13 Lessons of 2013

13 lessons of 2013 | Sprinting

1. Limit sprinting to no more than two times a week.

Sprinting has become one of my new favorite ways to really shed people down and it is virtually one of the few exercises that I have seen that can ALMOST produce VISIBLE results within days (yes, days).

So when we have clients that are looking to drop body fat to very low levels we will have them sprinting weekly.

The more we had them sprinting the more we observed taxation on the nervous system and thus further muscular development would start to stall.

The sweet spot we had found was that doing two sprint workouts a week still allowed them to get better hamstring, glute and abdominal development while shedding body fat and allow them enough time to recover for their weight sessions. When we started approaching three times a week, after a few weeks our clients were generally pretty beat up and needed a week off (not something that you want to do if you’re on a deadline).

2. Lacrosse ball your glutes, daily.

With the number of new people coming to us with low back pain the common theme we have been seeing has been TIGHT glutes and piriformis. The glute is one of the strongest muscles in the body and is able to produce an insane amount of torque so as it gets tighter (not more “tone” or firmer… two different things here) it will begin to pull on the attachment points, your hips, thus starting to pull your back out of alignment.

Remember your spine starts in the hips.

So we have been having all of our clients lacrosse ball their glutes before every workout and almost immediately they noticed that their backs were not as tight, they could squat better and deeper.

By no means does it tickle, honestly it sucks, BUT it does make the world of difference in how your low back feels.

3. We’ve seen a faster learning curve of the deadlift by teaching it from the top down.

Long before we teach anyone how to pull a loaded bar off the ground we have them doing RDLs to help develop the hamstring, low back, and glutes.

When we see they are proficient with this, instead of starting them from the ground for a deadlift, we with have them start from a top position of an RDL (same ending position as a deadlift) and have them RDL till right below their knees, make them lock their torso in place and have them squat the weight down.

When they are proficient at that and have the movement locked down, we will begin teaching them ground up movement.

Not many exercises have a person starting with dead weight, hence the name deadlift, so that is a very foreign motion for them BUT start out learning from the top in a loaded position, then next thing you know you’re doing a pretty damn good deadlift.

4. Women tend to need a higher percentage of fat and protein than men.

Women tend to have a more sensitive endocrine system in a metabolic sense when calories and macronutrient percentages are changed, and it shows very quickly with body fat.

So we’ve observed that diets high in fat and protein, but low to moderate in carbs, have been seen to work the best in keeping the metabolic and hormones stable WHILE minimizing water retention when we start to lower body fat levels in their programs.

What the hell does all of that mean? Women will see better fat loss results if the carbs are kept on a lower percentage (30% and lower) of total calories they consume.

By no means do you want to do zero carbs, they have their purpose in a diet, but women do not need to adhere to the same percentages as men in a daily diet… sorry ladies.

5. Fat loss is never linear.

This still becomes more and more apparent every time we get someone lean, one check-in (we usually space these about every two weeks on average), they will have lost 2-3lbs and be noticeably leaner the next check in they only dropped half a pound if not stayed the same.

Fat never accumulates on the body in a consistent fashion, and it won’t drop the same way either. So just because you did not see the same rate of fat loss one week vs. the next doesn’t always mean something is wrong, this is assuming that you ARE eating and training the same.

Trust me even a half pound of fat loss is still better than fat gain.

6. You have to be just as consistent to gain weight as you do to lose it.

We do spend a good amount of time helping some of our clients gain weight, and in my opinion, it’s actually harder/more time consuming than getting a client to gain quality weight than lose it.

We’re talking about quality weight here, not table muscle (fat).

The best muscle gains that we’ve seen where the people that were eating a CONSISTENT amount of calories for months at a time, not just one or two days out of the week.

7. When body fat levels drop to very low levels up your fish oil intake.

When we get someone shredded the body doesn’t have much fat or water to cushion the joints during their training nor the excess calories to assist with recovery, we have our clients then up their fish oil intake (just about double) to help with inflammation caused from their workouts. We find they recover better, the mobility and tissue quality remains fairly consistent AND they are less cranky LOL.

8. It is harder to overtrain than you think.

I hear of people talking about how a workout should not go over 45min because of certain catabolic hormones, physical stress and “laws of diminishing returns” start to happen; they say that workouts should only be 3-4 times a week for 45min at a time… I’m sure that there are a lot of the same people that tell you that you can get abs in 10min a day.

That’s is all crap.

Look at ANY top tier bodybuilder, athlete, cover model, physique guru, the list goes on… they ALL workout MORE than 3-4 times a week for 45min at a time.

Give the body more credit than that, it will accommodate and adapt.

Very RARELY can you overtrain, it’s more like you under recovering.

Make sure that your recovery is on point (sleep, quality calories, vitamins, etc…) and your body can go for a long time.

9. Have a row or pulling motion in every workout.13 lessons of 2013 | row in ever workout

Every client we have here always does a back exercise in every workout, either a variation of rowing or vertical pulling (think lat pull downs or pull-ups). A lot of exercises have everyone using their back in some way, shape or form either as in helping them stabilize their body during lifts.

Generally, the strongest athletes, the best physiques all have very well developed backs, because it keeps them safer in their lifts, it’s a substantial group of muscle that will help more with metabolic increase, the different angles that can be worked are limitless, the list goes on and on.

Plus have you EVER heard anyone that said their back was TOO strong, I digress.

10. If you are natural and wanting to do a photo shoot/competition the less water and sodium manipulation the better.

Whenever people think of the week before competitions and photo shoots they think of the stories of no salt, water tapering, dehydration, etc…

I will say that YES there is SOME of that involved but not to the level you may have heard. Those athletes that NEED that extreme amount of final week of prep generally, not all, are on some kind of pharmaceutical assistance (wink wink). When you introduce new/more hormones or chemicals into the body there ARE reactions that can occur, most noticeably MORE water retention, so for those people you have to do different final week prep than a client that is natural.

*To those high-level bodybuilders, you operate by a different set of rules so this isn’t for you*

If you are competing or prepping for a photo shoot and wanting to stay natural generally the rule of thumb is that you want to be ready 2 weeks out, after that really the water and sodium manipulation just be limited to the last 24 hours.

If you’ve never done any final week prep do a test run first to see how your body looks/feels, don’t try last min protocols because you run the high risk of looking worse.

11. The leaner you get the more you need to eat.

Remember your body uses body fat for fuel and if you don’t have much left then you’ll have to up the calories to continue to fuel the body for workouts.

As our clients get leaner we have to slowly increase their calories to compensate and still to this day I always get a kick out of watching their faces when I tell them this and then they are even LEANER the follow week 😉

12. Spend the offseason increasing your metabolism.

“Off” season for fitness junkies generally means that you do not have to be as lean, can spend time adding some quality muscle AND let a little bit of body fat accumulate (noticed I said a little bit).

In addition to adding more muscle what we like to do as well is to spend this time increasing our clients’ metabolisms by slowly bumping their calories up so they can handle more food.


Well if a client had to diet down with 1800 calories next time they decide to get lean they can eat MORE than their previous year and get the same results, if not better in most cases; what we’ve done is increased their metabolism

Fast metabolism = happy life.

13. For better muscle activation in a bodyweight push motion try gripping a dumbbell or kettlebell.

This may have been a duh moment for us but when we had clients do handstand pushups on the ground then switch them where their hands were gripping dumbbells it was very apparent that the exercise got harder (reps were cut in half in some cases) BUT the muscle activation seemed to have doubled.

Chest, shoulders, triceps were ALL turned on and pumped (full of blood) very quickly.

Give it a shot, do a pushup with your hands on the ground then place them on a pair of dumbbells at the same distance, you’ll find that you’re in better control and your muscles will start contracting a lot harder.


In Health and Awesomeness,

Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other letters behind the name) is the Owner of Rowlett Transformation Center in Rowlett, TX.

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