Changes To EK…

All content, articles and blogs are now hosted at Ben Coker’s personal website. Please be redirected to www.Ben-Coker.com to read the latest articles!

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Nutritional Considerations for Team Sport Athletes

What are the foods team-sport athletes REALLY need? How does such athlete calculate their carbohydrate requirements? What’s the deal with supplements? Find out below.

Estimated read time: 20mins

Topics covered:

  • Macro-Nutrient requirements
  • Shopping list on a budget
  • Quality of food sources
  • Carbohydrate timings
  • Post workout (PWO) recommendations
  • Hunger dictating feeding
  • Essential supplements
  • Fad supplements

Participating experts: Adam Hope (StrengthTable) (AH (ST)), Ben Coker (StrengthTable) (BC (ST)), Ben Coomber (BC), Alexander Ferentinos (AF), Martin MacDonald (MM)

Read full discussion

Everything Squat

The Squat…

The foundation of performance? Or a dangerous exercise that should be avoided? This discussion covers it all, and much more…

Estimated read time: 31 minutes

Topics covered:

  • The squat movement
  • Physical literacy
  • What about if you’re tall?
  • Loading
  • Bilateral versus single leg squats
  • The perfect depth?
  • Anatomy
  • Squatting and ankle stiffness

Participating coaches: Joseph Lightfoot (JL), Ben Coker (BC), Alex Brooker (AB) and Adam Hope (AH).

Read the full roundtable discussion here

That Cover Model Look – Ben Coker

When we see a female cover model, there are two aspects of the physique that women aspire to have. The first is the ‘leanness’ or level of fat on the body achieved on the whole by effective nutrition and calorie expenditure. The second is the shape of the muscles on the body that give the female body a desirable shape. Many fail to appreciate that it is the hypertrophy of the body’s muscle fibres that develops those much admired contours that women seek.

In this article I will clarify the mechanics behind successful exercise selection and ordering in a programme that will yield a cover model body. I will also dispel some myths and stigmas that surround women and weight training.

Full Article

Tips to Instantly Improve Your Squat – Ben Coker

Today’s blog is a short one but nonetheless, a very useful one. Dave Tate in particular has produced some excellent material on how to improve your squat and therefore I am not going to rephrase what the man has already done succinctly. Instead I am going to make you aware of two simple techniques you can use before your squat set that will instantly make your squat stronger.

Tip #1 Squat/Frog Jumps

Jumping by nature is a high force movement as involves the projection of a load (your body). The higher the force produced, the more high-threshold motor units are recruited. Therefore as an activation tool performed prior to a regular lifting movement frog jumps will act as a “wake-up” call, potentiating the nervous system. This will allow you to recruit the high-threshold motor units more easily in the subsequent lifting exercises.

  • Go to full depth as you would in your squat. This will ensure that all the muscles involved in the squat will be potentiated in the jump.
  • Following on from the above; ensure that you jump using the hips (sit back in the squat part of the jump) and do not rely on jumping with the knees (quads) alone.
  • Make sure you complete the jump fully with a hard forceful triple extension to ensure the posterior chain is fully activated.
  • You must put everything into the jump and really explode as high as you can; otherwise you are not activating the high thresholds motor units as well as you can.

Perform 2-3 max jumps about 30 seconds out from you set and feel the power.

Tip # 2 Squeeze The Fucking Bar.

No really. Try and break the thing in half!

Okay I’m not talking about when the bar is racked across your back…that should be staple by now. To reiterate, as soon as you grab the bar you never let go of it. In squatting, the lift starts as soon as you grab the bar and ends when you let go of it when it’s back in the rack. Don’t let up with that grip during the lift.

What I am talking about is an extra concerted effort before you go under the bar. Once you take a hold of the bar imagine trying to snap the bar in half. I peronally imagine ‘pushing’ the ends of the bar away from me and down, making use of a strong lat contraction, whilst ‘pulling’ the middle towards me in a way such that if the bar were to break the broken ends would swing towards my face. Other imagery may work better for you. In short my whole body is tensing to the max in the attempt.

For this to work you really need to try and break the bar not just go through the motions. Your body should be trembling if you are doing it to the right intensity. Hold this squeeze for 3-5 seconds. You be surprised how tiring it actually is! And the mental mindset you get into in trying to snap a barbell is a phenomenal boost. Then overall feeling is ‘amped’ to say the least. From there, without breaking grip, go under the bar and own the squat.

Get nasty with the bar!

Wrap Up

Both of these methods work extremely well for me. They potentiate my body extremely well but also help to get me angry enough (with the help of a strong iTunes playlist) to go under the bar with utter range and a confidence that the only way is up from that hole.

I’d love to know whether these methods work for you. Whether a wobbly 1RM now feels a solid and clean1RM and or more weight goes on the bar of even if a 3RM becomes a 5RM leave your comments and let me know!

Train hard. Train smart. Be Strong.

Training, Food & Short Breaks – by Jamie Bolton

A few weeks back, unexpectedly I had to travel on business to Argentina. When I say unexpectedly, I mean pretty much on the day of travel, so I had little to no time to prepare. But what I did have was the intent, as ever, to continue my usual ‘lifestyle’ and make things work, whatever that might end up meaning.

I’m sure you’ve all been there. When away from the usual routine, fitting in diet, let alone training, can be quite a trouble, but it needn’t be.

I was away for 3 days, and here’s what I did.

From the off, I made sure to pack my training gear. Not all the usual bells and whistles (by that I mean as a metaphor, not literally!), but just some trainers, shorts and a top. Simple. I also tossed in my ‘pillbox’ with my usual omega 3’s, curcumin & vitamin D – not that I actually needed the latter, it’s summertime in Argentina! No protein supplements (Argentina is the place to get a steak or 5 after all) – but regardless of where, for such a short trip, it’s just not worth it. Moreover, look up a little on protein cycling and you’ll see a low period isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a few days and utilisation thereafter can be improved, but I digress.

Aeroplane food isn’t always the greatest, so I find the easiest way around this is to ignore the usual ‘carby’ suspects like bread, and if needed – fast. I’ll mention quite a few fasts on this trip, but this article isn’t the place for a fuller discussion – as an intro for those interested I’d recommend reading this article by John Romanellio as a start or checking out Martin Berkhan’s www.leangains.com for the real nitty gritty, but the benefits are numerous, not least for sidestepping otherwise crappy meals.

I’ll confess now and admit what I did also have was a few glasses of red wine too! I could try to claim it was for the purported health benefits from reservratol and other nutrients, but in reality, I like a glass and it also helps to get to sleep – it’s a 13 hour flight!

The rest of the time while I was there, I kept my nutrition pretty simple. I tended to fall back to 2 good meals a day, and didn’t snack either. I also walked – everywhere. I must have covered a good 6 miles a day by foot.

I probably under ate overall while I was away, but I kept my protein as high as I could and didn’t sweat the rest, it’s just not worth the cortisol release! As to what I ate, well, mainly eggs & bacon for breakfast each day, and my other meal was always steak – heck I went through about 2kgs of it in 3days. With that in mind – here’s some food porn:

Breakfast

STEAK!

More steak

and a rare treat for me!

And yep that is an ice cream sat there. And it was darn good. I’m only human! And it was also my only indulgence, minus the wine!

That leaves the training. My hotel had the usual fayre – the under-equipped joke. So, I spent 5 minutes on google and found something a 10minute walk away a little better. And so I headed to the “Megatlon” gym chain locally, and was surprised and unsurprised in equal measure. 3 squat racks – and only 2 bench presses, so far so good. But the rest largely matched up to the standard commercial equipment, but it was good enough. So I got in my 5/3/1 squats and presses regardless, ample assistance work too, and was pretty happy. Job done.

And that more or less sums the trip up. Was it ideal? Not from a strength training perspective. Could I have made it better? Sure, I could have dropped the deviances from diet, but it’s important to live a little too, and those who know me know how strict I am the other 90% of the time so it’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. But what I did, absolutely do, was made it work. My diet was largely on check. I got in the training I needed to do. And I did 10x more walking than I would have done at home, some good NEPA there.

The way I did it may not be for everyone. The fasts in particular. But for me it works. And that’s what this is all about. Don’t let unexpected trips away from the usual routine deviate your route to progress. Find a way. Be clever about your food choices. Make the training sessions happen if they’re scheduled. And don’t be afraid to improvise if needed – remember the jungle gym series anyone!

Wherever you are – make it work.

Until next time. Train Hard. Train Smart. Be Strong.

Why Cardio Is a Bad Investment – by Jamie Bolton

Gyms up and down the country are packed full of ‘cardio bunnies’ endlessly pounding the treadmills. Gallons of sweat flowing everywhere. Thousands of calories being burnt. Great bodies being sculpted.

*Rolls eyes*

Just a hint of sarcasm there perhaps? Just a little. Only the first of those two statements are true, contrary to what the ‘cardio crew’ wants to believe. So what is really going on here? Why is it that the cardio bunnies, year after year, look EXACTLY the same?


Let’s start with some simple human biology. The human body is an incredibly intelligent, adaptive machine.

What happens when you do cardio? The body aims to become more efficient at doing it. It works out the shortcuts so you burn less energy for the same work. It means, all other things equal, your 30mins on the treadmill burns less calories each time you do it. The way around it then? Run faster or for longer, but ultimately you can only go so far with this approach before you’re running marathons at a sprint each day. I realise this is a gross simplification but the point remains – your body adapts, fast. Cardio doesn’t leave much room for addition.

Now, throw in on top of this that standard steady state cardio is not actually a great source of calorie burning. You burn calories while you’re moving. People on the cardio machines sure might look like they’re burning a tonne of calories, they’re covered in sweat after all. But it stops there. At the end of the session that’s that.

Consider this: An average male burns 105 calories in a 9 minute 30 second mile, but on average you burn 650 calories whilst sleeping. Say you sleep on average for 7 hours, that is about 93 calories per hour. You can really see that cardio makes sod all difference in the grand scheme of things. You need to run 6.2 miles at 9.30 pace jut to burn the amount of calories you burn when you are asleep. Granted if you do the run and sleep you burn about 1300 calories but it means a 6.2 mile run a day – about an hour daily!

The icing on the cake is that, as you ‘improve’ at cardio, your body will switch its muscle fibre make up toward slow-twitch fibres. In other words, let fast twitch fibres either atrophy (shrink) or take on slow-twitch properties, such as to make the body lighter and more ‘efficient’. What does this mean? A smaller ‘engine’, which thus burns less fuel. In other words you are lowering your resting metabolic rate – in the long run you will have to eat less calories, not more. You will also have to run longer or run faster for that hour to get the body out of its new adaptive cofort zone,

For those of you who think I am being unfair or want some studies to back this argument up, here is an awesome article, ‘Women: Running into Trouble’ by John Kiefer, that is extremely well researched and explains how over prescribed steady state cardio is a losing cause in terms of fat loss.

Now that’s not to say cardio is bad in its entirety, it’s just that there are more effective and efficient ways of shedding fat. It’s well documented that an amount is necessary to keep you healthy, not least for the heart. But unless you are a competitive distance runner, to have it as your main activity, you may well want to think again.

Most people when seeking to ‘get fit’ will instantly go to cardio. Now I support the fact that people are up and exercising and indeed slow long distance running will yield results to a degree. But after the initial treadmill introduction I would encourage those people to get stuck into some resistance training and metabolic conditioning. Hell it breaks the monoto, develops you a better looking physiqe and and saves you time in the process!

How many people that are only on the cardio machines at your gym still look the same as they did a year or two ago? Better yet, at marathons across the world, how many of those at the finishing line have a physique you REALLY desire? Surely that alone should make you think twice about pursuing cardio as a main form of activity.

STRENGTH TRAINING

Like cardio, the ‘act’ of strength training burns calories as you do it. And if you work out with any sort of intensity, you’ll be burning more calories than the cardio bunnies at this point alone. But the good stuff hasn’t even started yet.

Once you’re done, you have to recover. Your body has to build muscle tissue to deal with the stimulus you have put on it. This is a metabolically costly process (read: requires more calories). To top it off, as the body accumulates more muscle tissue, it has to be fueled on a daily basis (5-6 kal per pound of muscle). In other words, you raise your metabolic rate for the long run. Not by a huge amount but it all adds up.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Then we have conditioning work. Short, sharp-burst work. Like prowler & sled work, farmers walks, (hill) sprints. My kind of ‘cardio’. If this doesn’t send your heart rate through the roof, you’re doing it wrong.

I’ve got far more out of breath than traditional ‘cardio’ ever has for me. And with this sort of work, the after effect is huge. I’m talking ‘Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption’ (EPOC). In layman’s terms, it’s that after the work itself, you’re metabolic rate is on fire for the next few hours. Talk about fat burning potential! And that’s not to mention the strength endurance, speed-strength, power and work capacity development that’s taking place too.

THE HIERARCHY

I might sound ‘anti-cardio’. But the reality is I’m not. It has a place in a program, just usually not the one people give it. Placing it at the centre of a program is foolish.

It comes down to a hierarchy of what time you have. The more time you have the more you can ‘add’. Start with strength training. Once you have made it to 3 to 4 sessions a week, then can start to think about adding ‘extras’. The next ‘level’ is conditioning work. After you have 2-3 sessions a week of this planned in, can think about adding more. Low level steady state cardio. Weighted walking, inclined walking, cycling etc.

How many of you are at this point? I thought so.

Get the important stuff in first, the strength work and the conditioning. Then, and then only if you have more time would I seek to add ‘more’ in the form of some low level cardio. To get to that point, you will be investing about 6-7 hours a week before you can fit in your precious ‘cardio’. How many of you get even half that amount of time in?

The INVESTMENT

Training is always an ‘investment’ of your time. How you decide to invest it will clearly affect your results. If you make bad choices, like focusing on cardio solely, your investment may not even give you back your initial stake, i.e. you could look and perform worse.

By investing wisely, you make sure you get the most bang for your buck, and after time will find your ‘investment’ has flourished and you look and perform better.

So what will it be today? The treadmill or the squat rack and sled?

Train hard. Train smart. Be strong.

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