Arnold or something I think. This methodology saw people splitting their strength training into “body parts” just like a bodybuilder. You know the programme, the one your trainer gave you at fitness first. It involves legs on Monday, back on Tuesday etc. It involves a whole host of machines and isolation exercises such as bicep curls.

How to get fit.

But here’s the issue; these guys in the magazines do not represent what the vast majority of the population is or can be. These guys take an enormous amount of steroids and other drugs and their life revolves around getting bigger muscles. So why then is the common gym programme centred around this bodybuilding approach? It’s simply society’s conditioning of what is ideal and how things should be done.

A New Angle

I want you to start thinking for yourself now when it comes to fitness and think systematically, think about what it is you really want and logically how you are going to get it. I don’t expect you to know completely, but at least know where to look and how to think about how the human body works with its energy systems, muscle fibre types etc.

How to get fit.

For so long now fitness has been about getting lean and muscular and simply looking good in the mirror or on the beach. Rarely does the average person have a performance goal. But what many don’t realise is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other, you can have elite performance while looking better than you ever have before.

How to get fit.

Crossfit has changed the way of thinking for more and more people over the past few years. They have shifted the focus toward performance and away from bodybuilding and mirror muscles. I like certain aspects of crossfit for this reason, but it’s still another fad that will probably end up tainted just like the endurance and bodybuilding era. Wait, it already is.

So here’s the new approach to fitness that I believe needs to take over from current trends. This is what I am all about and what Unleashed Training aims to achieve….

How to get fit.

Redefine Fitness

Despite what you may have been led to believe, fitness does not simply mean aerobic fitness. Fitness is any and/or all of the ten components. Strength, speed, power, agility are all components of fitness that don’t relate to aerobic endurance. In fact, aerobic fitness is probably the most limited and narrow, not the most broad. The reason being that if you focus your energy towards running marathons or any similar activity you are hindering pretty much every single other component of fitness.

How to get fit.

The body operates in energy systems and different muscle fibre types among other things. But these two things are what determine the type of fitness you develop. Train in the aerobic energy system, such as running a marathon and you will develop great endurance, you will be very lean without a lot of muscle mass and you will have a limited capacity for activities requiring any kind of strength, power or speed. Training for a 100 metre sprint will utilise mostly the ATP/creatine phosphate energy system, which is anaerobic. This will require the development of fast twitch muscle fibres and a limited capacity for endurance. Although, sprint training will actually contribute to endurance performance, unlike the way endurance training hinders sprint performance.

You might take this to mean that I dislike endurance sports. This is not the case. What I am trying to emphasise here is choice and knowledge. Fitness does not necessarily mean completing a marathon. In fact, if you want to be an endurance athlete then you need to be really dedicated to that cause simply because you are throwing away almost all other physical ability for other sports by choosing that as your focus. You need to know what you are getting into and what you consider to be fit.

How to get fit.

Endurance is the opposite to sports such as 100 metre sprinting, shot put, discus, long jump etc. However it is these sports that provide the better variety and time efficiency in training for the average person. How many people reading this regularly go for a jog? Probably quite a few. Every single day I see average people that are not athletes jogging along the foot path in the hopes of losing weight and gaining that vague thing called “fitness”.  How many people do you see down the local sporting ground doing flat-out sprint training? Not a lot.

How to get fit.

So what does fitness mean to you? What is the end result you want? For many cardio addicts it is simply to be considered fit in the broadest and most vague sense of the world. But what if you decided that jogging or cycling long distance was not the best way to go about that? Later in this article you are going to discover why for the average person you are better off following something adapted from old-school strength athletes and from Olympic power sports.

Real Muscles

Take the other goal that most people work towards, muscle. You walk into a gym and without a doubt 99% of the people there are doing some form of a bodybuilding inspired programme. So when you go in there it is the natural thing to do, just do what everyone else is doing. However without steroids and a shit-load of food combined with good genetics you will never look like the guys and girls in the magazine.

I want you to picture two people. The first is a bodybuilder (male or female) and the second one is an athlete such as a sprinter or a gymnast. Which one actually looks strong and graceful? The bodybuilder is a collection of segmented parts with muscle stacked on for the sake of stacking on muscle. I’m not saying that bodybuilding is inherently bad, I am just saying that it does not deserve to be the gym programme of choice throughout health clubs around the world. Bodybuilding, like endurance training, is a highly specific endeavour and should not be the gold standard for strength training for the general population.

How to get fit.

When you do a big lift such as a deadlift or a squat with a heavy weight your body goes into complete overdrive and releases large amounts of testosterone and human growth hormone. This results in a natural increase in strength and muscle mass that rivals even a steroid induced bodybuilder. These movements also serve to improve your performance in just about every sport and in everyday life.

Compare that to a chest press machine or the leg extension, which is commonly prescribed in a typical gym programme. These machines promote isolation and poor muscular balance, which eventually results in overuse injuries and a physique that is not useful in any activity outside the gym setting.

Functional lifts as discussed above are movements, they are not single muscle group specific exercises. Squats, deadlifts, overhead press, cleans etc, all serve to train not only the muscles but also the nervous system. They are movement pattern specific, not muscle specific.

How to get fit.

Decide and Execute

Jogging and other endurance activities are no longer acceptable as the default for fitness as a whole. When you decide to get fit this should not be your natural choice. It has a place but you need to make the choice. Is it what you really want? Or is it just something you’re doing because you don’t know any other way? How many people when they decide to go on a fitness kick decide to start jogging or cycling? I would be willing to bet it’s most people outside of full-time athletes.

The same goes for increasing muscle mass and getting stronger. You don’t need to accept a bodybuilding programme. In fact, for the average person not taking steroids bodybuilding is a poor choice. Start training movements, not muscle groups. Learn how to lift with squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and cleans and other functional movements. Keep it simple, you don’t need 400 exercises, you just need a few sound ones that work.

For an example of sound strength training systems, check out how the Bulgarians did it in their days of Olympic weightlifting dominance.

So when it all boils down to it, I’m not saying endurance sports and bodybuilding are bad things, just that they don’t deserve to be the default. You need to decide what you want to be able to do and train that way. Here are a few facts that might help you with your decision when deciding how to get fit…..

--- Flat-out sprints cause an increase in human growth hormone. In fact, any near-maximal exercise where the anaerobic lactate system is dominant will result in significant HGH release.

--- Functional movement patterns like the big free-weight lifts will cause hormonal and neuromuscular adaptations beyond that of machines and isolation exercises.

--- Endurance training as a dominating factor in an exercise programme will inhibit the development of every other aspect of fitness and will cause a massive drop in muscle mass.

--- Intensity is what controls the end result. High intensity is best practice for rapid results and for causing the body to use up the most energy, resulting in the most fat loss.

Think of exercise as a means to achieving the physical adaptations that you want. Jogging will help you get lean, but is it the right kind of lean for you? Maybe sprinting is better for you. Maybe learning explosive lifts in the gym is more useful to you than slow and controlled machine weights. Maybe you want some function with your new-look body. 

Do the research and make your choice, don’t just go with what has been programmed into our brains for the past however many decades.

How to get fit.

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YOUR COACH – Chris Lyons

Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.

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