Strength training as a fat loss tool - Darren Ellis
Welcome, hi, I'm Mikki and this is Mikkipedia, where I sit down and chat to doctors, professors, athletes, practitioners, and experts in their fields related to health, nutrition, fitness, and wellbeing, and I'm delighted that you're here.
Hey everyone, it's Mikki here. You're listening to Mikkipedia, and this week on the podcast, I have returning guest Darren Ellis, strength and conditioning coach and expert, and we talk all about strength training on a fat loss approach and why it is important. We discuss what constitutes strength training, which is a question that comes up a lot. Does yoga, does Pilates, et cetera, why progression is important, regardless of what you're doing, and how to optimize your strength.
training for your lifestyle so it doesn't mean that you have to be in the gym 24 7 or that you need any fancy equipment. Now Darren is the strength and conditioning expert on Monday's matter which kicks off Monday 25th of September and registration starts tomorrow Thursday 14th of September so absolutely check out the link or that in the show notes. So for those of you
strength and conditioning, and he aims to share what he's learned with as many people as possible, teaching them that there are no shortcuts with exercise, but that it can be achievable and even fun with good coaching and a supportive peer group. He is a regular contributor to a variety of popular print and web-based health and fitness magazines, he's a public speaker and consultant to sporting organisations, businesses, universities and television.
strength training and nutrition for fitness, sport, weight loss, muscle gain and longevity. And he works a lot online so you do not need to be in the same city in order to get Darren's expertise. And Darren can be found at www.darinallis.coach and links to that will be in the podcast also.
Before we crack on into the interview though, just a reminder that the best way to support the podcast is to hit the subscribe button on your favourite podcast listing platform. That increases the visibility of the podcast out there and amongst literally thousands of other podcasts, so more people get the opportunity to learn from the guests that I have on the show like Darren. Alright team, enjoy this conversation.
Darren, Darren Ellis, so good to have you back on Micopedia. You know, actually, I don't know that I told you this, but we had, I had a bit of feedback that someone said, oh, Darren's a bit fattest, isn't he? Oh. Interesting, isn't it? Fattest. Yeah, that is interesting. And maybe they're right. But certainly not from...
any kind of nasty perspective. You and I were just talking before you hit record about how sometimes it's uncomfortable to speak the truth, but someone's got to and it's important. Like that's a, what is it? That's a burden we bear. That's something we take on willingly if we're going to do right by the people that we're looking to serve. And the fact is that you can't be healthy at any size. You might be healthy
at the time at this particular point in time, but long term, you know, there's not a single bit of scientific data that I'm aware of that proves you can be healthy at any size for your entire life. And so I'm not fattest. I just think that it's proven that having a body composition that is trending towards increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat, that's not even talking about getting the Shreddy Six pack.
nowhere near that is going to be better for us. And that's all I want for people is to understand it because sometimes it's like, hey, it's okay. You know, there's a little bit of that. It's okay to... But that message can go too far. Yeah, so I'm definitely not saying we have to look like bodybuilders, skinny twigs or anything like that. It's just that we do need to be aware that controlling our body composition is a massive part of being
not only healthy, but better just do the stuff that we want to do. And you and I both like having adventures. It's just a little harder if you weigh more of the wrong stuff. You know, and it's funny, actually, because when I got that feedback, I really had to rack my brain because I couldn't remember any element of it, which I felt was like was being was alienating someone in a, you know, someone with obesity or.
with overweight, but I think that's just the different perspectives that people sort of have and the lens that they look at it with. And I think with regards to health at every size and long-term health at every size, I did actually write a blog post about this.
I mean, I got some feedback too, actually, because I said exactly the same thing, that metabolic health, actually, what the data shows is that it is going to deteriorate faster. If you are a person with obesity, even if your blood markers and your biomarkers are good now, 10, 20, 30 years down the line, that's actually not what the science shows, that you are at a greater risk. And, you know, I got pushback from that. Certainly, I got emails from people saying, you know, this was...
really bad for me to read because of my binge eating disorder. And, you know, like they just really, you know, and I really felt for that person. And I, you know, I was, I, I felt strongly, you know, that I was, I felt their distress at that knowledge and information, but I think to sort of keep that stuff to ourselves, I think there's a really fine balance, a fine line that we need to, we, we need to sort of navigate.
where you don't want people to feel bad about themselves at all. And that's certainly not the, not, not, no one wants to do that. Yet you do have to be honest with people. Yeah. I mean, there's that, uh, it's sort of being empathetic. But, but, but without, um, I'm, I'm, that's it. Perfect. Yeah. Uh, because there's too many people that they're now saying, yeah, it's fine.
It's not your fault, don't worry. Yeah. And I think there needs to be a few more people saying, it maybe wasn't your fault up until this point, but now you have the knowledge, you can do something about it. The responsibility, isn't it? It's not your fault, but now it might be your responsibility to sort of do something. Yeah, exactly. And funny, just what you're saying before made me think how, you know, there's a lot of research showing that.
you only have to lose, if you're overweight or obese, you can lose about 5% of body weight and show massive improvements in blood markers and metabolic health. Do you think that that maybe is what's helped, like almost reinforces this idea of healthy at any size? Because say someone who's very overweight, they lose 5% by the metrics, they're still
improved health markers, there you go, they're healthy now. You can stop. And again, I'm just wildly speculating, but I think the fact that you can show that someone can demonstrate improved health while still maybe being categorically in an obese range could have contributed to the, you know, oh, well, that's enough.
But yeah, it's a spectrum. It's a problem with ending on a spectrum. This is too much. This is too much. How do we get people in the middle? And I'm thinking about the moderation. We were chatting again before the thing. Like I love average. Average is actually exceptional. And we find ourselves being marketed to become this 1%. And it's not really possible for most of us if we've got normal lives. But by the same token, we don't want to go so far the other way.
Yeah, no, that's a really great question, Darren. I am, the information that I've sort of seen out there is actually they are these prospective studies and they don't really consider the weight trajectory of that individual retrospectively. So they're just looking at someone at a point in time, BMI, and then they're looking at how their health sort of.
what their health trajectory is like across decades. And then that's how they're sort of making their assumptions. But you know what? I mean, the work that you do, like the strength-based work, the stuff that we advocate, like we know that that is plays such an important role in determining health outcomes and body composition. And also, you know, that does, of course, change how a person's appearance is, because as your body composition changes,
Muscle takes up less space than fat. So your body looks leaner at the same body weight. Like all of those, all of those, um, things are important regardless of what you weigh. But it, you know, it was, it was interesting to me that you, that someone would have said that about you as a fattest, because I know certainly that that's not, I know that's sort of not part of your, uh,
part of anything that I've seen that you sort of talk about, but it's just... No, and sometimes I might say something tongue in cheek, more to make a point. But if I'm ever given anyone grief, I'm generally giving myself grief or including myself in those behaviors. Yeah. Certainly not looking to fire any nasty shots at anybody. Oh gosh, no. But wanting to, yeah, wanting to also, again, like I admire you so much for doing this,
And then what can we do about that? You know, we've got to first accept those situations so that we can actually help people move forward. If we dodge the issue, we're just like, I don't know. It's not helpful. The government agency is trying to get train tracks built. You know? Oh, yeah. And you know what it is. It's about looking for opportunities. Like, hey, this is the state of where we're at now.
but what are the opportunities to improve? You know, and I'm totally about that. And that's how I like to sort of view everything. Now, one question that I have, because obviously today on the podcast, what I really want to chat about is, well, things like this, because it's fun to have, you know, to chew the fat a little bit, but also some maybe myths or misconceptions about what strength training is.
When you might need to progress your strength training program, how this fits with a weight loss approach. Because of course you and I both work on Mondays matter. You're our strength expert and you know, we're coming up on the September intake for that. So, so I mean, we, I want to chat about all of that stuff, but I do want to start with something that you actually just said before we jumped on online was one of those misconceptions about strength training.
And you said that women are often sold that they want lean and long limbs. And you get, and you know, when they think about sort of resistance training, they're looking for things which make them sort of lean and long. What was it that you said? Was it? Yeah. Oh, long lean muscle. Long lean muscle. Like shaping like this, and you know, body sculpting, body shaping, it's all tied in. Yes. Um, and.
Yeah, convince it's, you know, it's playing to that demographic to, to women that they have to look a certain way. Um, which, you know, it always gives me the shits. Um, uh, I mean, let alone that fashion changes on the regular anyway, right? At some point, it was fashionable to be larger. Um, and then, then we went through the sixties where it was fashionable to, to look, basically have anorexia. Um, and you know, we're constantly fluctuating. So of course the people's ideas of how they should look, they're always going to be changing.
I definitely hate seeing people marketed to about how they should be looking. And yeah, the long E muscle is one of those classic ones. But it's all about, it seems to be all about encouraging women at the moment to be smaller, always smaller. And you know, they always flogging themselves with cardio, Harvey eating, everything about shrinking down, you know, versus. And again, I think, I'll meet your friend, Steph.
talks about taking up more space, both physically and metaphorically or whatever, like being proud of being strong, having muscle, lifting weights in what's normally a male environment. I certainly am very passionate about helping people understand that that is not only okay, but is great and is necessary for longevity.
It's not just about, oh, if you want to play sport, you need to lift weights. It's like if you want to have better transitions through menopause and be vigorous into your 70s, 80s, 90s, strength training is almost not an option, not an optional thing. It's an absolute necessity. So do you reckon, because I always wonder about this, because I see sometimes in my Instagram feed and stuff.
Um, you know, I see people say, Oh woman, you're doing it wrong. You shouldn't be doing cardio. Not, you shouldn't be doing, you know, you shouldn't be focusing on cardio X, Y, Z. And I'm like, yeah, I know that, but doesn't everyone know that now? Like, but of course you were in the field. Is it, is it, is it not a no? And is it still, is it still there in that cardio world? I love cardio by the way, but anyway, but I do love strength. And I'm learning to love it too. Uh, but yeah, it's, it's that I've actually seen a lot more people like you and me now.
like reminding or putting in a message that cardio is great for heart health, you know, the way it always used to be. Cardio is great for getting outside. Cardio is great for like, you know, capillarization and VO2 max, things that could help you do other things. But it's not great for burning fat. If that's your primary goal.
And I like to see a phrase that way. Do you reckon because I got to say the metabolic cost of running is so much higher than any other sort of thing. So, you know, if I'm talking, sorry, what I think I'm not saying that it doesn't burn fat. Like it absolutely does. But if you, if you engage with cardio for the sole purpose of burning fat, you might be setting yourself up for trouble. Like, so because you're not
you're not combining it with the resistance training. And you know, every combo study under the sun is, has shown that diets, okay. Cardio is okay. Resistance training is okay. But resistance training and cardio and diet is king, you know, 10X. And so that's an important caveat. And also I do think it's a mindset thing. You know, people are running and they are visualizing the facts.
melting off them, you know, I am burning fat right now. And I've been through that, like, just like I said, whenever I sort of tease, I'm teasing myself, I have totally done that. Every time I have a slightly puffier workout than normal, there's a voice in my brain going, you burn so much fat off your abs right now. You're getting so lean today. That one session. It feels like you're burning fat.
Which isn't a bad thing, eh? Like, I've got to say, from a mindset perspective, like, it's like, if you have that perception on it, as long as you're right, you've got that balance, then that's good. But I often see it, like, in my social media feed, I often see the question, like, is cardio better than resistance training? And it's like, well, no, they're both great for different reasons. But you know what? So...
One of the things which I get all of the time and you came in on a conversation about it too, so I just tagged you in it because this is in our Monday's group of, is Pilates enough for strength training? And I hate breaking people's hearts when I say I'm like, no, no, it's not what I'm talking about when I'm talking about resistance training. Darren, I want you to sort of explain why I might say that if you agree with me. And I think we're on the same page, but also if you are there, like why it's so
And, you know, can you talk us through the stages, I guess? I think there's a couple of things in that scenario. One is that often with Pilates, there's potentially a limit to how far you could progress the challenge. Yeah. And, you know, the number one principle of strength training is progressive overload. You need to make it harder as your body adapts. That's effectively what we're doing. We're challenging our muscles.
they respond by getting stronger, bigger, more efficient. And so if you don't continue to do that, you know, there's a risk of plateauing. So that's the other thing with Pilates, it's always hard. I did a class and it was really hard. It was really challenging, but I wasn't used to it. So of course, if you go regularly, you get used to it.
And eventually you need to put more, if you're on the reformer, you need to attach more springs or whatever, you need to do more reps. And there's a lot of scope for that. But eventually, where you go, you end up doing thousands of lunges and thousands of, I don't know all the moves, but you run out of options to increase that range. And you can only hook so many springs onto the reformer before you run out of juice. And I do think, and again, this, I'm not overly...
knowledgeable about Pilates, but I do think that perhaps there's a somewhat limitation in the movement variation. Yes. Yep. Okay. Yeah. But that's definitely uninformed. I don't want to speak too much to that. I don't know 100% about it, but I get a feeling that it's very core focus, for example, and then sort of lungey kind of stuff, but I don't know about upper body strength. But that speaks to the second point, which is I think that...
and running and yoga and cycling and swimming and so many recreational kind of activities that we love to do. How many times have you talked to someone who's like, I hate the gym. I like to just get out on the trails and run or ride my motorbike or do this or do that 100% agree. I like to, I just surf that keeps me in shape. And it does until it doesn't. And that usually appears around that magical time of
late thirties, early forties. Suddenly it's like, but I'm still surfing. I'm still, I'm still going for my runs. I'm still doing this. What's going on? My body seems to be changing. And I am somewhat biased, but I think it's the absence of strength training. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No. And I think, you know, in your, and in addition to the absence of strength training, your body is so smart. It gets very efficient at what it does. Right. So, so the amount of energy that's required. So
If we just think solely energy and energy out calories, and it's much more than that, but you know, your body becomes very efficient at doing the things that it's used to doing. So over time, you burn less energy in those activities compared to what you would have been burning, for example, as a novice. So I think that's something to be sort of mindful of. What I really loved about our conversation on the Monday's page was that a couple of Pilates instructors,
chimed in and said, you know what, you're sort of right. Like it was great initially, but now I know I need to do strength training alongside my Pilates because it's actually not enough for me anymore. And I found that really interesting. Yeah, that was pretty cool. Yeah. Yeah. And she says tough, right? I think that's what's hardest is if we're going to implement new habits into our lives, would it be easy to do it 20? Or would it be easy to do it 40? Ah, yeah. Yeah. And,
at 40, we're stubborn. And we've got, we've got a lifetime of, this is what worked for me. You, how like you're suggesting all this new stuff now, I don't see how that can work. And so we get pushback and understandable because I'm suggesting something that, you know, is different. And yeah, like, Hey, no Pilates worked for me or yoga worked for me or getting up for a surf every second day works for me.
But yeah, bodies are changing as we get older. And so thus the strategies need to change as well. Yeah. And I think the other thing is that we always think about muscle mass and how it relates to body composition with resistance training. But one of the things that I really buy into, and I know you will as well, is the impact of resistance training for bone density. Because.
you know, as we age, I mean, we have to be functional as well, obviously, and we have to work on balance and flexibility and mobility. But bones, like we lose bone mass across the decades and that stimulus of having the muscle pull on the bone as you get when you're lifting heavy things, you're not going to get that, or you're putting load on, not necessarily just lifting heavy things, you're putting load on. You might not get with activities like pilates or a...
or a yoga class, because that's another one that comes up as, you know, is yoga strength training? I feel like I'm, you know, my physique's really great and things like that. But I don't know that it does the same thing either. Yeah. Yeah. And it's certainly there's, there's got to be aspects of it. And there's different styles. But yeah, the chances are that at some point, you need to supplement with genuine strength training. And it's interesting, right? There's been a lot of research that's coming up recently showing that you can get as high as like
30 reps and still see some positive stimulus in muscle mass and strength. But I still wonder, you know, the classic strength range is sort of one to six. And I'll usually promote more like six to 12 because that's the sweet spot. We're not lifting overly heavy weights so we can manage, you know, technical demands, safety, confidence around that stuff.
but still get enough of the stimulus to drive strength and to drive muscle hypertrophy. But beyond that, I think that we would exhaust the 20 to 30 rep range pretty quickly, I feel, with experience because it starts to approach that kind of, and it sounds like we're bagging on pilates here, but that kind of pilates-type move where you do lots and lots and lots of reps.
the fastest, but there's more potential to basically forever in the six to 10 kind of range, five to 20 even. We can pretty much challenge ourselves in that range forever, but to challenge ourselves in that range, we usually need to have some sort of external load. Yeah, that makes sense. Sorry, that was the long-winded point I was trying to make. No, no. You've got to get some weights in your hands on your back at some point.
to properly challenge. Even like there's tons of, I love body weight movement, but it gets more technical. To make it harder, like to do challenging lower rep movements, you're usually doing single leg squats and handstand pushups and dips and, you know, like much more difficult movements to create enough of a stimulus. But now you've got this technical limitation to learn those things.
And it's hard to find an in-between, you know, most people are at the sort of like sit-ups and push-ups and squats. And at the leap from there to stand push-ups and pistols is a golf and there's not much in between. Or at least it takes a lot more work, whereas you go to the gym, you've got a nice stack. You just choose the next plate on the stack or put one and a half kilos each side of the bar or choose the next pair of dumbbells. It's a lot easier. And then I think that also makes it
way more motivating and exciting to participate in. Again, come over to someone who loves bodyweight movement, but the crazy patience you need to progress in bodyweight stuff can be really demoralizing. But if I'm lifting the 10-kilo dumbbells in August, and in September I'm lifting the 12-kilo dumbbells, you can make that kind of progress quite rapidly.
or one more rep with the 10s or whatever it is. So yeah, that's again where I think strength training can offer so much more because sometimes when you're like, am I actually, this can prove it so easily and that can really help with that consistency and that adherence, which is the toughest part, right? The toughest part is doing it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think, and I think it's, you know, I love that.
You know, you get out that people get out there and do it, but you're right. It's that progression to find to continue to improve. That's, that's where I think some people sort of get a little bit, not stuck, but it's like, well, I already do this three times a week, 20 minute thing. And I've been doing it for two years and I just love it, which is great for maintaining for a point, but you do need that additional. Yeah. And I wrote from like some of my earliest days of.
of training in gyms, I can always remember, and it was usually the men, but maybe that was because again, there weren't as many older women coming to the gym. But I would see these old guys come in and they would do the exact same routine every time. And they'd be there almost every day, but they'd come in and they'd go to the XYZ machine and they'd put exactly 33 kilos on the plate and they would do 12 reps. And then they would move on to the something else machine and they would put 22 kilos on that.
plate, like the fourth plate, and they would do it exactly the same every day. They would never change the weights they did, they would never change the reps they did. And, you know, of course it's better than doing nothing, but their body is basically interpreting that as a walk to the mailbox at this point in time. That same efficiency. I've been going to the gym every day for 10 years. What if you look like it? Certainly they would, again, they would be less healthy if they weren't.
but they're just missing opportunity. And the routine is great. And often I think, you know, perhaps a widower, that routine is very important mentally, having this routine, but gosh, we're just missing a window there with understanding what's required to keep gaining benefit from this stuff. And it's not actually that complicated. It's just try to do a little better each time. So Darren, what about, so, you know, like you, for Mondays, you do like a range of programs, you do body weight.
home and you do gym, like if someone is stuck in that realm of, um, or maybe they don't even realize they're stuck, but now they're listening to us, they're like, Oh shoot, that's me. How would they progress if a gym isn't an option for them? Like where do you take work? Like at your at home, you do body weight training, you enjoy it, but you recognize that you it's now time to move on.
buying weights, the only option, can I use bands? Like what's your take on that? And just start with what you've got. And I'm actually, I'm picturing someone right now, and I think she did one of your programs as well. Shout out, you know who you are, if I'm talking about you, she lives on a farm, and fairly distance away from a gym. And when we first started working together, I think she had a pair of
four kilo dumbbells and a pair of five kilo dumbbells. So basically the same ones, you know? And that's all she had. And we started doing a combination of using those dumbbells and some body weight movements. And then one day she says to me, oh, I think I'm gonna buy some more weights. And she bought some, I think some sevens. And then she bought some tens. And now she's in the market for a barbell.
Interesting. And I think we've been working together, it's gonna be coming up on a year now. But yeah, we started with what she had. It was challenging. And as she got better, she just added a little bit to the arsenal and she slowly building a little home gym. Actually, and when I closed my gym down, I actually mailed her a pair of my rings. She got a pull-up bar set up. I had a spare pair of rings, so I mailed those to her.
And so now she can do like row type movements as well and assisted pull-ups and some cool stuff as well. So we're building out a cool little home gym for her, but she started with bugger all and we made it work. So that's my, again, long-winded answer. I love them. You can absolutely do more than enough with what you've got and just, but just understand that at some point, yeah, you might need to progress to the next step. But you know, during COVID, I was lifting backpacks filled with
water bottles and books and stuff. You know, you can get quite, quite, uh, just to have a look in the garage. What's, what's out there that's heavy. You know, you'd be surprised just, just get, get, you know, into the crooks, your elbows, a big bag squat that you can do lift it. You can clean it up. You can press it over here. You can line your back and bench press it. You can beat, roll it. Um, you can, you can lunge with it. It's tons of movements you could do.
And slowing down your movements? Like, is that another? Absolutely. Yeah. So we like to call it tempo. Yeah. That keeps it keeps us in business. We've got to give it fancy words, but yeah, moving slower. And this is actually an interesting thing. The, you know, I've I've been across it for a long time where we're speeding everything up and it was always a power output. You go faster, do more work and less time power output. We can prove it, you know, mathematically slowing it down makes it harder.
making it harder means you get stronger. Oh, sorry. Just standing up. I thought that was a... When I heard that word, I thought it was the workman had started up outside your door or something. No, no, that's just my desk. It's your standing desk. Oh, you know, if you're going to put yours up, then I'm going to put mine up. Although I think I've got a plug in the wrong place. I'm not going to go any higher than that.
Yeah, and that's the thing is, yeah, it's just progression. And tempo is a forgotten about variable in progression. If you've only got your four kilo dumbbells at home, lift them slower. Yeah. And it seems like almost, surely not. But actually. But actually, yeah, the muscle almost doesn't recognize the weight on the bar. It recognizes the tension that you're creating with that bar.
And that's why bodybuilders are classic. A lot of people would like, oh, bodybuilders, they look strong, but they're not really strong. And the bodybuilders are like, well, I am pretty strong, but that's not my goal anyway. I don't care about being strong. I'm trying to build my muscle. And they're doing it with relatively less weight than powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters are using because they're using the power of tempo. They're slowing things down. They're putting their mind in the muscle. They're trying to exhaust the muscle in a way with as little, like it's actually more advantageous to do it with less weight.
less warm-up sets, less work overall. You can get to the point where you can make this particular weight feel really hard, that's the way. I agree. And do you know what, so I had, I saw somewhere someone wrote that, you know, post menopause, and I know that you work with a lot of women and despite the fact that you are a man, you work with a lot of women.
And it's funny, a lot of people nowadays say, oh no, I can't work with a man because he doesn't understand me as a woman. And it's, I don't know about that to be fair. But, cause you- I prefer working with women because I'm gonna say it, you're smarter, you have less ego, you're willing to work harder. Yeah, guys are tough. Yeah, that's interesting. We're tough, we're children when it comes to this fitness stuff, you know, we don't wanna be told. Oh yeah. We think we know it all.
Yeah, I'll happily work with women any day of the week. Okay, then so, you know, I came across this thing and someone had written that post-menopausal women should not waste their time with rep ranges that extend beyond one to six reps because they really need to do the real heavy lifting. And I just thought that was so intimidating for menopause, for potentially, if you've never done it before, for some, for an expert to then say,
you actually should be doing one to five reps and it should be hard and it should be these complex movements. When I just thought that was intimidating. It's a tough one, yeah. And I guess certainly, if you look at the classic charts that show that strength, like if we're classifying strength and then hypertrophy and then muscular endurance, that's sort of how it's always typically being laid out. And strength always was in that one to six rep range.
And so if you want to get stronger above all else, that is where you probably need to live. But yeah, it comes with a learning curve. And it also takes a physiological learning curve as well. We're not neuromuscularly efficient enough when we're new to strength training to actually benefit from it. And I saw this very early on when I was working with people.
If someone had little experience and I said, hey, we're going to do five sets of five back squat, they're done in 10 minutes. And I was like, well, it felt hard, but it's like a coordination thing. Their brain cannot speak to their muscles well enough to let them create enough force to truly challenge themselves at five reps. But if we did 12 reps.
every rip after that five, because the muscle is not contracting the entirety of the muscle without going too deep into it. It's more like I explained like Christmas lights, sort of like the flicker on and off. And that helps prevent fatigue. Like if you've had cramp, that's 100% contraction and that's not pleasant. So the muscle doesn't want to work that way. It's not on or off. It's kind of Christmas lighty. But we can get more of the lights to flash together as we practice training.
And that actually is part of what makes us stronger. It's neural strength in terms of we're more efficient at contracting our muscle. But that takes practice. And one way we can get better practice or more practice is more reps. Yeah, totally. And you know what, that's, and even though I've been strength training for like legitimately 30 years now, I still prefer the range of about eight to 15, depending on what I'm doing.
because I am not a coordinated person. And I know that my muscles, that I am able to engage better after I'm sort of in a flow of movement. So five reps just will never cut it for me. And also I'm scared of injuring myself. And this is what I thought when I heard and when I'd seen that, you know, the idea that post-menopausal woman, despite experience needs to be in that one to five rep range. I just thought, gosh, that's just leaving you open to injury.
Yeah, it does definitely. It's, you know, and I've defended weight training and injury for years, but there's no denying again, everything's on a spectrum. The closer we move to one RMs to make some more loads and make some efforts, absolutely the injury risk does go up and we can manage that again with ensuring our technique is better. Like I've certainly swung back towards recommending more machine work for people, especially if they are trying to get experience with that. So you know, like you.
But not many machines are set up for one rep maxes. I wouldn't recommend it. But certainly trying harder, putting in more effort. You may feel more confident doing it if you have some of the support of a Smith machine or a pad against your back or some kind of control. That might help to getting closer to that one to six spectrum. But yeah, I don't think that it is really required to go that heavy.
I'm sorry, you don't need to go that heavy. You'll still see the benefits that are being talked about, I think, and that's six to 10, eight to 15, as you spoke of, absolutely. And that's where I live now too. And I was actually just casually, I was flicking through some of my old programming for the gym I used to own, trying to see, when did I stop programming heavy lifts? And it was way back, sort of 2016, it seems, was when I started really cutting down on one RMs. Because I could, again, I work with general,
population and while it's fun to see that top, you know, well, this is how much I can lift. We don't really need to know that to make the kind of progress that we're after. But it's a massive mindset shift for a lot of people. But even progressing, like if you can do eight, let's pick the bottom rep range for you that you're working with eight. If you can back squat eight reps with 40 kilos and it feels like it's about a nine out of 10 effort.
Okay, so you haven't even maxed out at eight. You're going about 90%. That's great. That's gonna be challenging. And in two months time, you lift 50 kilos for eight reps and it still feels like a nine out of 10 effort. You're stronger. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And if we actually tested your max, we find that has shifted as well, but we don't need to do it.
to see that and we've got the data there showing I used to lift 40 and now I lift 50 and it feels as hard as both used to. Great. What tends to happen though is people will lift 40 at 9 out of 10 effort and then the next week they'll lift 45 at a 9.5 out of 10 effort and the next week after that they'll lift 50 at a 10 out of 10 effort and now they're on that raises edge of injury and they've also plateaued. What do they do the week after that? Yeah, yeah. Because they're maxed out.
you know, because we can't just increase linearly, we have to kind of dance around it. And often if we stay in that kind of eight to nine out of 10 effort, we've got a lot more tolerance to make longer progress. Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense. And our mates Cliff and Eric agree with you on the sort of post menopausal front. They're like, yeah, no, I'm not sure about that. I think there's nothing really, no good data to sort of support those assertions. If you can, it's amazing, but not necessarily.
It's interesting. We started off this chat with a Hiss and Aroha talking about being Fetist. But maybe I'm not so much Fetist as I'm starting to become a bit more performanceist. And again, that's from seeing the world that I was in, where we were telling people for years. And I was very proud and passionate about saying, it's not about how you look, it's about what you can do. And if we focus on what you can do, the stuff about how you look.
will probably change as well. Because again, we're all somewhat aesthetically driven, but we want to take that mindset away of I'm trying to just change the way I look and take more pride in what my body can do. And it's wonderful, it really is. But like anything that's on a spectrum once again, and we've suddenly become obsessed with what we can do, injury rates are going up, almost to the detriment too of how we look, and there's the factors creeping in.
I'm seeing people giving themselves a pass on their metabolic health, on their body composition based health, because I can still punch out this metcon, I can still run pretty fast, I can still lift all this weight. And I just don't know that that's going to be something that's sustainable long term. Yeah. And you know what, like it's that thinking in silos, eh? Like it's, this is the only thing that, not this is the only thing, but this is my priority and this is the...
this is, you know, this is important. So one, it might be that they're just, you know, people are just worried about that. But also you're right, sometimes it is just leading yourself off the hook. Like, it doesn't matter that I've got a belly that's, you know, more than half my height because I can do all of the stuff. And it's like, that is amazing to do all that stuff. But you know what? The fact that your waist circumference is more than half your height could be an issue for your metabolic health. And that's something that you wanna be mindful of.
Yeah, and it feels like it's okay now, but just down the road. And so that's the juggle is we've now got to sort of get our heads around how we look and be healthy about our thinking around that, as well as understanding that performance is important. We want to do things. So we're trying to improve our performance. We're trying to improve how we look.
And we're trying to improve how we think about how we perform and how we look. Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. All at the same time. And bring those all together under the same roof in that sweet moderation area. But yeah, it's so tough that always lenses are swinging one way or the other on one or all of them. And that's the challenge. So now, Darren, what is your perspective on this? Like I've always like I rack my brain. I mean, no one's ever going to love everything that they do. Right. And I know. And.
But so many people just dislike strength training. What is that even about? Is that a fear of failure? Are they not wanting to look silly? Not that I'm saying that they would look silly, but in their head they're like, oh no, I can't go into a gym. All these other really fit people in there. Have you ever scratched your head and went, you know, what is this about? I have multiple theories. I'll bang out a few real quickly. Yes.
One is they're absolutely intimidating. And that was what first inspired me to pursue this career like 100%. I worked in a gym and I saw all the guys in the weight room, no woman, all the women on the cardio machines doing inclined treadmill walking. And it was an exact 50-50 split. It was unbelievable. And if a woman did walk into the weights room, it was like that old pump ad where everything stops and all the guys watch you take a drink of water. It was horrendous.
Um, and it was sort of like, I'm going to change this. So, you know, I really wanted to change that. So, and I still feel intimidated in gyms. Let's, let's be clear. Someone's like, I'm gyms and there's always big days walking around. I'm like, wow, they can be yuck. They can be really yucky environments. Um, and, and sometimes, you know, through no fault of the gyms themselves, just sometimes just the way people act in them. Um, so that's tough. Uh, the other thing is I think it can make.
people spend a little bit too much time with their own thoughts. Yeah. Okay. You know, it's a bit more methodical and slow and you've got to rest and you stop when you're thinking and then you start stressing about work or home life or how you're actually performing in the gym, how you look to other people in the gym. And so it's, it's to focus the thing. Whereas you can go do a head class. You can't think about anything or spin class or you're in yoga. You're not really able to think because you're surrounded and you're all moving together.
it's very much to the clock and you're being directed. And so you can switch off. And some people really wanna switch off, right? That's what Netflix is for. That's what our phones are for. It's actually to help us jack out of our lives. And so I think a hit class is actually helping us jack out of our lives a little bit. And so we'd always prefer that, or I'd rather go for a run. It's just, I just think you have a bit more control of your random thoughts that way. Whereas at the germ,
Yeah, you'd again, this, and this one actually came to me as we're speaking now, I just think that that's certainly got a potential part to play. People say they don't like it, but what they don't really like is the situation they're in when they are strength training, you know, but it's actually getting in control of that, like making strength training a very mindful and meditative experience. And they always talk about the mind muscle, put your mind into the muscle, feel the rep and things like that, it's very bodybuilder type talk, but it's 100% true.
And again, Eric would have a lot to say on that. Like it can be very beautiful. I don't know if that's a word, but it's just wonderful to feel your muscles working, right? If you could add anything to that. But it's often similar with running. When you feel that engine that is you just basically just, you're just an antelope. You are just one with nature and you are just crushing it. You're in that flow. That was me this morning, 100%. Was it? Oh, so cool.
Yeah, and I agree with you. I think that- What animal are you? I always think gazelle and I'm not, but I do often think like that. And I'm just, I'm absolutely in the moment. And it's interesting as like, when I think about you talking about weight training like that, I think weight training could be a real, I mean, it's such a mindful activity because you have to focus on the movement, right? Especially if we're throwing some tempo and you slow right down, it's really feeling it.
Yeah, but yeah, it's tough. It's just, it's just, it can be hard to get there. And so it's easier for people perhaps to say, I don't really like strength training. I'd much rather go for a run or, you know, but I, yeah, I will. We were talking about marketing, right? And putting ourselves out there earlier. I don't really like that, but I know that I have to, if I'm going to be successful. So if you don't really like strength training, but you know that it's going to make you live a healthier, longer, more active and adventurous life then. I know. And you know what? It's a little bit like,
your, it's, you like the way it makes you feel. And then, and then over time, you just start to enjoy the actual process of it. You know, and I think it's like, if it matters to you, if it's hard for you now, then just focus on that destination. Because over time, you're going to start enjoying the journey and enjoying the process. Yeah. And how true is that for so many things, right? Like I went from taking a zero and
you know, for speeches and English class at school, I go just like, give me the zero, I don't like speaking in front of people. And then I, you know, get in front of hundreds of people these days and have no problem at all. But I had to start with fighting through that discomfort to start finding that I actually enjoyed speaking to people. But yeah, if I just had dodged it, because I don't like to do it, you know, we're not going to get anywhere. So I definitely think that's a big part of it.
categorized as resistance training in itself by itself forever. What's the deal with hit training? Because I often get asked this as well. Were you doing a bunch of that bodyweight training stuff? What are your thoughts on that? Is hit training also resistance training? The problem is that everything's been tied with the brush and it's not always classically hit. So
training. So we sprinting and we sprinting. Yeah, we should be sprinting and most importantly, resting, resting. If we don't rest, we can't sprint hard. And whether that's sprinting on a bike or sprinting with weights or with bodyweight, so as a whatever, but it should be a hard effort followed by a rest, which allows our energy to recover. And then we go again. If we're not resting, we're not doing it. We're just doing, we're doing mitts.
with one eye, medium intensity training. You're right, yes, yes, yes. And that's what most, if you're going to boot camp, if you're going to a lot of CrossFit, if you're going to 45 or similar, you're probably doing MIT. But MIT is hard enough that you might categorize it as high intensity because it's higher than you used to, it's higher than what most people would do, feels harder than strength training. Because again, work and rest, work and rest. Strength training is actually, in a way,
because you're working quite hard and at your risk. Yeah. So if you are not, I'd say if you're not super used to that kind of training, then hit and F45 and BFT and CrossFit will certainly get you stronger. And it's been proven, like there's so many people have made that progress, but the programming is so varied. It will depend on where you're getting it from.
You know, all the gyms are different. And so they all program a little bit differently. Um, so again, again, I think you would make progress in the beginning. And I think you would make more progress than you would if we're talking about strength again, you'll make more progress in Pilates or yoga, um, because there are, you are actually using weights. But at some point, um, much, it seems like there's so many themes coming around the same way, like the healthy, any size at some point, like you could be doing great now, but it probably won't last.
we need to start circulating back towards classic strength training. And I'm starting to see that a lot of CrossFit gyms now are much more mindful of getting healthier amounts of strength training, like classic strength training, work and rest, work and rest, and not chucking it all into a circuit. BFT, you know, another common one out there, they have strength only days, which is really cool. And I've seen a lot of people from F45 switching.
Does F45 also have just strength days or is it a strength focus? I couldn't comment. I think, and I hesitate to get myself into a lawsuit here, but I think they say they're doing strength days, but it's just more cardio with weights. More cardio. Well, if you're wrong, Darren, I'm going to hear about it. And so I'll pass that on.
Yeah, I don't know. But again, this is again putting myself in that same category when I'm banging like, I own the first CrossFit gym in the country. And I'm not saying that there's any category wrong with any of these systems, but we need to be open to seeing how things evolve and evolving with it. And I don't mean trends. I mean, what is actually working? Because you know how young our science is in this field. We're always figuring stuff out. Yeah.
And so, yeah, I was an absolute diet and law crossfit convert. And I've just I've felt that there's some things that we can do better in that and similar areas. And what's funny is that, yeah, like the classic lift some weights, do some cardio. So Darren, obviously, you work with me in Monday's matter, and I'm so pleased to have your expertise in there.
What are your recommendations then for strength training in a fat loss with a fat loss goal? Because I mean, that's the thing that a lot of us are all sort of interested in. Yeah. And this is the thing, this is where it becomes my number one recommendation, because again, not anti-cardio, and I'm trying to get some kind of cardio exercise in most days. But I'm doing it for heart health.
I'm an older bugger now and I'm going to start thinking about that stuff. I'm doing it because it's just great to get out in this weather right now. I've signed up for a really long fricking mountain bike race. If I don't do some training, I am going to be in trouble. If I was thinking solely about fat loss, again, call me a bias, I would start with strength training because we're typically eating in a calorie deficit.
like we should be if that was our primary goal. Cardio can make it harder. Again, this is what I believe and appeal that sometimes cardio can make it harder to sustain that. It might drive hunger or it might drive that caloric deficit lower and then sort of catch us in the tail at the back end. With strength training, to me, strength training almost provides like a sink for energy that's not overly
demanding, you know, so we're exerting energy with our training, but we're also trying to build muscle. So we're trying to steer calories to the creation of tissue rather than eliminating it as in we're trying to, you know, rather than trying to burn fat, burn fat, burn fat, which can sometimes be quite stressful. Oh, that's such a good way to put it. Steering calories towards laying down lean tissue rather than getting rid of it, getting rid of tissue.
Yeah. And then what happens when we create more lean tissue? Our metabolism slightly increases. Yeah. Not nearly as much as what we used to think. Yeah. Isn't that interesting? But yes, it absolutely does. You're holding on though. Whereas if you think about it, like if you were, if you were laying down lean tissue, preserving that muscle mass, yes, you're burning slightly more calories. But actually, if you weren't, the alternative would be way, way less.
Yeah, and that's right. Like science is showing it's not as much as we maybe thought. And I used to certainly like trumpet that sort of as a major thing. But how do most of us gain fat? Really, really slowly. Yes. You know, over decades. So if we're doing the opposite with muscle, you know, that's even if it's a very significant amount of muscle gain, if we don't stop in 20 years, people are going to say, holy cow. Totally. Yeah.
So strength training is obviously, you know, that's the kingpin, but a cardio in there. What do you, what do you, what I, do you have cardio recommendations? I haven't. Oh, we did that on your program. I did include, rucking rucking is so hot right now. I went for a rock this morning, right before we got on the call. Yeah. Just put on a heavy pack, take the dog for a walk. It's just, I don't know, maybe partly me. It feels a bit more manly.
But it's just being more efficient. And my daughter is currently in a, doesn't like to sit in the pram phase. So I'm missing out on all this walking that I used to get. So I sort of pack on, get a shorter walk in, and it's maybe, you know, just at least as effective. But then also I am getting, you know, some core work, some axial loading, building a stronger spine, all that sort of stuff.
And the heavy pack is going to mean that you're burning more calories because you're carrying around more weight as well. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So again, it's nothing major, but it adds up. It adds up. And I'm looking again, long term, years and years, not just like what this, what did that one pack walk do for me? And so yeah, but yeah, I think we've, I guess, you know, I wouldn't call your plan aggressive, but it's in the sense of the fat loss is best people's primary goals.
So I've always been cautious of, we don't wanna be slamming people with this ridiculous amount of exercise when the diet is the main focus. And still should be, your plan or otherwise, right? If that loss is the goal, it's diet-based 100%. We are supporting it with the exercise that we do. We're not trying to make it another big hammer in the toolbox.
Oh, do you have any? I guess so. Well, it's just it's interesting. Here's an interesting story. When I was 40, I went to the CrossFit Games. Masters athlete, right? So fittest 40 year old in New Zealand, shall we say? Yeah, I love it. And my step my step count was about 2000. Crazy. Yeah, crazy. Yeah, it's a very, very fit, but not very healthy. Not very healthy. Yes.
You know, which is so common with with elite sport. Yeah. Now I couldn't do anywhere near the kind of performance, you know, nearly 10 years later. But my step count is up in the nine, 10s. Yeah. And I feel much better. Do you think people can take these steps too far? That's a great question. If it's at the expense of strength training, yes. If it's at the expense of just getting this stuff done, they need to in a day because it's hard, right?
It's about an hour 20 or something on average, something like that. It's a decent lot of time. So if you don't have a job that lets you move around, getting 10 grand is tough. You've got to be deliberate. You've got to be very deliberate. So beyond 10, and I don't know if you subscribed to a lot of the research coming out that suggests that seven is actually pretty darn awesome. Yeah. And 10 is just an arbitrary, eight glasses of water kind of thing.
Also arbitrary listeners, eight glasses of water just so you know. Yeah, what's a glass? There's no measurement on the side. That one always used to get me. But I do feel that because as a society we're moving less and less and less and less and less, I think that having that bar up around the 10,000 makes more sense. It's still pretty effortless compared to some of the other things we might need to do. You know?
I coach fitness and I sit at a desk for five or six hours a day. I would prefer to walk closer to 12,000. I feel great when I do that. It's just hard sometimes. And I've got a dog and a daughter, although I will be at a stubborn one right now, but she'll get back to it. I'll get on the bike and I'll be able to start walking big case again. Yeah, that's interesting. I feel like there are people who, and I've seen this in clients and stuff where they've had...
They've gotten themselves to this position where they were walk like 20,000 steps a day, like legitimately, and this is the thing that they do. And it's like, but yet it actually isn't helping them at all. And I'm like, but they're a little bit obsessed with it. So we work on this step wise regression, actually. We're like, cool, next week, let's just go for 17,000 today. You know, like, because it's, cause you don't.
because actually it would, from a metabolic perspective, you'd burn significantly less calories to drop immediately from 20 to 10. And you can absolutely do that, but it's probably a little bit better to get yourself there and almost that regression, like the progression, but opposite direction. Yeah. Because I guess you can always have too much of a good thing. Yes, you totally can. And so you can do anything too much. And yeah, we see it again. We see it with the HIIT classes.
you're doing a hit class every single day, you're probably missing out. You know, whether that's, whether you just need some, some of that cardio to be more zone to, whether you need some of that hit class to be even higher intensity and be truly strength training or truly hit and not mit. You know, it's that variance once again, is what we are often missing. And if we sign up for yoga or Pilates or CrossFit or F45 or anything,
often you're getting the same thing. Yeah. And that's where it's tough. Yeah, I agree. And then ultimately, when we're talking about fat loss, the diet is a stress, the exercise is a stress, steps shouldn't necessarily be power walking. They should be something that helps soothe and just sort of bring your nervous system back into balance, I think. This is how I feel it anyway. Yeah, absolutely. And I think sometimes too, you know, there's so much right now, you know, everyone's like listening to
David Goggins and Jocko and all this motivation and everything has to be this like trial by fire and I worked out so hard. I think partly I'm wired a little bit lazy, but also I don't really believe that it needs to be that tough. And I actually also really love a challenge. I love crazy like say I'm signing up for this 100k mountain bike. I like some of those really nutty challenges, ultra this and ultra that and ocean swims and but that's a test.
The training doesn't have to look like that. I want the training to be easy. I've got enough on my plate. And that's the funny thing is that you don't have to make every training session a test. Training can be quite easy and still have a positive benefit. However, when you say easy, you're still- Yes, relatively, sure. And you're still working hard. You're working hard to get the parameters that we've talked about. Yes. But simple, simple
And you don't, it's not, I suppose, cognitively demanding and overly taxing and stressful. So you're constantly in a grind. Exactly. So you have to use a strength training example. That seems that one to four, one to three reps from failure is a pretty sweet spot. Like, so taking your step to a point where when you do the 10th rep, you think yourself, I think I could get 12, maybe 13 reps if you had a gun to my head. And that's important too. If you had a gun to my head, not like, oh no, I'm done.
And then then we hold a gun to your head and you do 27 reps. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, and there's studies that have sort of shown that, not with a gun, but they've shown that people drastically underestimate how many more reps they could have actually done. So you do need to work hard. But conversely, when I first started strength training, we would do, you know, 20 leg presses until we couldn't move the stack.
and then we'd pull some weight off and we'd do another 20 and then we'd pull some weight off and do another 20 and then we'd crawl over to the squat rack and we'd start doing squats until we got stuck at the bottom and then your mate would lift you up, pull some weight off and you'd do some more and you'd go outside and you'd vomit. Oh, it's like me after a joy workout. Oh yeah. Just kidding, just kidding.
But there's nothing, again, that's a test, but I was doing that every day, and that was what we were told. I remember my first coach said, it's the, how do you say it, like the reps, when you're doing a workout, it's the reps after you fail that count. Oh yeah, oh yes. You go to failure, right, then you do four strips and negatives, and you may have to, and you do drop sets down the stack, and you were digging this massive hole into your recovery.
But when you're 20, your capacity is huge. Yeah, like seriously. I absolutely could do that. Seriously bulletproof. Imagine being 20 again, Darren. How old are you? Oh my god, 48. Yeah, imagine that, man. Can't even, actually wouldn't want to. Hey Darren, we've gotta wrap this up. So tell me, so obviously you're in Monday's Matter. Monday's Matter, we're kicking off late September. You guys would have been hearing about it now, I'm pretty sure. And there'll be a bit of a bonus with Darren.
as well. So not only is he in the program, but I'm going to talk him into doing an early bonus chat about strength and how to set it up. Fantastic. Yeah. Awesome. Where can people find you and are you taking one-on-ones right now? Like what's the gig? What's the deal? You've got a full sketch. Oh, good. Good, good, good. You'd have to impress me. Tell me. You have to be willing to.
do reps after the set is done, you know, you have to be willing to die for me. And all the stuff that I said wasn't important. No. I do have a couple of spaces. Darren, Alice.coach. Darren, Alice.coach, Instagram, or that's also the website. Amazing. Awesome, Darren. Hey, thanks so much. Always so great to chat. Love it. Great, yeah, it's Mickey.
Alrighty, hopefully you enjoyed that conversation with Darren. He's such a wealth of information. And as always, I got a lot of really great tips from him. I'm constantly learning from him. So absolutely check out his website and feel reassured that we've got someone super smart and experienced as the expert on Monday's matter, if that's the road that you're going down. Next week on the podcast, I talk to Dr. Philip.
on low carbohydrate diets in the athlete and metabolic health. Until then though you can catch me over on Facebook @mikkiwillidennutrition, Instagram, Twitter and threads @mikkiwilliden or head to my website mikkiwilliden.com where you can sign up to a program or book a one-on-one call with me. Alright guys have a great week.