March, 2011 | Critical Bench

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Training Techniques To Combat Stubborn Fat

Summary by Mike Westerdal

Unfortunately, shedding unwanted fat is a lot more complicated than just cutting back on calories and adding in a few extra cardio sessions each week. The problem is that our genetic programming gets in the way, making getting rid of fat a lot more complicated than we’d like. When we start to cut calories and burn more energy our bodies think that we’re facing a food shortage. In response, it releases a flood of hormonal responses that are designed to conserve energy and make sure we’ve got fat reserves to draw on for the upcoming ‘famine.’

These hormonal responses are what stand in the way of our fat loss goals. There are three in particular that inhibit fat loss–estrogen, insulin and cortisol. When we do the things we do to shed unwanted fat, it triggers the release of these hormones. And when released, each of these tells the body to increase residual fat storage, especially around the waist area. The good news though is that we can ‘fight hormones with hormones’ and manipulate our metabolic systems to overcome these fat loss roadblocks.

08The secret to this strategy is identifying the nemesis for each ‘bad’ hormone–or in other words, the ‘good’ hormone that does the opposite of what the ‘bad’ hormone does. For example, testosterone is the ‘opposite’ of estrogen. Testosterone is the male sex hormone and estrogen is the female sex hormone. To combat the fat storage effects of estrogen, we want to increase the amount of testosterone our bodies release.

There are several ways you can naturally increase the amount of testosterone the body releases. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by lifting weights. In particular, increasing training density has proven to be an excellent technique to stimulate testosterone production. Training density refers to the amount of work you perform within a given timeframe. You can increase training density by lifting more weights, performing more repetitions or by reducing the rest periods between sets.

To fight the stubborn fat around the mid-section of the body, you can really increase training density through a modified circuit training technique. A key difference between this and other types of circuit training is that here, instead of focusing on doing a certain number of reps, you perform as many reps as you can within a certain time period for the first set. Then, you increase both the weight and the number of reps you perform for the second set.

Similarly, there are training techniques you can employ to combat insulin and its impact on body fat storage. Here, training techniques focus on increasing insulin sensitivity and boosting Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), which counters the effects of insulin. Dynamic training–which is based on combination movements–is particularly effective at boosting the amount of IGF-1 in the bloodstream. Higher amounts of IGF-1 negates insulin resistance and increases the body’s fat-burning capacity.

We can also combat the fat gaining effects of cortisol by increasing the amount of Growth Hormone (GH) our bodies produce. GH is the single most effective compound your body produces to affect both fat loss and muscle gain. The more GH the body produces, the more fat you burn and the more lean muscle mass you add.

Like the other two fat-fighting hormones, certain training techniques stimulate the production of GH. Lactic acid training is one technique that is especially effective. Lactic acid is what causes the ‘burn’ you feel when you train your muscles really hard. As annoying as that feeling may be, it does trigger the release of cortisol- and fat-fighting GH. You can boost the release of lactic acid by lifting very slowly and then quickly (but carefully) returning to the starting position. Another way to increase GH production and diminish cortisol production is by sleeping. Yes, a good night’s rest triggers the production of GH while simultaneously diminishing the production of cortisol.

So there you have it–three fat-fighting training techniques from Roman’s Final Phase Fat Loss at your disposal. Include these in your training arsenal and you’ll be able to fight hormones with hormones and win the battle against stubborn fat, once and for all.

Attention Men and Women: If you’ve been struggling to lose those last 10 to 15 pounds, battling with slow fat loss, OR suffering from nagging “problem area” fat storage in your lower body, love handles, or belly this could be the most important web page you ever read. http://www.finalphasefatburning.com

Side Effects of Elevated Estrogen for Men

March 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Hormones, Recent Posts

By Mike Westerdal

Testosterone is the male sex hormone that makes a man ‘a man.’ Testosterone is dominant in men. It drives the development of the male sex organs, causes the voice to deepen during puberty, stimulates the growth of facial hair and is the reason why men are stronger and more muscular than women. Likewise, estrogen–which is dominant in women–is the female sex hormone that gives women all their wonderful feminine characteristics, making them softer, more round and curvier.

My nipples are sensitive and I'm sad :(

My nipples are sensitive and I'm sad :(

Men and women each carry both hormones in their bodies–one is the primary hormone and the other just appears in small amounts. But what happens when things go haywire and levels of the non-primary hormone start to jump? In women, elevated testosterone levels cause them to take on masculine characteristics such as developing facial hair and deeper voices.

Likewise, elevated levels of estrogen in men cause them to take on more feminine characteristics. In fact, when estrogen levels in men are higher than they should be, it can bring about a whole slew of unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects.

Enlarged breasts are one of the first and most noticeable side effects to appear in men when estrogen levels are elevated. This is known as gynecomastia and a few other names in the gym too. Other side effects include loss of muscle tone, a decrease in body hair, shrinking testes, depression, fatigue, lower energy levels, poor memory, low stress tolerance, an increase in fat around the mid-section (belly fat) and erectile dysfunction. Elevated estrogen levels really do cause men to look–and somewhat act–more like women and less like men.

As disconcerting as they may be, it’s not just the outward effects that are troublesome but the unseen impact too. For instance, high estrogen levels in men can double the risk of stroke and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. Some research has also linked high estrogen levels to enlargement of the prostate and Prostate Cancer. When the rise in estrogen levels is accompanied by a decline in testosterone levels–which is typically the case–these risks are even greater.

These symptoms and health hazards appear because elevated estrogen levels in men disrupt the natural balance of the body’s hormonal systems. Men do need a certain degree of estrogen in their bodies. It actually plays an important role in regulating and optimizing sexual health and function. In particular, it contributes to healthy, mature sperm and even boosts the libido. It’s only when the estrogen levels get too high that the problems start to arise.

Elevated estrogen levels can be linked to a variety of causes and conditions. Two of the most common self-induced causes included obesity, excessive intake of alcohol and stress. Obese bodies convert fat to estrogen at significantly higher levels than fit bodies. Prolonged alcohol abuse deteriorates the liver, reducing its ability to breakdown estrogen. I know stress is not exactly ‘self-induced’ but how you manage it is. Poor stress management can cause adrenal gland fatigue, contributing to elevated estrogen levels.

Other conditions that can cause estrogen levels to spike include pituitary gland disease, testicular tumors and old age. There appears to be a growing body of evidence linking estrogen spikes in men to prolonged exposure to pesticides and a group of solvents known as xenoestrogens. These petrochemical-based compounds are found in cleaners, glues and a variety of consumer products including lotions, soaps, shampoos and cosmetics.

Some experts even say that commercially-raised cattle, poultry, fruits and vegetables–which utilize growth hormones, pesticides and fertilizers–also contribute to elevated estrogen levels in men. More research needs to be done though before any final conclusions can be drawn.

Now that you know a few of the possible causes of elevated estrogen levels in men and some of the physical changes and health hazards they bring about, let’s talk about some of the things you can do to keep your testosterone levels high and estrogen levels normal. First, eat healthy, exercise and be sure to include strength training as part of your routine. Lifting weights naturally boosts testosterone levels.

Next, watch your alcohol intake and don’t drink to excess. Third, don’t over train and be sure to get plenty of sleep. Fourth, monitor your health and get regular checkups. Also, avoid direct contact with pesticides and solvents. And lastly, until more research is done to either confirm or disprove a link, wherever possible avoid commercially-grown meats, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables. While doing all these things are no guarantee, you’ll at least know that you’re doing all you can to keep your testosterone levels high and estrogen levels normal.

Another concept you can use to battle high estrogen is to engage in Density Training.

Density Training simply means do more work with more weight in the same (or less) time.  This increases fat burning overall, but ALSO leads to increased testosterone production.  This in turn will help to combat ESTROGEN related fat storage in the lower body and man boobs.

If this sounds like something you are interested in you can learn more about fighting hormones with hormones in John Roman’s Final Phase workouts.


John Romaniello’s Final Phase Fat Loss 2

March 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Recent Posts, Reviews

by Mike Westerdal

John Romaniello doing some modeling

John Romaniello doing some modeling

John Romaniello–aka Roman–is a well-known fitness coach and author whose articles have appeared in some of the most widely-read online and print media health publications in the U.S. He’s been a force in the fitness industry for the last ten years, serving as a strength coach for people from all walks of life and of all athletic abilities. Roman says he’s basically a ‘normal’ guy who growing up, always struggled with his weight–in particular, getting lean. He learned a lot through his struggles, found a solution and is sharing some of that knowledge with us in his latest work, Final Phase Fat Loss.

For anyone who has tried to shed fat before, the inevitable ‘stop point’ has got to be one of the most frustrating things imaginable. You’re tooling along losing fat and all is well, but then suddenly your progress screeches to a halt–regardless of what you do–leaving you discouraged and annoyed.

romanThis is one of the first topics that Roman tackles in Final Phase Fat Loss 2.0, providing a great discussion about how we’re genetically built to store fat. The more fat we lose, the harder the body fights to hang on to it, just in case we run into a food shortage or famine. This is really the basic premise of Final Phase–how to get past that ‘fat-loss plateau’ and get lean.

It’s a basic universal truth that in order to lose weight (fat) you have to burn more calories than you consume. Unfortunately, when it comes to shedding unwanted fat, it’s a lot more complex than that. This is the basis of the next several chapters, where Roman talks about the role hormones play in regulating the body’s metabolic systems. In particular, he focuses on the hormones that are primarily responsible for fat storage and fat burning functions. These chapters present a lot of great background information about how our bodies operate.

With the basics out of the way, Roman then launches into his fat loss methodology. Here, he explains the concepts behind his fat loss strategies. What he’s done is design a multi-pronged system that incorporates a variety of different training styles and approaches, all for the purpose of keeping the body guessing, and in the process, avoiding the dreaded fat loss plateaus. He hasn’t just thrown together a bunch of different training styles though–he’s selected each one specifically for its ability to essentially bypass our genetic programming to store fat so you can get lean.

In the following sections Roman discusses the various training modalities he incorporates into his system. The training modalities he favors include Dynamic Training, Lactic Acid Training, Density-Based Training and Strength-Based Training. None of these are the traditional training techniques you see most guys using at gyms every day.

finalphase2Roman’s belief is that the reason most fat loss strategies fail is that they’re pretty much based on a single training approach that the body quickly adapts to, halting the progress along the way. By combining multiple modalities and regularly switching among them, the body never has a chance to adapt to any single one, meaning that the fat loss plateau can be avoided all together.

Roman explains his Final Phase training techniques in the following chapters, providing handy charts so you can implement the system yourself. The way he’s laid it out makes it really easy to understand and follow, which is something I like. I’ve seen plenty of great programs that were really based on some solid theories–but when it came down to implementation, the instructions were so complex you’d need a PhD to follow them. After the workouts, Roman addresses cardio. Like his other modalities, his approach to cardio is based on variety and keeping things mixed up so the body doesn’t get comfortable.

Part 7 of Final Phase is focused on nutrition. This is a pretty basic section with Roman providing some simple formulas to help you approximate the number of calories you should be consuming each day. He also provides some pointers and several handy charts to help you on your way. The last section is dedicated to supplementation. He makes a few recommendations about supplements he likes to use but really focuses on using a particular brand, which he sells through his website rather than just providing general information about what’s good and what’s not so good.

What’s New About FPFL 2.0 vs. the Original?

There are 12 new workouts with expanded training explanations which include guidelines for warm ups and soft tissue work.

The diet and supplement section has been beefed up.

New exercises have been added to the exercise library.

There is also some new info on body fat testing and a huge FAQ section that helps you modify the program if you don’t have gym access.

With these updates, I really like Final Phase Fat Loss 2. It’s simple, straightforward and easy-to-follow. Roman provides lots of extras like worksheets and training logs to make it even easier. I don’t have any doubts that if you follow Final Phase as Roman intends you to, you’ll get some great results.

fpfl2