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The High Performance Handbook

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A Glimpse Inside The High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide – Part 1

Written on October 24, 2013 at 9:50 am, by Eric Cressey

I've received some questions about what one can expect from Nutrition Guide that accompanies The High Performance Handbook Gold Package, so I thought I'd use today's post to highlight a few "Ah-Ha" moments from Brian St. Pierre's awesome contribution.  For those who aren't familiar with "BSP," he's one of Dr. John Berardi's right-hand-men at Precision Nutrition.  Check out these thought provoking ideas directly from the text:

Point #1: The Dairy and Diabetes Risk Relationship

With little fanfare, a study recently came out by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and colleagues. Why so little fanfare, you ask?  It’s because the study suggests that dairy fat may actually protect against diabetes, and that goes against conventional wisdom and government recommendations.

Dr. Mozaffarian and company collected two measures of dairy fat intake in 3,736 Americans. They took six 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires, as well as assessing blood levels of trans-palmitoleate.  Trans-palmitoleate comes almost exclusively from dairy fat and red meat fat, and therefore it reflects the intakes of these foods.  Dairy provided most of the trans-palmitoleate fatty acid in this study.

Adjustments were made for confounding factors, and trans-palmitoleate levels were associated with a smaller waist circumference, higher HDL cholesterol, lower serum triglycerides, lower C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), lower fasting insulin and lower calculated insulin resistance.  In addition, people who had the highest levels of trans-palmitoleate had 1/3 the risk of developing diabetes over the 3-year study period.

Again, it is important to note that trans-palmitoleate is a fatty acid, and so is only provided in significant amounts by whole fat dairy, not from low-fat or fat-free versions. The investigators also noted that “greater whole-fat dairy consumption was associated with lower risk for diabetes.”  This is an important distinction, as it wasn’t just trans-palmitoleate levels that were associated with the decreased risk, but the actual consumption of whole-fat dairy itself that seemingly provides the benefit.

Here’s another nice quote from the authors: “Our findings support potential metabolic benefits of dairy consumption and suggest that trans-palmitoleate may mediate these effects.  They also suggest that efforts to promote exclusive consumption of low-fat and non-fat dairy products, which would lower population exposure to trans-palmitoleate, may be premature until the mediators of the health effects of dairy consumption are better established.”

While it is certainly possible that trans-palmitoleate is mediating a lot of these positive health outcomes that were associated with it, in all reality, it only makes up a tiny fraction of the fat content of milk.  I tend to believe that instead, it is more of a marker of dairy fat intake, with the benefits more likely coming from the other elements contained in dairy fat – CLA, vitamin K2, butyric acid, vitamin D – in addition to the trans-palmitoleate.

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Point #2: Sleep: Why We Need It, and How To Get It

We all know that sleep is important for our health.  However, many of us (if not most of us) tend to act as if that just doesn’t hold true for ourselves.  We seem to believe that we can get away with it.  While you may blame “work” or simply being “busy,” research clearly and consistently shows that people miss out on sleep due to something called “voluntary bedtime delay.”  Basically, we stay up late because we want to, often watching “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” re-runs, or mindlessly reading useless info on Facebook.  No matter the reason, it is unlikely to actually be more important than logging sufficient and quality shut-eye.

In the big picture, sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to improving your health, performance, and body composition. 

The average adult gets about 6 hours and 40 minutes of sleep per night. In fact, about 30% of the population gets fewer than six hours per night. Women tend to sleep a bit more than men, and people who carry high amounts of body fat tend to sleep less than those with a normal body fat level.  Studies suggest that people who sleep fewer than six hours per night gain almost twice as much weight over a 6-year period as people who sleep 7-8 hours per night. 

Excessive sleep isn’t necessarily better, either; those who sleep more than nine hours per night have similar body composition outcomes as those who sleep less than six hours.

There is a fairly strong body of research showing that lack of sleep increases risk of many conditions, including:

  • altered food intake

     

    • decrease in satiety hormones, increase in hunger hormones
    • increase in pleasure response to food, causing increased food intake
  • altered glucose tolerance, insulin resistance & diabetes
  • inflammation
  • obesity
  • disruption of cortisol levels and rhythm
  • decrease in testosterone and increase in estrogen
  • loss of lean mass, including muscle, bone and organs (such as your brain)
  • decrease in thyroid stimulating hormone
  • heart attack
  • stroke

It is important to note that sleep debt is cumulative, meaning that the more nights with less sleep, the greater likelihood of negative effects taking place.  The good news is that you can catch up with just a few consecutive nights of adequate sleep.  Experts hypothesize that each hour of sleep debt needs to be repaid eventually, so don’t let it add up.

Okay, so we know lack of sleep is a problem.  As researchers have noted regarding sleep debt: "these alterations are similar to those observed during aging and sometimes during depression." Awesome. 

Fortunately, research also shows that simply getting adequate sleep can quickly right the ship on these issues.  [Note from EC: Brian goes into great detail on strategies to improve sleep quality and duration in his guide].

I'll be back later today with a few more key points from BSP's manual, but in the meantime, you can check out The High Performance Handbook here. Don't forget: the early-bird discount is only around for this week!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/26/13

Written on September 26, 2013 at 1:28 pm, by Eric Cressey

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Hacking Sleep: Engineering a High Quality, Restful Night – Brian St. Pierre goes into great detail on how to improve sleep quality in order to optimize recovery and fitness progress.

What You Need to Know About GIRD – Mike Reinold put together a great review of the literature and outlined the common mistakes he sees with respect to glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD).  This is stuff that Mike and I discuss literally every week, so I'm glad he's finally put it into a comprehensive article.  If you're a coach who is universally prescribing sleeper stretch to all your players, this is must-read material; you'll reconsider it after you're done.

Injuries are an Opportunity – Andrew Ferreira is a CP pro guy in the Twins system, and he offered this great insight on how you can't just have a pity party when you get hurt; you have to use it as an avenue through which you can get better.

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Sleep: What the Research Actually Says

Written on May 9, 2013 at 5:32 pm, by Eric Cressey

As a complete workaholic, I have a tremendous interest in the acute and chronic effects of sleep deprivation on both performance and health.  And, as a performance coach to many athletes who generally go to "work" from 1pm-1am each afternoon/evening and often consume far too much caffeine, I'm always looking for good material to pass along their way in hopes of helping them to realize how important sleep really is.  In this great guest post, Sol Orwell and Kurtis Frank provide just that.  It's a long read, but 100% worth it.  Enjoy! – EC
 

Sleep is a fun topic. Every few months or so, someone will put up a post talking about how important sleep is, how you need it, how if you don’t get enough of it you will get fat and disgusting and huge, yadda yadda yadda.

We’re not here to dispute that. What we are here to do is take an investigative look; sleep is entering the realm of “say something enough times, and it has to be true.” You’ll be hard-pressed to find any recent articles that have actually looked at the evidence surrounding sleep quality and quantity and how they affect your body. Mostly, the evidence we have is purposely restricting sleep in people and seeing what happens.

Prepare for some truthiness (we’ve also inserted some blockquotes to help guide you through).

Sleep Deprivation and its Effects on Hormones

The hormones that are most frequently stated to be affected by sleep are:

  • Insulin – one of the most misunderstood hormone there is (see James Krieger’s fantastic analysis on insulin)
  • Androgens – the muscle-building hormones
  • Growth Hormone
  • Cortisol, the “stress” hormone

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Insulin

Sleep deprivation doesn’t seem to affect insulin levels much, but there is definitely a decrease in insulin sensitivity in the fat cells and liver1,2. This decrease in sensitivity can happen as easily as getting half your normal amount of sleep for less than a week3,4 or even losing 90 minutes over a few weeks5. This lack of sleep, coupled with decreased sensitivity, is a risk factor for the development of type II diabetes.

Thankfully, these effects are quickly normalized upon recompensatory sleep.

The implications of reduced insulin sensitivity, beyond an increase in diabetes risk, are not too clear for an otherwise healthy person, as the decrease in insulin sensitivity affects all measured tissue (adipose, muscle, and liver) and is just due to impaired signalling through the insulin receptor.

Sleep deprivation reduces insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. This happens even after mild deprivation, but normalizes quickly once you’ve had enough rest.

Androgens and Testosterone

Testosterone is known for being affected by poor sleep (on a related note, you tend to sleep worse as you age, and this exacerbates sleep deprivation problems)6,7. Studies have shown that getting three fewer hours of sleep for five days reduced testosterone by over 10%8, whereas another study showed a 30.4%9 decrease! These reductions all happened within 24 hours of sleep deprivation10,11. Similar to insulin, getting enough rest quickly reverses this decline.

Sleep deprivation is associated with reduced testosterone. Akin to insulin, it normalizes once you get enough rest.

Growth Hormone

Growth hormone is actually a surprise in regards to sleep deprivation. For starters, we know that a large pulse of growth hormone occurs shortly after sleep begins, and in otherwise healthy young men, this accounts for roughly 50% of daily secretion. So would missing out on sleep impair growth hormone?

It depends on the duration of sleep.

Absolute deprivation of sleep for multiple nights can effectively suppress growth hormone. But neither an irregular sleep cycle (like a shift worker’s)12 nor only sleeping for four hours a night13 will adversely affect whole-day exposure to GH. It seems that the body compensates during daylight hours, and what is missed out on at night is adequately replaced during waking hours in those that are sleep-deprived.

Now, it is possible that the altered secretion patterns of GH can come with changes in its effects. However, the overall pattern is still pulsatile in nature (just biphasic rather than monophasic) and unlikely to be a huge issue.

Getting less sleep or having perturbed sleep changes the GH cycle, but does not reduce overall exposure to GH, as the body seems to compensate during waking hours.

Cortisol

Cortisol is the hormone that mediates the process of waking up, and under normal rested conditions, it’s elevated in the morning (to wake you) and suppressed in the evening (so you can fall asleep). It isn’t necessarily a bad hormone (the anti-inflammatory and fat-burning properties sound nice), but elevated cortisol also tends to be somewhat catabolic to muscle tissue, as well as being an indicator of other stress-related issues.

Sleep deprivation both dysregulates and increases whole-day exposure to cortisol. Imagine a graph where a line goes from high on the left to low on the right, and label it “what cortisol should do over time.” Sleep deprivation turns that line into a straight horizontal line, and then raises it up a tad on the Y-axis.

Interestingly, past studies were misguided a bit since they were only measuring morning cortisol concentrations and they kept on noting a decrease! Most recent studies that measured 24-hour exposure noted an increase – some as high as 50% – following four hours of deprivation each night for a week in otherwise healthy men.

Cortisol normally is high in the morning and low in the evening, but sleep deprivation normalizes this difference (lowering morning levels, increasing evening levels) and increases overall exposure to cortisol over a full day.

Sleep Deprivation and Physical Activity

Sleep deprivation has been noted to impair sprint performance and cardiovascular endurance14,15. There is conflicting evidence here: tests on cycle ergometers did not note much of an effect16,17, and the one study to assess weightlifting performance also failed to find any adverse effect18.

Despite these mixed reports on sleep deprivation, acute sports performance is enhanced by caffeine and/or creatine supplementation during a state of acute sleep deprivation. The latter only seems to apply to things that require a high degree of coordination and mental processing19.

It’s important to note that these studies had participants just skip sleep for one night. Real-world application is more chronic; you tend to lose a few hours every night, and it adds up. The impracticality of these studies makes it very hard to make solid conclusions.

(Note from EC: anecdotally, I could always “get away with” one night of sleep deprivation and then still demonstrate “normal” strength the next day. If I missed out on sleep two nights in a row, though, my in-the-gym performance went down the tubes after the second night)

Missing sleep for one night may or may not have adverse effects on performance, as the literature seems pretty split. There is a lack of research on realistic situations for chronic sleep deprivation.

Sleep Deprivation and Body Composition

Food Intake and Hunger

One of the more talked about effects of sleep deprivation as it pertains to body composition is that it somehow makes you eat a ton more food and then you get fat.

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The general idea (based on rat studies) is that sleep deprivation eventually (after five days or so) leads to increased food intake, but oddly this is not met with an increase in body weight; absolute sleep deprivation paradoxically causes fat loss and mild sleep deprivation just prevents weight gain.20 The increase in food intake is probably because of an exaggerated response to orexin, a wakefulness-promoting hormone that positively modulates hunger. Orexin increases as one is awake longer, causing more food intake as a side effect.21 Orexin also positively mediates energy expenditure, but it is not known if we can credit this for the observed weight-maintenance effects.

More practically speaking, studies in humans have noted an increased food intake of roughly 20-25% following a few hours of sleep deprivation for four days22,23. This is likely due to the brain’s response to food intake being enhanced, thus making food more hyperpalatable24,25.

It is unclear how sleep deprivation affects weights in humans. There is a very well-established correlation in society between obesity and sleep disturbances, but the studies currently conducted in people on weight loss programs with sleep deprivation control for food intake.

Sleep deprivation appears to increase food intake, likely due to the increased “pleasure response” to food. Paradoxically, this increased food intake might not be linked to more weight gain (rat studies confirm, human studies are somewhat unclear).

Metabolic Rate

It’s harder to make sense of the effects of sleep deprivation on metabolic rate. One study found that getting three fewer hours of sleep per day for two weeks resulted in a 7.6% reduction in metabolic rate26, whereas other studies showed no decrease22,27. To make it even more confusing, one study (on adolescent boys) found that less sleep resulted in more calories burned28; the participants burned more (being awake longer) and consumed less (decreased appetite).

In rats, chronic sleep deprivation is also known to greatly increase both food intake and the metabolic rate, resulting in weight loss (albeit a ton of other side effects such as lethargy, impaired cognition, and an aged visual appearance probably make sleep deprivation a bad diet strategy).29

So ultimately, it doesn’t appear that there is much evidence that poor sleep reduces the metabolic rate. More likely, being “tired” from lack of sleep tends to result in less physical activity30 and a possible increase of food intake could shift the balance of “calories in versus out” towards a surplus.

Nutrient Partitioning

There is one other interesting study that controlled for food intake and noted no differences in weight loss between groups (sleep deprived people and control both subject to intentional weight loss programs). This same study showed more lean mass lost and less fat mass lost in the sleep-deprived relative to control31.

Overall, it does not appear that a reduction in sleep directly suppresses the metabolic rate, but it may do so indirectly via reduced physical activity. Regardless of the metabolic rate, sleep deprivation during periods of fat loss may result in more lean mass lost and less fat mass lost than if one were fully rested.

Enhancing Sleep Quality

It seems that getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is quite important for those concerned with athletics and/or body composition. It would be a tad abrupt to just leave off on the importance of sleep without saying how to improve sleep, so the following are some tips that can be used to enhance sleep quality.

Timing Food Intake

Food intake can be quite effective in influencing the circadian rhythm: One way to avoid jet lag involves having a high-protein breakfast intermittently for three days (separated by low-calorie “fasting” days) at your destination’s time; the final meal is breakfast eaten after having arrived. This high-protein meal at your destination’s breakfast time should be able to reset your circadian rhythm. This is known as the Argonne Diet, and although it lacks scientific evidence to support it, the anecdotes are promising.

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It appears to play on the interactions between dietary protein and orexin, a wakefulness-promoting hormone highly involved in the circadian rhythm.31

Conversely, dietary carbohydrates may be able to promote relaxation (somewhat indirectly) secondary to an increase in serotonin synthesis, which then converts to melatonin. Since the conversion requires darkness to occur, this might mean a small serving of carbohydrate prior to sleep can promote restful sleep while focusing dietary protein earlier in the day might also work to regulate the sleep cycle.

Light Exposure or Deprivation

Both light exposure (blue/green or white lights; fluorescent or sunlight) and dark exposure (either absolute darkness, or an attenuation of white light into pink/red dim lights) can aid in sleep-cycle regulation. Both dark and light exposure have been investigated for restoring altered circadian rhythms seen with jet lag.32,33

The perception of light via the retina actively suppresses the conversion of serotonin into melatonin, and appears to have other neurological effects that promote wakefulness (in the morning) or otherwise impair sleep. Reddish lights appear to be less detrimental to sleep quality, and it is sometimes recommended to dim lights or switch to red lights in the evening to facilitate sleep quality.

For those of you at the computer frequently, this can be demonstrated with the downloadable software known as f.lux, which fades your computer screen to pink and reduces the brightness without affecting readability at a preset time every day.

Regulating your light exposure in the morning and evening may facilitate a more normal circadian rhythm and sleep quality. If light cannot be avoided outright, a transition from white light to red light at night may be helpful.

Supplementation

Supplementation to target sleep quality tends to stem from melatonin, which is a highly reliable and effective anti-insomniac agent that can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. It is unlikely to do anything if you do not have problems falling asleep, but otherwise is a quite important and cheap supplement. The above light- and meal-manipulation strategies tend to work via melatonin manipulation anyways, and supplementation is an easy way to circumvent it.

Beyond melatonin, other possible options include generally relaxing compounds (lavender and l-theanine) or other endogenous agents that seem to regulate sleep (oleamide being the latest up-and-comer supplement). Lavender is actually an interesting option since it appears to be somewhat effective as aromatherapy as a “relaxing” scent, and aromatherapy may be the only way to continuously administer a supplement throughout sleep (via putting a few drops of lavender oil on a nearby object and continuing to breathe while you sleep).

lav4920

It should also be noted that restricting stimulants or anti-sleep agents (caffeine and modafinil mostly) should be advised if sleep quality is desired. Even if caffeine fails to neurally stimulate you anymore due to tolerance, it can still screw with sleep quality.

What You Should Have Learned

That was a lot of information and studies to throw at you all at once. We’ve summed up all the relevant points:

  • Reduced sleep for a prolonged period of time can decrease insulin sensitivity (and thus is a risk factor for diabetes); this is normalized when proper rest is attained.
  • Similar to the issue of insulin sensitivity, testosterone and other anabolic hormones are acutely suppressed with sleep deprivation and normalized shortly after proper rest is attained.
  • There is actually mixed evidence as to whether missing a night of sleep impairs workout performance. It would be safe to say that it does not help, and could potentially hinder.
  • Sleep deprivation is not adverse to weight loss per se, but it can cause you to overeat or move less.
  • Regardless of weight loss, limited evidence suggests an adverse effect on where the weight is lost (more lean mass lost, less fat lost).
  • Shifting the majority of your protein towards the morning, and perhaps having a small carbohydrate-containing meal at night, should theoretically aid in maintaining a proper circadian rhythm.
  • Manipulating light exposure for brighter white/blue/green lights in the morning and dimmer red/pink lights (or just darkness) at night definitely does aid in maintaining a proper sleep cycle.
  • If needed, melatonin can be used to help with sleep latency (time required to fall asleep) and abstaining from stimulants or introducing relaxing molecules (lavender and theanine) may aid in sleep quality.

About the Authors

Sol Orwell and Kurtis Frank co-founded Examine.com in early 2011. They’ve been collating scientific research on supplements and nutrition since then, and are working on a beginner’s guide to supplements.

Note: the references for this article are posted as the first comment below.

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5 Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 1

Written on March 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm, by Eric Cressey

My “random thoughts” pieces are some of my favorite writings that I’ve ever published, and today seemed like a good day to throw out some quick and easy ideas on how you can feel better, move better, lose fat, gain muscle, get strong, and – if you’re super-motivated – take over the world.  Here goes…

1. Get a good training partner.

There are random dudes you meet at the gym who provide a mediocre lift-off on the bench press here and there, and then there are dedicated training partners.  There is a big difference.  A good training partner will tell you to get your act together and train hard when you’re slacking off, or even hold you back when your body is banged up, but you’re stupidly trying to push through it.  It’s guaranteed accountability, motivation, expertise, safety, competition, and all-around awesomeness.  To be honest, I often wonder if most people get the best results working with a trainer/strength coach for these factors more than the actual expertise the fitness professional provides!

2. Make your bedroom a cave.

One of the best investments my wife and I made when we bought our new house were reinforced window shades for our bedroom so that very little light could get through when they were down.  They make a dramatic difference in terms of how dark you can make your room at night (especially if you have street lights near your residence) and were 100% worth the extra cost, as compared to regular shades.

Even if you don’t want to spend the extra few bucks on souped-up shades, though, you can still get some of the benefits of “cave sleeping” by blocking out light from cell phones, alarm clocks, and – if you’re a frat boy – bright green neon signs of your favorite beer in your dorm room.  Also, do your best to shut the TV and computer off at least thirty minutes before you hit the sack as well, as it’ll give your brain time to wind down and transition to some deep, restful sleep.

3. Take Athletic Greens.

I’ve always been a non-responder to supplements.  As an example, I never gained an ounce when I started taking creatine in 2001, and never noticed a huge difference in sleep quality when I started taking ZMA. Still, I pretty much trust in research and go with these supplements, plus mainstays like fish oil and Vitamin D and assume that they’re doing their job.  It’s interesting how some of the most essential supplements we take are the ones where we might notice the most subtle difference, isn’t it?

Anyway, in 2011, I added Athletic Greens to this mix.  I look at it as whole food based “nutritional insurance” use it in place of my multivitamin.  I think it’s solid not only as a greens supplement (which, incidentally, doesn’t taste like dog crap), but also because it directly improves gut health to improve absorption of micronutrients.  With loads of superfoods, herbal extracts, trace elements, antioxidants, and pre- and probiotics, I could tell that it would be something that would decrease inflammation and improve immunity (something I’ve viewed as increasingly important with each passing year as life has gotten more stressful with the growth of Cressey Performance).

Interestingly, one of our long-time athletes who is now playing baseball at a highly ranked D1 university, started taking Athletic Greens after we chatted about it this summer, and he sent me this note:

Hey Eric, thanks for the recommendation on Athletic Greens. I love the product! I have not gotten sick once since I started taking it 4 months ago, and my body feels better than ever. This is the first semester I haven’t gotten sick. Hope all is well! 

I guess I’m not the only one who likes it!  Check it out for yourself here.

As an aside, they do a pretty cool combination where you can get greens, fish oil, and vitamin D all at once at a great price, and the fish oil is excellent quality. We have several athletes who get everything in this one place for convenience.

4. Go split-stance.

Last week, in my popular post, Are Pull-ups THAT Essential?, I included the following video of forearm wall slides at 135 degrees, a great drill we like to use to train upward rotation, as the arms are directly in the line of pull in the lower traps.  With this exercise, we always cue folks “glutes tight, core braced” so that they don’t just substitute lumbar extension in place of the scapulae moving into retraction/depression on the rib cage.

Unfortunately, these cues don’t work for everyone – particularly those who are super lordotic (huge arch in their lower back).  A great “substitute cue” for these folks is to simply go into a split stance, putting one foot out in front of the other (even if it’s just slightly).  As you have probably observed in performing single-leg exercises like lunges and split-squats, it is much harder to substitute lumbar extension for hip extension than it is with bilateral exercises like squats and deadlifts.  Fortunately, the same is true of substituting lumbar extension for scapular movement on the rib cage.  So, if you’re struggling with the exercise above, simply move one foot out in front of the other and you should be golden.

5. Get some assessments done.

Imagine you were about to embark on a cross country trip with a great vacation in mind in, say, San Diego.  However, I didn’t tell you where you were starting the journey.  While you might get to where you want to be (or at least close to it), it’d make the trip a lot more difficult. You’d probably blow a bunch of money on gas, sleep in some nasty motels in the middle of nowhere, pick up an awkward hitchhiked who smells like cabbage, and maybe even spend a night in a Tijuana jail along the way.  Not exactly optimal planning.

A strength and conditioning program isn’t much different than this cross-country trip.  If you don’t know how your body works – both internally and externally – you need to learn before you subject it to serious stress.  Get some bloodwork done to see if you have any deficiencies (e.g., Vitamin D, iron, essential fatty acids) that could interfere with your energy levels, ability to recover, or endocrine response to exercise.  Likewise, consult someone who understands movement to determine whether you have faulty movement patterns that could predispose you to injury.  I think this is one reason why Assess and Correct has been our most popular product ever; it gives folks some guidance on where to start and where to go.  Otherwise, the strength and conditioning program in front of you is really just a roadmap, and you don’t know where the starting point is.

These are just a few quick thoughts that came to mind today, but I’ll surely have many more in the follow-ups to this first installment.  Feel free to post some of your own ideas in the comments section below, too!

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The Rule of 112

Written on May 12, 2009 at 10:28 am, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest blog comes from Joseph Leff.  It’s short and to the point, but I love the message.

When I was in graduate school I had a notecard with “112” written on it taped above my desk. If people asked what it meant (and they usually did) I was happy to explain.  112 is simply 16 x 7, or the number of waking hours available for someone sleeping eight hours a night to get done what they need to do. Do you really “not have enough time” or is it you? I’m betting it’s you. Or, of course, me as well more than I’d like to admit.

Three quick things to think about regarding “112”:

1. Get enough sleep. There are 112 hours for you to do what you need to do after sleeping eight hours a night.  If you feel you do best on nine hours of sleep, that still leaves 105 hours. That’s a lot of time.
There are a very few people who legitimately have a right to be sleep-deprived. Soldiers. New parents. (If you have a new baby and blissfully sleep through the night every night you should be a better husband.) But probably not you.

2. Don’t multitask. It’s a silly word and a silly idea. By this I don’t mean texting, watching Sportscenter, and eating at the same time. That’s multirelaxing, not multitasking. It’s okay to do, as long as you never use the word multirelaxing. But don’t try to set up the refinancing on your condo while you’re making a business call. Do each separately and perfectly rather than at the same time and, at best, adequately. Oh, and speaking of multitasking, stop using your phone while you’re driving. Keep it up and eventually you’re going to hurt somebody.

3. Train. Hard and regularly. You can make decent gains training two hours a week.  If you say you can’t do everything else you need to do in the remaining 110 hours I’m going to have my doubts. Training a more-optimal six hours a week leaves you 106 hours. You get the point.

That’s enough for now. I’m going to make a notecard, put it over my desk, and then start planning the remaining 111 hours and 59 minutes left in the week.

Joseph Leff lives and writes in Santa Monica, CA.  He has competed in powerlifting and strongman and trains at the Weight Pit at Venice Beach.  If you’ve never lifted heavy things outside with a view of the ocean and a cool Pacific breeze blowing, give it a try as soon as you can…


Maki Riddington: Why Nap?

Written on July 31, 2007 at 10:09 am, by Eric Cressey

The Eric Cressey Blog welcomes a guest entry by Maki Riddington:

Even though we spend a third of our lives sleeping, scientists are still trying to learn exactly why people need sleep. In animal studies it has been shown that sleep is necessary for survival. For example, while rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of REM sleep survive only about 5 weeks on average, and rats deprived of all sleep stages live only about 3 weeks. In humans, those who had been deprived of just one night’s sleep were shown to have a reduction in mental exertion. In real life situations, the consequences of being sleep-deprived are grave. Some speculation has linked sleep-deprivation to certain international disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil-spill, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the Challenger shuttle explosion.

Taking this into the gym can mean that the ability to concentrate and focus can become compromised which means less of an effort and intensity in the workout (9). Hopefully it’s not leg day.

Athletes who suffer from sleep-deprivation have been shown to see a decrease in cardiovascular performance (10), that is, their time to exhaustion is quicker. Sleep-deprivation in studies has been shown to occur around 30-72 hours. For an athlete who has a full course-load, studies, mid terms, and trains, sleep-deprivation can accumulate very rapidly.

Another study looked at cortisol and performance levels after staying up for an 8-hour period overnight. Performance declined and cortisol levels increased. For someone looking to pack on muscle and increase strength, this is bad news since the main focus is to minimize cortisol release since it is a catabolic hormone (11).

From a fat loss perspective, sleep deprivation can impair fat loss through a decrease in levels of the satiety hormone leptin, and increases in the hunger hormone ghrelin. According to Dr. Van Cauter a professor of medicine at the university of Chicago, “One of the first consequences of sleeplessness is appetite dysregulation.” “Essentially, the accelerator for hunger [ghrelin] is pushed and the brake for satiety [leptin] is released.” “The leptin levels are screaming ‘More food! More food!’” What this means is that the hormone leptin is responsible for telling the body when it is full. However, with decreased production of this hormone, the body will crave calories (especially in the form of carbs) even though its requirements have been met. For someone trying to diet, good luck!

Voluntarily sleeping less than 6 hours per night has been associated with an increased incidence of impaired glucose tolerance, according to a cohort analysis of the Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS) reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine. (12) This may mean that a chronic lack of sleep can impair glucose tolerance, which can make body recomposition a difficult task. Most people have a hard enough time trying to regulate their carbohydrates and time them so that the body metabolizes them efficiently.

So, if you’re getting the required 8 hours of sleep, are you ok? Well, if this sleep is broken up, then its value decreases as the sleep cycle is interrupted. Deep sleep appears to be connected with the release of growth hormones in young adults. Many of the body’s cells also show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repairing bodily stress (muscle damage from strength training), uninterrupted deep sleep plays an important role in recovery and regeneration of the body.

Finally, adequate sleep and a properly functioning immune system are closely related. Sleep-deprivation compromises the immune system by altering the blood levels of specialized immune cells and important proteins called cytokines. These chemical messengers instruct other immune cells to go into action. As a result of being compromised, greater than normal chances of infections are likely to occur. And we all know that being sick can be a big setback both in and out of the gym.

Maki Riddington


New Balance

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