Fitness, nutrition, and BADASS living can be confusing.
- Too many facts.
- Too many opinions.
- Too many opinions presented as fact.
- Too much contradicting science.
- Too much horse shit.
Throw me your most baffling fitness questions and we’ll get ’em answered here.
Plyometrics are an oft misunderstood and oft misutilized facet of training. Let’s clear up some of the confusion:
Understanding Plyometrics from Tom Riley
What are plyometrics and what’s the point of doing them?
Plyometrics are any movement that utilizes the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC). They’re drills that are aimed at linking strength and speed, especially with fundamental movement patterns like jumping, bounding, and throwing. So think: squat jumps, bounds (1 leg take off, opposite 1 leg landing), hops (1 leg take-off, same 1 leg landing), and med ball throws.
Using Plyos asked by Gregory Moran
Is plyometric training a sport-specific form of training or are there functional applications to everyday living?
Rob: Great question. While plyos are definitely paramount for athletes, anyone can benefit from an improved ability to coordinate high speed movements. So, it’s a win for everyone.
Plyometric Progressions asked by This Fit Chick
How do you progress with plyometric training?
Rob: My favorite ways to progress plyometric training:
- Non-Countermovement Plyo’s (ex: squat and pause before jumping.)
- Countermovement Plyo’s. (ex: stand tall, quickly squat and jump.)
- Double Contact Plyo’s (ex: hop forward then quickly squat and jump.)
- Continuous Plyo’s (squat jump, squat jump, squat jump, etc.)
You can also move from simple to complex movements (ex: linear jumps to lateral jumps) OR from a stable base to a less stable base (ex: two legs to one leg.) What I DON’T love to see is simply adding weight to plyometrics. Initially, there are more intelligent ways to progress.
Details of Plyo Workouts asked by Colin Lane
How many sets, reps should I be doing? How about frequency and when/where in my programming should I include plyometrics?
Rob: Generally speaking you want quality over quantity. I LOVE plyo’s at the beginning of my workouts as a form of neural activation. Should take about 10 minutes, 2-3 different movements, 5-8 sets, 3-6 reps. Less intelligent in my book – plyo’s at the end of the workout as a form a cardio (technically, you could consider running a “plyo”, and running is great cardio, but I usually call running “running” and plyo’s “plyo’s.”)
Advantages/Disadvantages asked by Courtney Selig
How do the advantages of plyometrics outweigh the disadvantages when training?
Rob: Smart question. When executed properly and used in reasonable volume, plyometrics help prevent injury and improve performance. But poor form, misguided progressions, or crazy-ass volume leads to the opposite of that. Any time you start getting fast and explosive, you’ve gotta be thoughtful with your training.
MAXIMIZING YOUR CARDIO
James Livsey asks: “What’s the difference between cardio to increase my endurance and cardio to help me shed body fat?”
Lovely question. It’s really a matter of volume vs. intensity. If you want increase your endurance, your primary training progression should be volume. That means workouts should get longer and longer. If you want to get shredtastic, your primary training progression should be intensity. That means workouts should get more and more Crazysaurace (technical term.) Of course, the relationships aren’t that simple, but that’s a good place to start.
Shane Wigley asks: How can one person use TABATA wisely??
Rob: A true Tabata protocol is 20s On/10s off x 8 at SUPER high intensity (what would be comparable to 170% of your VO2 max.) Let’s be clear about this: THAT’S REALLY F’IN HARD. Most people cannot and should not start with Tabata. If you want to use the protocol wisely, modify it to suit your current state of fitness. That means you (probably) need to reduce the work-to-rest ratio to allow you to go balls-out. 8s on/22s off might be a good place to start.
You’ll also need to pick an appropriate modality. You can’t do Tabata sit-ups. They’re just not intense enough to challenge your VO2 max. You can do 8 sets of sit-ups for 20s and then rest 10s, but that isn’t Tabata. Think more along the lines of: sled, prowler, fan bike, battling ropes, and hill sprints.
Thomas Ginty asks: “Should you still do cardio whilst gaining muscle?”
Rob: First of all, nice use of “whilst.” Second of all, no. If you want to absolutely optimize muscle gain (especially if you’re a hard gainer), stay off the treadmill and use your nutrition to manage body fat.
Cone Nueve Once asks: “Let’s get this answered and over with: Fasted Cardio vs. Fed Cardio, which one is better?”
Rob: Fasted morning cardio can absolutely be an effective method of weight loss, but I would consider it a final-phase recommendation. Start with the big stuff: have you be rocking a smart nutrition plan? Have you been kicking ass with a periodized training program? Is your rest and recovery on point? Is your supplementation thoughtful and consistent? If everything else is right and you’re looking to crank up calorie burn, low intensity fasted morning cardio might be your next step. Just be careful about putting the cart before the horse.
Danny Gutierrez asks: “Can powerlifting be considered cardio? i.e.- deadlifts, cleans…I always feel 10 times more winded after these types of exercises.”
Rob: YES. Absolutely YES. Start thinking outside the treadmill. Anything that challenges your cardiovascular system can be considered cardiovascular training. If you set up resistance training appropriately, it can be very effective cardio. Just ask Charles Poliquin. I’m pretty sure that treadmills actually self-destruct when he walks by them, but he has numerous resistance protocols that elicit very powerful cardiovascular training effects.
Protein vs. Fat — asked by John Paitrew
Is it true that too much protein turns into fat?
Sure, too much of anything turns into fat—it’s how your body stores energy. But as a general rule, protein isn’t your enemy. In fact, it’s more metabolically costly to digest—which makes it a friend. A good friend. A strong, lean, delicious friend.
When to Eat — asked by Teri Ryan
Is it better to eat more frequently throughout the day? Why?
Rob: There’s no one right answer, but for many folks looking to make positive changes to their nutrition, it’s an effective strategy. Hunger management is a huge part of fat loss and initially, eating frequently allows your brain (and not your hunger) to make sound nutrition choices.
Abolishing Fat — asked by Adam Holand
What happens if I completely remove all fats from my diet?
Rob: “You would donkey-punch your hormone profile, suppress your brain and nervous system function, trample on your ability to manage hunger, become deficient in fat soluble vitamins (and Vitamin D deficiency is already a big problem), and slowly transform into a troll. Okay, I lied about that last part. But fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. Plus…no more peanut butter? Who wants that?”
Clarifying the Glycemic Index — asked by PJ Khal
How much of an impact does the glycemic index of foods have on my body?
Rob: Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly and significantly a certain food raises your blood sugar. Managing your blood sugar is absolutely important for healthy, lean, feel-good living. Therefore, understanding and appreciating the GI is definitely a step in the right direction. But the story gets a little more complicated than that for a few reasons. One of which is this: the GI is based on a standardized amount of carbs (50g), not a standardized amount of food. Some foods are very carb dense. It’s easy to eat a lot of carbs from bread for example. Other foods are less carb dense. It’s not as easy to eat a ton of carbs from carrots. Carrots have a high GI, but won’t disturb your blood sugar much because of their lower carb density. To understand this more, read up about Glycemic Load, which is the GI multiplied by the serving size and can give you a more realistic assessment of the glycemic effects of various foods.
Fad Diets — asked by Ravij Nuey
Which “diets” have the most ridiculous claims and lack of evidence?
Rob: Lots of diets have some degree of crazy talk. Most juice cleanses are pure horse shit. The body has remarkable detoxification mechanisms at work. These can and should be helped along with fiber and antioxidants, but not eating for 10 days isn’t a step towards health and vitality in my book. The best way to detox? Stop INtoxing your body.
Packing Must-Haves – asked by Thomas Fanier
What are some things I should always pack for long trips to keep up with my diet?
Nuts travel exceptionally well as does fruit (I like to slice up an apple and put it in a little container.) I also bring whey protein powder for post-workout and I get these cute little packages of natural peanut butter (the airport security Nazi’s will take a bigger jar.)
Kenji Roberts asks: What are the best pieces of portable training equipment?
Rob: A lacrosse ball, a TRX, and some running shoes. Soft tissue work + resistance training + energy system training = everything you need.
Frank Lauden asks: Is it worse to skip a meal or to have a massive cheat meal while on the road?
Rob: Nah, do both – have a massive cheat meal and THEN skip a few meals. Feast and fast – keeps your energy influx in balance without missing out on any of the fun.
Barry Andrews asks: How long does it take for muscle to start breaking down after not working out for a while? How can I delay this process while on-the-go?
Rob: Depends on a couple factors (including genetics, training age, and strength qualities developed). Unless you’re on the road more often than not, think of your travel fitness routine as maintenance – just enough to keep you from regressing. For most people a quick, intense cardio strength resistance workout every other day would fit the bill.
Jon Issacson asks: What are the most mistakes people make when traveling and trying to stay fit?
Rob: In my experience, people are too extreme when they travel – they either don’t try at all or they’re obsessive. There’s a happy middle ground where you can appreciate that travel workout time is limited, but that’s not an excuse to let your health/body fat/fitness goals go to hell-in-a-handbasket.
*Questions pulled from an ongoing column for Men’s Fitness called The Fit 5 where I answer reader’s questions about fitness, nutrition, and general awesomeness.