Back when I started as a personal trainer I was sure of a number of things:
- Deadlifts are important
- You need to eat every couple of hours to keep your metabolism high, and
- You probably need to supplement with BCAAs.
Fortunately, I like to learn and improve as a fitness professional. So now only one of these remains in my pile of things I’m absolutely sure about.
No, not the eating thing. nor the BCAAs.
Deadlifts are still King.
So with that in mind, here are a few things I have changed my mind on over the last few years. Probably not a complete list, but what I can think at the moment!
Everyone needs to back squat.
When I started as a trainer I had a squat progression I thought everyone should go through:
TRX assisted squat
Where you started was dependant on ability, most would be goblet squatting, but some needed to take a step back first.
But no matter where you started, the aim was always to get you back squatting. Always.
Now? Not so much. In fact, I only have 1 current client who regularly back squats, and only then because not only does he have the required ability, but he enjoys it. The rest work up to heavy goblets or KB racked squats or front squats if they can show good enough movement and control.
Everyone needs to barbell deadlift from the floor.
Everyone should be doing some kind of deadlift in their program. The hinge is a fundamental movement and the deadlift is the King of the hinges. However the idea that everyone should be lifting off the floor just no longer works.
The height of the plates is a fairly arbitrary number, one that hasn’t changed since plates started getting made, and not everyone is made to get into good enough position to pull safely off the floor.
By raising the plates up on to blocks, 2 – 6 inches high, those who can’t pull from the floor can get into better, safer position and get all the benefits with much less risk of low back ouchies.
You need to eat little and often to stoke the metabolic furnace.
To burn fat you absolutely, have to, got to eat little and often. Right?
Not really. In fact, the calories used to process the food you eat, (TEF, thermic effect of food), is pretty much equal whether you eat 5 small meals or 3 large ones. What matters for fat loss is the total calorie intake. Simply choose the number of meals that works best for you given your particular set of circumstances.
You have to count calories.
In order to get really lean, I good idea of calorie intake, and macro breakdown is going to be needed. But for regular folks looking to get some good fat loss results, some good eating habits and some nutritional knowledge is going to be of more benefit in the long run.
Counting calories definitely has its place, it can be a useful tool for folks to recognise where their calories are coming from and to understand that peanut butter is a greater source of fats than it is for protein.
However, becoming calorie obsessed number trackers isn’t good for anyone and developing some good nutritional habits that will last a lifetime and take some of the stress out of eating healthily is far more beneficial.
For example, eat protein at every meal, load up on veggies, have carbs around training time and eat till you are 80% full work really well for fat loss.
Obsessing over how many calories are in a few skittles isn’t worth the time or effort.
Machine exercises are a waste of time.
You need to use free weights to get those stabilisers fired up!
Yeah, ok. Free weights definitely require more control and joint stability to use. They move in multiple planes after all. But that doesn’t mean that machine based exercises are immediately tossed aside. For rehab clients, those folks who are completely detrained and still need a training effect, machines can be a great tool.
For chasing a muscle pump during a session, machines can allow you to push harder more safely once you start to tire.
Machines definitely have a place in your training regimen, you just need to be smart about how and when you use them.
Exercise has to be brutal for fat loss.
The old advice of just do more doesn’t hold up all that well for fat loss.
Yes, you have to move more. Making sure you hit 10000 steps a day (about 5 miles) is good here.
Yes, you have to have a certain amount of intensity to your training sessions to maximise calorie burn.
Ultimately though, your fat loss results come more from what you eat and the calories consumed than from trying to burn more during training. You may hit 500-600kcals burned in a tough session, but that can be completely wiped out by the fruit smoothie you chug down afterwards.
Fat loss is diet driven and training backs it up.
Everyone should periodize training.
Periodizing training is where you manipulate training variables on a weekly and monthly basis. This is great if you are following a powerlifting or weightlifting program with a competition goal in mind. For fat loss and general training effects, however, most people don’t need to get too fancy with it at all.
I used to adjust every clients loads and reps each week without fail. Then I realised that some clients didn’t do all the sessions they were supposed to each week and the periodizing was a waste of time for those particular clients.
For fat loss and general population clients the best way to progress them consistently is to increase loading each week. session based on previous performance and how they feel on the day. At the start of each new program block, loading can take a 10-15% drop to allow them to get used to the new program and exercise order before ramping back up over the subsequent weeks.
Like I said at the start of the post, this is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does cover a few of the things that have improved and progressed in my thought processses for my clients and my own training.
I’m sure there are many more changes and improvements to come!