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Conditioning Research

.......interesting things about fitness, strength, diet and performance.

Last Build Date: Sat, 24 Mar 2018 12:28:14 +0000


The Dunning–Kruger effect

Fri, 08 Jan 2016 22:03:00 +0000

The Dunning–Kruger effect 

This phrase was new to me when I heard it on a podcast recently. So I consulted google for a definition. 

You are not an expert

The Dunning–Kruger effect is acognitive bias manifesting in unskilled individuals suffering from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.[1]

So where have I been?

Sun, 23 Nov 2014 22:37:00 +0000

You will have noticed that this blog has been quiet for a while....  There are a few reasons for that, reasons that I thought I'd list here:

WORK -  my day job has been incredibly busy and stressful this year. Working 10-14 hour days the last thing on my mind when I got home was putting something on here. 

FACEBOOK/TWITTER - I suppose I've been using other channels to do some of what I used to do here. Quick fire posts pointing to interesting studies or news etc tend to get posted to Twitter (@chrishighcock) or to the Facebook Hillfit group 

REASSESSMENT - I've found myself less comfortable with some of the positions I've taken in the past. Sometimes I'm embarrassed by some of the things I've promoted. I'm not Paleo or low carb. I think Tabata and intervals are misunderstood and misapplied. I cannot really claim to be HIT.   I find myselfunable  honestly to post things on here and pretend that I am some sort of expert. 

REJECTING CONSPIRACY- I'm no longer liable to be suspicious of the mainstream. Generally the consensus is right. For example with respect to diet it is not complex - I'm pretty agnostic except that cutting calories below maintenance leads to fat loss. 

However, to give a list of things that are currently interesting me:

Phil Maffetone 
Pain Science
Kettlebells that nice food is a great pleasure 


Sat, 07 Jun 2014 08:26:00 +0000

I am still here although this blog has gone quiet. My work has been very busy leaving little time or energy for posting things here. 

I've become somewhat disillusioned by much of the drama in the online fitness/health/diet world. The debates are religious in nature with heretics fighting strange arcane battles while 90% of the world just get fatter and less active. 

I am also less inclined to give much attention to the alternative, new or faddish approaches. Ecclesiastes has it right - there is nothing new under the sun. Certainly the science is interesting and is discovering things, but there is little justification for the tabloid excitement about some new diet or exercise.  

I think the mainstream science  is generally right. Conspiracy theory is for the crazies. 

This year I've leaned out for summer by simply cutting calories - no Paleo, IF, high protein. Just being normal.  I lift weights with no special protocol. I walk. I even run sometimes. I stretch too. 

Eat well. Not too much. Move. Lift weights. Sleep. Laugh. Spend time outside. Relax. 

So I have little to contribute. sums up most of my thoughts. 

I'll be back when I have more time and energy. 

You hurt but are you really hurt? The science of pain

Mon, 07 Apr 2014 06:39:00 +0000

As someone with a history of chronic back pain and other niggling aches and pains I've had an interest in reading about the science of pain.  There is a lot going on in this area and the understanding that science has of pain is far different from what most people would think is going on.

There is no denying that people have real actual pain,  but the current understanding is that the pain is something that the brain creates as a way of protecting you from threats.  There is a lot out there on this and a lot to reflect on, but here are some good start points:

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What recent pain science can do for your chronic pain right now


Thu, 03 Apr 2014 19:41:00 +0000

I am sorry this blog has been so quiet recently.  My work is really busy and leaving little time or energy for much outside of that.

I am still training, still reading and still trying to get into the hills whenever I can but when i get back from a long day at work the last thing I want to do usually is sit here and pop up a blog post.

Hopefully I will post more often in the future, but things may well be quiet here for a while.

A thought to leave you with for now from Coach Stevo:

Dear internet,
It's picking up heavy shit. Save the rocket science for NASA.

Frank Medrano

Sun, 02 Mar 2014 09:48:00 +0000

You've probably already seen this, but this fella is amazing

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Dry January

Sat, 15 Feb 2014 14:12:00 +0000

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was taking part in "Dry January".  I didn't make a big song and dance about it, but I decided to go for a calendar month or so with no alcohol.  A few people have asked me about my experience, so here are a few points.Why take a break from drinking?Alcohol is an interesting topic.  As a drug it is widely accepted in society, central to so much of our socialising and leisure.  There seem to be lots of health benefits - so we are told - yet there are also a lot of problems in terms of health, relationships and lifestyle that come from drinking. Over a few years I'd begun to become aware and then concerned that I was drinking too much and too regularly.  I am in a busy and stressful job and sometimes a glass of wine after work to relax is really helpful.  But over time, one glass became two.  Two glasses became ....I might as well finish the bottle.  A habit got established....and was starting to get too entrenched.  I'd tried to impose a few rules - the glass ceiling for example  - but I usually ended up breaking my own rules.  Realising that I needed to cut back and break the habit, I started reading some "sober blogs" like The Sober Journalist and Gray's Grog Blog  In mid December I cut out alcohol for a couple of weeks and then focussed on cutting it out totally for at least the whole of January.Dry JanuaryDry January is a campaign run by Alcohol Concern in the UK with the aim of having a short break from drinking to let you reset your habits.With Xmas excess gone, banish the booze this January and make a healthy start to the new year.By taking on the challenge you’re sure to lose a few pounds while saving a few quid. And with no hangovers you’ll find time and energy you never knew you had, oh and your skin will look nicer too.So go on, take time out, get thinking about your drinking and prove to yourself that you can say no to a tipple or two.It is a simple little challenge -  no alcohol for a month. I don't like all the martyrdom about it - it shouldn't be a trial -  but I decided to ride on the back of it for my own purposes.There is a similar movement - Hello Sunday Morning - which has similar aims but more of a hipster feel to it.  Lots of cool dudes being very cool about not drinking.BenefitsWhat happened?  I actually found it pretty easy.  Drinking had become a habit.  Yes there is a psychological release from some stresses, but so much was just habitual.  As soon as I decided that I was not a drinker...then I wasn't.  Occasionally a nice glass of red with a meal would have been nice but it was no great sacrifice.Specific benefits:Better sleep - waking up fresh and rested in the morning.A clearer head - I found my thinking to be getting much sharper, my writing much better, my speech more articulate.Less money spentLess non-specific guilt - those mornings when you wake up feeling like something bad has happened.I didn't lose any fat which was strange given the reduced caloriesWhat next?At the end of the month I didn't find myself desperate for a drink.  I didn't rush out on 1 February and get some wine.  I left it until my birthday - 8 February - where we went out for a meal with wine.  Had half a bottle.  Felt fine.I've had a couple of glass this week, but I am not looking to get back to where I was.  I've considered going totally tea-total but let's try moderation for a while.[...]

Read the Superheroes of Health - Alan Aragon, Leigh Peele, Matt Stone and others......

Fri, 07 Feb 2014 23:24:00 +0000

I don't normally use this blog to promote products, but this is different.  Just launched is a new bundle of ebooks and audio interviews from some of the most respected voices of reason in health and fitness.  My Hillfit book is included in the bundle but even without it, I'd be recommending this package. Buy the Superheroes of Health eBook Bundle - Over 23 eBooks, Audio Books, and Interviews for only $67!!Over the last couple of years you will have noticed that I have been preaching a gospel of simplicity, encouraging people to focus on the basics: avoiding stress, getting enough sleep, doing some exercise, walking and eating sensible.  I'm been moving away from the fad diets, the magic bullets, the secret exercises and routines.  Disillusioned with the hype, drama and dogma I've been getting back to patience and just being happy with being lean, strong and fit....enough!  Being satisfied and not pushing for a perfection that will not come.The voices of reasonIn all this journey I've been influenced by some important writers and many of them have books in this package:Alan Aragon , Amber Rogers / GoKaleo, Evelyn Kocur (Carbsane), James Fell, Antonio Valladares, Leigh Peele,  Matt Stone, Nia Shanks, Sean Bissell, Sean FlanaganAlan Aragon, Leigh Peele and Matt Stone are three of the leading voices of sense and reason in the weird world of fitness on the internet.  This bundle brings together new works from each of them  PLUS material from a bunch of other great authors. (I am honoured to be included!)There is over $500 worth of sense and reason within these pages, including original work from each of the heroes. Whether you’ve been following them for years or are only now learning of their exploits, you won’t find these volumes together anywhere else but here.The Superheroes of Health In the digital age where bad nutrition advice gets passed around like a rumour and called “science”...where sound, enduring, fitness information gets buried under impossible standards and the latest hokey, hot-selling trend...where drugs, surgery, and photoshop are used to make “normal” people feel completely ashamed.....The Superheroes of Health are here to save the day.The leading independent and unaffiliated voices in the health industryhave come together at long last to create a collection of books,articles, and exclusive interviews to set you straight.Nowhere will you find any propaganda from brainwashed vegans, cultists, cavemen, or the remaining seven people who still think the Atkins diet is the solution to all of mankind’s troubles. No dogma, gurus, fads, or fantasy allowed.Instead, the Superheroes of Health bring you an unprecedented collection of honest, groundbreaking, fundamental truths by the health industry’s most unbiased and well-informed researchers.These fundamental truths will help you to:Gain strength and muscle safely and efficientlyLose body fat without extreme dietary restriction, macronutrient ping-pong, gnawing hunger, metabolic obliteration, or unsustainable exercise programsMaintain a relentlessly positive body image even in today’s modern environmentLearn the ten fundamental principles of a healthy diet (hint: gluten-free isn’t one of them)Improve your sex lifeDiscover the latest and greatest breakthroughs in health technologiesDistinguish factual science from guru hype, quackery, and financial agendasBalance your blood sugar for a more stable mood and better sleepReduce chronic painMaster exercise nutrition for better workouts and a higher metabolismObliterate stress with simple but often forgotten strategiesEliminate binge eating and food addiction—without avoiding the foods you feel hooked onAnd otherwise help you become master of your own body—no longer dependent on a fickle and flaky diet indus[...]

Taking up space for a brief update

Thu, 06 Feb 2014 07:53:00 +0000

I've a couple of posts in draft that I will get up soon -  an update / reflection on Dry January and some thoughts on the scheduling benefits of short workouts if your life is busy.  Before that though, I am pointing to something else.

However, I wanted to highlight something that is coming this weekend that I've been involved in.  Amber Rogers (Gokaleo and author of Taking Up Space) has been pulling together a bundle of books from various authors with a common theme, one that I've been pushing here recently.  Keep it simple, avoid the hype, be patient, be consistent and flee the gurus.  

I've talked before about how we get obsessed with pushing for more and more, when enough is OK.  I've given my view that so much of the health and fitness internet world is more like a gnostic religion than something that will benefit your life.

There are other voices out there saying similar things and I'll be pointing to a bundle of books later this week if you are interested in more similar idea.

Watch this space.

In the meantime, if you want to check out the kind of thing that is coming, you might want to look at Amber's book.

We don't know it all but we usually know enough

Sun, 02 Feb 2014 19:39:00 +0000

This follows a little from the Enough is Enough post, from last year.  By the way, I've had some comments from people concerned that this blog is not really posting much scientific/conditioning research at the moment.  I've not got the time to search for news and studies at the moment, but I also increasingly recognise my limits.  I am not a scientist.  I skim the papers and for a long time I was only looking for things that confirmed my biases.  That is not good.  If you want more of the science perhaps you should check out Suppversity or subscribe to Chris Beardsley's Research Review or Alan Aragon's Research Review.The Economics ProfessorsI was at an event this week in which four economics professors were speaking in Edinburgh.  They were talking currency and banking options in a potential independent Scotland.  I did Economics at university so I could follow what was being said most of the time....but some times it was beyond me.  The overall impression was of how complicated, interrelated and volatile the issues were.  Economic systems are notoriously complex.  There are so many factors at play, each of which can influence part or even the whole of the system.  Predictions of what will happen in an economic system are usually abject failures.As I say I was struck by the complexities of what might appear to be a simple topic - what currency should a country use - and by the far reaching consequences of any decision.  However, given all that complexity I was aware that I can balance my bank account without knowing any of that.  I can understand how a change in exchange rate or interest rate will affect me.  There are incredible complexities, and we will never know it all, but we can usually know enough to get by and make sensible decisions for ourselves and our own money.  Basic principles - supply, demand, prices as signals - etc still hold and allow us to get by.The body is an economic systemThis I think is similar to the complexities of health, fitness and exercise science.  The body is an immensely complex system.  Like an economic system there are mechanisms for allocating resources across various areas with decisions based on signals that come via various inputs.  The complexity is stunning and mind-blowing.However despite all that complexity there are again basic principles.  You do not need to have a PhD in nutrition or exercise physiology in order to get stronger, build muscle or lose fat.  There are professors who study and get lost in the complexity.  We need those experts to push the knowledge forward and to address specific problems.  But the basic issues can be addressed with the simple tools.Safe, progressive resistance strength training will build strength, grow muscle, make you more resilient and improve cardiovascular fitness.Consuming fewer calories than you burn will mean that you lose weight (strength training and maintaining protein intake will help to ensure that most of that loss is fat)Sleep is good for you.You do not need to read economics journals and take sides in arguments between various schools of thought to avoid an overdraft.  You need to make sure, consistently, that  your income is greater than your expenditure.  More Soap Opera and DramaIn the same way, you do not need to pore over nutrition or physiology studies in order to get fitter, leaner and stronger.  You need to train sensibly, consistently and to eat appropriately.  So much of what we (I) obsess about it not really important.It is interesting but often is just soap opera and drama, watching various gurus and their followers argue with each other.  There is usually an agreement about the basics, but we do not see that.  We are captivate[...]

Pissing in the wind - are you drinking too much?

Sun, 19 Jan 2014 15:29:00 +0000

I want to talk about alcohol.  This post was prompted by a number of things:

Rearranging the Deck-chairs

Tom Furman had a good post recently which hit a nerve with me.  He spoke about how too often we major on the minors.  We ignore the really important stuff and fiddle with minutiae.  We might have everything right, all the right things in place.....but then we sabotage it with something else we are doing.

You might be eating well and training well.....but are you also smoking?  Are you watching your diet, counting calories and macros....but drinking a bottle of wine a night?  Are you training hard, eating well but not getting more than 5 hours sleep a night?

You get the picture. By avoiding the real problem, you can pretend to be courageous. You perhaps act as if you are uninformed, but you are mimicking a child who closes his eyes and believes he is invisible. You really aren’t fooling anyone. Not even yourself. - See more at:

Then there was this post on Suppversity.  

Alcohol is a killer: According to WHO, morbidity attributable to alcohol in countries with an established market economy (10.3% of disability adjusted life years) comes second only to that of tobacco (11.7%; Murray. 1997). According to a very recent study by published in the scientific journal Addiction by the Pan American Health Organization, a branch of the World Health Organization alcohol was a 'necessary' cause of death (i.e., death would not have occurred in the absence of alcohol consumption) in an average of 79,456 cases per year in 16 North and Latin American countries (Gawryszewski. 2014). 
Alcohol is not good for you.  And there are a lot more statistics out there if you want to look for them.

Dry January

These posts both came at a time when I've decided to give up alcohol for a while.   I'm going along with Dry January   I realised that I was drinking too much.  I'll not get into details but there was far too much wine going down my neck most relax.  Much of it was a habit, but I was finding myself looking forward to the drink and the habit was getting too ingrained, so I wanted to cut right back.

Obsessing over diet, exercise, sleep and attitude are all fine.....but I was sabotaging things by drinking.

The Pain Face

Wed, 08 Jan 2014 07:28:00 +0000

In 2012  I pointed to the research of Samuele Marcora on how facial expression impacts on fatigue in his psychobiological model of fatigue.

 His study here showed how the onset of frowning indicated the point at which things were starting to feel hard, but in discussions by email we chatted about the possibility that things could work the other way - smiling might make everything feel easier and ward off fatigue.

I was reminded of this when I saw this video from Eric Cobb

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It is a simple trick but I think it is worth trying.

Hypertrophy training - What does the evidence say?

Sat, 28 Dec 2013 18:45:00 +0000

How to get swoleA lot is written about how best to train to make your muscles grow.  You can go to T-Nation or do a google search for hypertrophy training and get confronted with scores of routines illustrated by photos of the top bodybuilders (generally the genetic elite with pharmaceutical assistance).  There will be prescriptions of certain techniques....rep ranges....exercises and diet.  It is confusing and complicated.What does the evidence say?Why should you trust all these recommendations?  Surely they must be right because they are on the internet (yeah right).  This routine must be the best because Mr Olympia says so.....  or because everyone at the gym trains like this (yet they still haven't improved for months).  These are not good reasons.  We will not get into epistemology, but lets take a different tack.  What does the evidence say?It is not fashionable....but when you look at the evidence (in terms of scientific studies) you get:intensity matters - recruiting as many fibres as possibleone set per exerciseany sort of resistance seems OK (free weights, machines or bodyweight)concentric, eccentric or isometric contractions all workrepetition speed is important in that you need to maintain tension on the musclesrest between sets and exercises doesn't matter muchfull range of motion isn't that importantdoing endurance exercise at the same time doesn't hold things backmuscles and parts of muscles grow at different ratesa few weeks off wont make your gains disappear and might help when you train again.That is not my conclusion....this is what Fisher, Steele and Smith found when they reviewed the scientific studies on muscle growth in response to training.Their paper is at EVIDENCE-BASED RESISTANCE TRAINING RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MUSCULAR HYPERTROPHYAbstractObjective: There is considerable interest in attaining muscular hypertrophy in recreational gym-goers, bodybuilders, older adults, and persons suffering from immunodeficiency conditions. Multiple review articles have suggested guidelines for the most efficacious training methods to obtain muscular hypertrophy. Unfortunately these included articles that inferred hypertrophy markers such as hormonal measurements, used older techniques that might not be valid (e.g. circumference) and failed to appropriately consider the complexity of training variables. Methods: The present commentary provides a narrative review of literature, summarising main areas of interest and providing evidence-based guidelines towards training for muscular hypertrophy.Conclusions: Evidence supports that persons should train to the highest intensity of effort, thus recruiting as many motor units and muscle fibres as possible, self-selecting a load and repetition range, and performing single sets for each exercise. No specific resistance type appears more advantageous than another, and persons should consider the inclusion of concentric, eccentric and isometric actions within their training regime, at a repetition duration that maintains muscular tension. Between set/exercise rest intervals appear not to affect hypertrophy, and in addition the evidence suggests that training through a limited range of motion might stimulate similar results to full range of motion exercise. The performance of concurrent endurance training appears not to negatively affect hypertrophy, and persons should be advised not to expect uniform muscle growth both along the belly of a muscle or for individual muscles within a group. Finally evidence suggests that short (~3 weeks) periods of detraining in trained persons does not incur significant muscular atrophy and might stimulate  greater hypertrophy upon return to training.My conclus[...]

There is no new thing

Sun, 22 Dec 2013 21:32:00 +0000

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ASV)
That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

It is Christmas, so here is a reminder of a key truth from the Bible which is very relevant to our obsessions with health, diet and fitness. 

There is nothing new!

Every time you read of some new diet, supplement, exercise protocol or secret technique remember that it will have been done before. 

10 Is there a thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been long ago, in the ages which were before us.

Just ask each this new?

Do not hurt yourself....

Sun, 22 Dec 2013 12:01:00 +0000

I don't think I've shared this on this blog, but mentioned it on Facebook.

Impressed by an athlete

A few weeks ago while at work I bumped into a mate who is a veteran sprinter - Scottish 100m and 200m champion for the over 50s.  He is a proper athlete  -  runs internationally, trains with some Olympic and Commonwealth Games athletes.  That sort of thing.

We often bump into each other at the gym at work and chat.  He is always interested in what I am doing and I ask a lot about his training.

Anyway, this day he was going to be doing some sprints at lunchtime, in the car park.  Dragging a car tyre.  He invited me to join him for the session.  It sounded fun and I was a bit flattered to be able to train with him.


Lunchtime saw me changed and in the car park.  A brief warm up and then we started.  He gave me some tips on form and then it was a 50 m sprint, while dragging this tyre, pulling it attached by a rope to a weight-lifting belt, then a sprint back to the start where we swapped the belt over.

The first two went Ok.   It was hard work but it felt good.

The third one was about 10 m old when, just as I was standing tall to sprint to the end, my right hamstring tore.  It was a real obvious pop and I limped to a standstill.....limped back to the start and gave up for the day.

It felt pretty rough -  the hamstring was shutting down....I showered went in to the gym and stretched.  Had some treatment that night from Colin Gordon, which helped.

It ruined me for a few weeks though - all bending over, hip hinge type moves were impossible.  Walking was OK, but running was out.

Initially I thought it was just a spasm, a pulled muscle, put then I saw the bruise.....Something had torn and bled.

My Lesson?

I did not need to do all out sprints, trying to impress someone, with poor form and insufficient warm up.  My goals do not need things like that.  I put myself at risk of injury....and I got injured.  It curtailed other activities for a while.

Remember above all not hurt yourself.  Train to get better, to be more able.  Don't let it damage you.

Simple with few moving parts...what is your crossbow?

Sat, 14 Dec 2013 12:35:00 +0000

The frequency of posts to this blog has diminished quite a bit recently.   My work is busy and when I get in I'm more likely to read or vegetate in front of the TV to relax rather than think about putting stuff up here.  Also you will have picked up the theme in recent months that I am trying to keep things simple.  Sometimes there is little to say.  There is not a lot to add:  move, sleep, eat and relax.I became disillusioned with the contrarian world of health and fitness on the internet, especially as regards diet.  It is not as complicated as we try to make it...paleo, low-carb, low fat or "real food" or whatever become dead-ends sometimes, cultish little communities where any dissent is akin to heresy.  I've been banned from at least one Paleo Facebook group for questioning their orthodoxy.Anyway, the point of this post....Terracotta soldiersI saw a documentary this week about the Terracotta Soldiers.  A couple of thousand years old, these statues were buried with a Chinese Emperor to guard him in the afterlife.  They are amazingly complex, not mass produced, but with unique facial features.  Looking at the statues and how they were made has revealed a lot about the society that made them.  The soldiers were also buried with weapons.The Crossbow TriggerA key weapon for this empire apparently was the crossbow.  The documentary explained how the crossbow was a supremely powerful and accurate weapon, yet was very simple.  There was a metal trigger mechanism which could be manufactured on a mass scale and then dropped into the body of the bow. Reliable with few moving partsThe programme stressed how elegant the trigger was.  It did its job without complexity.  It was effective and reliable. What is your crossbow trigger?In the world of fitness and exercise we are faced with an endless stream of exercises, programmes, diets and treatments.  There is new equipment to try and exciting classes to attend.  Special programming and periodisation.  Hot yoga, pilates, crossfit.....HIT, RKC.  One thing it is not is simple.  Most of us need a crossbow trigger of exercise.  Something simple effective and reliable.Your workouts are over-engineeredFor me at the moment, I am a lot less dogmatic about exercise.  However for the simplest effect perhaps I would propose:Walk...lots as part of your everyday and as exercise and as recreation.Push - pushups, planksPull - a towel row, batwings....Bend - a bridge.....It is basically Hillfit I think, but something like Dan John recommends here would be fine.Movement in this world is so unusual I just want people to be active!  There is so much mystique about exercise, so much over-engineering of what should be and only needs to be so simple.  We think our training needs to be complex.  It doesn't.  Most of us are not athletes whatever the inspirational posters tell us.Over-engineering gives the trainer some mystery secret to sell.[...]

Nick Tuminello on Evil Sugar Radio

Tue, 03 Dec 2013 20:39:00 +0000

This is one that I would like everyone to listen to...  Nick Tumminello of Performance University – How To Do Science

Nick Tuminello
Way back....27 years ago....I started my course at the University of Leeds to study Philosophy and Economics.   The first year I did philosophy of science and for 3 years I did courses in formal logic.  Great fun, although a long way from what I now do for a living.

I've always been fascinated by this idea of how we know what we know....why we believe what we believe.

This is not some vague mystical is vital to everyday life and definitely to this whole area of health and fitness.  There are so many people out there telling us what is true...what is the best diet or training regime.  How do you decide what is really true, what is really worth investing your time and effort in?

As I've discussed here in the past, so much of this stuff is not based on solid critical thinking but on principles more related to gnosticism, marketing and hype.

These are the sort of things that Nick Tuminello (I've been a fan of his for a long time) deals with in this podcast.  

Highly recommended. indeed are all the Evil Sugar Radio podcasts.

Enough is enough

Tue, 12 Nov 2013 20:49:00 +0000

No meaning to the photo....I just like it
More Less or Enough?

How about re calibrating our attitude towards diet and exercise to one which is focused on the idea of enough?

So often in both diet and exercise we find ourselves at an extreme.  More and more of this and less and less of that.  What would happen if we shifted to a focus on sufficiency? Instead of trying to achieve less or more how about aiming for enough? Relax a little. Instead of pushing at the limits live in the middle for a while. 

What do I mean?

Try to use the word enough a little more.  

Eat less and move more?  No eat enough and move enough. 

Get more sleep?  Get enough (to wake up rested)

Eat more protein? No eat enough (to repair and grow)

Eat fewer carbs? No eat enough carbs (to fuel your activity)

Eat less fat. No eat enough fat (to keep healthy hormone production)

You get the idea

Get less stress. No get enough( hormesis)

Train on the premise of sufficiency

Exercise harder?  No just do enough... but not too much. 

Move from less or more to enough. .  

Enough stress. Enough intensity. 

Do more?  No do enough and then back off. 

More is better? No enough is enough. 

Finding a new ligament...

Wed, 06 Nov 2013 07:29:00 +0000

I saw this news story earlier today that blew me away a bit:

New Ligament Discovered‬ In the Human Knee

Two knee surgeons at University Hospitals Leuven have discovered a previously unknown ligament in the human knee. This ligament appears to play an important role in patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
I find it amazing that anatomists are still finding new structures in the human body.  We tend to think that science knows what are bodies are made of...but there is a new ligament.  This is really exciting!

I went to an exhibition recently of Leonardo DaVinci's anatomy and dissection sketches that was really interesting, showing him to be centuries ahead of his time in terms of his knowledge of anatomy and his ability in terms of dissection.  One of the points of the show was that science is only now catching up with the things that DaVinci discovered in his studies.

Are any supplements worth the money and hassle?

Mon, 04 Nov 2013 22:17:00 +0000

One of the themes of this blog recently has been trying to steer people away from the hype, the promises of miracles and astounding progress from some new routine, diet or supplement. Supplements are an area where, over the years there has been so many empty promises. I've been reading bodybuilding magazines since 1983 and I have seen many products touted as the latest miracle: l-ornithine, orchic tissue (dried bull testicles!), safflower oil, desiccated liver , brewers' yeast, beta-alanine.... Each one promoted by some big name bodybuilder whose physique was really built from superior genetics and anabolics. Over the years I have developed quite a scepticism about supplements. However, some supplements do have some evidence to support their use.I asked the guys at to tell me what supplements are actually worth the money and effort for an average 45 year old office worker like me! (I've referred to before and have also highlighted their excellent supplement guide) They base their recommendations on a full review of the scientific literature, not marketing hype. I interviewed Sol Orwell - the chief research nerd behind a few months ago .....Ok then, what supplements make sense? What does the science support?Supplementation for the Average Joe : A Guest Post from Examine.comCreatineCreatine is one of the most readily recommended supplements. It noticeably increases physical performance in new and advanced trainees, and it can be taken daily without side-effects.It stands out from other ergogenics, like caffeine and beta-alanine, as caffeine becomes less effective as tolerance grows, and beta-alanine, while it works, only accounts for a 3% increase in endurance performance. Not only does creatine work, but it has positive health benefits. Though these health benefits are not strong and consistent enough for creatine to be marketed as an general health supplement, they are a great bonus to creatine’s positive effects on the athlete.Vitamin D and Vitamin KThese two vitamins are prime for supplementation for two reasons:The average person is most likely not deficient, as Vitamin D and K are present in most diets in low doses. A proper diet is enough to prevent the problems of a vitamin deficiency (rickets and haemorrhaging, for example).Even though most people are not deficient, their vitamin levels are not optimal. It is difficult to hit the ideal level of Vitamin K and D through diet alone.Both of these supplements are general health supplements. Proper supplementation will reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues like atherosclerosis and heart attacks, as well as bone issues like osteoporosis, and even reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disorders like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s.Other vitamin and mineral supplements, like magnesium, can also be supplemented. Unlike Vitamin D and K, however, a proper diet will eliminate the need for supplementation.AdaptogensAdaptogens are a group of supplements that cause a minor stress response in the body, which is immediately met with an exaggerated anti-stress reaction. These are the best supplements to take for the purpose of stress reduction. Users typically experience less stress from specific sources, as well as a resistance to future stress. The reduction of stress can help with alleviating depression, anxiety, and immune system suppression.Three major adatogens are panax ginseng, ashwagandha, and rhodiola rosea. All three will reduce stress. Rhodiola rosea aids specifically in reducing ‘burnout[...]

Just show up

Sat, 26 Oct 2013 16:19:00 +0000

I suppose this is something of an appendix to the post I had the other day - A few things I've learned recently (mainly from Dan John).

We hear a lot about setting targets and goals in our training.  Sometimes we see strength standards posted:  e.g. you should be able to do 50 pushups, 15 bodyweight rows, bench 1.5 bodyweight, do a 5k in 20 minutes or whatever.  All decent goals.  But sometimes goals can be distracting.

Here is a good goal:  Just show up.

Workout by workout, do the work.  You do not need to set records, you do not need to progress.  Simply do the workout.  Warmup, workout and go home.  But do the work.  Consistent hard work will pay off in the long run.

I was talking to my pal Colin Gordon this morning as he treated my back (he is an excellent massage therapist).  He made the point that sometimes the more you focus on a goal, the further away it seems.  If you simply  focus on consistently showing up and doing the work you might just find yourself hitting your goals almost by accident.

Goals can introduce so much stress that we do not really need.  Life is chaotic; all sorts of things are going on.  No matter how hard you try, things will conspire such that you find your performances being equally chaotic.  If your preoccupation is on hitting certain numbers then you may often fail.  If your goal is simply to turn up and do some exercises then you will get some benefit  -   even if it is just to chill out and relax for half an hour.

If you've had a tough day at work and you turn up at the gym, you might find yourself psyched to get a great session in........or you might decide to spend some time stretching, rolling, and doing some easy pushups...and that is ok.  Feel refreshed and come back another day for the hard work.

But just keep going.

Starve Mode - A Review

Tue, 15 Oct 2013 20:29:00 +0000

No secrets but there is scienceOne of the themes on this blog recently has been that I am tired of gurus.  I have realised as I get longer in the tooth and a bit more cynical that there are no real secrets in this game.  Movement, resistance training, sufficient sleep, a sensible diet - they matter.  Above all, patience and persistence.  There is no magic diet, no new exercise protocol that will suddenly turn you into a lean super athlete.With that context however there are still some good products out there - there are still people writing quality material.  There are still things to learn even if there is no magic.  The stuff that matters is the science, the evidence-based material.  Indeed, it is the science that can expose the fabrications of the gurus.So many of the myths and misdirections are around diet.  The need to eat low carb, or paleo or in certain eating windows.  To avoid sugar or fat.  To think that calories don't count....when they obviously do.  It is not easy, but it is simple.  So many people are messing themselves up with eating too much....or too little.  You need to eat enough to get sufficient nutrients and to support healthy activity levels.Enter Starve ModeWhich brings me to Starve Mode, the new book by Leigh Peele.  I think I first came across Leigh a few years ago when she was mentioned by Martin Berkhan with an interview.  Her name also cropped up on Lyle McDonald's site too.  More recently she was interviewed on Evil Sugar Radio by Antonio and Scott and that prompted me to buy her new book. Starve Mode examines the science behind metabolism and dieting.  It cuts through a lot of the rubbish and mythology out there and does so with both common sense, clear writing and solid science.   There is no hype, just straightforward answers to common questions such as"Will carbohydrates slow my metabolism?""Why do I gain weight easier as I age?""What gives me true metabolic advantage?""Have I cut my calories too low?""Why do I gain weight at all?!""Can I lose fat even though I have a metabolic condition?"It is all really well done and not one of those 20 page ebooks which are full of black space.  This is a 200+ page PDF book with over 270 references across 17 Chapters.  What I really like as well is that it comes with a free audio book reading of the whole thing - 9 hours of mp3, perfect for listening to on the way to work.Anyway, I don't want to add to the hype.  If you are interested, you can check it out in a number of ways: A Free 30 Page PreviewYou can get a free preview of the book from this linkVideo about Starve ModeThere is a video here in which Leigh explains more about the book.Affiliate  -  just to be up front, these links will give me a commission if you buy the book through them.  I have bought the book myself though and am only recommending it because I think it is worth reading.Leigh's BlogLeigh's blog - The Clutch Society contains a load of good information.  Her recent post on How we lose fat is a great place to start.[...]

A few things I've learned recently

Sat, 12 Oct 2013 07:58:00 +0000

A few things I've been thinking about.  Lots of them incidentally prompted by reading and listening to Dan John.Get off my back – there are times in life when you realise enough is enough. I am strong enough, flexible enough, lean enough. Let’s lose the stress of always trying to improve and just recognise that where we are is actually OK. The challenge is actually maintenance. Can you stay lean, flexible and strong as the years roll by? Can you stay injury free, mobile and capable as you get older?There are seasons – bus bench/park bench whatever. Sometimes life is crappy. Work is hard and long. Your parents get ill. You argue with your girlfriend. You get ill or injured. Those are not the times to go all out balls to the wall in your training. Macho Nietzsche quotes are just stupid. Work hard when the rest of life is smooth push hard. If you are working 12 hour days and stressed about your family, then cool it off. Keep moving but that is enough. This is not the time to deplete all of your reserves – you need them elsewhere.Learn from everywhere – when you listen to Dan John or read his articles and books you pick up quotes and ideas from Ellington Darden, Pavel, Brad Pilon, Josh Hillis, Tim Anderson, Brett Jones and Vladimir Janda. He will reference Dick Notmyer and DeLorne….and so many others. All these people have their own philosophies, their own approaches often that seemingly contradictory..but they can all teach you something. All have something to offer. Exclusive commitment to one guru is for the cults. For the rest of us we need to recognise truth everywhere; test it, play with it and build on it. Use it.Everything works – at times I’ve been pretty committed to HIT training. You know – 1 set to failure, once a week. I still think that a simple whole body HIT routine 1 time per week- like Hillfit – can give huge benefits to the general population with minimal investment of time.  You will get stronger, healthier and more capable.  And it worked for me. I got stronger and maintained my muscle with very little training. But…..I enjoy time in the gym. I like training. It might not be necessary, but more training time, more movement is fun! More training sessions have worked too! Training with several sets not ever to failure works. Sometimes a long slow jog feels great. There is space to do lots of things. Movements – I read this first in Paul Chek’s book. He had 7 Primal Patterns – Squat, Bend (hinge), Lunge, Push, Pull, Twist and Gait – Dan John has push, pull, squat, hinge, loaded carry and the sixth one - but the idea is the same. There are certain movements that we are built to do and which are fundamental to all human life. It is not about the bench or the squat, the kettlebell snatch or the leg extension. You need to be accomplished at pushing, pulling, squatting, walking, hinging, and rolling/twisting/lunging etc…..Build every workout around these patterns and you will be going in the right direction. I would always choose low skill moves too, so that you limit your chance of injury and messing them up.Eat like an adult – This is a nice little rule from Dan John. Diet is not complicated. We know what is good food. So eat it. IF, low carb, paleo etc are all ultimately pointless. Eat proper food. We get fat because we eat too many calories. This is not rocket science – even though for some years I indoctrinated myself in what I now see as a deception of[...]

Buildering not bouldering

Sat, 05 Oct 2013 07:44:00 +0000

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Unusual use of the Ab Wheel

Sat, 05 Oct 2013 07:19:00 +0000

There is a lot of impressive tumbling here, but look what happens at 1:42 with the Ab Wheel.

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