Meal Frequency Article

Posted: October 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

Meal Frequency

Show me a gym and I’ll show you real hunger. No, this isn’t a reference to whaling stomachs or starved abdominals… I’m talking about drive – motivation to move forward, to do well, to achieve, to be better. As commendable as such a lifestyle is, it can often lead those individuals to look before the leap if they catch sight of something that they think will benefit them on their journey to becoming part of the elite.
For years, you’ve heard countless times about the benefits of increasing your meal frequency – 6-8 small meals a day in order to keep yourself lean, to keep yourself energized, to keep yourself pushing forward. What if I were to tell you that for all of those years of stringent dietary discipline, you may as well have relaxed and enjoyed a feast whenever you liked? What if tearing yourself away from an already busy schedule to choke down a small meal wasn’t for the good of your health, but may have actually been detrimental to your health in the long term? Let’s have a look at the evidence.

The Evidence

Meal frequency first became a key discussion point in weight loss after the research of Fabry and associates in the mid 1960’s, who observed a significant relationship between meal-frequency and body weight – fat people appeared to be gorging a few times a day while team-lean ate just as much, except across more meals. Initial research observed this relationship in school children (1), men in their early 60s (2) and men aged 30-50 (3). The research continued to flood in, finding the same relationship in both women and men from as young as 25 to 89 year olds and again in adolescents (4, 5, 6). With such a significant wealth of studies supporting the idea that the standard 3-a-day meal ratio was killing us slowly, it’s no surprise that every individual involved in the fitness/health industry was recommending everyone consume 6-8 small meals a day.

What may surprise you is that the first suggestion we were all over-reacting to the previous meal frequency studies came in 1996 – that’s 16 years ago for those of you who wanted an unpleasant surprise. Summerbell et al (7) investigated the then current data regarding meal frequency and body weight as well as conducting an analysis of weight-diet records from over 200 individuals across a similar age group. They discovered that the previous findings regarding meal frequency and body weight disappeared when they removed individuals who had under-reported how much they had eaten (a major bio-psychological phenomenon (8)) from the analysis. The same was true of adolescents when dieting males and weight-conscious females were excluded. Adding to these findings were studies investigating the effects of meal frequency on weight loss in people who were deliberately trying to lose weight (calorie restriction) which showed overwhelmingly that meal-frequency appeared to make no difference to weight loss outcomes, with only one research group finding any evidence to suggest otherwise (9). In short, we may have been panicking over faulty research.

Having debunked the myth that increasing meal frequency will help you add lean body mass, a more recent study involving overweight/obese men suggests that increasing frequency may actually make it harder to lose weight by making you more hungry (10). Further research into the subject by Holmstrup et al (11) (2010) revealed that high meal frequency may actually be harmful. They discovered that in individuals consuming the same amount of carbohydrate, protein and fat (65/15/20) across either 3 or 6 meals, the participants who ate more often maintained 30% higher blood glucose levels than those who ate only 3 times that day. Furthermore, there was no difference in insulin activity between the groups. This suggests that insulin was less efficient at reducing blood sugars when more frequent meals were consumed – a potential prelude to both insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, which can both lead to Type 2 Diabetes (14, 15). This is particularly concerning considering the gym/nutritional rules that new (potentially overweight and metabolically resistant) gym-goers are often suggested to follow.

Protein consumption frequency

With regards to muscular hypertrophy and recovery, the idea behind any diet is to maintain a positive net protein balance (maintaining protein synthesis for as long as possible). Recent research (12) suggests that in order to maximize protein synthesis it is beneficial to consume your daily recommendation of protein (>1.6g per kg bodyweight if pursuing strength/size gains (13)) over 4-6 sittings, whilst waiting 4-5 hours between meals.


The key to any lifestyle change is making sure you approach it in a way that works for you personally. This is especially true of diet as some approaches are time consuming, provide poor results and cause people to very quickly give up on their intentions of becoming leaner and looking and feeling better. Given the evidence we’ve just discussed, your diet need not be a consistently time consuming component of your regime. As such, what is important is ensuring that no matter how often you choose to eat, you are consuming the calories, protein, vitamins and minerals that you need on a daily basis to achieve your goals.


For any individual in training, peri-workout nutrition (what you eat before, during and after exercise) is of the utmost importance, with particular attention to carbohydrate consumption – maximizing available carbohydrates at all times. The literature recommendations here suggest carbohydrate consumption before (1-4 hours), regularly throughout the exercise period and as soon as possible when you have completed your workout (16). Protein at this point is not by any means essential but if it helps you fit your protein requirements into your day and you have no issues with nausea – go for it!

Lastly, regardless of how you eat, it can be helpful to plan meals well ahead of time and prepare appropriately. If time is a significant issue for you, it can be helpful to either supplement your diet as much as necessary or cook and store food in bulk. This may seem like a lot of effort, but quite often the last thing on your mind is pacing around a hot kitchen after a serious workout.



As it stands, current literature points us towards the standard 3 meals a day as being the most healthy and efficient way to eat. Previous research hailing increased meal frequency is being continually overruled by more modern research, which suggests that not only does the often recommended 6-8 meals a day not help in building lean muscle mass, but that it may slow down weight-loss and actually harm health in the long term by careering subjects towards ailments such as Type 2 Diabetes.


With regards to frequency of protein consumption, consuming your required daily protein over 5-6 sittings with 4-5 hours between feeds appears to be optimal for increasing muscle mass.

Throwing frequency aside, the rules of dieting to increase muscle mass are simple – consume a calorie surplus, ensure you’re getting your required protein intake, don’t slouch on the vitamins and minerals and stay hydrated.

Eat, sleep, grow.




  1. Fabry et al (1966). Effect of meal frequency in

schoolchildren: changes in weight-height proportion and skinfold thickness. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 18, 358-361.
 Fabry et al (1964). The frequency of meals: its relation to

  1. overweight, hypercholesterolaemia, and decreased glucose tolerance. Lancet ii, 614-615.
  2. Fabry and Hejda (1966). Effect of meal frequency in

schoolchildren: changes in weight-height proportion and skinfold thickness. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 18, 358-361.

  1. Kant, A. K. (1995). Frequency of eating occasions and weight change in NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. International Journal of Obesity 19, 468474
  2. Metzner, H. L., Lamphiear, D. E., Wheeler, N. C. & Larkin, F. A. (1977). The relationship between frequency of eating and adiposity in adult men and women in the Tecumseh Community Health Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 30, 712-715.
  3. Charzewska et al (1981). Relationship between obesity or

overweight development and the frequency of meals, their distribution during the day and consumption of atherogenic food products. Zywienie Czlowieka 8, 217-227

  1. Summerbell et al (1996). Relationship between feeding pattern and body mass index in 220 free-living people in four age groups. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 50, 513-519
  2.  Prentice, A. M., Black, A. E., Coward, W. A., Davies, H. L., Goldberg, G. R., Murgatroyd, P. R., Ashford, J., Sawyer, M. & Whitehead, R. G. (1986). High levels of energy expenditure in obese women. British Medical Journal 292,983-987.
  3. Bellisle et al (1997). Meal frequency and energy balance. British Journal of Nutrition (1997), 77 (Suppl. I), S57-S70#

10. Leidy et al (2010). The influence of higher protein intake and greater eating frequency on appetite control in overweight and obese men. Obesity (Silver Spring). Sep;18(9):1725-32

11. Holmstrup et al (2010). Effect of meal frequency on glucose and insulin excursions over the course of a day. Eu eJ of Clin Nutr and Metab. Volume 5, Issue 6 , Pages e277-e280

12. Layne Norton (2009). Protein: how much and how often?

13. Strength and Conditioning. Biological principles and practical applications. Sec 4.3.3, pg 378. (2011)

14. Fonseca VA (2007). Identification and treatment of prediabetes to prevent progression to type 2 diabetes. Clin Cornerstone. 2007;8(2):10-8; discussion 19-20.

15. Gerald M. Reaven (1993). Role of Insulin Resistance in Human Disease (Syndrome X): An Expanded Definition. Annual Review of MedicineVol. 44: 121-131

16. Hawley and Burke (1997). Effect of meal frequency and timing on physical performance. British Journal of Nutrition (1997), 77 : pp S91-S103


The Coach (Part 2)

Posted: August 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

This post continues on from The Coach (Part 1).

Sacrifice and Invest

Unless you live under a rock, you are probably catching some footage of the Olympics from time to time. The Olympics is intended to be the pinnacle of sport, where mere mortals test the boundaries of human potential. As you are no doubt sick of reading, there’s “plenty to learn” from these individuals. If you watch the interviews given by the athletes, you’ll probably notice that amongst the scripted “thank you”, “tried my best” and “so proud of everyone on the team” script lines, you will often hear an apology. I’m not talking about the “sorry, I could have done better” you may have heard, but rather the occasional “sorry, I haven’t been there” directed towards the athlete’s family/friends. The awesome performances we see at the Olympics are not simply a glimpse into the life of an extremely talented individual . You are seeing the product of years of hard work and personal sacrifice…time spent training hard in the gym/on the field/in the pool is not simply time spent training, it’s time spent away from loved ones, from home pursuits, from holidays.

However, sacrifice is not only meant for Olympians. In fact, in the pursuit of any feat, great or small, sacrifice is a necessary component for success. Examples include sacrificing time spent playing video games for time spent studying or giving up chocolate/pies/crisps/chips/gravy in order to help lose weight. Of course, sacrifice isn’t always easy, but with time it can become a habit. It’s times like this it’s worth thinking about your goals and why you want to achieve them. I spent some time at the beginning of the summer learning about Social Cognitive Theory – a model for motivation. In short, it boils down to 3 main points – believing you are physically capable of achieving a goal, believing achievement of the goal is socially respected/acceptable and that you yourself find the goal respectable/good for you. Next time you are lacking motivation, try thinking about those 3 points – you may very well find new motivation, or perhaps discover what attracted you towards a goal in the first place.

In a coaching context, sacrifice is a double barrelled weapon. Sacrificing a bit of sleep or a few pints to research training models or review training plans isn’t easy to begin with, but provided that you’re working “smart”, every minute sacrificed can help improve an athlete’s performance. In the end, it comes down to what you personally think is the most important. The second major benefit is the appreciation/inspiration of the athletes themselves. You can’t expect an athlete to continually sacrifice their own time and make effort to do work prescribed by a coach who hasn’t invested time in what should be a shared goal. This means being present for those 6am sessions, making your presence significant in every training session and showing athletes that you genuinely care about their performance. If you are passionate about what you are doing, this isn’t much of a challenge – but acknowledging it as a responsibility can improve not only performance/motivation, but the entire training atmosphere. That doesn’t mean you should welp and cry if your athletes perform poorly, but rather that you should show them that you too feel that pain/have been there before, whilst still providing a strong/unfaltering outlook on the future. Be that strong, empathic shoulder to rest on and give direction.

Justify Hard Work

Justifying hard work is part of what the Social Cognitive Model attempts to do. What I’d like to discuss is how a coach can ensure that an individual understands that hard work has benefits and the methods I used with DUBC to achieve this.

I found that if people were able to track their progress, there was a significant benefit in their motivation to train and effort in individual pieces. As well as being a useful motivational tool, tracking performance outcomes is also an easy way of monitoring improvement and ensuring the prescribed regime is doing its job. The testing used for DUBC followed 2 simple rules: it had to be specific and it had to be holistic. What I mean by this is that testing had specifically test physical outcomes in a rowing context and had to encompass all elements of 2k/1k racing – aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, power and race specific ability – conducted as follows:

On a Concept 2 Ergometer:
Aerobic capacity: 5k test piece (for best time), heart rate monitored UT2 pieces (heart rate <150bpm)
Anaerobic capacity: 1 minute maximum (distance)
Power: 7 stroke testing (watts)
Race specific ability: 1km and 2km test pieces (for best time)

Slipping this into a training regimen training the phyiological outcomes associated with rowing was relatively simple. Aside from the test pieces, the other testing measures could be conducted at the end of a warm-up with virtually no impact on the training session, or as part of the training session itself (for example heart rate monitored UT2 pieces).

2k/5k test pieces are not tests that can be conducted too often as they create a certain degree of fear amongst participants in the week/weeks prior to test time. However, I found that 1k pieces could be performed weekly, provided that they were controlled and part of a complete session. Weekly 4x1k sessions occurred at one stage of training, with each 1k piece set at a pre-determined slower pace than the last. Each week, this pace would increase. This had 2 main aims: 1k race preparation and progress monitoring.

Most individuals continued to achieve times they were proud of and were able to observe, due to session recording/planning, that performances that had once been very hard to achieve were now much less taxing. In short, due to continued recording of progress, the athletes were able to see that the hard work they had put in was indeed improving their performance significantly, thus justifying hard work.

As an aside, I should note that I used 4x1ks instead of perhaps a 3x2ks session because the athlete group was largely novice (1k racing) and the pace also provided experience at 2k maximum effort pace. Furthermore, the shorter distance kept students with busy schedules in the gym for a short amount of time., without sacrificing training benefits.


I’m not sure when I’ll be able to write Part 3 as the 4th year of my medical degree kicks off on Monday, so I best point this out now. The training described above is a very brief glimpse of the whole regime, but it doesn’t highlight an important aspect of our training. All together, the results were magnificent. Improvements across the board in testing were accompanied by gold, silver and bronze medal performances at the Scottish Universities Championships and Scottish Championships as well as a clean sweep in novice racing at the Clyde. Last year lit the fuse…this year, Dundee University Boat Club is set to build on these previous accomplishments on route to becoming a serious force in Scottish rowing. Time will tell, but given the proven dedication of these athletes and the commitee behind them, they could not be in a better position to race onward.

The Coach (Part 1)

Posted: August 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

You know, I really have no idea how to introduce this post. Last year…if I had a penny in for every time I thought “”f*** this” I’d probably be able to afford a Staffy. Highs that I dare not even attempt to describe and lows I’d rather not, all in the vague name of “progress”, in one way or another.

It’s through this year that I learned, so very luckily, that coaching does not simply take and take until medals appear, but that it gives back in many ways. It is as rewarding as you are told. It’s hard. It’s so easy. It’s heart breaking. It is elating. It is cold. It is warm. It is all these things and more…all together, it is a very human experience and lessons are ripe for the learning for everyone involved. Dundee University Boat Club provided me with significant joy that I could not give enough credit to simply via a blog post. Indeed, I am in debt to the continued and unrelenting effort of the athletes there, their inspiration and dedication I will not soon forget.

The purpose of this post is to illustrate the aspects of coaching that I learned to be the most important in achieving the most basic coaching goal – improving your athletes’ performance.


The Holistic Approach

If you are coaching at an amateur level, it’s unlikely that you have immediate (and funded) access to a nutritionist, psychologist, S&C specialist, etc. However, this shouldn’t mean that you write off these aspects of athletic performance. At the end of the day, in a sporting context, you are the first point of call for any athlete needing direction. Personally, I’ve found that this is where a baseline understanding of and interest in human physiology and the musculoskeletal system has been helpful – it didn’t feel like a chore to read through pages and pages of learning material because it was all interesting and, due to understanding the demands of the sport at hand, easy to identify what was relevant. With regards to S&C/Physiology, I recommend Strength and Conditioning: Biological Principles and Practical Applications. It’s a total gold mine and everything is referenced directly to scientific literature. The text also covers the basics of sports nutrition, as well as a detailed explanation of what different nutrients do with regards to athletic performance.

Regarding athlete care, I found that my own knowledge courtesy of an ongoing medical degree was useful from the point of view of having a holistic approach to treating injury, but the most useful source of information for preparing athletes for the demands of the sport as well as identifying the potential source of aches/pains/injury was Eric Cressey’s Assess and Correct. This has proven to be useful in identifying sources of knee, lower back and anterior shoulder pain in rowing athletes as well as my own aches and pains in weight lifting. I’ve hammered on about it before, but it really has been an extremely useful tool.

As for “psychology”, no one is expecting you to become a shrink, but it is important to understand how your athletes tick and what mental cues make them perform better…leading perfectly on to…

Managing Motivation

Nothing is more repulsive to me than the repetitive jibber jabber of gym instructors. “Come on guys!” “Woo!” “Let’s do it!” “Yaaaaay!”. Spare me. This is not motivating, it is the slow and painful death of a parakeet with polite Tourettes reincarnated as a 5ft 2” oestrogen-fused ball of limited primary school sport’s day success. Do you know what used to truly horrify, stun and confuse me? Some people find the above abomination motivational

This begs the question…why? I believe the answer lies in the individual. Throughout life, the experiences (both good and bad) I’ve had, the people I’ve met and my responses/losses/victories have shaped who I am today and thus what motivates me as an individual. In the traditional West of Scotland manner, I respond well to aggressive coaching, profanity and competing against the English – a result of my previous experiences with coaches, my enjoyment of dramatic flair and very tall, well fed English boys with woeful technique smashing my 16 year old lightweight times to smithereens…I’m not bitter, I’m just saying!  I should explain that by “aggressive” I mean stern, relentlessly honest and unafraid to go red in the face with encouragement. With the body of athletes I’ve been working with since September, I spent a significant amount of time finding out what motivated each unique individual. Without naming names, the main themes were fear, camaraderie, a desire to prove something and, thankfully, personal achievement. Of course, there are individuals who are motivated by the fact that they like to see the results of a finished piece of work – these are the easiest to coach as the motivation is seemingly always present, it’s just a case of having a pattern in place that allows for a “strap yourself in and get on with it” approach to training. Rowing, with particularly long ergometer pieces, allows for this.

If you want to harness the individual motivations of your athletes, you have to get into the habit of consistently questioning your athletes to create an impression of how they approach both sport and their daily lives. “How are you today?” “How was that piece for you?” “Do you understand?” “Does that make sense?” “What do you make of that?” “Do you think you can achieve that?” “What do you think you can achieve?”. In the end, you build their trust, you build an authority and they truly believe they can achieve whatever work you set out for them. If you are setting out work for an athlete that you don’t think they can achieve, you are playing the role of “Billy Bad Ass” – the lesser cousin of the “knowledgeable Bronson” inspired among us. I’ve found that by continuing down a line of questioning until you reach a “why?” that answers why they are exercising in the first place, you discover an athlete’s individual motivations. Taking note of this and using it to create motivational triggers can be very useful if not overused. Simply asking “why are you here today?” wasn’t as successful because most people haven’t really thought about it, whereas a discussion gives them time to think. Furthermore, they are more likely to give you a thoughtless stereotypical answer – quite useless.


These paragraphs have been more lengthy than I had intended and I doubt anyone is interested in reading an essay, so I’ll divide this into 3 parts. Part 2 will be up early next week!

Go GB!

An Old Forgotten Draft

Posted: July 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

The following post was drafted in April, yet I never posted it. The reason I’m posting it now is because I’m planning a mammoth article covering what I learned last year from coaching at Dundee University Boat Club as well as another fine year spent meandering on planet earth. If you don’t like physical endeavour or myself, then I have absolutely no idea why you are here. Thank you for the blog view/ego boost though.

I never finished this post.


We are what we repeatedly do.

I guess by that assessment I’m currently a lifter, a sleeper, an eater, a milk drinker (sorry Skyrim), a student, a coach and a lifter again. This year has proven to be nothing like I’d planned, yet it has provided the same gains along the way.

Through thick and thin, the plan was always to use this BMSc year to explore and excel in a sporting context, be it in lifting or coaching.

With regards to lifting, my knowledge within the concepts of the field has expanded as well as my performance on every lift I currently train. My last update mentioned new PRs coming in the bench press, which came just last week in the form of a 2-rep 100kg lift, a significant improvement on a previous 97.5kg 1RM and a testement to individual specific programme tailoring (and wonderful physiotherapists). Furthermore, the long-term goal of a 200kg Deadlift has now been surpassed, with the new distant goal of 227.5kg (~500lbs) taking its place.

Regarding coaching, every single session is a learning opportunity and I’m proud to have played a part in what has been a very good year for DUBC in both a competitive and personal front. We’ve had ups and downs, but the consistency has paid off – the real test comes in two weeks time where Scottish titles will be at stake. I have 100% faith we’re leaving with a shiny medal collection.

With regards to my course, to say I’ve dropped the ball is an understatement. To say I care at all would be…an overstatement? To cut a long story short, I’ve never been a fan of what a friend recently called “learning for the sake of learning” and it would appear that this course is drowning in repetitive tasks of little to no value. Sure, a First class honours would be a lovely ego stroke, but there’s only so many hours you can waste learning about whole body vibration and lab rats before the call of the gym becomes too loud to ignore. I have surrendered all interest in fantastic academic achievement this year, which would have broke my heart at the start of the year. However, I learned that sport academics is not where I’m destined to be. I’m a frontline man – you’ll find me in the weights room, end of story.

In the end, the goal of learning more about sports coaching that would help me along in my journey towards coaching excellence has been achieved, with my own lifting numbers and the substantial improvement of DUBC’s test scores to prove it.

The biggest lessons for me personally this year are simple:

1. You, the individual, are held accountable for your own actions – your actions have reactions.
2. Evidence is paramount

Point 1: In lifting and life, every single thing you do (or do not do) has a knock on effect. Take a “day off” as an example. First, let’s say that a “bad day” is a day when you sleep in, you’re late for work, you spill coffee on your shirt, there’s relentless traffic ahead, your boss is on your back, it rains all day and lunch is eaten at your desk amidst towers of paperwork. If you had two individuals who trained regularly, one who knew the benefits of exercise when the world was caving in and another who made a habit of taking a day off every time they had a bad day, who do you think improves the most a year from now? Those individual lapses in motivation add up and effect long term progress. A bad day resulting in no training is just that, a day, but it adds up to weeks, which is why “just a day” can make a big difference. However, if you can take a bad day and use it to motivate yourself, you will come on leaps and bounds – that goes for any walk of life. Alas, life is going to suck sometimes, you don’t need to let it suck everything from you.

Point 2: “Why?” is the most important question you can ask. Every single successful change I’ve made to training and coaching this year has been down to sitting down and justifying to myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. If you keep persisting down that route like a curious child, you may well find that you reach a “why?” you have no answer for. I’ve found that going back to the drawing board this way has led to improvements in whichever field I’m applying the method to as well as a pleasent confidence boost.


That’s the point when I decided to finish this post “another day” and went to bed, forgetting about it for months.

I abandoned this blog, in a sense, because it suddenly seemed unimportant. Uni work was a never ending sphincter smashing of deadlines, coaching was pleasantly consuming, training was thoroughly exhausting (and constant) and my time was otherwise absorbed in things a little too personal for this blog. In the end, CommonStrength never died, but “it” was certainly busy. I guess I was practising what I’d preached about throwing yourself head first into your passion and was too busy in that place to bother posting about it. Further to my point, I had found another route for expression/reflection – the blog just wasn’t important any more. Lastly, when there is enough drama in the world, taking a step out of the lime light for a while can be good for you to an extent.

I read old posts on occasion and barely recognise the boy who typed them. Opinions change, people too, but it’s important to be changing in the right direction. I like to think this blog has been evidence of my own growth as a person over the last 18 months. I reckon everyone should blog or keep a diary of some kind, you’d be surprised what you can uncover about yourself you never really knew.

The planning of my next blog post is on my literal “To Do” list for tomorrow. Feel free to stay tuned.

Also, I should note that DUBC did in fact bring home the bacon at the Scottish University Championships and Scottish Championships – 4 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronze and an Intermediate 2x 2nd place. Tremendous achievements on all fronts. I’ll cover this in detail in the next post.

Go train, folks!

Physical exercise and your brain

Posted: February 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

Insightful article HERE describing a study conducted in Japan that suggests a mechanism for the improved cognition that results from exercise.

“After the single session on the treadmill, the animals were allowed to rest and feed, and then their brain glycogen levels were studied. The food, it appeared, had gone directly to their heads; their brain levels of glycogen not only had been restored to what they had been before the workout, but had soared past that point, increasing by as much as a 60 percent in the frontal cortex and hippocampus and slightly less in other parts of the brain. The astrocytes had “overcompensated,” resulting in a kind of brain carbo-loading.”


Blogging is currently slow. “Unfortunately”, I’ve been coaching and training so often that I forgot I had a university course to take care of.

My bad, but not regretting it in the slightest.

In short:

New squat 1RM.
New OHP 1RM.
Shoulder rehab = Bench 1RM in coming month or so, you can bet your last penny.
Sadiv’s still working, still brutal.

5 days, 12,000 words.

Here we go!


Day 3 – Confidence

I spelled “Bravado” wrong.

I said:

“I recommended deep squats with a wide stance because it’s a natural position to squat from, it allows you to engage more muscle, it gives you a larger range of movement and it gives you some breathing space if you’re a little inflexible. I’m talking about going as low as you can, without compromising ANY form, whatsoever.”

I say:

There is nothing “natural” about putting a barbell on your back as much as there is anything natural about jumping out of a plane with a parachute on your back. In exercise, I’d say very little is “natural” and that the meaning will vary from person to person. Now, I’d say squatting with a wide stance allows for a shorter bar-path, allowing for more weight to be lifted. Deep squats have their purpose, but with particularly wide stances, considering their use (lifting as heavy a barbell as possible), I see no need to squat all the way to the floor. What would be important is squatting low enough to be able to perform a competition-legal squat.

Personally, I squat with a slightly narrower stance and ensure that I break parallel as much as possible. In order to do this, I must use a “high-bar” squat, where the bar sits higher up on your shoulders than in typically wider stances. In the high-bar squat with a more upright torso, the bar position allows you to maintain balance, letting the bar descend in a straight line.

Studies recently mentioned by Bret Contreras showed that the main difference in these squats was joint involvement. Low-bar, wide stance squats are more hip extension dependant and high-bar, narrower stance squats train knee-extension more heavily. What does this mean for your average guy? You’ll gain benefits from cycling both. If you’re training for power-lifting, go wide/low bar. If you’re training for olympic lifting, train high-bar/narrow. Why? Joint angle specificity. For someone pursuing athletic development, I’d recommend the latter due to the impact this will have on your ability to practice powerful movements such as the snatch/clean & jerk. All of the above alongside a Deadlifting regime, of course.

Saying “allows you to engage more muscle” was me knocking off Rippetoe. Depending on what muscle group you are trying to focus on as a body builder, you may benefit more from a particular squat style, including front squats.

Still lifting, still learning.

See you next time.

This post series  is dedicated to the last year of training which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I will take quotes from posts I have made in the past that I now deem to be bullshit with the intention of highlighting, for my own education/your enjoyment, why my old opinion was either “misleading” or just plain idiotic. The series is based on the recent “Shit I used to say” trend, with an alteration courtesy of a recent comment by Joe Dowell regarding professionalism, blogging and language.

Let’s get this under way!

Day 2 – You are squatting like a little bitch. (Feb 23rd 2011)

Let’s not even begin to dig into how much insecurity it takes a loud mouth 20 year old to have to defecate a title like that onto the internet. I can quickly summarize this last 12 months’ mindset in “I KNOW MY SHIT” -> “I know some shit…” -> “I don’t know shit, what the hell am I doing in this life, dear Lord save me” -> “I can be helpful in a weights room and can make a person stronger, but I don’t know everything”.

I said:

“That is a freakin’ squat, ladies. Also – weight belts, wrist supports or anything in general that helps you lift that isn’t YOU is a waste of time and a distraction from your real ability. You’re just hiding a weakness – instead, identify it and work on it… If you feel you need one, outside of an injury, you’re not ready to progress yet.”

I say:

Nowadays, I believe I am now firmly understanding more about squatting, the many variations of squatting and their potential uses. If you compare my own squatting abilities from then to now, the difference is remarkable. In one entire year, I have only notched a recorded 5kg gain in what I call squats. Why? Because I had far more to learn that I thought I had – unconscious incompetence. That’s not even going into how terrifying squatting was alongside uncertainty in my own technique. Needless to say, I was squatting like a little bitch.  A month ago I realised what I wanted from my technique/squat regime and started daring myself to put on heavier weights. Result? A new PR, better Deadlift and vanishing knee pain.

Regarding supports, there’s still some truth in there. I personally don’t consider a Deadlift a Deadlift PR if you’re using wraps. Chalk I understand (sweat is a frustrating reason to miss a lift). The use of wraps/supports changes entirely based on the individual you’re training. Sprinter trying to develop a weak posterior chain? Wraps are a perfect way to remove grip as a limiting factor and properly train the target area. A loose belt to help you activate your core in a heavy squat? Fire away, whatever works. Supports permitted in competition? Practice what you’re performing!

Next up, more abuse of my former self.

Lift and learn.