Proper Exercise Programming and Planned Movement are Necessary

blog Aug 26, 2019

Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle and strength building, healthy aging, or just overall health...exercise and activity levels matter!

Do they matter more than your nutrition protocol? No.

Do they help you reach your goals faster, boost your mental well-being, and optimize your overall health? Absolutely!

But when it comes to actually structuring your exercise and activity protocols for a specific goal, there are a few key areas that you should probably focus on. They include:

  1. Adherence and Enjoyment

  2. Resistance Training

  3. Progressive Overload

  4. Intentional Cardio

  5. NEAT

Let’s break these down real quick...

1. Adherence and Enjoyment

If you’re waking up every morning and absolutely dread the idea of going to the gym or your workout class...something is not right.

You should NOT feel this way when it comes to your exercise routine.

Does everybody like working out? Heck no.

Do some days suck way more than others? Heck yes.

Should every day feel like a nightmare or just another ‘chore’ to check off the list? Absolutely not.

In order to truly benefit from any exercise protocol that you’re taking part in, you MUST find some enjoyment and excitement in it. If you don’t, it’s just going to be another stressor in your life that isn’t adding any value or benefit long-term.

And sometimes you won’t know what you truly enjoy until you actually try it out.

Personally, I looked forward to going to my CrossFit classes every day because I loved the family atmosphere, friendly competition, and the fact that every day was a new and exciting challenge. But when I injured my back and couldn’t participate in the workouts, the thought of going back to a ‘regular’ gym and working out on my own made me super sad.

But then I started to follow a progressive program that was actually fun, enjoyable, and leading to the results I was looking for...and I perked right back up. It's been 6 months of going to a 'regular gym' and following a legit program (similar to the exercise programs I offer) and I love it!

You MUST find something that you enjoy and that you can adhere to long-term or you’ll never reach your full potential when it comes to achieving your goals.

Now, there is one caveat here when it comes to reaching particular goals whether it be fat loss, muscle gain, body recomposition, and/or optimal health and aging.

And that leads me to number #2…

2. Resistance Training

If your exercise protocol does not include some type of resistance training...you will NOT achieve the above-mentioned goals.

Resistance training includes anything that puts your body (muscles, bones, tendons, nervous system) under stress and creates an external stimulus to allow your muscles to grow, bones to remain strong, and ultimately causes your body to adapt and then flourish over time.

Whether it’s:

  • Resistance bands
  • Barbells or dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Cable machines
  • Weight machines
  • Sleds
  • Suspension training
  • Water jugs
  • Your toddler

Or all of these combined...you must be putting your body under some type of resistance!

And in particular, if your goal is fat loss and body recomposition...this becomes even more important.

Yes, losing body fat comes down primarily to diet...BUT, what is often overlooked is the fact that building more muscle actually equates to MORE fat loss.

And for us women, I’m not referring to getting “big and bulky” or anything like that...I’m saying that it’s a proven fact that:

The MORE muscle you have on your body, the LEANER you will be.

The less muscle you have, the less efficient your body is at using the calories you consume on a daily basis and the greater decline you will have in your overall health.

In order to change your body composition (for good), you MUST focus on building lean body mass (specifically muscle mass) and also consume sufficient amounts of protein to support this.

I can go on and on about the benefits of having more muscle on your body (especially for women who are looking to get rid of cellulite, ‘tone’, have a nice butt, age gracefully, etc.), but this would turn into a novel.

The main takeaway here is that you need to build muscle and in order to do that, you need to work towards lifting heavy shit.

So now that you know what you need to be doing, how often and how much is enough to see results?

That brings me to #3…

3. Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is simply a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency, or time in order to achieve a targeted goal.

If you don't progressively overload your muscles by forcing them to do more than they're accustomed to, they will not adapt and grow and you will not continue to see the results you’re after.

In my opinion, to achieve your goals as efficiently and effectively as possible, you must follow a progressive program that includes:

  • Resistance training at least 3x per week
  • Changing things up...but not too often
  • Getting just a little bit better every day you train
  • Focusing on compound movements first and foremost
  • Tracking your progress so you can actually know if you’re progressing
  • A long-term plan that includes a systematic approach (cycles, phases, etc.) so you know how to manipulate volume, intensity, frequency, etc. on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis
  • Understanding how to train smarter, not harder especially when it comes to proper form and finding the mind-muscle connection

All of the above (plus cardio and movement which we’ll get into next) are included in my workout programs Kickstart, Level Up, and Elevate.

Again, in order for changes to occur and progress to be made, you must understand how to implement proper progressions and strategic training protocols to achieve optimal results. 

Which leads me to #4...

4. Intentional Cardio

Do you need to incorporate cardio to reach your goals? Not really.

Will implementing appropriate and strategic cardio help you reach your goals faster? Probably.

Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  1. Implementing cardio training can help you build muscle faster by increasing your ability to recover during and after resistance training sets. If you’re gasping for air during your squats and feel like your heart is about to bust out of your chest, you’ve probably forgotten about your form and lost the mind-muscle connection that’s actually contributing to proper muscle growth.
  2. If fat loss is your main goal, incorporating appropriate cardio can help you create a larger caloric deficit and therefore lead to faster fat loss...BUT, you must do this in a strategic way or else you will burn out, reduce the actual 'caloric burn' you’re getting each time, and your resistance training sessions will turn to shit.
  3. Training your cardiovascular system helps strengthen your heart and lungs which leads to more graceful aging, reduces stress, reduces risks of heart disease and cancer, improves metabolic rate, the list goes on…

So yes, cardio can help and you should probably incorporate some form of cardio into your training.

I’m not going to get super in-depth on this subject here, but it’s definitely something I address in more detail throughout the educational videos in my exercise programs.

I’ll leave you with a few more cardio-related nuggets of info to be mindful of:

  • Incorporating both LISS (low-intensity steady-state) and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is beneficial to your overall health and performance (as long as it’s done strategically -- they both have their pros and cons).
  • If you’re doing cardio for the sole purpose of burning more calories/losing body fat, you DO NOT want to become efficient at it. You MUST change the type, modalities used, time, frequency, etc. to ensure your body is not adapting to the stimulus (adaptation = less energy burned = less bang for your buck).
  • If you’re performing cardio to increase performance in a specific sport (i.e., training for a marathon, triathlon, etc.) then yes, you DO want to become efficient so that you can adapt and perform better.

Again, we dive deeper into all of these areas in my KickstartLevel Up, and Elevate programs. 

5. NEAT

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

Sounds complicated but it’s really not. Basically, NEAT refers to the calories burned during activities which are not considered formal exercise (i.e., cleaning the house, walking the dog, taking the stairs, walking from the car to the store, fidgeting, etc.).

Many people don’t think about NEAT as being a super important component when it comes to fat loss, body recomposition, and overall health; however, you may change your mind after reading this…

Studies have shown that low levels of NEAT are predictive of fat gain over time and variations in NEAT can actually have a large (if not the most significant) impact on the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) that occurs from person to person. 

If you’re not familiar with TDEE, it’s made up of these four components:

  1. Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). The number of calories (energy) burned at rest.
  2. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). The calories burned during activities which are not formal exercise.
  3. Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA). The calories burned during formal exercise.
  4. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). The calories burned in digesting and utilizing food.

TDEE is everything involved in the ‘energy out’ part of the energy balance equation.

And did you know NEAT can actually vary by up to 2,000 calories per day for two people of the same weight and body composition??

Yup, it’s true!

Most people think that exercise (TEA from above) makes up the biggest difference in energy expenditure from person to person, but in reality, that only occurs if large amounts of exercise are being done and this usually only pertains to well-trained athletes.

I want to give you a quick example just to drive this point home...

Let’s take an average person working a 9-5 and sitting at their desk most of the day. Say they burn about 1 calorie per minute just sitting there.

Let’s take that same person and upgrade them to a standing desk. Now, let's say they’re burning about 2 calories per minute standing.

While that jump from 1 calorie to 2 calories seems relatively small, it actually equates to burning an extra 60 calories per hour. This means for that 8-hour work shift, an extra 480 calories would be burned (roughly the same as a 45-60 minute exercise session!).

This is of course just an example, but as you can see, small variations in daily movement can definitely add up and make a huge difference over time.

Lastly, there are two more factors to consider when discussing NEAT. 

  1. The first is that a large part of NEAT seems to be genetically determined with some people automatically doing more than others.
  2. The second is that when you are in a calorie deficit and trying to lose weight, your body tends to want to ‘slow down’ and restrict the amount of energy you burn through NEAT (without even knowing it, you are subconsciously moving less because your body wants to preserve as much energy as possible).

So, does this mean that if my genetics suck and I’m trying to lose weight, I’m SOL?

Nope, not at all!

It just means that you have to be MORE conscious and aware of how much you’re moving throughout the day.

But how do you do that? It’s simple, set a daily NEAT goal.

In all of my programs and with all of my clients, the easiest way we estimate and increase NEAT is by setting a daily step goal and gradually working up to a number that is doable but also gets you moving more than normal.

“By understanding how NEAT is regulated, we may come to appreciate that spontaneous physical activity is not spontaneous at all...but carefully programmed.” - James Levine, MD, PhD

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15534426
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12468415
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3943438/
  4. https://store.bodyrecomposition.com/product/the-womens-book-vol1/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9550163
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15534426
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21177942
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