Simplicity – by Jamie Bolton

Everyday we are confronted by choice. A lot of choice. When training. When eating. When supplementing.In training, we are confronted by an array of machines, pulleys, cables and god-knows what else. Our friend the barbell and his pal the power rack are left neglected.In eating, our supermarkets our clogged full of synthetic, processed-attempts of food. Our friends, organic meats and fish, delightful fruits, veggies and other natural wholesome goodness, are left underappreciated.

In supplementation, a raft of superhuman-claiming products fight for our attention. Our friends, the staple protein powders, vitamins and omega 3s are left forgotten.

In short, we have too many choices. We chronically suffer from paralysis by analysis. There is too much information. We attempt to use everything at our disposal and hence achieve nothing.

We ignore the most adaptable piece of equipment we have – the barbell. I use maybe 10% of the equipment available in the gym. I can’t remember the last time I used a machine. I wouldn’t hazard to state that most of those using a fraction of the equipment are the ones seeing multiples of the average progress. 90% of the time, all I use is a barbell, power rack and some dumbbells. Even with that, there are still a myriad of choices – load, set, reps, tempo, rest. The truth is though it’s easier for a facility to cram itself full of machines than barbells. Why – it’s easier to sign people up and let them roam the machines with little risk of injury, than to have to teach everyone how to squat. The people who want the power racks are just lower margin business.

You only have to walk around a supermarket to see that 80% of the store is crap you don’t want to be putting in your body. A good rule of thumb – the more heavily advertised the less you should probably want to eat it, nutritious food doesn’t tend to advertise as well! Stick to the outside perimeter of the supermarket for most of your needs – all the goodness is there. Fruit and veggies, potatoes, meat, fish, eggs, milk are there. With the occassional excursion inward to pick up goodies like oats, brown rice, spices, nut butters, oils and so on. Again even when you limit your choices here there are still a tonne of options, take meat, will it be chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork or something else?

Take the standard supplement company website. ‘SuperMass Gainer v2 – gain 20lbs of muscle in a week’. Maybe not as extreme as this but you get the picture. The standard basics are typically all you need most of the time. Why are products like this pushed then? Advertising and margins. The basics don’t advertise well – whey protein powder is well, just whey protein powder. It’s not as fashionable as other stuff, it doesn’t latch onto what people want to be true – that this game is easy. More than that, whey isn’t nearly half maltodextrin (sugar) like half the crap on the market – hence its lower margin. It’s not hard to see why what is advertised, is so heavily advertised.

When you look at it like this, its not hard to see why and how people continually manage to get this wrong. We all get sucked into advertising hype now and again. We get sidetracked from the basics in our training.

I guess the take-home point is that everything out there, for the other guy – the supplier, is a business. What matters is the margin. The profit. The places that aren’t like this are fewer and increasinly further between. The hardcore training facility. The healthy foods markets. The no-bullshit supplement company. But they exist.

When in doubt, strip it back to the basics. Walk into a facility and confronted by too many machines? Head to the barbell. Supermarket full of boxed processed crap? Stick to the outside. Supplement website pushing too much advertising in your face? Get your whey and get out!

When in doubt, take the KISS approach - Keep It Simple, Stupid

Despite what they want you to believe, this stuff really isn’t complicated. It’s straightforward. It’s simple. It’s also hardwork.

Remember Occam’s Razor –

“It is futile to do more with what could be done with less”

Leave Something in the Toolbox – by Jamie Bolton

In every approach to every goal, there are typically multiple tools at our disposal.
 
If we’re trying to get bigger, we’ve got a bucketful of competing training methodologies, calories to consider, macronutrient distribution within that and so on.

If we’re trying to become faster, we’ve got technique work & plyo’s before you begin to consider the strength work being done, aswell as diet.

If we’re trying to lean down for competition, we’ve got diet, cardio, training, and even supplementation to consider.

We know in every avenue we journey down, that its a gradual process of progression. Progression. That’s the key word. You have to account for the fact that we want progression to occur, but that the nature of the beast is that plateaus occur along the way. It is important to understand then that you shouldn’t show all your cards at once, as it were, if you want to prevent plateaus and keep continually progressing.

In a muscle gain phase. You don’t start with your calories set at 6000. For a start, unless your maintenance is 5500cals, you’re going to get fat pretty fast. But secondly, what will you do if/when weightgain later stalls? 7000? 8000? You’ve brought out the big guns far too early and left little room for practical progression.

Sledgehammer to crack a nut...overkill

In training. You don’t start with 7 days of training per week, twice per day. Whats next? Three times a day? Where’s the progression going to come from. You’ve set your stall out so high that progression is inevitably going to stutter out pretty quick.

In dieting. You don’t start with calories at 2000 per day, zero carb, 2 hours of cardio per day and popping fatburners like candy do you? Beyond wanting to kill yourself pretty quickly with that schedule, as and when your body adapts to the stimulus, where’s the progression coming from? Exactly.

Your body wants to adapt to whatever stimulus you impose on it. It’s why we have to continually challenge ourselves if we want to be better. The more you can leave in the tool box, the more you have later to bring to the frontline when progress slows. Moreover, the more tools you have left behind, the longer you can keep on that progression path and really start to completely stall as there’s nothing left to add.

What you don't use now can be used later

I can imagine a whole lot of head nodding occurring right now. I’m stating the obvious. But why do people still ignore the obvious then? How many people start a schedule toward whatever aim, that beyond already being a stretch to stick to, leaves little room for progression. Is it any wonder so many people fail at this?

You always want to do as little as possible to elicit the desired effect. Why bring out the 9mm when a water pistol will do to begin with?

Start growing on as few calories as necessary to just see some growth and add from there. Don’t go gung-ho from the off.

Start training at 3 days per week, milk it for its worth and then add more.

Start dieting with as little possible to lose fat. Reduce calories a bit first. When fat loss stalls, add a bit of cardio. Then a bit more. Then calories down a bit more. And so on.

Why make this stuff more complicated then it needs to be. Start simple, and keep it simple as long as you can. Why do more than you have to? Leave the tools safely in the toolbox until you really need them.

“Perfection is achieved not when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away”. Keep it simple and build it up.

Intelligent Supplementation – by Jamie Bolton

Supplements are a fairly new phenomenon. And that they definitely are. A phenomenon. People rage about them; the pills and the powders. But the reality is that supplements are there to do just that – supplement a diet.Today, I’m going to take you through the 3 levels of supplementation as I see it: the Essentials, the Useful, and the plain-ol Questionable.
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Essentials
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These 3 supplements I consider staples in my cupboard. And here’s why.
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Whey Protein Powder. This is more for convenience and cost than anything else. Getting 1.5g/lb from real food isn’t always easy, especially when on a budget. Simple whey concentrate does the job very well. It doesn’t need to get much fancier than this. Bear in mind, that if your budget or schedule allows, then you could consider this one optional. There is nothing that protein powder will do that real food can’t.

Multivitamin & mineral.  A varied diet full of whole foods should in the perfect world cover these needs. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Most of us don’t eat that varied a diet, moreover nutrient levels in food aren’t what they once were, due to the way we farm our food, soil degradation and the like. See this as a cheap insurance policy against vitamin & mineral deficiency.

Omega 3 Fish Oil. Our food used to be full of it. Our environment and food rearing practices means now – not so much. In fact, the ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s we used to consume was about 1:1 up to 1:3. Now it’s like 1:20 or more.
Omega 6s are inflammatory. Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory. So by supplementing our levels of omega 3 up, we can help bring the ratio back into balance, and bring down inflammation. Why is this important? A tonne of health problems are linked to inflammation. Asthma, heart disease, tendonitis. Even DOMS can be worsened by an inflammatory diet. And this is only skimming the surface. Run a google search and you will see the list of benefits goes on. And on.
A good prescription for dosing is 1g for each % bodyfat you are. If you are 15% bodyfat, 15g of fish oil, and so on.

Fish Oil - the list of benefits goes on and on...

Useful
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These two supplements both help increase work capacity when training. They allow you to do more work. (Remember though, you actually need to do more work to take advantage!)
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Creatine – probably the most proven and researched sports supplements. It does work. It’s just not the magic some people want it to be. Creatine is an entirely natural substance and works by increasing the amount of phosphocreatine in your muscles, which allows for quicker restoration of ATP levels, which increases your anaerobic work capacity. In layman’s terms, it means you can work harder in short bursts, resulting a rep or two extra per set, better recovery between sets, or even better speed-endurance in sprinting. In short this means you are increasing muscular overload, i.e. challenging your muscles more. This may help you to progress faster. You could seek to increase creatine levels through diet, but this would involve eating about four kilos of steak each day, so concentrated supplementation is a better option.

In fact, Dr. Rick Kreider of the University of Texas and Editor-in-Chief of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recently said that not taking creatine could put athletes at a higher risk of injury from a neurological, recovery and temperature regulation perspective.

It’s worth noting that Creatine will cause some water retention in muscles, so when taking it expect bodyweight to jump by a few kilos, and likewise when you stop, the reverse will happen. For more info, I’d really recommend reading here.

Beta Alanine – Beta Alanine is a naturally-occurring non-essential amino acid. Similar to creatine, it works by increasing work capacity by delaying fatigue. But it does this by increasing the number of hydrogen ions in muscles, which act as a buffer against lactate accumulation. Over the course of a workout, this may result in extra reps and/or better recovery between sets. Unlike creatine, beta alanine won’t cause any water retention.

Questionable

Everything else. When it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Now I’m not knocking everything else entirely. Some of the other stuff out there can & does work. But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Instead, I would rather invest my pennies in better food. Sure go ahead and try some of the other products out there. If it works, great. But just don’t expect miracles. Remember, good training and diet will trump this stuff every time.

Summary

People these days seem to think you can’t get to any decent level of development without taking supplements. Oftentimes one of the first things I’ll get asked is, “what supplements do you take?”. People seem to forget that the likes of Steve Reeves achieved pretty remarkable physiques without any supplementation (nor steroids either).

Steve Reeves - built without supplements

If you are intelligent with your diet, I honestly believe there should be only a very limited role for supplementation. Supplements can help along the way, but they are just that. They won’t make up for crappy training or a rubbish diet. Remember the two things that always produce results – hard work and consistency.

Optimise What Matters – by Jamie Bolton

 Stop ‘optimising’ your supplements and start optimising your recovery. Period. This article is really as simple as that, but let me show you what I mean. Now, a typical gym conversation might run like this:
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“Dude, you got to get some of this nitric oxide booster. It gives you like the best pumps ever.”
“Damn I got to get me some of that. But have you tried these new amino acid intensified pills? They’re like super anabolic and stuff.”

I guess by not taking these you’re missing out on tonnes of growth and size? Funny thing is most guys who believe this and pile supplements in like candy are lacking exactly that.

Some Supplement claims just aren't true...

What these guys are missing is the most obvious, most anabolic thing you should be optimising. Testosterone.

The best part is, you’ve got an endless, free supply of it.  If only you gave your body the right environment to produce more of it. Testosterone is the most potent, anabolic hormone in the body; despite what the supplement companies claim otherwise. It cascades through your veins, yet most ignore it as if its unimportant. You should be doing all you can to maximise your natural levels. Why? To increase muscle mass & strength, to melt body fat and for general good health.

That sounds like what most supplements claim their products do. Only this one delivers. That’s pretty darn good if you ask me. When you throw in that the body wants to produce it, it makes it a bargain. Why aren’t you doing everything you can to help your body then?

How many of you out there are spending more on supplements a week than real food? Seriously. I overheard some guys talking the other day and one boasted he was spending £40 a week on ‘protein pills’ alone. How retarded is that? Buy protein powder instead. £40 a week is an astronomical amount to spend on protein supplements alone before anything else. Remember supplements are for just that. Supplementing your diet. They are a minor, not a major in the grand scheme of things. What made it worse was that he looked like a twig. Spend that money on quality food instead.

How many of you have the majors in check?

  •  A program focused on big compound lifts performed with real intensity?
  • A diet based on wholesome, natural foods?
  • Calories set appropriately towards your goals?
  • A good recovery environment including a 8-10hrs sleep per night?
  • Regular foam rolling, stretching and prehab work?

These are the things that really matter. I don’t care how ‘anabolic’ the next supplement being pushed is. These are the things that WILL trump all others is giving your body the best environment possible to flourish naturally. So why aren’t you focusing on the majors to optimise your internal environment?

You know what doesn’t optimise it?
– Highly processed junk ‘food’
– Getting p***ed off your face five nights a week
– Lack of sleep
– Sissy-style training
– Estrogenic foods like soy
– Justin Bieber music


How much are you exposing yourselves to these? Removing some of the instances of these will do far more for your physique than some ‘£50 for 100’ supplement ever can. I’m not saying you can’t ever have a pint of beer or a Big Mac ever again. But, if you are serious about your training goals you may want to start thinking twice about the regularity and extent to which you assault your internal environment .

To back-track every so slightly, I will agree that supplements are definitely a tool in the toolbox, but they are just that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking them. But beyond a protein powder, multivitamin, fish oil and maybe creatine, what more do you honestly need? I’d rather spend extra money each week on real, quality food I can enjoy than some questionable supplement.

As a parting thought, I want you to think back to the pre-supplement era. Now answer me this. Were there any big developed guys walking around? Were there big weights being moved in the gym? The likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbo and Steve Reeves, heck let’s go back to the turn of the 20th century, Eugene Sandow, say otherwise. If these guys could achieve without ‘super amino booster 5000’ I’m sure you can too.

Sandow built a great physique, long before supplements were around.

Don’t major in the minors. Optimise what matters.

Gym Antics #2

Today we’ve got another 9 antics which just shouldn’t happen! Enjoy:
1. Checking for non-existent ‘abs’ in the gym mirror. In fact, checking your abs full stop, unless you’re an IFBB pro put it away, we don’t need to see it in the gym.

2. Walking around with a chip on your shoulder. No you don’t know it all. No one does. Always keep an open mind, you could be surprised at what you might learn.

3. Fat people in spandex. Just no.

4. Over-belief in supplements. No they’re not magical. They’re not steroids. They’re supplements. Will they make a difference if used correctly. A little, yes. But ONLY if everything else is in order. And if you believe they’re ‘magical’, chances are everything else ISN’T in order, so they probably wont make a blind bit of difference for you. Get the big things in order first.

5. People who abuse the use of spotters. “It’s all you bro, come on!” Well, it clearly isn’t all you. Use a spotter just in case, not as a method to get extra ‘reps’ that are 50% from the spotter.

6. People who don’t say thank you. Not just in the gym but anywhere, I mean, if I hold a door open for you its the least you can say surely?!

7. People who have an ‘arms’ day whilst sporting a twig-frame. I’m not shouting down direct arm work, its definitely important, once you have a good base of development. But if you resemble Christian Bale in the machinist, then your arms aren’t lagging – your whole body is.

If you look like this, drop the 'arms' day and go eat something!

8. People giving unhelpful lifting cues. For instance on a standing overhead press, with a guy stuck mid lock out and you’ve got 4 ‘bros’ shouting at him ‘lock out, lock out, lock out!’. I’m pretty certain he knows what he has to lock out! Try actually being helpful and give useful cues like ‘brace’, and ‘breathe’ even!

9. Using the box squat as an excuse to squat high. I don’t care that you’re going down far enough to touch the box. If the damn box is already almost at your hips to start with you’re still squatting too shallow!

That’s all for now. Until next time. Train hard. Stay strong.

What winds you up in the gym? Let us know in the comments below!

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