Fitness FAQs

Unlock the knowledge that will change the way you approach your fitness journey.

General Fitness Questions

Do I need to hire a personal trainer when I first start working out?

Well, this depends. It will mainly come down to how comfortable you are with performing strength training exercises at the gym. If you are confident that you can walk into the gym and understand what’s being asked of you in a strength training program (for example, what a barbell back squat is and how it should look and feel when performing it), then you’re probably safe to skip past hiring a personal trainer.

If you have low confidence in your ability to perform strength training exercises, I highly recommend hiring an in-person personal trainer at your gym to help you build confidence in the fundamental movement patterns.

If this is going to be your first time stepping foot into a gym, I always recommend at least 1-2 sessions with an in-person personal trainer to better understand the gym’s layout and how all the equipment works. Many gyms offer a free personal training session upon joining the gym. Take advantage of it

Once you’ve built a basic understanding of how to perform strength training exercises, hiring an online personal trainer can be a more cost-effective and flexible option for achieving your fitness goals.

How do you stay motivated to go to the gym consistently?

Finding or creating motivation starts with first understanding basic psychological needs. These needs include

Autonomy — the feeling of being in control of your decisions

Competence — the feeling of having the capable knowledge or ability to achieve one’s goals

Relatedness — the feeling of belonging and a sense of community and relationships built during your participation

The ability to feel in control, capable, and valued or connected can lead to and produce a sense of motivation toward achieving your goals long-term.

Motivation is often built on a foundation built of sand — it’s there one day, then it’s gone the next. Rather than constantly searching for motivation, looking inward and realizing the motivation already within us can be helpful.

Two factors drive one’s motivation: internal or intrinsic and external or extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivationExtrinsic motivation
Goals more driven by internal or basic psychological needsLess driven by internal or basic psychological needs
Things that interest us or that we are good at and find satisfyingMore focused on appeasing others or based on others values
Aimed to achieve an outcome we deeply value or connect withAimed to achieve a goal placed there by others

 

Motivations toward achieving a goal are important, but understanding why you want to achieve that goal has shown to be even more important toward achieving the specific goal.

A mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations can be positive, and the goal is to get started toward our goals. It has been shown that while working toward our goals, previous extrinsic motivations lower as more intrinsic motivations take their place.

Once you’ve identified your motivations for creating change, it’s important to understand how to set rewarding goals. Setting goals has shown to be a positive contributor to achieving what you have set out to accomplish while lowering the potential for overwhelm and discouragement.

Goal setting is something I work on with my 1-on-1 online personal training clients.

What’s the best way to measure your fitness progress?

With my 1-on-1 online personal training clients, we track progress via a weekly biofeedback form and check-in process. This includes keeping track of things like scale weight, body circumference measurements, strength levels, sleep quality and quantity, and stress levels, among a few others that are more specific to the individual’s short and long-term goals.

Measuring your progress can be as involved as you need it to be. If you have a goal of losing weight, keeping track of things like scale weight and body circumference measurements, alongside how you’re feeling week to week, can certainly help you gauge progress and stay on track with your goals.

Need help with your accountability in keeping track of these efforts? This is exactly what I do with my 1-on-1 online personal training clients. Click here to fill out an application to work together.

What are good short-term and long-term fitness goals?

Setting goals has shown to be a positive contributor to achieving what you have set out to accomplish while lowering the potential for overwhelm and discouragement. When setting a goal, we’ve all heard of the need for our goals to be S.M.A.R.T., which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timely.

Although this has been something we’ve based our goals on for the past 50 years, it’s a bit outdated and not as relevant as once thought, especially to health and fitness goals. Instead, it can be helpful to think of creating S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals, which is a term coined by Dr. Kasey Jo Orvidas.

Specific – be specific and identify what you would like to accomplish, like wanting to start strength training to increase strength and overall health or lose 3 inches on your waist.

Measurable – make it measurable, like getting to the gym 3x per week and tracking my weights used in the gym and changes to your waist measurements each week.

Additive – a big focus among setting effective and productive goals is ensuring that those goals are adding to your life. For example, adding more physical activity into your life is additive to improving your health, feeling happier, and being more energized throughout the day.

Rewarding – setting goals that are intrinsically (internally) rewarding helps reinforce the behaviors we want to do more of, that we know are good for us and know will make a positive impact in our own life.

Timely – start by setting an initial time frame for the goal, like getting stronger in the gym and losing 3 inches of your waist over the course of 3 months.

Efficacy – set goals that you have the skill set to work toward right away. Roadblocks are inevitable, but knowing you have what it takes to work past the roadblocks is huge when it comes to sticking with your goals long-term.

Reverse Engineering – this process involves knowing where you’d like to end up and setting up a plan to break it down into smaller, more achievable steps. This creates clear and concise action steps to help you get closer to your goals.

Once your short or long-term goals are set, it’s important to establish sustainable habits based on achieving your goals over the long term. Success toward your goals will be a product of your daily habits, not the complete overhaul of your entire way of life. Goals can be thought of as a way of setting a direction, but your daily habits are the system for making progress.

Should I take progress photos or keep a workout journal?

Keeping track of a few points of information can be helpful to know you’re moving in the right direction with your goals. Progress photos can help show a change in your body composition that may not be as obvious when looking at yourself in the mirror each week. The process of keeping weekly or bi-weekly progress photos is something I do with my 1-on-1 online personal training clients. It’s an objective way to keep track of changes we’re making across the weeks, months, and sometimes years of working together towards a goal.

Keeping a workout journal is one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re making consistent progress in the gym. Progressive overload is one of the most meaningful ways to ensure you’re making progress in your training program. Keeping track of the weights and reps you’re performing on each exercise can help you know when and how to progress your workouts weekly, ensuring consistent progress over time.

Is it better to workout at commercial gyms, home gyms, or outdoors?

I used to be more concerned about where people trained than I am now. But, the statistics show that approximately 80% of US adults and adolescents are not getting enough physical activity. This is a significant global health problem, and the only way to improve it is to make aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises more accessible. Therefore, it is essential to find a place to work out whenever possible.

Recent research highlights that just 60 minutes of strength training per week can reduce mortality risk by 33%, and improve overall health, quality of life, and well-being. Start by performing 2-3, 20-30 minute sessions per week and progress from there as you can.

Do you need help in keeping track of your exercises? This is precisely what I do with my 1-on-1 online personal training clients. If you want to work with me, click here to fill out an application.

How important is a smartwatch (Apple Watch, Fitbit, Whoop) for tracking your performance?

Smart watches can be great for tracking metrics like daily step count and resting heart rate, which is how I use them for my 1-on-1 online personal training clients. When it comes to tracking calories burned across the day or during workouts, they’re not very accurate. So I wouldn’t put too much weight into the data you’re collecting.

If you’re interested in a wearable device that helps you stay accountable to your daily movement goals and helps keep a closer tab on your heart rate, a wearable smartwatch or fitness tracker can be useful.

Is lifting weights safe?

In addition to other training methods such as Powerlifting, CrossFit, and Strongman, bodybuilding-style strength training is a safe and effective way to improve your health, stimulate muscle growth, and enhance your body composition. However, despite being relatively safer than most other training modalities, it still comes with a risk of injury. To minimize these risks, it is essential to focus on certain areas such as a well-designed warm-up routine, mobility work, proper stretching techniques, cooling down effectively, and paying attention to your exercise form and technique.

Is working out or cardio best for losing weight?

To improve and maintain body composition, lose unwanted weight and body fat, and enhance overall health, it’s best to combine both aerobic (cardio) and muscle-strengthening (strength training) activities.

Cardio training improves your cardiovascular and respiratory system, enhances overall health, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, which are the leading causes of death worldwide.

Strength training helps add muscle and strength, promoting overall health and well-being as we age, reducing the risk of sarcopenia and dynapenia (age-related muscle loss and loss of muscular strength and power), and keeping you mobile and independent as you grow older.

Moreover, adding muscle tissue and strength can also enhance cardiovascular and metabolic health, boost immune function, reduce body fat, improve blood lipids, increase glucose tolerance, and enhance insulin sensitivity.

If you’re looking to enhance overall health and significantly reduce your risk of disease, it’s highly recommended to make a combination of cardiovascular and strength training a top priority.

Should I warm up before lifting weights?

A well-designed warm-up helps reduce the risk of injury and improves readiness heading into your strength training session without generating excessive fatigue. An appropriate warm-up routine is a critical part of transitioning the mind from your everyday life into the mindset to workout and exert yourself physically while being able to focus on the task at hand. The goal of a warm-up is to:

  • Increase HR
  • Increase body temp and blood flow
  • Activate (excite) the nervous system for activity without excessive fatigue
  • Progression from general warm up to more specific, preparing you for that day’s exercises.
  • Prepares the mind for the mental challenges a workout can demand: concentration toward exercise technique, skill acquisition, and overall coordination.


You can find a well-designed warm-up routine in my book, Science of Strength Training.

Training & Workout Questions

Should I incorporate compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and bench press into my workouts?

Utilizing multi-joint compound exercises is a great way to enhance any strength training program, especially when the goal is to build muscle and increase strength. Not only are compound exercises highly effective for building muscle and gaining strength, but they also train multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making your workout sessions more efficient.

How long should I spend in the gym per workout?

Recent research has discovered that strength training for just one hour per week can help reduce the risk of mortality by 33%, leading to an overall improvement in health, quality of life, and well-being. If you are new to strength training, start with 2-3 sessions per week lasting 20-30 minutes each, and gradually increase the duration as you progress.

For those who have been working out for over a year, training sessions usually last from 45-90 minutes, depending on the structure and goal of the workout. Ultimately, the goal is to create a sustainable training routine that works for you. For most people, this means 3-4 sessions per week, lasting 45-60 minutes each.

How long does it take to lose muscle and strength?

Muscle atrophy refers to the reduction in size or wasting away of skeletal muscle tissue, which can result in poor quality of life and increased morbidity. This condition can be caused by a lack of physical activity, aging, neuromuscular diseases, cancer, chronic inflammatory diseases, and acute critical illness.

If you are concerned about losing muscle and strength while on vacation, studies show that two to four weeks away from strength training will not have a substantial impact. Even abstaining from training for up to six months may only result in a 10% reduction in strength. However, avoiding extended periods of low physical activity and weightlifting is essential, especially as you age.

Research indicates that after the age of 40, the body loses more muscle mass each year. However, lifestyle choices and health habits can influence this. Consistent resistance training and adequate daily protein intake can help prevent this progressive loss of muscle tissue.

In addition to a decrease in hypertrophic responses to training, the elderly have shown a reduction in their ability to recover from higher amounts of training volume. The underlying reasons for age-related impairments to muscle adaptations are not yet well known. Still, changes in hormone profiles, chronic low-grade inflammation, satellite cell function, and reduced blood vessel development could have an impact.

Physical activity, particularly strength training, can prevent and treat musculoskeletal diseases such as sarcopenia (muscle loss) and dynapenia (loss of muscle strength and power), which are more prevalent in elderly populations.

Are free weights better than machines if I want to grow muscle?

Free weights, such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, and medicine balls, are an essential part of my workout routine and the programs I create for my clients. However, there is a common misconception that you have to pick between free weights and machines.

When I first started lifting, people believed that machines were for beginners, while free weights were for advanced lifters. However, this is not always the case. Both machines and free weights play a vital role in applying resistance to your body and should be used to achieve your fitness goals.

If you are new to strength training or are recovering from an injury, machines can be a great alternative to free weights. Machines offer a fixed movement pattern and create a stable environment to perform your repetitions, helping to reduce the risk of injury. On the other hand, free weights challenge more assisting muscle groups, balance, and coordination, and require a higher level of skill.

It is a misconception that one causes more muscle mass than the other. If your goal is to maximize your gains in strength and muscle, you should use both machines and free weights. You should use every tool available to achieve your fitness goals and not worry about earning brownie points for using one over the other.

Should I rotate between free weights and machine-based exercises?

As mentioned earlier, there is a common misconception that one type of equipment causes more muscle mass than the other. However, to maximize your gains in strength and muscle, it is recommended to use both machines and free weights. You should use every tool available to achieve your fitness goals.

That being said, if you have the ability to effectively perform both machine and free-weight variations in your workouts, it can be worthwhile. Machines offer a fixed movement pattern and create a stable environment to perform your repetitions, reducing excessive amounts of fatigue and a higher risk of injury. On the other hand, free weights require a higher level of skill to perform but can be great for creating an effective high-tension environment to grow muscle and gain strength.

A good way to incorporate both types of equipment in your workouts is to perform your multi-joint compound exercises with free weights and your single-joint isolation exercises with machines.

Should I include warm-ups and cool-downs in my workout?

Having a well-designed warm-up routine can significantly reduce the risk of injury and improve your readiness for strength training without causing excessive fatigue.

A proper warm-up is a crucial part of transitioning your mind from your daily routine to the mindset required for a workout, allowing you to focus on the task ahead. The main objectives of a warm-up routine are to increase heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow, activate the nervous system for activity without causing excessive fatigue, progress from general to more specific warm-up exercises that prepare you for that day’s workout, and prepare your mind for the mental challenges that a workout can entail, such as concentration on exercise technique, skill acquisition, and overall coordination.

You can find a well-designed warm-up routine in my book, Science of Strength Training.

Is lifting technique important for growing muscle?

Mastering exercise technique is a crucial aspect and fundamental skill of strength training. In the early stages of any sport or activity, focusing on the basics is essential to progress.

If you played basketball as a kid, your coach might have rounded you up and advised you to work on dribbling and passing drills instead of just shooting three-pointers. Similarly, when it comes to sprinting, drills that don’t involve any running can help you learn the proper technique.

Even as you become more advanced in your specialized skill or sport, you will find yourself continually returning to the fundamentals. There is always room for improvement in the basics that define what you do.

As a trainer, my job is to help you perform exercises safely and effectively. The better you are at this skill, the safer and more effective your training sessions will be.

Whether your goal is to gain strength, build muscle, or lose body fat, using strength training as your vehicle, it is essential to get good at the one thing you’re doing – lifting weights. Expecting to be good at basketball without the ability to dribble is like trying to achieve success in strength training without the skill of performing each rep correctly and effectively.

Powerlifting vs Weightlifting vs Bodybuilding

Powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and bodybuilding are all strength sports, but they differ in their purpose, technique, and training approaches. Let’s take a closer look at each of them:

Powerlifting:
The main objective of powerlifting is to lift the maximum amount of weight for a single repetition in three specific lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. Powerlifting emphasizes lifting heavy weights with a focus on absolute strength. While form is important, it is often adjusted to allow for the maximum amount of weight to be lifted. The training approach usually involves lower rep ranges (often between 1-5 reps) with heavier weights and longer rest intervals to prioritize strength gains. Powerlifting has become very popular in recent years and is a normal way to train for many fitness enthusiasts.

Olympic Weightlifting:
Olympic weightlifting involves more technical lifts – the snatch, clean & jerk, power cleans, hang cleans, etc.. The goal is to lift the most weight in a fluid, continuous motion. This sport requires significant technical skill, timing, and coordination. The lifts are executed in a very specific way, and the form is highly regulated if you’re looking to compete in competitions. Training typically involves high-intensity sessions with moderate to heavy weights but at lower training volumes. There’s also a focus on speed, flexibility, and technique. CrossFit style workouts include many of the Olympic lifts, which has increased the overall popularity of this style of lifting.

Bodybuilding:
In bodybuilding, the primary goal is aesthetics, as bodybuilders aim to develop well-defined, symmetrical physiques through hypertrophy training. The technique prioritizes more of the “mind-muscle connection” and focuses on performing each rep to maximize muscular tension through a large range of motion to help drive a muscle growth response. Training usually involves higher rep ranges (8-12 reps or more) with moderate weights and shorter rest intervals to promote muscle growth. This style of training is the safest among the three and is the most common among gym-goers around the world.

Each of these disciplines has its own set of rules, competitive formats, and judging criteria, making them distinct from one another despite all being rooted in strength training. Whether you want to compete in these respective sports or not, you can include aspects of each to create an enjoyable and well-rounded training approach.

Can I lift weights if I’m injured? How do I return to lifting weights after an injury?

Returning back to strength training after an injury can be a challenging task. Even though you may feel motivated to get back to full performance, it’s essential to listen to your body and be patient during the recovery process. In the case that a healthcare professional has advised you to wait to return to strength training after recovering from an injury, it’s best to follow their professional guidance.

To build back your strength and performance, you may need to adjust your training to accommodate your injury. One of the most common mistakes people make is doing too much too soon, which can lead to re-injury or worsening of the condition. Therefore, it’s crucial to be strategic and take the necessary precautions while returning back to strength training.

Here are some strategies you can use to ensure you start training and build back up your strength and performance safely:

  • Programming Modifications: Reduce the volume and intensity on the affected or injured area. Ensure that you are addressing the dose: response of a given area and not overloading/overusing it, which can worsen the condition. If you’re avoiding volume and intensity on a specific muscle group or joint, you can continue training other muscles and joints.
  • Positional Modifications: Implement variations of an exercise or positional adjustments to work around your discomfort. Use tools such as cables or machines to ensure a safe training environment. Altering the range of motion in a given exercise can also help train a specific area while working around an injury or discomfort.
  • Local Tissue Modifications: Alter the repetition tempo (time spent in eccentric: concentric) to work around an injured muscle or tendon-related injury. Choosing an exercise that localizes a given muscle group or joint can help place more focus and safety when working around an injury or discomfort.

 

There is also a psychological component to returning from an injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, it’s worth building confidence in an exercise before returning to previous training loads or performance. Rushing the recovery process can be counterproductive and lead to more pain. Remember, “no pain, no gain” doesn’t apply to this process. If you experience pain, seek qualified medical guidance to address the injury or pain.

How many rest days should I take from the gym?

Recovery is arguably one of the most essential aspects of training. Strength training involves breaking down your muscle tissue and other systems in your body. Therefore, it is important to spend enough time on recovery to help your body adapt beyond its original level. This is how you acquire muscle, strength, and endurance.

Inadequate recovery can negatively impact your training performance and prevent you from adapting to your workouts. To ensure proper recovery, you need to take rest days, get quality sleep, maintain a healthy diet, and manage your stress levels.

If you’re new to weightlifting, it is advisable to do three workouts a week, with at least four days of rest between sessions to allow adequate recovery. If you’ve been training for a year or more, you should take at least one to two rest days per week to give your body enough time to rest, recover, and adapt.

Lifting Hub Questions

What is the Lifting Hub App?

It’s our way of delivering a quality service at a fraction of the cost of our 1:1 coaching. The app is best for gym-goers looking to perform intelligently designed and progressed workouts while getting 1:1 private and community-based support to help keep you accountable to your fitness goals.

How does the Lifting Hub App differ from 1:1 Online Coaching?

Looking for a hands-on approach to your fitness journey? Our 1:1 coaching is as personalized as it gets—we manage your training, nutrition, and biofeedback from weekly check-ins, helping you accelerate your results. Given the level of one-on-one attention and time commitment, it comes at a premium cost.

I get it — not everyone needs or can afford that level of 1:1 coaching. That’s where our SOSTraining App comes in—think of it as your trusted source for science-backed and results-driven training programs. You’re still getting quality without the price tag and additional time commitment.

What kind of feedback can I expect from the Lifting Technique Feedback feature?

A few days every week, I will take all of the technique videos posted in The Liting Hub forum community and post helpful feedback for you to continue to improve your lifting technique. You post your video, I watch it, and explain what changes could be made to improve your lifting technique.

Do the Exercise Substitutions include options for people with specific limitations, such as previous injuries or lack of equipment?

If you cannot perform a specific exercise in the program, substitute and alternative exercises will be suggested to keep you engaged in the programmed training session. It’s as easy as one click directly in the app.

Are there any tracking features in the app to help me monitor my progress over time like weight lifted or personal lifting records achieved?

You betcha! You will fill in the weights you’re using for each exercise alongside specific rep ranges for each workout. This information is stored in the app and can be referenced to ensure you continue progressing your weights each workout.

Will I need a gym membership to perform the workouts in the SOSTraining app?

Access to a gym will help you achieve your goals of building muscle and strength more quickly, but each program can be done at home with limited equipment. If you do not have access to a specific exercise in the program, substitute and alternative exercises will be suggested to keep you engaged in the programmed training session. It’s as easy as one click.

How much does the app cost me every month?

Monthly: $59

3 months: $150

6 months: $300

12 months: $540

Can I cancel anytime?

If you are paying month to month, you can cancel at any time and will have full access to the app for the remainder of your active payment period. You will not be charged again from that point forward. If you signed up for 3 or 6 months, you can cancel before your membership renews.

Are there refunds or money-back guarantees?

There is a 7-day free trial. If you are within the first 7 days and you find this app isn’t what you were looking for, you can cancel without ever paying a dime.

Science of Strength Training Book Questions

What are the key physiological benefits of incorporating strength training into my fitness routine?

A sedentary lifestyle, therefore a lack of physical activity, is a growing epidemic around the globe and has contributed to an increase in obesity and other physical and mental health-related illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, cancer, depression, and anxiety among others.

Strength training leads to physical benefits such as:

  • an increase in skeletal muscle tissue and muscular strength, leading to less risk of sarcopenia (muscle loss) and dynapenia (loss of muscle strength and power);
  • increased bone density, leading to less risk of osteoporosis;
  • decreased risk of falling and increased mobility and independence among older adults.

It also has mental health benefits, including:

  • positive effects on neurogenesis and neuroplasticity leading to improvements in learning, cognition, and memory;
  • improvements in mood and sleep;
  • reduced risk of becoming depressed or anxious, alongside being a treatment for helping recover from depression and anxiety;
  • decreased odds of prenatal depression by 67% and lowered severity of symptoms altogether;
  • reduction in symptoms of postnatal depression;
  • and an improved sense of well-being and quality of life.

The benefits of strength training and physical activity are evident. The challenge becomes performing this activity consistently throughout one’s life span to reap the benefits it provides — not only adding years to your life but life to your years.

This book breaks down the barriers to this knowledge and educates you on the science behind strength training.

I'm a beginner; does the book provide a workout plan that's suitable for me?

Yes. The final chapter of the book outlines everything you need to know about the variables of effective strength training, such as training volume and fatigue management. Whether you want to build muscle, strength, or endurance, you’ll find an easy-to-follow program with alternatives for those wanting to workout 3, 4, or 5 days per week. These programs can help form the base of your training and can be adjusted in the months and years to come.

How does the book debunk common nutrition and strength training myths?

This book shows you how to calculate your own daily macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) requirements while also going into the latest research on micronutrients, supplementation, pre and post-workout nutrition recommendations, portion sizes, and water intake. It also has a full section on how to properly create an effective approach for vegan and vegetarian lifters.

The book also covers common myths regarding genetics, age, gender, and body types.

Can you explain some of the 33 strength training exercises covered in the book, particularly those that are effective for muscle growth?

The book includes instructions for 33 of the most common strength training exercises, each with three variations to add variety to your training or help if you’re unable to perform one of the primary exercises. It provides guidance on how to set up and perform each exercise, how to avoid common mistakes, the anatomy involved, and the benefits of performing them.

What nutritional advice does the book offer for vegans and vegetarians who are interested in strength training?

Strength training can be just as effective on a plant-based diet as it is on an animal-based diet. However, following a plant-based diet can be more challenging because it requires careful attention to nutrient intake. Protein intake, particularly the amino acid leucine, is essential for the maintenance and growth of muscle tissue and overall metabolic health. Therefore, it is important for plant-based dieters to learn how to best consume the required nutrients.

The book covers everything from protein quality and intake to the risk of common nutrient deficiencies, the differences between animal-based and plant-based protein powders, and the importance of the amino acid, leucine.

What are some common strength training injuries, and how can I avoid them, according to the book?

Strength training is a popular form of exercise, but it can also lead to injuries. The most common injuries are muscle strains and overuse injuries, such as tendinitis and tendinosis, which can affect the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The most frequently injured areas are the shoulder, knee, and lower back.

Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendon resulting from micro-tears that are a consequence of overloading the muscle-tendon unit with too much load or too sudden of movement (explosiveness).

Tendinosis is the degeneration of the tendon in response to chronic overuse; this occurs when the joint is continuously overused and without proper time to heal and adapt.

Tendinopathy is an umbrella term used to describe tendon pain without knowing the specific pathology (cause or effect), which could include tears, inflammation, or chronic degeneration. These symptoms are usually diagnosed as tendinitis or tendinosis.

Overuse injuries are also common during strength training and occur when there is no identifiable traumatic cause of an injury. Overuse can result from excessive loading, insufficient recovery, and under-preparedness, which increases the risk of injury.

The book also provides information about other common injuries that occur in the shoulder, hip, elbow, lower back, and knee, and how to prevent and recover from these injuries in the right way.

Is strength training good for the brain and mental health as I get older?

Aging can cause significant structural and functional changes in skeletal muscle tissue, muscular strength, and brain health. These changes can be directly linked to a decline in cognitive function, motor skills, and executive function, which can limit the ability to live a healthy and independent life.

Strength training has been found to increase the levels of neurotrophins, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). These neurotrophins have positive effects on neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, leading to improvements in learning, cognition, and memory. Moreover, strength training has been found to lower white matter atrophy and volumes of white matter lesions, and accumulation of plaque, which are linked to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Engaging in regular and consistent strength training and exercise throughout one’s lifespan is essential for maintaining physical and brain health from adolescence to middle age. It lowers the risk of degeneration and disability later in life.

Additionally, it has been found to have mental health benefits, such as positive effects on neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, leading to improvements in learning, cognition, and memory. It also improves mood and sleep, reduces the risk of becoming depressed or anxious, and helps in recovering from depression and anxiety. It lowers the odds of prenatal depression by 67% and reduces the severity of symptoms altogether. It also reduces symptoms of postnatal depression and improves an individual’s sense of well-being and quality of life.

The benefits of strength training and physical activity are clear. However, the challenge is to perform this activity consistently throughout one’s lifespan to reap the benefits it provides.

My goal with this website is to equip you with the knowledge of how to continue to show up to the gym and build and maintain muscle and strength as you age.

How customizable are the workout plans? Are there options to adjust them over time as I progress?

The workout programs included in the book are versatile, and can be used as they are or customized according to your preferences and needs. Whether you want to develop strength, build muscle, or enhance your overall muscular endurance, there are workout programs available for beginners and advanced trainees alike, with options for 3, 4, and 5 days.

In addition to the workout programs, the book also provides detailed information on how to gradually progress your reps, sets, rest periods, and proximity to failure, as well as when and how to deload, to ensure that you are consistently making progress towards your fitness goals.

Nutrition Questions

How can I tailor my calorie intake to meet both weight loss and muscle gain goals?

Understanding how to tailor your calorie needs depending on your goals of building muscle and losing weight or body fat starts with first understanding how many calories you need to consume to maintain your current body weight, also known as your caloric maintenance.

Determining maintenance calories is typically done by using a calculator to find your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), linked here.

The three components that comprise your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) are

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) — the number of calories you burn simply being alive,
  2. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) ⏤ the increase in the metabolic rate that occurs after a meal,
  3. and Physical Activity (PA) — this includes both structured and non-structured exercise or movement.

BMR and TEF are relatively fixed amounts of your TDEE variance. This basically leaves us with Physical Activity (PA) ⏤ EAT (exercise-related) and NEAT (non-exercise related) ⏤ to adjust our TDEE.

Once you have a rough estimate of your TDEE using the calculator, you can track your calorie intake via a calorie tracking app (I use Cronometer with my 1-on-1 personal training clients). The calorie amount you aim for will be the number you got from the TDEE calculator. This isn’t a perfect number, but it’s a starting point — which is more than fine.

I recommend tracking your calories for a 1–2-week period and seeing how your body weight changes over that time frame. If your body weight drops over this period of time, try adding 100 calories and see if this allows you to best maintain your body weight. Likewise, if your body weight rises over this 1–2-week period, reduce intake by 100 calories and see if this helps maintain your body weight.

If your goal is to lose weight, you will want to create a calorie deficit (best for reducing body weight and body fat levels). If your goal is to gain weight (best for building muscle), you will want to create a calorie surplus.

To create a calorie deficit, take the number of calories you consumed to maintain your weight and reduce them by 10-15%.

To create a calorie surplus, take the number of calories you were consuming to maintain your weight and increase them by 10-15%.

Staying consistent with your calorie intake during this time frame is vital to actually seeing the results you are aiming to see from these adjustments.

If this seems like a lot to manage on your own, this is exactly what I help clients with in my 1-on-1 online coaching program. Apply to work with me here.

How do macronutrients play a role in both weight loss and muscle building and what ratios should I aim for?

Macronutrients such as Protein, Carbohydrates (alcohol included), and Fat make up the calories that we consume. These macronutrients are broken down for energy to be used for chemical processes in the body. The breaking down of these nutrients into usable energy for the body is a process called bioenergetics.

Protein

At 4 calories/gram, dietary protein is essential to life and maintaining our health, especially when considering its importance in building and maintaining muscle, the growth and repair of tissues and cells, and structural roles in connective tissue, bones, and organs.

Protein, unlike carbohydrates and fats, does not have stored reserves to use when availability is low (other than the actual muscle tissue itself). This is why it is important to consume adequate amounts of protein per day to reduce the chance of skeletal muscle breakdown from occurring.

Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. Over 300 amino acids have been identified in nature, but only 20 have been found to be used in human bodily functions. These 20 amino acids can be further broken down as essential and non-essential.

Essential amino acids (EAA’s) are amino acids not produced by the human body, therefore, have to be consumed and provided by our diet.

Non-essential acids (NEAA’s) do not have to be provided by our diets as they can be synthesized from other protein sources by our body.

The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8g protein/kg/day. This number is often disputed, but it is adequate for meeting the needs of healthy, non-exercising adults. More protein is required daily for adults looking to optimize strength training adaptations. The current suggested amounts for protein intake for exercising adults is between 1.6-2.2g protein/kg/day.

This would be 160-220g protein per day for a 100kg individual. If this is too high for you to start, try starting with 1.0-1.2g protein/kg/day.

If you are an athlete or someone looking to maximize body composition (bodybuilder), upwards of 3g protein/kg/day has been found to be beneficial. Higher protein diets have been shown to protect against protein breakdown.

Carbohydrates

In strength training, the body relies predominately on carbohydrates for energy through anaerobic metabolism (energy creation in the absence of oxygen). Stored carbohydrates, in the form of glycogen, are the predominant fuel source for your body.

Carbohydrate consumption is important for ensuring glycogen stores (stored carbohydrates) are replenished between training sessions to ensure adequate recovery and subsequent training performance.

These plant-based compounds provide 4 calories per gram of energy, similar to protein. Although often categorized as non-essential for life, as the body can manufacture glucose from protein and fat, it is advised that carbohydrates make up the largest percentage of your daily energy requirements — especially if you are strength training or performing other forms of exercise.

Carbohydrates are responsible for as much as 80% of ATP production (useable energy for the body) during strength training — through a process called glycolysis.

Because energy demands are highly relative to the individual, the current suggested amounts for carbohydrate consumption for exercising adults is around 2-5g carbohydrates/kg/day and above.  This amount is variable and should be adjusted based on current energy demands and body composition goals.

This would be 200-500g carbohydrates per day or above for a 100kg individual.

If you are an athlete training intensity or multiple times per day, upwards of 6-10g carbohydrates/kg/day has been found to be beneficial.

Fat

Fats, also known as lipids, are essential nutrients that play a vital role in many bodily functions, including the protective cushioning of internal organs and nerve signal transmission, aiding in the absorption of vitamins, and helping facilitate the production of cell membranes and hormones.

Adequate fat intake has been shown to impact testosterone levels, playing an essential role in building muscle and regulating the metabolism. There is also evidence in recent research with bodybuilders that would suggest this also has to do with total energy availability.

It is recommended that the majority of your fat intake come from high-quality essential fatty acids (EFA), especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). It has been recently found in multiple meta-analyses (a study of all available studies on the subject conducted to determine the overall effect) that saturated fat is not associated with cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, and or type 2 diabetes. In this, it is wise to seek the guidance of your physician and ensure most of your fat consumption comes from essential fat sources.

Due to the nature of specific energy demands of strength training and anaerobic-based activity, the current suggested amounts for fat consumption are around 0.5-1g of fats/kg/day. This amount is variable toward the upper limit suggested and can easily go above, especially if energy demands are required. If you’re an endurance athlete who is also strength training, your fat intake may be closer to 1.5g fats/kg/day and above.

This would be 50-100g of fat daily for a 100kg individual.

What are some common nutritional myths that I should be aware of when trying to build muscle and lose weight?

Myth 1: Eating More Protein Automatically Builds More Muscle

Truth: While protein is crucial for muscle repair and growth, simply consuming more won’t guarantee muscle gain. It needs to be coupled with effective and consistent strength training.

At 4 calories/gram, dietary protein is essential to life and maintaining our health, especially when considering its importance in building and maintaining muscle, the growth and repair of tissues and cells, and structural roles in connective tissue, bones, and organs.

Protein, unlike carbohydrates and fats, does not have stored reserves to use when availability is low (other than the actual muscle tissue itself). This is why it is important to consume adequate amounts of protein per day to reduce the chance of skeletal muscle breakdown from occurring.

Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. Over 300 amino acids have been identified in nature, but only 20 have been found to be used in human bodily functions. These 20 amino acids can be further broken down as essential and non-essential.

Essential amino acids (EAA’s) are amino acids not produced by the human body, therefore have to be consumed and provided by our diet.

Non-essential acids (NEAA’s) do not have to be provided by our diets as they can be synthesized from other protein sources by our body.

The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8g protein/kg/day. This number is often disputed, but it is adequate for meeting the needs of healthy, non-exercising adults. More protein is required daily for adults looking to optimize strength training adaptations. The current suggested amounts for protein intake for exercising adults is between 1.6-2.2g protein/kg/day.

This would be 160-220g protein per day for a 100kg individual. If this is too high for you to start, try starting with 1.0-1.2g protein/kg/day.

Myth 2: You Must Eat Every 2-3 Hours to Boost Metabolism

Truth: Meal frequency doesn’t seem to affect metabolism significantly. It’s more about the total caloric intake and expenditure throughout the day.

If you prefer to eat more smaller meals throughout the day, go for it. If you prefer to eat fewer larger meals throughout the day, go for it. Adherence and consistency are the name of the game when it comes to producing results. Eating at least 2-3 meals throughout the day will help you maintain more stable blood sugar levels throughout the day while also helping you eat more protein, helping you better control your hunger, and increasing the likelihood that you will stick with your nutritional approach long enough to produce the results you desire.

Myth 3: Carbohydrates Make You Fat

Truth: Carbs are not inherently fattening. It’s the excess caloric intake, regardless of whether it comes from carbs or fats that leads to weight gain.

Myth 4: Fats Are Bad for You

Truth: Healthy fats like those found in avocados, fish, and nuts are essential for hormone production, including hormones like testosterone that are involved in muscle growth.

Myth 5: You Should Avoid Eating Late at Night

Truth: Weight gain is primarily impacted by total calorie intake, not the timing of your meals. Eating late at night is not necessarily a direct cause of weight gain, although for some people it can negatively impact their sleep, so be aware and make adjustments as needed based on your individual response to later meals. Also, foods you eat more of at night tend to be more processed, hyper-palatable (super-tasty), and higher in total calories, which can cause you to overconsume calories, leading to weight gain.

Myth 6: Supplements Can Replace a Bad Diet

Truth: Supplements are there to support (or “supplement”) your nutritional approach. We live in a fast-paced world where getting all the macro or micronutrients necessary to fully support your health and performance can be tough.

This is where supplements come in. I usually recommend a baseline of Fish Oil, Magnesium Glycinate (the most bioavailable form), Vitamin D, and Multi-vitamin for my clients. If they’re open to it, I usually recommend creatine monohydrate to help increase strength and performance, but also to help support brain health, bone health, cognition, and more. That’s basically it from a supplement perspective. Are there others that can help out certain populations? Absolutely. But start with the basics. Ensure you’re meeting your baseline needs, then fill in the gaps where you need to.

Myth 7: “Clean Eating” is the Only Way to Lose Weight

Truth: While eating unprocessed foods is generally healthier, weight loss is ultimately about properly managing your calorie balance (calories in vs calories out). It is possible to lose weight while including processed foods in moderation, but understand that processed foods often are higher in calories, less filling,  and are engineered to be overconsumed. This is why prioritizing minimally processed whole foods is recommended if your goal is to lose weight and improve your overall health status.

Myth 8: You Need to Cut Out All Sugar

Truth: While excessive sugar is not recommended for improving your health and reducing your body weight, it doesn’t have to be entirely eliminated for weight loss or muscle gain. Consuming sugar-containing foods can be done in a responsible way to avoid forming a negative relationship with food long-term.

From my own experience with clients, reducing sugar intake can be as simple as replacing the consumption of candy and sugar-filled beverages with fruit. Of course, they’re not engineered in a lab to make you overconsume them, but they’re tasty, and filled with micronutrients important for a healthy metabolism, alongside being more satiating (filling). This can be seen as “boring”, but is a healthier approach and can help you lose or maintain your body weight long-term.

Myth 9: Detox Diets and Cleanses Are Necessary for Weight Loss

Truth: The body has its own systems for detoxification. There’s no scientific evidence to support the idea that detox diets help in long-term weight loss. Extreme weight loss diets are enticing, but time and time again, they fail people in their long-term efforts of weight loss.

I recommend approaching nutrition in a more holistic manner, including whole, minimally processed foods that are rich in nutrients and lower in total calories.

If you need help with this, please reach out. This is what I help people with for a living.

Myth 10: Drinking Lots of Water Will Help You Lose Weight

Truth: While hydration is essential, simply drinking lots of water won’t directly lead to weight loss. However, it can help you feel full and possibly reduce overall hunger and daily caloric intake.

Water makes up 55-60% of who we are. It is one of the most important components of our survival, and hydration status can have a direct impact on health status, quality of life, cognition, strength performance, and recovery.

In the human body, water acts as a solvent, catalyst for chemical reactions, lubricant, and shock absorber, the thermoregulatory mechanism controlling temperature (sweating), and as a source of essential minerals.

Managing water coming in and out of the body is known as fluid balance. This delicate balance is essential for our health and performance. It’s important that this is kept in a proper balance so that it does not turn into dehydration (not enough water) and hyperhydration (too much water).

Dehydration can lead to mild to severe and life-threatening symptoms such as temperature dysregulation, metabolic diseases, organ failure, and eventual death (hopefully, you’re not stuck in the desert without water while reading this). Dehydration is a major concern and threat to older populations, especially those who are active.

Hyperhydration can also lead to complications such as electrolyte imbalances and throw-off blood volume, which can lead to higher-risk complications and symptoms.

It is advised to consume 30-40mL per kilogram of body weight. For a 50kg person, this would equal 1.5-2 liters per day. For a 100kg person, this would equal 3-4 liters per day.

Awareness of these myths can help you make more informed choices in your nutritional plan, aiding you in your journey for muscle gain and weight loss.

What types of pre- and post-workout meals are recommended for optimal workout performance and recovery?

The nutrition surrounding your workout can be an important component of your overall performance and recovery. Snacks and protein supplementation can help you ensure you are in the best position to train, and subsequently recover from that training.

Carb and protein-based snacks become more important for those training long after a meal or in a fasted (non-fed) state. This can help replenish glycogen stores, if low, and can help shut off protein breakdown by stimulating protein synthesis after your workout. When choosing a snack before or after a training session, realize that carbohydrate sources differ in digestion rate and their ability to be used for energy. Glucose or fructose-based sources can be great for replenishing muscle and liver glycogen storage (supplying energy for your workout).

The timing of nutrients, both pre and post-workout, has been heavily debated over the years in terms of their significance. The largest debate is the “anabolic window”, which is the short time following your workout.

It has been argued that you absolutely need protein as soon as your training session is over to maximize recovery, alongside the argument that it doesn’t matter at all. Like most things, the middle ground seems to be the best for overall performance, recovery, and lifestyle preference.

The ingestion of high-quality protein post-workout (usually through a protein supplement) has been shown to blunt protein breakdown and stimulate protein synthesis — which is ideal for repair and growth of muscle tissue.

A protein feeding within 1-2 hours of your workout has been shown to be beneficial for strength training adaptations, with no additional benefit to consuming a protein shake immediately after training compared to having a high-protein meal in the next 1-2 hours after training. Therefore, if you enjoy having a protein shake immediately after training, you could meet your post-workout needs in this way. If you do not enjoy this, then you can go home and have a full meal while still obtaining the same benefits.

Can I still have 'cheat meals' or indulge occasionally and achieve my fitness goals? If so, how often?

The short answer is yes, but it’s helpful to understand that too many of these ‘cheat meals’ can work against your short and long-term fitness goals in numerous ways. When working with my 1-on-1 clients, we identify current constraints we would like to set to ensure we stay on track with our goals within a certain time frame and that we’re forming sustainable nutritional habits along the way.

For example, let’s hypothetically take a look at two clients.

Client A wants to lose 15-20 pounds over a 12-week (~ 3 months) time span.

Client B wants to lose 15-20 pounds over a 24-week (~ 6 months) time span.

To achieve this goal, Client A needs to be able to create and sustain an adequate calorie deficit to lose around 1.25-1.7 lbs per week. Depending on how much body fat you have to lose, this is an achievable goal, but you will need to be more consistent with your daily efforts, which leaves room for fewer ‘cheat meals’ throughout this time frame.

To achieve this goal, Client B needs to be able to create and sustain an adequate calorie deficit to lose around 0.6-0.85 lbs per week. As you can see, the necessary rate of weight loss is cut in half due to having twice as long to achieve the same weight loss goal. By extending the time frame of your goal, you’re given more flexibility each week with your calorie goals. Your calorie deficit can be more moderate each week, giving you more room for ‘cheat meals’ throughout this time frame.

When working with clients, my first aim is to identify what’s most important to them. Then, we create a plan to help them reach their goal within a reasonable time frame while forming sustainable nutritional and fitness habits along the way. Both of the above examples (Client A and Client B) are achievable and are results I have been able to help clients successfully work toward. But, as you can see, time is an important variable when pursuing your goals.

It’s important to be honest with yourself and understand where you’re currently at in life. This will help you set realistic expectations and ensure you can create an approach that will help you achieve your goals while being able to continue living your life. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work hard and have to make tough decisions, but it does mean that you won’t have to give up everything in pursuit of your goals.

If this seems like a lot to manage on your own, this is exactly what I help clients with in my 1-on-1 online coaching program. Apply to work with me here.

Are there any supplements that are particularly beneficial for muscle gain, weight loss, or overall health as a gym-goer?

Accounting for more than $30 billion in annual profit, the nutritional and sports supplement space can be a misleading place. In this, there are benefits to supplementation for overall health, performance, and recovery. The supplements with the most comprehensive impact on health and training performance include:

Fish Oil*

Vitamin D + K*

Creatine*

Whey Protein*

Melatonin

Multi-vitamin

Calcium**

Caffeine

 *These supplements have been shown not only to have positive benefits on a younger to middle-aged population but also in older adults.

 **Calcium Citrate has been shown as the best source of calcium to supplement with as it has the least amount of discomfort-related side effects. It is advised that if you are taking more than 500mg per day, split these up into two separate doses throughout the day with food for the best absorption.

 Other supplements often mentioned in strength training are Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA), Essential Amino Acids (EAA), and Citrulline Malate.

These supplements have been shown to have positive impacts, but the effect size is smaller — and sometimes more controversial — than the main ones mentioned above. As the research stands, there are no detriments to using these supplements, but they can be considered an add-on or luxury item.

If you want to learn more about supplements, check out Examine.com. They’re my go-to resource for this information.

Can you build muscle in a calorie deficit?

As you will find with most fitness questions, the answers can depend on numerous factors. The most direct answer I can give on this topic is if your goal is to build muscle and strength, you ideally want to be in a caloric surplus (this means you are consuming more calories than you are burning per day). Building muscle is a calorically expensive process, and the body needs extra resources to help “pay” for this sort of work.

If your goal is to lose weight and body fat, you ideally want to be in a caloric deficit (this means you consume fewer calories than you burn each day, aiding in the process of “burning off” the extra weight or body fat). Losing weight or body fat is a process of utilizing the energy  stored within our body. So, when we don’t consume the energy from food, our body starts to take it from the energy we have stored within ourselves.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the several factors I mentioned in the beginning. These factors include:

  1. Are you an experienced lifter or newer to lifting weights? The more experienced you are with lifting weights, the more “optimized” your training and nutrition will need to be to gain muscle and strength, especially when in a calorie deficit. The newer you are to lifting weights, the more potential you have in taking advantage of what’s known as “newbie gains,” which allows you to actually gain muscle and strength as long as you’re eating enough protein to help you recover, which takes us to the next factor.
  2. Are you eating enough protein to support your recovery? Protein is the most important nutrient for maintaining and growing lean muscle tissue. If your goal is to build muscle, especially while in a caloric deficit, it’s wise to ensure you’re eating enough to sustain and make the most of all your hard work and effort in the gym.
    The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8g protein/kg/day. This number is often disputed, but it is adequate for meeting the needs of healthy, non-exercising adults. More protein is required daily for adults looking to optimize strength training adaptations. The current suggested amounts for protein intake for exercising adults is between 1.6-2.2g protein/kg/day. This roughly equals 0.7-1g protein/lb/day. So, the adage of eating your body weight in protein isn’t a bad suggestion for most. Depending on your age, this can change a bit, which takes us to our next factor.
  3. How long have you been walking around Earth? As we’ve all heard, 50 is the new 30. This is true in many ways, especially regarding our modern-day lifespan, but age is a factor in how we respond to anabolic processes, such as building new muscle and strength. The older we get, there is often a blunting (weakening) effect towards anabolic processes called “anabolic resistance.” This can significantly impact how we respond to everything, from the protein we eat to the muscle we can build later in life. If you’re past the fifth decade of life, you may see a dip in your response to your muscle-building efforts, especially if you’re in a calorie deficit. So, suppose your goal is to build muscle and strength around this age. In that case, I highly recommend eating around caloric maintenance or slightly above to maximize these efforts and ensure you can build the muscle and strength you’re after.

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