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Why aren't my muscles growing?

This week, I want to talk about overtraining, undertraining, and how you can have both simultaneously. All three of these cases will frustrate you and can be a big reason you’re training consistently but you’re not seeing muscle growth.

We tend to believe that if some is good, more is better. And that’s just not true when it comes to most things, including exercise. 

I know I’m a broken record with this, but I think it sometimes needs to be said in many different ways for you to understand and let it sink in fully. 

There is a dose-response relationship with exercise. A certain dose will yield positive results, but too little or too much will either do nothing or yield negative results. 

Exercise is medicine, yes. And any medicine can be overdosed and see adverse side effects, or underdosed and see no changes. Exercise is no exception. 

Let’s talk about the signs and symptoms of overtraining, undertraining, and undertraining...

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Exercise and Cortisol

Exercise is a stress to the body. It is disrupting the equilibrium of your body, which your body interprets as stress. This means exercise will spike cortisol.

Chronically elevated cortisol will result in problems in your body, as I discussed earlier. However, studies show that regular exercise can improve your stress response, even though it acutely spikes cortisol acutely or right away. 

So the answer is not to stop exercising all together. The answer is to figure out how to dose exercise so that your body responds favorably. 

A common thing I've been told from my Evlo members is that they work out less frequently and intensely with my program, and yet they see more desirable changes in their bodies. 

This change happens partly because of the exercise selection we are choosing - we are intentionally choosing exercises that load the muscles in the most effective ways with minimal joint stress. That results in better muscle adaptation with less painful joints. But it...

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The Hormone that is holding you back at the Gym

Hormones are incredibly complex, and it's difficult to talk about one hormone without talking about other cascading hormones. Today, I want to break down what cortisol is, what can happen if you have too much of it and how to tell, and my recommendations on how to keep it in check. 

Before we begin, remember that this is not medical advice, and to seek advice from your doctor or functional medicine practitioner if you are having severe issues. This post is for informational purposes only. 

If you feel like you're doing everything right - putting in work at the gym, you're trying to eat less, and still not seeing results - it could be because of cortisol imbalance. Often, too much exercise and too little eating can have the reverse effects that you're hoping for because they can mess with your cortisol and hormonal balance. 

One of my goals, which I hope is evident by my content, is to encourage people to get away from the damaging "grind yourself into the ground if...

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Steady state cardio: how much should you do for the best fitness results?

Today I want to piggyback on last week's blog post about HIIT and dive into steady-state cardio. If you haven't read either of last weeks' blog posts, I'd highly recommend you read it because it has excellent information about the mitochondria, blood sugar, and how too much HIIT can harm you.

Over the next week, I will break down the difference between steady-state and HIIT cardio, the positives, and negatives of both, and provide a general framework of how you can incorporate both into your training. 

First, I want to talk about how the body adapts to exercise. It's essential to understand every individual's body will react differently, and that will determine if they are getting positive or negative results from their training. 

Adaptation is ultimately what we are looking for in our training. We want our muscles to be stronger, our heart to pump more effectively, and to be less out of breath when we walk up a flight of stairs. Exercise, in the proper dosages for your...

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How too much HIIT can kill your progress

Many medical and sports groups suggest intense interval training shouldn’t be completed more than three times/week to avoid these negative metabolic side effects. And from a joint health perspective, I agree that HIIT should not be used more than a few times/week, if at all. 

So if we can only gain the benefits of HIIT 2 to 3 days a week, are we just sedentary on the other days? Should we train in different ways on the days where we aren’t working out intensely? 

Another study that looked at the benefits of short, intense exercise vs. longer, more gentle workouts provides us with another interesting finding. 

The study took overweight men, divided them into groups, and had them exercise on a bike for a different amount of time and intensity. 

Group 1 performed short, all-out workouts on the bike such as 30-second sprints with minimal rest in between. This group only exercised 3 days/week. 

Group 2 exercised more moderately: 30-40 min on the bike...

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How to exercise to improve insulin sensitivity

HIITing the Books

Over the next two weeks, I want to talk about cardio: what it is, how much you need, and, most importantly, how much is overkill and could be setting you back. 

Most people agree that cardio is anything where you elevate your heart rate. When I was looking at the formal definitions, most will say that this requires rhythmic, repetitive movement of your limbs. 

Because most people consider cardio as repetitive/rhythmic moments, when most people think of cardio, they think of activities such as running, cycling, and swimming. This is also why most people don’t include weight lifting when they think of cardio. 

Therefore, it’s commonly thought that you need to do both: lift the weights and add on the running or biking. 

But do you really? And if so, exactly how much should you do? 

These are the questions I want to address over the next couple of weeks. We’re going to talk about the benefits and risks of different dosages of...

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Why you can stop doing Exercises you Hate

It’s a norm in the fitness industry to try to fit your body to fit a certain exercise. I often get asked “Can you help me with my deadlifts?” or “How can I do planks without shoulder pain?” or “How can I strengthen my core so squats don’t hurt my back?”

And there are so many fitness professionals and PTs out there who will help you achieve these goals. And there absolutely are ways to improve your form and strengthen and stabilize these muscles to feel more effective and safe in an exercise. I think if your goal is to do that one exercise, KEEP ON KEEPIN ON!

Before we dive in, I want to caveat with something. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place to learn and hone in on a new skill or movement. Sometimes you have to learn a specific movement for a sport or job. So perhaps your fitness program should be tailored for that.

But I think if overall fitness is your goal, there’s another perspective that I’d...

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See Better Results, in Half the time at the Gym: Part Two

On Tuesday, we talked about ways to change up our workouts to see better results.

But the other piece of this puzzle that many people lose is that the key in any fitness program is to use the mechanics to your advantage!

Let me explain. 

Our bodies work as any other machine does, and we have hinges and levers. The longer the lever, the more work to a muscle. So if you choose an exercise with an effective lever, you can use less weight to get a lot of work. 

Let’s say you’re holding an egg with a spoon. Your hand and wrist have to work harder when you are holding the end of the spoon, whereas it gets easier to hold if you are holding closer to the egg. These are the levers at play - which can (and should) be applied to exercise. 

In fact, choosing a bodyweight exercise can sometimes be more effective at targeting a muscle group than another exercise that doesn’t use the body’s ideal levers. 

Breaking it down

Let’s compare a ...

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See Better Results, in Half the time at the Gym: Part One

As we discussed in the podcast a few weeks ago, everyone wants to be able to spend less time working out and still see great results. 

And while many fitness enthusiasts may believe that we need to be killing ourselves with our workouts, the amount of time you spend working out has very little to do with the results you will see. 

What is more important is what you are doing with your time. 

Time Well Spent 

If you are strategic in selecting effective movements in your workout, you don’t need to spend longer than 45 minutes at the gym, and oftentimes, longer than 30 minutes. 

Rather, the reason people aren’t seeing the results they want, even after working hard for an hour, is because they are overloading joints and underloading muscles. 

Many individuals are choosing exercises that are only part-way effective for creating change in their muscles, which means they have to spend more time doing more...

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How to properly load your Muscles

Now if you’ve read or listened to any of my other blog posts or podcasts, you’ve probably heard me talk about loading your muscles again and again. But, what does this really mean?

Muscles are loaded best when a few things happen:

  • The movement brings the origin of the muscle towards the insertion
  • The force (weight/cable/ band/gravity/whatever) is actually loading the muscle 
  • The strength profile of the muscle and the resistance curve match (check out last week’s podcast to learn more about what this means!)
  • Surrounding structures (like cartilage/discs/ligaments/bursa/rotator cuff muscles) are at little or no risk of rupture or damage

Muscle strength happens when the muscle is progressively overloaded using these principles to create optimal change. When a new movement is introduced that does not follow these principles, less optimal change will occur. 

What truly works for improving your fitness is progressive overload and intentional exercise...

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