The Said Principle and Sport Training

My son came home from college last week and reconnected with many of his high school friends. A favorite pastime for them was a friendly game of pick up basketball at the local rec center, and they put together a game and invited me to join them. It sounded like fun, so I accepted.

 Three minutes into the game, I wanted to do this:03-17-2013_150429(99)

I looked up at the clock knowing these guys wanted to play until the gym closed. I had to hang on for another hour and a half. Sh%&^&$#t! How am I going to make it that long? I made it, but I did not have the stamina I had the last time I played 11 years ago.

Does this mean that after all of these years of strength training in a high intensity fashion, I am not fit and in shape? Before I answer the question, consider two observations from Dr. McGruff in his book Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want:

  1. When Dr. McGruff lived in Ohio, he would do both cardio training and strength training on alternate days. In the winter he would run on a treadmill, but in the spring and summer he would run outdoors on the road. Even though he was consistent with his cardio training in the winter, he would always feel like he was going to die the first time he hit the actual road. Here he was, in great shape but he still could not run worth a damn his first day out.
  2. He gives another example of this same outcome from his air force days. They had a minimal fitness requirement test that the recruit had to meet every year, and in this case, the test consisted of an ergometer test performed on a bicycle to determine the max heart rate, which in theory would indicate the fitness level of the recruit. There were two people in his group who were avid marathon runners who assumed that they were in great aerobic shape, thus they did not bother to prepare for the test. At the same time, there was one other person who was overweight and led a sedentary life, but two weeks prior to the test, he would go to the gym every day and use the exact bicycle that was going to be used in the test. Furthermore, he would practice with the exact resistance for the exact amount of time the test would take. Guess who passed the test? Yep. The out of shape guy. Not only did he pass the test, he had the best score. And the two marathon runners? They didn’t even pass the test. Imagine that.

I think we can all agree that the guy who was overweight and sedentary was not fit like the two marathon runners, so why did he perform much better on the ergometer test? Because of the acronym known as the SAID principle. SAID stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. What this implies is that the body will respond…and adapt to the specific demands placed on it. This is surprisingly precise. Going back to Dr. McGruff, he explains that there is a specific motor skill of running on a treadmill that is very different from running on the road. There is a three-part component to running on a road: foot strike, push-off, then a recovery stroke, contrasting running on the treadmill where there is only a foot stroke and no push off nor recovery stroke because the ground is spinning. These two different movement patterns, even though they may appear to be similar, place different demands on the body, and as Dr. McGruff noticed (as did I), changing from one form of exercise to another feels like a real bear to do. One feels out of shape, even though that is not the case.

Going deeper still, we find that the cardiovascular system has an unexpected non response to the stimulus given. In another study that Dr. McGruff cites (pg.48), thirteen subjects trained on a stationary bike, but they would train only one leg. The other leg was not trained at all. This was carried out for four weeks, and when the researchers tested the trained leg after the study, they found an average increase in VO2 max of 23%, but in the untrained leg there was no improvement in VO2 max. This demonstrates that there is no central cardiovascular improvement, but a specific metabolic adaptation that happened at the muscular level.

This shows that there is a specific conditioning response to a given stimuli, and that there is very little carryover from one form of training to another. If you want to excel at playing tennis, for example, you may want to play tennis and do drills that improve your tennis skills, and forgo distance running that you may have thought would improve your endurance for tennis. Or if you want to do well at hiking fourteeners, you may opt out of mountain biking and simply concentrate on hiking.

If I were to play basketball again, I would do some training to better prepare myself for it beforehand. I would do some sprint and agility training in an effort to improve my anaerobic capacity….and spend a lot of time practicing my shot (god it was awful!). I would be much more capable of handling the intensity of the game.

But then again, I may be an old fart and I have to come to grips with that….


Gregg Hoffman


Comparing Grocery Carts

When you go grocery shopping, take a quick scan of what most people have in their shopping carts. You can tell at a glance if the person pushing the cart will have issues maintaining a healthy body fat percentage or not. I did this during my last visit to the grocery store, and I took some photos to share.

Let’s take a look at what people buy, shall we?

The Health Conscious Shopper

I have no doubt that the gentleman pushing this cart thinks he is making healthy food choices. He has some fruit, whole grain bagels, and vegetables in the lower part of the cart. Additionally, he just put on the checkout belt a gallon of low-fat milk. He is eating “healthy” according the dietary recommendations of the American Dietetic Association. The American Dietetic Association switched the format from the food pyramid that they really pushed back in the 1980’s and 1990’s to what is now called the MyPlate. The MyPlate plan divides the food plate into four equal parts of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein, and they add a finishing touch (I suppose) of a glass of dairy (low-fat, of course). Moreover, they recommend that the grain portion to be at least 50% whole grains. Personally, I don’t see why it is any different from the food pyramid back in the day. Both plans highly emphasize a very high carbohydrate intake with very low-fat, especially low saturated fats. The basic advice has not changed.

Moving on, you will notice upon close inspection that he also has frozen waffles and what looks like a bag of pure cane sugar crystals, and on the farther side of the cart it looks like a big bag of specialty baked bread.

Once again, I do believe this guy thinks he is making healthy food choices. I am afraid that he is not. First of all, it is very carbohydrate intense, and he has very few vegetables. There is also no good quality protein, and he has no fat at all! I will admit that maybe he is making a small food run and that he may have plenty of good protein items at home already. Even so, it would most likely be lean cuts of meat or chicken breasts, and he would quite likely have vegetable oils that he uses for cooking.

The high carbohydrate intake will tend to keep his insulin levels high, and the lack of both protein and good fats does not give his body the nutrition it needs for proper growth and repair. He is lean now, but it will be more of a struggle to stay in a healthy body fat range…and healthy overall as he gets older.

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The Traditional Shopper

IMAG1165This one was interesting. The couple that this cart belonged to was an older hispanic couple. Take a close look at what they have. You will see eggs, beef, pork, cheese, lots of vegetables and some fruit, and they finish it with salsa. No doubt they plan on making many traditional mexican dishes. Notice what they do not have: any processed foods such as potato chips, soft drinks, bottled juice, pasta and the like. They did buy tortillas, for that is what they put on the food belt while I was taking this photo.

Clearly the contents of this food cart had a mexican slant to it, but the food choices are similar to what was common before the high fat diet was considered unhealthy: meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, butter, and hardly any processed foods, if at all. In other words, whole, natural foods. A tip of the hat to this couple. I hope they keep eating this way.

The Modern Diet

IMAG1160This is pervasive, especially when I go shopping over the weekend. You can see that she has an abundance of soft drinks, chips, frozen waffles, and fruit juice. I believe that there is a bottle of salsa on top. She has no meats, vegetables, or healthy fats in her cart. The majority of the shoppers I see have similar food choices. They will have some meat, eggs, vegetables and the like, but the carts are loaded with the items pictured here.

Somebody who shops like this on a consistent basis will always struggle with maintaining a healthy body weight/ body fat percentage, even if he or she tries to manage portion sizes or daily calories (say, by trying to eat 1300 calories a day). There is so very little nutritional value in all of theses items that the person eating this way will always be hungry, and he or she will most likely feel lethargic. Indeed, a chronic diet of these food items can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases.

Our Grocery Cart

IMAG1162Here is a typical grocery run for us. On the top shelf I have all of our vegetables, usually onions, bell peppers, garlic, spinach, kale, cucumbers, avocados and so forth. On the bottom shelf I have the meats, cheese, butter or coconut oil if I need to stock up (today I have avocado oil), various vinegars and other spices, and for our indulgence, I buy a couple of dark chocolate bars (at least 85% cacao). That’s about it. On this day the grocery store had a sale on chuck roast so I really stocked up. That is about one months worth of meat, so we are good to go for a while. You’ll notice that there are no breads, pasta, potato chips or any other such processed food items. This would last Sharon and I about a week or so, and the bill for all of theses items was just north of $100.00.


It seems that people in general believe that healthy eating is way too hard to do, or too expensive to follow. I disagree. First and foremost, we simply need to get back to eating more whole foods and stay away from the processed foods that have no nutritional value, like the older couple I showed earlier. It is no more expensive to choose whole foods over processed foods, nor is it too difficult to prepare healthy meals. Just keep it simple.


Gregg Hoffman

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Dietary Fats and Health


Our regular readers know that we have been recommending a lower carbohydrate diet, more along the lines of the paleo diet that is more in vogue lately. We are not completely on board with the diet, for we would prefer meats with a higher concentration of fats (such as chuck roast and pork) and we believe eating dairy is fine as long as it is the high fat stuff like half and half or heavy whipping cream. Let me add a bit more clarity: I would say that our diet aligns more closely with the high fat/low carb paradigm with a heavy dose of veggies. There is no doubt that we are eating far more fat than what the mainstream nutritionists would recommend for good health.

After all, a high fat diet will clog the arteries and lead to heart disease, right?

Not necessarily. New research is showing that a high fat diet is not as devastating on our health as we thought. However, the types of fat do make a difference.

In this blog, we will delve into the different types of fat, and whether or not they should be a big part of our diet.


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Let’s begin:

Saturated fat. What makes fat saturated is the fact that all of the available carbon bonds are tied up with a hydrogen atom. This is the reason why saturated fats are solid at room temperature.

Interestingly, and still little known about saturated fats is that this type of fat is very stable, and not prone to spoilage and oxidation. Moreover, saturated fats are heat-resistant and necessary for many bodily functions. For example, saturated fats create a surfactant that covers the lungs that keeps them lubricated and prevents them from drying out. Cell membranes consist of approximately 50% saturated fat and gives the cells the needed stiffness and integrity for proper functioning. One other point I feel is very important to make: The brain consists mainly of fat (most of it saturated) and cholesterol (imagine that), so a diet rich in saturated fats gives the brain the raw materials needed to stay healthy.

Additionally, research is showing no correlation with high saturated fat consumption and heart disease. The evidence is not there.

Polyunsaturated fat. To properly define what a polyunsaturated fat is, we need to be clear about what an unsaturated fat is. An unsaturated fat is a fat whose carbon chain can absorb more hydrogen atoms. Thus, polyunsaturated fat is a fat that has more than one double or triple valence bond per molecule. The many “open-ended” bonds creates a  promotive environment for oxidation, which in general is not good for the body. This suggests that polyunsaturated fats should be avoided, but it is not that simple. There are health benefits to some polyunsaturated fats, but not so much for others. This has to do with the difference between Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. I will get into this in a moment.

Monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats are fats that have one double bond in the fatty chain with all the remaining carbon atoms being single bonded.  Due to the fact that monounsaturated fats have one double bond, they are semi-solid at room temperature. Additionally, monounsaturated fats are actually quite stable (maybe not as stable as saturated fats, but pretty stable none the less). As a matter of fact, monounsaturated fats are highly resistant to heat damage. So go ahead and use that olive oil for sauteing.

Trans-unsaturated fat. The better known name for trans-unsaturated fats are trans-fats. Trans-fats are made in small amounts in nature…and are quite good for you. However, the better known version of trans-fats are the types of fat that are industrially made from vegetable oils. The vegetable oils go through a process of hydrogenation to make the oil more solid at room temperature (think margarine) and to be used for processed and packaged foods because they have a longer shelf life than vegetable oils, and they are far cheaper to use. Furthermore, trans fats are widely used by restaurants for frying. There is strong evidence suggesting that regular consumption of trans-fats increase the risk or heart disease.

The Omega’s. Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated as I mentioned above, so they are more likely to oxidize than the saturated fats, but they are still important for our health. Researchers first learned about the value of Omega-3 fatty acids for heart health back in the 1970’s when they observed that the Eskimos of Greenland had lower cholesterol levels than the Danish or other western groups. An examination of their diets showed that they ate a very high fat diet with hardly any vegetables at all. A large portion of the diet consisted of fat from fish, and they had no signs of heart disease. Moreover, Omega-3 fatty acids are known to:

  • Regulate blood clotting
  • Play an important role in cell membrane functioning
  • Prevent or improve inflammation
  •  Improve cholesterol levels
  • Lower triglycerides

We also need the Omega-6 fatty acids in our diet for good health too, but the ratio in our modern diet of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids are way out of proportion. The ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid intake should be around 1:1, and some researchers say even a ratio of  4:1 can still be healthy, but the ratio is way off kilter. It averages anywhere from 20:1 to 50:1! High Omega-6 ratios promote systemic inflammation which scientists say is the cause of heart disease, diabetes, premature aging and cancer among others. The large prevalence of Omega-6’s come from vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, corn, soy, and canola. These oils became dominant in restaurant food preparation and packaged foods.

So where does that leave us? No doubt we do need fat in our diets for good health, and most certainly much more than we previously thought, but we still have to be selective. Since there are no healthy benefits to trans-fats in the diet, and especially since trans-fats have been shown to promote heart disease, we should not consume trans-fats at all. That takes out all of the packaged foods, and we must stay away from the fried foods at the restaurant. I am aware that restaurants are trying to change to healthier oils for frying, and some may have made the changes, but I still think it is prudent to just stay away from the fried foods, period.

Do not use any of the vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature for sauteing or frying at home, with the exception of olive oil or even avocado oil. Truth be told, it is nearly impossible to actually find a true Olive oil blend in the store. Most of them have a olive-oil, polyunsaturated oil blend. Because of this, Sharon and I no longer use olive oil. We simply switched to avocado oil for use on our salads.

Speaking of which, what we do use for sauteing is either coconut oil (saturated) or butter (saturated). We use beef tallow from time to time as well (also saturated).

It is of my opinion that we all should increase our intake of fats and at the same time decrease our intake of carbohydrates to a large degree. I would go so far as to suggest we should get roughly 60 to 70% of our calories from fat, cut total carbohydrate consumption down to 15 to 30%, and keep our protein intake about the same. Thus we should eat far more saturated fats, for it is not wise to increase trans-fats or our Omega-6 intake for that matter.

Saturated fats have been vilified too much for way too long. It is time we bring it back into our diets.


Gregg Hoffman

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Bad Leg Press Breaks Leg

It had to happen sooner or later. Someone got injured doing a leg press with a load that was way too heavy for him to use. Minor injuries do happen from lifting weights, but this one looked very serious. As near as I can tell, he snapped either his femur or tibia.

The video is no longer up. I bet he was not too happy that it went viral. In any event, I will explain what he did, and what should be done with proper technique.

It looks like he has approximately 1,200 lbs loaded on the machine, which is a lot but it is not unreasonable…if someone is strong enough to lift it with proper form. Clearly he is not.

To get stronger, one does need to lift progressively heavier weights. In truth, everybody has the capability of lifting more weight than they believe they could. Most of us do underestimate how strong we truly can be, and what happened to this guy will make many people apprehensive to train with the proper intensity they need for good results.

So how can you tell how much weight should he be using for maximum stimulation without causing injury?

First of all, he should be using a weight that he can do for a full range of motion without having to use his hands on his knees. Moreover, he should be using a load that he can lift with a smooth and controlled tempo for at least 5 to 6 reps before he reaches fatigue and/or failure.

The fact that he did a very short-range of motion (meaning he barely worked his quadriceps and most likely did not engage his glutes at all) on the first rep spoke volumes about the load simply being too much.

The second glaring issue was the need he had to keep his hands on his knees to do the lift. Trainees underestimate how much help the upper body gives the legs when they do this. This poor guy used his hands so much that his legs really could not lift the weights he had on the machine at all. It was very evident when he wanted to rack the weights after he was done with the set.

We do tell our clients…and all good fitness professionals do as well, to not lock out your knees on the leg press. It can lead to injury, and it looks like that happened in this video, but that is not the reason why his leg folded. His leg buckled because his hands were holding his knee in place, and if you watch the video closely, you can see that his leg buckled as soon as he let go. That is yet another sign that the load was waaay to heavy.

So how much weight should he use for the leg press? By looking at his physical development, I would say that he could safely handle a load in the 700 to 850 lb range, full range of motion with a controlled tempo for the appropriate rep range. That would still be an impressive amount of weight to lift…and he would get stronger without injury.

In contrast to his performance, below is a video of a leg press I did a few years ago. I did it with 1,020 lbs.

You will notice that I never put my hands on my knees…until the final rep to help myself through the fatigue. Furthermore, I did a full range of motion with a smooth and very controlled tempo, and yes, I never locked my knees during the whole set. I was thoroughly cooked at the end of the set, and I never got injured from doing a heavy leg press in my 30 plus years of lifting.

In summation, lifting heavy weights is necessary to get stronger for both men and women, but proper form, as evidenced from the first video, is very important to prevent injury. Using a load that can be done with no help and with a smooth and controlled tempo for a full range of motion for a minimum of 6 to 8 reps before fatigue is a time proven way to go.


Gregg Hoffman

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I Don’t Want to Get Big

“I don’t want to get big and bulky”

Sharon and I hear this all the time. When it comes to lifting weights, women are still afraid of getting too big.

I imagine they envision this:

woman bodybuilder

Yes. I’d be afraid of that too. However, it is impossible for a woman to get this big and muscular with a well designed strength training program. Here’s why.

Women naturally have lower testosterone levels than men do. Testosterone is the hormone that promotes muscle growth (along side human growth hormone). Good thing, too, because testosterone also promotes body hair and it deepens the voice. That does not mean that women can’t build muscle. They can, but they are able to do it through other hormonal means. It has come to my attention that women secrete more human growth hormone than men, and women are equal to men in the amount of IGF-1 that they produce. IG-1 is a hormone similar to insulin in structure and it works in conjunction with human growth hormone to reproduce and regenerate cells.

Women have less cross-sectional muscle mass than men to begin with. This is the more valid point about the difference between men and women. According to an article titled The Natural Muscular Potential of Womenwomen can gain as much size…and sometimes more strength than men. The difference is the overall muscular size between men and women. Men simply have more size and strength to start with.


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Let me be very frank here. Even many men who want big muscles, and are willing to train very hard to achieve that end, will never build the big muscles that you see on the professional bodybuilding stage. I know this from first hand experience. I started lifting weights because I wanted to be a bodybuilder. I trained very hard. A few times I trained so hard that I got sick and I had to take a couple of weeks off from training (that was smart). Through all of that, I did gain muscle…quite a bit of muscle, but nothing compared to what a professional bodybuilder is able to do. My point is this: since most men cannot get that big and muscular look naturally even if they want it, it would be near impossible for women to get that look from intense strength training. The only reason they do is because they take muscle building drugs. Dianobol, insulin, IGF-1, and other such steroids in large dosages. Very dangerous amounts if you ask me.

But for women to have the toned, shapely looking body that they desire, they do have to train with a high level of intensity. Women have to train hard enough to work the fast twitch fibers because the fast twitch fibers are the ones that become more defined when they grow. The slow twitch fibers do not. Sadly, most women train only with enough intensity to work the slow twitch fibers. As an example, the typical workout women do with weights consist of three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions for a given body part with a load that’s easy enough to accomplish this task without any real effort. This is common, and it never produces the results women are looking for.

It takes intensity of effort to work the fast twitch fibers. Whether one chooses to do one set or three sets on any given body part does not matter much. What matters is that by the end of the set…or series of sets, that last couple of repetitions are so hard from fatigue one could barely finish them. Shaky muscles, labored breathing, and a feeling of exhaustion are all good signs that the fast twitch fibers are recruited in a workout. This should be the goal to strive for with every workout.

Sharon is a great example of what a good and intense strength training program can do for the female form. Here is a photo:


Sharon takes all of her sets to failure, and she uses weights as heavy as she can handle for 8 to 12 reps. Clearly, she is not big and bulky.

Women. Don’t be afraid of intense strength training. You will not get big and bulky. Instead you will get a leaner, shaplier body.


Gregg Hoffman

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Explosive Exercise: Do We Need It?

weightlifting-mattie-rodgers-daniel-camargoEvery time I do an initial consultation with a potential client who has past experience with weight training, and has participated in high school and college sports; more specifically foot ball, baseball, and Lacrosse, they use explosive movements when lifting the weight on every set that I have them to do. This, even after I explain to them that I want a slow and controlled lifting technique with a smooth turnaround at both the top and the bottom of the reps. It has happened 100% of the time. The consults that I do with people who never lifted weights before do not do this. They listen to me…and follow my instructions very well.

 Explosive movements are when a trainee will jerk, heave, or hoist a weight to get it to start moving, and the trainee attempts to move the resistance as fast as possible. Power lifters, Olympic lifters, athletes of the above mentioned sports, and Cross-fit® disciples are famous for training explosively.

There are two explanations given that I have found for the rationale to do explosive training.

  • More muscle fiber recruitment (i.e) making the fast twitch fibers work more thoroughly.
  • To get faster and more powerful for the given sport. A good example would be an offensive lineman using Olympic lifts to better “explode” off the line of scrimmage to push back the defensive lineman crouched across him.

One thing is for sure. Explosive lifting, especially with heavy weights increase the potential for injury in a big way. It is too easy to get a herniated disk, rotator cuff tear, elbow tendonitis and other such injuries from explosive training. So, in my opinion, there had better be concrete proof that it produces results that are superior to slower movement weight training.

I will not address the point of whether or not explosive training is a requirement for deeper muscle fiber recruitment, i.e. the fast twitch fibers. I will explore that topic more in-depth in another blog. Suffice it to say here that yes, you do work the fast twitch fibers with slower rep speeds. You do not need explosive exercise to succeed at fast twitch fiber recruitment.

Positive Transfer, Negative Transfer and Neutral Transfer

Coaches want the athletes under their tutelage to do explosive weight training because of the concept of transference. They believe that being explosive with weight will transfer to being explosive on the playing field. Seem reasonable on the surface, but let’s take a closer look.

Research has shown that there are three types of transference. Positive transfer, negative transfer, and neutral transfer.

Positive transfer is where one activity has a beneficial effect on the second activity. A good example of positive transfer is learning how to play the guitar for a couple of years, and then trying to learn how to play the ukulele. Both are string instruments with a similar structure so learning the guitar beforehand will make the learning curve shorter with the ukulele. I have seen this first hand, for my daughter plays both instruments very well (proud of you daughts!).

Negative transfer is where learning one skill will make learning the second skill much harder. I have two examples that come to mind from personal experience. I played baseball most of my childhood (loooved it), and I became a pretty good hitter with power. I learned a specific set of coordinated movement patterns to hit the ball with a fair amount of accuracy and power that took years to develop. When I was older I played softball, and even though I knew how to swing a bat, I could not get a good hit on the ball to save my life. The trajectory and the speed  of the ball coming toward me completely threw off my timing and my swing. I played softball for a couple of years and I never felt I got the hang of it. This leads into my second personal experience.  Had I known then what I know now about negative transfer, I would not have used the doughnut on my bat to warm up before I went up to bat. A doughnut is basically a 2 1/5 lb weight shaped like a doughnut that you put on the bat to make it heavier while you take practice swings. The theory being that the bat would feel lighter when you do face the pitcher so you can swing the bat faster and with more power. In would not do that now because it turns out that when we practice motor skills, it takes thousands of repetitions in the same setting with the same weighted instrument (say, the weight of a football or the weight of the bat you will use), and the same motion to reach higher levels of mastery of that skill. I have no doubt that using the doughnut for my practice swings made my hitting percentage worse than if I had done no practice swings at all.


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Neutral transfer is where the previously practiced skill has no effect one way or another on mastering the new skill set. A clear example of that would be, say, learning how to play the guitar would not influence learning how to be a fastball pitcher.

So, where does explosive training fit into this? Let’s examine the clean and jerk. It is a two-part motion exercise. The first phase of the lift is to lift the bar from off the floor to the upper deltoids. The lifter must jerk the weight off the floor and as the bar is travelling upwards, he must position himself under it properly to land it on his deltoids. The second phase of the lift is to hoist the weight upwards overhead with the elbows fully locked and the lifter standing in the same plane as the torso and bar bell. Just like the first part of the lift, the trainee has to position himself under the bar properly to be able to finish the second part of the lift. You can see that the lift takes a great degree of well executed coordinated movement patterns that takes years to master, so not only is it a strength lift but it is also a skill lift. Moreover, the trainee is learning how to move heavy resistance straight up and down against gravity. If an offensive lineman is using the olympic lift to improve his explosiveness to push back the defender and create an opening for the running back, or to give the quarterback more time to throw the ball, the skill sets he learned from performing the clean and jerk has no meaningful transfer to the skill set he needs to learn on the football field. The clean and jerk skill set will not give positive transfer, nor will it have a negative transfer. It has neutral transfer.

Let’s use another, more common example. The bench press. Just like the Olympic lifts, athletes are taught to do the bench press in an explosive manner, i.e. let the bar come down as fast as possible, bounce the bar off the chest, and then “explode” the bar the rest of the way up. Does this have positive transfer? Doubtful. First of all, the trainee is laying down on a bench, which has no carryover potential to the lifter using that skill set to push a lineman back. Secondly, the lift does not involve the legs, lower back, nor any other muscles that are involved for the lineman. This is another example of neutral transfer.


Applying the knowledge of positive, negative, and neutral transfer to whether a certain style of strength training has more carryover to a sport over a different approach, namely strength training using a slower and more controlled cadence in contrast to a fast and explosive style of lifting, I see no extra benefit to using explosive movements to any given sport. Both styles of lifting will greatly improve strength and general conditioning which does have a positive impact on any given sport, but explosive movements will increase the likelihood of incurring an injury off the playing field. Indeed, even barring injury explosive training can shorten an athletic career because of the undue stress placed on the tendons, ligaments, and joints of the body. I can also say this with certainty….there is no reason for a middle-aged trainee to use explosive exercise to reach a high degree of fitness. It is just not necessary, so why do it?


Gregg Hoffman

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Visceral Fat Loss: A Guestimation

Yesterday, I took measurements of my client before his workout. Andrew has been a client for quite some time now, and he has been both consistent and very successful with his fitness program. He lost 33 pounds of scale weight and he has gained an estimated 4 to 6 pounds of muscle. All in all, he lost closer to 36 to 38 pounds of fat. Very good results indeed.

 The reason for this post is because the results of his latest measurements were a bit unusual. To give you some background, I use a combination of girth measurements (arms, chest, waist and thighs), scale weight, and skin-fold measurements to determine body fat. Moreover, I use the Lange skin-fold caliper. The Lange calipers are considered the gold standard in the medical profession and the fitness industry. About a year ago I also added two measurements around the waist: one around the narrowest area of the waist which is generally about two inches above the waist, and the other measurement around around the belly button. I did this to add a bit more accuracy.


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Andrew lost three pounds since his last measurements, and he lost about an inch around his chest and close to 2 inches at both waist measurements. Here is where it gets interesting. Even though Andrew lost some inches around his waist, the skin-fold measurements did not change. He had 63 mm from the four sites the last time I measured him (the Triceps, Biceps, Sub-scapula and Suprailliac crest), and yesterday his skin-folds were 64 mm. In essence, there was no change. According to the chart, he is still around 21% body fat.

How could this be? He lost some weight, and I know it was not muscle because his strength was still improving. He also lost inches around the waist. This is a definite sign of fat loss. The only possible conclusion that I can think of was that Andrew did not lose any subcutaneous fat, but he did lose some visceral fat.

Visceral fat is stored within the abdominal cavity, and it accumulates around the internal organs such as the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and no doubt the heart. Visceral fat is much more active than subcutaneous fat because it is the fat that plays a role on hormonal function, and not in a good way. Too much visceral fat is associated with an increased  risk of diabetes, heart disease, dementia and cancer.

I did some research to see if there was a way to measure visceral fat, and it seems the only reliable way is by taking a whole body scan of some type such as the DEXA scan or maybe an MRI if you wanted to. However, a more practical way is to take a tape measurement of your waist and hips at the largest point, and then divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. If the ratio is 1.0 or higher for men and 0.85 for women, it is considered excessive.

Getting back to Andrew, he lost visceral fat but not subcutaneous fat between the times I measured him. So even though the skin-folds still say he is around 21%, the more likely answer is that he was originally close to 23% body fat before, and now he is closer to 21%…or he was closer to 21% before and now he may be around, say, 19%. One way or another he lost some body fat that I cannot really measure.

To me, this is good news because of the health dangers associated with visceral fat. I would rather see the visceral fat go down before the subcutaneous fat, and there is no doubt that the subcutaneous fat will also come down over time with a continued commitment to the program.


Gregg Hoffman