Category Archives: Powerthenics

Ladies: Why Getting Strong Will Make You a Goddess in 2017 (Part II)

Female physiology is incredibly complex. In fact, it is so complex that many reputable male trainers avoid working with ladies. The intricacies associated with changes in female body composition has been a perplexing phenomenon since the age of time, even dumbfounding much of the scientific world.

This post will aim to outline the biological mechanisms behind the enigmatic female body, while providing rationale for the best approach to training for improvements in body composition.

Why Are Females’ Bodies Seemingly So Complex?

This is probably a preconceived notion for the ladies reading this but men really do have it much easier from a body composition perspective. Almost every research paper shows smaller effect sizes in both weight loss and fat for women, when compared to their male counterparts.

Ultimately, it boils down to the capacity to procreate and the concomitant menstrual cycle. A few key changes that should be considered in a eumenorrheic (i.e. normal menstruation) female:

  • Women have a greater amount of estradiol and testosterone during the follicular phase compared to the luteal phase, and thus can handle higher training loads during this period
  • Women are also more insulin sensitive and less prone to water retention during the follicular phase, so carbohydrates are generally better tolerated

Irrespective of the menstrual cycle, females are far more resistant to changes in homeostasis than males. By this I mean that the female body will fight back harder in response to stressors such as exercise and changes in diet. Again, this is due to the complex biological mechanisms underpinning female physiology (wired to facilitate survival of the human race); the menstrual cycle only compounds these compensations that aim to maintain homeostasis.

Moreover, the extent to which women experience ‘period’ symptoms varies tremendously; some females cannot differentiate between the stages that they may be in at any given time, whereas others will experience significant alterations in mood, water retention (which will mask fat loss efforts), appetite, energy and so on.

Females’ Training & Diet Should Be Periodised (Pun Not Intended :P)

In light of the above, most females will respond best to periodising their training and eating in accordance with what stage they are in. Without delving to deep into the finer details of specific programming, here are a few principles that I would advise implementing to feel, look and perform better:

  • Training during the follicular phase should be relatively higher volume, higher intensity; conversely, lower the volume and intensity during your luteal phase, perhaps even incorporating more steady state cardiovascular exercise (like brisk walking). Strive to hit PBs during the follicular phase, and see the luteal period as more of a ‘maintenance’ phase to avoid being disheartened with potentially poor performances. This study very much supports the idea of training periodisation for females, showing greater gains made in strength and muscle.
  • Since metabolism and insulin sensitivity plunges during the luteal phase, and we are reducing our overall training volume, calories need to be cut. The reduction in calories should come almost exclusively from carbohydrates. For example, a 60kg female’s rest day may differ by 300-500 calories (75-125g of carbohydrates) between the follicular and luteal phases. *This is an example, only – take it for what its worth.
Marisa Inda, Elite Powerlifter

Much research also suggests that females preferentially utilise intra-muscular fatty acids during exercise, when compared to men. In other words, women are better at what we call ‘carbohydrate-sparing’. As such, fat should comprise a higher proportion of a female’s diet, and I generally programme for my female clients in this manner.

Since females possess a fraction of the testosterone that males do, they usually lack the absolute intensity males are able to train with. This is a major reason, besides their propensity for fat substrate utilisation, why females tend to respond better to higher volume schemes when training with weights. Ladies generally require greater total reps/sets in order to achieve the same relative work output as men, at any given perceived exertion. I am not advocating muscular endurance rep targets (i.e. 15+), but a 4-8 rep goal I will often prescribe for a male in the gym would usually translate into 6-12 for the ladies. This is obviously dependent on the exercise and other variables, but just another example to illustrate my point.

While I am by no means a Crossfit aficionado, I do believe certain principles derived from this sport are favourable for women’s physiques. The elite female crossfitters train compound barbell movements with high intensity, relatively high volumes in short time-frames, capitalising on fat oxidation while building lean muscle. You don’t have to join a crossfit box, but take some of these principles and incorporate them in to your own training. The major downfall with crossfit is that it doesn’t really consider long-term programming; the workouts are random and thus don’t allow the individual to progressively overload exercises in a meaningful way. It is exercise, as opposed to training.

The majority of females gravitate to exercise modalities like yoga because, naturally, they are good it. Females have much more lax joints than males, so it is relatively easy. I think yoga is fantastic, both for the mind and one’s mobility, but adding a few ‘heavy’ strength training days a week on top of this will render profound improvements; for health, improved body composition, confidence to name but a handful of associated benefits.

I understand stepping in the gym is right outside the comfort zone of most women, and this is exactly why you should commence a proper weight training regime. The research to support strength training for women is simply irrefutable.

Best,

Jonny.

 

The Evolved Physio Phyt Vision

Having launched the ‘Physio Phyt’ blog 18 months ago without adequately explaining its purpose, I thought elaborating on my vision was overdue and necessary.

When I first conceived the idea of my own blog 2 years ago, I wanted to synthesise tidbits from the array of health resources that exist; it was originally going to be an ‘Eclectic Health Digest’ of sorts.

I had the intention of creating a blog that would appreciate the various perspectives on health, a sphere that is ever-changing.

However, this idea was too general and unoriginal to succeed, so I have undergone lengthy deliberation in the last year: what value can I offer my followers? Why should people listen to what I have to say? What distinguishes the Physio Phyt movement from other online fitness coaching models?

A Few Thoughts On The Current Physiotherapy Model

3 years in to my Master of Physiotherapy degree, I have encountered a significant discordance between the coursework I am expected to learn, and my own vision for Physio Phyt.

While I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to study such a reputable course, and the lifelong friendships that has come with it, I have experienced frustrations throughout.

Foremost, the physiotherapy curriculum as it stands does not equip its students to adequately prescribe exercises, and this should be a concern for future graduates. In light of this shortcoming, I feel that physios in Australia are being left behind the likes of other disciplines such as osteopathy, exercise physiology, and exercise science. Yes, rehabilitation is inherently ‘reactive’, and physiotherapists have forged a reputation for being the best at assessing and rehabilitating injuries; but for what is such a difficult degree to get into, the coursework should be fundamentally revamped to address a simple yet powerful concept: progressive overload. I am sure my colleagues would agree with me.

Ultimately, I feel that the physiotherapy coursework could be more holistic to instil a broader knowledge base in its students.

I understand that every field has its respective scope of practice, yet it seems the previously mentioned disciplines are becoming more and more proficient at injury assessment and management; what is and has been the crux of physiotherapy. At the same time, there are few newly graduated physiotherapists with an extensive knowledge of strength and conditioning, or exercise prescription more generally.

The undeniably reactive physiotherapy model does not excite me, in that the patient usually assumes a passive role in the therapist-consumer relationship. This is seen in the majority of physio interventions, such as massage therapy, dry needling, shockwave therapy and so on. None of these treatment modalities are convincingly vindicated by science, although they may offer transient improvements in symptoms, anecdotally. Temporary relief administered solely by the therapist; passive and unsustainable. They have their place, but should not be at the forefront of physio practice.

Sure, the current approach is substantially more profitable for physios with consumer retention, but I would find it much more fulfilling eradicating the cause of the patients’ injuries by means of empowering them. Not just empowering the patient with cut-of-the-mill theraband exercises to do at home in between ongoing physio sessions; but a comprehensive, long-term, strengthening programme that incorporates both barbell and bodyweight movements. In doing so, the likelihood of preventing future injuries is improved, by virtue of eliminating the common culprit: weakness.

And I’m sorry, but sets of 8-12 reps for a rotator cuff tear with an elastic band (for example) is not strength training, no matter what Uni tells us. It might be rehab, but it is definitely not strength training. Incorporate the whole unit with compound movements, and the unaffected muscles will work in synergy to offset excessive load through the affected body structure, as its tolerance grows.

Remember: stimulus, stress, adaptation. The patients should expect to feel uncomfortable, but this is the very stress needed to elicit an adaptation.

Physios need to stop isolating sh*t with muscular endurance work, and go global as early as possible with strength work.

*I realise it is an unfair generalisation to blanket all physiotherapists as inept with exercise prescription, but it seems that a large percentage are. This is why so many physios are pursuing their post-grad Masters in S&C. It is not our fault, but rather the traditional Physiotherapy model in Australia (that is taught at Uni). I feel that the role of physiotherapy (in athletic populations, anyway) is fast becoming redundant with the burgeoning, related professions. New-grad physio jobs are no longer as certain as they once were.

It would also be remiss of me not to mention the handful of physios who I look up to, and are pioneering the strong breed of physio; Daniel Vadnal of FitnessFAQs is the exemplar, in my opinion.

Daniel Vadnal, Performing A High Level Bodyweight Movement (‘The Planche’)

 

The Physio Phyt Vision

As mentioned above, my primary aim is to empower my followers. I want to make the process of achieving any human performance, health or physique-related goal as easy and seamless as possible for you.

Physio Phyt bridges the gap between scientific and anecdotal evidence, and will constantly review such as to provide you with the most up-to-date, practicable information.

I will decipher what the latest research is saying, interpreting the implications for you so that your informed decisions become stepping stones toward your goals.

I believe everyone has the potential to become strong, and the programmes I offer people ultimately blend powerlifting (barbell movements) with calisthenics (bodyweight training); I am immensely passionate about my ‘Powerthenics’ project, and can verify that these 2 training modalities complement each other in such a way that they:

  • Create a robust, injury-proof physique, with ideal proportions
  • Have tremendous carryover benefit in to sports and other physical pursuits (such as endurance running)
  • Enhance all other domains of your life
  • Instil unwavering self-belief and confidence

Why are they such a potent combination?

Well, calisthenics alone is terrific for relative strength, not to mention resource-efficient, but it is very unlikely to build much leg muscle with bodyweight alone. This is why you will often see popular calisthenics figures concealing their legs with pants when training (or that’s what I believe :P); their upper body strength and skill is admirable, but it’s not nearly as impressive as seeing a powerlifter (with well-developed legs) manipulating their bodyweight in space.

By a similar token, a large proportion of powerlifters lose accountability of their body fat levels, and so despite having impressive absolute strength, their relative strength is average; and sadly, the ‘fat powerlifter’ stereotype is often a deterrent for laypeople to commence this sport.

Handstands would be out of the question for a lot of heavier powerlifters. Implementing bodyweight training, in tandem with powerlifting, will ensure that body fat is kept in check.

Dan Green – Elite Powerlifter, and Former Gymnast Performing Handstand Pushups

A Powerthenics programme, paired with a nutrition plan that supports one’s training demands, will yield insanely good results.

While my perspective is n=1, this approach has enabled me over 3 years to go from a weak 58kg to a strong 83kg; from a 60kg deadlift to 240kg; from struggling to do a proper push-up to handstand push-ups against a wall; from a few chin-ups to 5 with 45kg attached to me.

I am not the best or strongest in this game, but I pride myself on progress, and eagerly anticipate what my body can achieve in years to come.

I want to help facilitate people in becoming the strongest version of themselves, without fitness consuming their lifestyle.

Give The Body The Appropriate Stimulus, And It Will Change

 

Men & women alike, if you are excited by my vision, and want to work with me towards your goals, let me know at jonnysouter@gmail.com. I offer personalised nutrition & training programmes to meet your needs. Join the Powerthenics Project.

Also, I would really appreciate any ideas for future blog posts; topics that you would like clarified or that pique your interest.

 

Healthy regards and Happy New Year,

Jonny.