Monthly Archives: May 2010

A Great Nutritional Read by T-Nation and Dr. John Berardi

Today I had the pleasure of reading a great nutritional article on T-Nation titled “Sucker Punch: Dr. John Berardi.” I wanted to share this with you all because it not only coincides with what I’m currently doing, it also coincides with a lot of my philosophies in dieting, training, physique prep and mental fortitude.

To sum up John Berardi would be a blog post of itself. You can get a more extensive read about him HERE on his website, JohnBerardi.com.

The following however is what JB shared with T-Nation about his lessons learned from his days of bodybuilding:

“The first is discipline and mental fortitude. Preparing for a bodybuilding show is really misunderstood; it’s a mental battle more than anything. You basically over-train and over-diet for 16 weeks, and as each week passes you get leaner, but more worn down mentally and physically.

By show time you can’t think right, can’t move properly, and you’re literally counting down the hours for it to be over.

Every single ounce of your being wants to quit, and that’s why so many people that intend to compete never do. It’s that mentally draining. But for those who endure, you come out the other side with a renewed sense of confidence in your ability to tackle any challenge – no matter how long it takes and how much you have to put into it – and I think that’s a valuable life lesson.

I published an article on TMUSCLE called the Get Shredded Diet, and in it I talk about how every two years or so I go on a really intense fat loss program. Part of the reason I do this is to exercise those mental muscles of discipline and perseverance.  I do think it’s possible for these muscles to get “flabby.”

So for me, the value of working those muscles has translated into everything that I do, whether it’s growing a business or working with clients; I tend to be a lot more patient, more willing to put in the time doing behaviors that I know will lead to success, even when that success hasn’t arrived yet and I might just be feeling crappy. I think that’s really critical.

Next is the correlation between behavior and results. This is something many people miss when they’re goal setting. You can set goals and write them down, but the most important thing to realize is that most goals are outcome oriented, and you need to engage in specific behaviors to achieve those outcomes.

My bodybuilding days taught me that when my behaviors matched my goals, I got the results I was looking for. I know this seems like a no brainer, but you’d be amazed at how many people miss this. It doesn’t matter how strong your intentions are, if the behaviors aren’t there, the results won’t be there either.

The cool part is that once you really get this concept, you can work backwards. So, if your results are shit, it’s not that there’s something wrong with you, it’s that your behaviors aren’t correct. Fix ’em and the results will follow.

The third is mentorship. When I first started bodybuilding, a guy named Craig Bach took me under his wing. He taught me how to eat, how to train, and how to set goals. This all happened at a very influential time, when I was 18 years old, and it really set me on course. The bottom line is this: there are people more experienced than you, people with more knowledge than you, and if you aren’t seeking them out and learning from them, you’re an idiot, plain and simple.”  – Dr. John Berardi

I feel very grateful to have the pleasure of working with nutritional expert, Carter Schoffer. Carter’s business, Body Transformation Inc is connected with John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition. A lot of what I’m doing now is very similar to what John explains in the T-Nation article. It is also very new to me, relative to what I have practiced in the past for my shows. Despite a different diet approach and initial body response than I’m used to, I trust in Carter and that this process will serve me well for many reasons including the ones I have highlighted above and read in this article by T-Nation / John Berardi.

Check out more of the article on T-Nation here. Within the article, you will also find more Q&A and personal information from JB (ie: mistakes he’s made, supplements in his cabinets, what piece of the puzzle we may be missing). You will also get an inside look as to what he does with MMA’s superathlete Georges St. Pierre.

Happy Memorial Day to all,

Alli

The SUPERDOG Exercise

Today I share with you a great posterior chain activation method and exercise. It was developed by my wonderful guy Nick Tumminello.

Nick is known among his colleagues, clients and fitness peers as a very innovative guy when it comes to training. He not only comes up with fun, challenging and effective programs but he also has a knack for safe training methods and developing new protocols for improved versions of commonly known exercises. Over the past two years, I have learned so much from training together.
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One of Nick’s most recognized creations is the Superdog. You may have heard of this exercise before, and if not, you’ll be glad you did today!
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WHAT is the Superdog and WHY is it so great!?

The Superdog is a combination of the superman and bird dog exercise. The Superdog however, offers the same posterior-chain work as the superman and bird dog, but without the risk of putting your lower back into hyperextension.
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WHEN is a great time to incorporate the Superdog? 

We use the Superdog for two different occasions, both exceptional for training.

1. Warm up / movement prep. This is a fantastic glute activation drill and will challenge even the strongest male and female athletes. We often think “no problem” to complete the heel/leg lift until we take the low back out of the equation. This drill really clues you in to whether or not your low back or glutes are doing the lifting. (There are also progressions and regressions for this exercise if one needs to start small and build up).

2. Within the program. We have been using this exercise on lower body training days to accompany a quad dominant exercise. Because I am limited on some exercises due to the nature of my low back injury, this has become a great tool to target the glutes and hamstrings while keeping the low back safe. Again, there are several ways to progress this exercise (ie: mechanics or add a small ankle weight.)
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How to perform the Superdog:

  • Get down on all fours (a soft surface is recommended). Hands directly under your shoulders, knees under your hips.
  • Slide your hips back, so your left heel touches your left glute (you will also be resting on your forearms at this point).
  • Extend your right leg behind you, keeping your leg aligned with your body and your toe dorsiflexed.
  • Without deviating from this position, lift your right leg up as high you can off the floor. Keep your right leg as straight as possible. (For a bit more intensity, perform without touching your toe to the floor until your set is complete.)
  • Do all your reps with that side, and then switch.

 

 

Incorporating into the Superdog into your program:

Warm up / Movement prep: I would suggest about 8-12 reps per leg.

For active rest or as part of your superset / tri-set / etc. I would recommend 20-25 repetitions per leg.

Example: Reverse Lunges 15- 20 per leg paired with Superdog 20-25 per leg.
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The following is a YouTube clip of Nick talking about (and demonstrating) his Superdog exercise. Here he incorporates the arms too which is the original version. The above Superdog I have shown you is a modified version that we use for training.

Be sure to give this a try…it may surprise even the fittest of you how challenging it is! I highly recommend you start incorporating this into your warm up on your lower body training day. Not only is it good practice, but by activating your glutes you will significantly increase the engagement of your glute’s role in the squats, lunges, etc. Your backside (and your significant other) will thank you! 🙂
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Check back soon, I will provide you with a more recent version of the Superdog to put less emphasis on the hamstrings and even more emphasis on the glutes!

Running Like A RockStar

Growing up (from age seven through seventeen), I was a soccer player. In between soccer games, I ran. I started strength training at the age of 15. Once graduating from high school and soccer, I pulled away from the strength training and challenged myself to half and full Marathons. After my first (and last) full marathon in the spring of 2005, I shifted gears back to the weight room. Despite putting away my time chip(s) for running, any way you slice it, sprints or marathons, running is in my blood.

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Today, I turned a corner with my training. Since my injury flared back up on April 1st, I’ve not been able to run comfortably–not even across the gym floor. Today is a beautiful day in Baltimore and something told me to give running a shot. I geared up with my latest Fresh Karat headband, running sneakers and MJ on the ipod. I walked through the back parking lot of my place and off I went. Wait.. No pain! My stride felt smooth, the sun was hot and the first song on my Michael Jackson play list was “…Keep on with the force don’t stop, Don’t stop ’til you get enough” …how appropriate 🙂

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They say injured athletes break records. Maybe world records, maybe league records and maybe just personal records. I was thinking about this as I have turned a corner in my training for my next Figure Show. Despite a herniated disk, I’m able to run again.. and comfortably!! This is a big deal for me in my training satisfaction / enjoyment. Not to mention, what new records may I break?!
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I think MJ is trying to give me messages here because the next song that came on was “Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it ..No one wants to be defeated, Showin’ how funky and strong is your fight, It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right, Just beat it, beat it” (I thought appropriate regarding injury and the physical / mental frustration that can go along with them).

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Running, to me, is like food to my hungry fitness soul.. I don’t do it as often as I used to, but it is therapeutic to me. I love the freedom to move anywhere, the sweat that pours and the lack of any true equipment needed. Hence this song was next (and appropriate again Re: Running!)…

“Go on Girl…
The Way You Make Me Feel
You Really Turn Me On
You Knock Me Off Of My Feet
My Lonely Days Are Gone

…I Like The Feelin’ You’re Givin’ Me
Just Hold Me Baby And I’m In Ecstasy
‘Cause You’re The One For Me
The Way You Make Me Feel”
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That about wraps up my post today…just happy to be running again.. to me, it’s progress and satisfaction! Lastly, I couldn’t leave this song off my playlist nor out of my message…

“Well They Say The Sky’s The Limit
And To Me That’s Really True
But My Friend You Have Seen Nothing
Just Wait ‘Til I Get Through . . .

Because I’m Bad, I’m Bad- Come On

And The Whole World Has To Answer Right Now
Just To Tell You Once Again,
Who’s Bad . . .”

😉

Cheat Meals?

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The life of a Figure Competitor requires a significant amount of will power and dedication when it comes to diet. Keeping your eye on the correct bullseye is imperative. Sometimes hungry, fatigued or even bored of the same food choices? Maybe we don’t feel like cooking, want to hang with friends for a celebration, or even a date night.. the list goes on and on.

As a Figure Competitor however, we forego all of those things for weeks and months at a time. Ask any Figure Competitor what her post show treat will be and she’s guaranteed to start smiling and salivating simultaneously! In fact, many of us know what that treat is months out from stage day ( I know I do!)

During season, every competitor knows of the term “cheat meal.” I’ve enjoyed them in the past during my previous show prep seasons, but this time is a different story thanks to the tough love of my nutritionist. The following was his take on cheat meals and instruction(s) to me:

Cheats: As a rule, during the pre-comp period, the expectation is that you’re at least 95% compliant, if not perfect, and that any deviations are the ones caused by situations like above (travel limitations). That is, you still aim to eat exceptionally well but can’t because of X, Y or Z reason. That said, from weeks 15 to 10, if you happen to have 1-2 “cheat” meals it probably won’t do too much damage. Just be smart about them. Don’t overeat; avoid foods that cause systemic distress (alcohol, fake foods, etc), make sure they don’t displace your veggies, protein and healthy fat, and limit them to within 3 hours post-workout for damage control – especially if starchy or sugary.

From week 10 to show time, you’re in the zone. Food’s only value is nourishment. It serves to help you recover and function and is your #1 tool when it comes to ensuring your body comp success.

In short, margaritas and nachos aren’t cool, no matter how popular they make you with the fat unhealthy kids ;).

Overall we’ll cross each bridge as it comes. If you can earn them via hard work, great compliance and significant body comp change, we may be able to plan a couple in. I’ve found though that if one starts off thinking about cheats vs. compliance, they end up having their eye on the wrong ball. Focus on what you can have and what you can do to help you attain stage success instead of focusing on what you can’t have.”

I couldn’t agree more. After reading this, it set my expectations straight. Cheats just aren’t part of my vocabulary for this show prep. I hope you find the message as strong as I do. This not only applies to physique competitors but any athlete trying to optimize their health and performance needs to eat well. Any weekend warrior trying to shred down for the summer needs to stay dedicated too. When working towards your goal, any goal, cheats may be “fun” but they do exactly what they claim.. they cheat YOU and your hard efforts.

Happy Friday! Skip the tempting weekend cheats!

New Core Exercise: Forward Abs Plank Meets Mountain Climber!

The jury is out on what core / abdominal exercises are safe and effective. I personally keep to a select handful when it comes to my training as well as my clients training.

My thought process is this: 1. Is it covering one of the three areas of core training (rotation, stability, strength) 2. Is it safe on the lumbar spine? 3. Which is greater – the risk or benefit of the drill?

A few months ago, Nick introduced me to a core exercise. I took it one step further with a different piece of equipment and it has since become one of my favorite new core exercises. I use this regularly in session and with clients. I call this “Forward Abs Plank Meets Mountain Climber.”

This exercise is great for shoulder stability, core strength and core stability. It minimizes unsafe movements commonly seen in many abdominal routines PLUS it offers the “burn” everyone likes to feel as reps increase.  

The following pictures are to demo the exercise:

 How To:
 – I recommend using a Dynamax Ball. This allows for a bit more  control and therefore, better execution of the drill (rather than using a traditional Medicine Ball which will roll around more). I also like the Dynamax Ball because it puts your torso at a slightly higher angle.

 – Try 20 to 30 repetitions per set.
 – Alternate legs / knee drive.
 – Drive your knee straight forward as high as possible. (Do not touch front foot to the floor). Be sure to maintain proper plank form (back / hips in neutral). Pause for a 2 second hold with each knee drive, then switch.

**An alternative way to do this exercise is to bring your knee to the outside of your elbow. AKA: Lateral Knee Drive. This will engage your obliques more.

Same applications apply 🙂

Good luck! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Happy Training 🙂

Fighting for Every Inch

Good News! A short follow up from the last post.. Despite what we found on the MRI (a slight disk bulge between L5 & S1) I am feeling better and have the “Green Light” from my body to move forward with this show prep. I am so grateful to be able to continue what I’ve started. At this time, I am under care of my physical therapist a few times per week, but I am training again and I am dieting full speed.

That all said, this post comes from the heart today, not the gym floor. I forgot what a tough job this is! Until you are in the thick of competing, you sometimes forget what’s it’s like to cook massive amounts of food, wash loads and loads of dishes. I forgot what it was like to stay up late and get up early just to fit everything into a days work. On top of that, it’s been a tremendous learning curve to incorporate new dieting methods / details and a huge time demand curve. Opportunities are popping up for more work, writing, consulting and Fresh Karat as well. I am very grateful. I seem however, to have lost a few of my boundaries with time and my balance of work and relaxation. I was overwhelmed to say the least with the incorporation of my newest focus over the last few days. After a good night sleep, I reminded myself of these thoughts and came to the following perspective:

(1) To compete for this season, is my newest job right now. This show prep is for a fixed period of time and it is very demanding but I have signed up for it. If this was easy, everyone would do it. I have signed up to commit to every effort, every detail and every bit of dedication that goes into a successful outcome.

(2) I love this saying – “QUALITY – Countless, unseen details are often the only difference between mediocre and magnificent!!” This is what we do, day in and day out, in public and in private. These details are what count.

(3) At the fitness conference last weekend, I had the pleasure to listen to Martin Rooney talk about integrity, sacrifice, being “comfortable being uncomfortable.” He talked about digging deep into his athletes drive…what drove his athletes to want to play in the NFL. Not the money, not the fame, but what really drove them at the core. The answers were very personal and emotional. Those reminders couldn’t have come at a better time. Last night, feeling very overwhelmed, I had to ask myself – “why am I doing this?” and through my tears, I had found my answer… “because it’s NOT easy”. I am doing this because I’m PROUD to work through the tough moments. I’m doing this because I love to train. I’m doing this because I love the structure. I’m doing this because it pushes my mental toughness. It’s not just the perfect diet or the perfect program that makes us succeed, what good would they be if we didn’t have the follow through? The ability to persevere?!

(4) The last thing I’ll leave you with today is this. It’s a 4 minute and 43 second speech. One of the best out there to pump one up for teamwork and a personal fight. I love this message. I understand it pertains to football in this video, but I believe we all have our own football game. We’re all part of a team, have individual responsibilities and we all have our own opponents who are working hard to kick our ass on the field, court or stage.

Fight for every inch!

Persevere – to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly.