Craig Ballantyne, Men's Health Training Advisor interviews Mike Geary
CB: Mike, let's start off with some background on the types of people you train, and your training background.
MG: Craig, I've been a Certified Personal Trainer for almost a decade now, and in recent years, I've become certified as a Nutrition Specialist as well. As for the types of people I train... I've trained everybody from skinny teenagers looking to add some bulk to their frame, to middle-aged housewives and businessmen looking to lose body fat, to senior citizens looking to get stronger and leaner in their golden years.
CB: You have a site, The Truth About Abs. So...what the heck is the truth?
MG: Well Craig, from what I see on a daily basis, one of the most common fitness goals people have is to get a flatter stomach and if possible, achieve some sort of a "six pack abs" appearance to their midsection. Unfortunately, most people struggle for years without ever achieving this goal.
Instead, I see so many people waste so much of their time on worthless abs exercises, and falling for every gimmick product that comes onto their TV screen promising them a 6-pack in only 2 minutes a day while sitting on their couch.
To be honest, seeing so many people over the years waste their hard earned money on all of these worthless ab gadgets, machines, and bogus fat loss pills was really getting under my skin.
That's why I developed my Truth about Six Pack Abs Program. Over the last couple years, this program I developed has gained popularity worldwide, and has now recently become the most popular abs program on the internet with 10's of thousands of people in over 100 countries using my system.
So what's the truth? The truth is that people are looking in the wrong direction to achieve this goal... abs exercises are NOT the answer to six pack abs! Sounds counterintuitive I know. In fact, ab-specific exercises are the LEAST important training aspect in getting a six pack.
Most people think there must be some magical "underground" abs exercise that is going to finally get them their six-pack after years of struggling.
The fact is, the real solution to seeing a visible six-pack is bringing your body fat % down to a low enough level to where the abs become visible. Most people already have them hiding under there and don't know it. This is generally about 10% body fat or lower for men, and about 16-18% for women from my experience.
Heck, even my 7-year old nephew has a six pack... do you think he got that by doing "abs exercises"? No way! He has a six pack because his body fat % is extremely low since he's so active running around playing all day at his age.
So the most important aspect to getting visible abs is actually a properly designed full body training program, combined with good nutrition that can be maintained for life (instead of a short-term gimmick diet).
CB: For a beginner, how much focus needs to be on abs? What other exercises would you give them for fat loss?
MG: For beginners, I generally start them off with the most basic bodyweight exercises such as bw squats, bw lunges, bw step-ups, pushups, inverted body rows, along with basic dumbbell exercises like overhead presses, rows, etc. We also work on body stabilizing exercises like planks and side planks and a few stability ball exercises to make sure they've learned to properly engage their entire "core" area in stablizing the body.
CB: What type of cardio/interval training do you use for fat loss?
MG:The programs I design are almost entirely based on high intensity resistance training instead of cardio. In fact, my resistance training workouts get people sweating and huffing and puffing much more than any boring cardio workout ever will.
The bottom line based on research as well as my personal experience... cardio is NOT necessary for fat loss! In fact, some of the leanest people I know NEVER do traditional cardio. Personally, I haven't stepped foot on a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike in about 8 years and I maintain single digit body fat year round.
Now don't get me wrong about the cardio thing... in reality, I actually work on exercises that are much tougher and more intense than traditional cardio... I prefer wind sprints, hill sprints, swimming sprints, speed rope jumping, etc to complement my resistance training... all of which are more anaerobic in nature than aerobic.
This type of training stimulates a vastly higher metabolic response in the body than steady pace cardio.
Of course, most people can't just jump right into doing wind sprints without injury until they've gotten themselves into pretty good shape first. I use various resistance training methods and interval training for most people before they are ever ready to even attempt any type of sprinting.
CB: Tell us about your favorite bodyweight exercises and how you use them in a fat loss program.
MG: I like to combine bodyweight exercises and free weight exercises into what I call "tri-sets" or "quad-sets" (aka - mini circuits). Basically, I pick 3 or 4 exercises that don't work the same body movements (non-competing) and combine them into high intensity mini-circuits for my clients.
A great example would be:
1. mountain climbers for 20-30 seconds
2. dumbbell squat & presses (combination squat then press overhead)
3. stability ball leg curl-ins
4. stability ball plank holds (a little harder than a floor plank)
This type of circuit can be done without much rest at all between exercises and we would repeat the circuit several times before moving to a new circuit. This creates a high intensity fat burning workout that works almost every muscle in the entire body.
CB: Let's turn to nutrition. What is your fat loss nutrition philosophy?
MG: I could talk about nutrition for hours and it's such a controversial subject, so I'll keep this brief...
It doesn't have to be as complicated as the "diet gurus" make it out to be. It can be a lot simpler...
1. whole, unprocessed organic foods, as close to their natural state as possible
2. High nutrient density food choices instead of nutrient deficient processed foods
3. Fruits and vegetables (lots of vegetables) as your main source of carbohydrates instead of so much reliance on grains as is so prominent in our food supply these days
4. Moderate amounts of high quality protein at each meal
5. High fiber intake to help appetite control and glycemic control (maintaining more balanced blood sugar)
6. Don't neglect healthy fat intake from nuts, seeds, organic eggs, wild fish or fish oil, virgin coconut oil and olive oils, avocados, etc (helps appetite control and hormonal balance)
Once you gain control over the aspects listed above, everything else usually works itself out in your diet... you no longer crave sweets or junk food because your body finally has all of the nutrients it needs. Another important thing that this style of eating does is that it tends to bring people naturally back to the proper amount of calories they need each day without having to attempt to count calories or anything like that.
CB: How do you address "lifestyle" with your clients to help them lose fat?
MG: One of the most important things I try to instill in my clients is that this has to become part of their lifestyle if it is ever going to work long-term. They need to make their health and fitness a priority in their life, and they must enjoy it...whether it's because they actually enjoy the actual exercise and healthy eating, or because they enjoy the feeling of strength or energy or confidence that it gives them.
CB: Give us some of your unique fat loss stories. For example, have you ever made one small change to a client's program that helped them get through a plateau? Or has a client ever responded to one form of training that surprised you? Stuff like that...
MG: I had one client a couple years ago... a guy in his early 30's...a classic case in reality. He'd been doing the same routine for years... about an hour of cardio 5 days/week while reading the newspaper, and then he'd finish it off with a few weight machines.
He finally came to me because his body was actually getting worse despite his long workouts. I asked him to put his trust in me, and asked if he'd be willing to try something drastically different...
I asked if he would fully give up his cardio for 6 weeks and follow one of my free weight training routines instead. I actually insisted that he didn't do any cardio at all during this experimental 6 weeks of change...only weights would be allowed. This was hard for him at first as he was so accustomed to just doing all of this boring cardio because it was easy. But easy workouts don't create a better body!
The results were incredible... I think his strength improved about 30-40 lbs on almost all of his lifts during that 6 weeks while simulataneously losing about 15 lbs of body weight, and his beer belly shrunk down considerably to the point where he had to go out and buy some new pants with smaller waists.
Another story... As far as clients getting new results from just a small tweak...
A few people that have been stuck at a fat loss plateau have come to me and I gave them a simple nutrition trick to try. This simple change was to start basing their last full meal of the day around just meats with lots of veggies and salad... basically, no starches with dinner, just meat and veggies.
As simple as that sounds, I've seen many people break their fat loss plateau just by implementing that into their diet. So many people think that their meals need to be based on starch like pasta or rice, but I think it's so much easier to lose fat when your meals are based around meat and vegetables instead of starch.
I could go on, but I hope that gives your readers some useful ideas for now.
CB: Thanks Mike!
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