Body Composition Training 101: Introduction

There is one universal fitness truth that you must understand if you expect to get the most out of your exercise efforts. “Nate Miyaki is the king and ruler of all the fitness land”. Ha – just kidding, but not really. Listen up my friends, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you want to get optimal results from your exercise efforts, your training PROGRAM must match your training GOALS. It seems simple and logical enough, but it surprises me how often that advice does not get applied to real life training protocols, even by intelligent athletes and coaches.

There are many reasons to engage in a regular exercise program. The most common, of course, is to look better in a dress or suit, in a bikini or board shorts, or even better – naked. Hey now! I guess technically we could call that appearance-based strength training. This is the aspect of strength training that I am most concerned with, both for myself and for those I advise. In other words, my passion is to work with people whose primary reason for exercising is to change their body composition and look better. This could be a complete beginner who is severely deconditioned and has a lot of weight to lose, an advanced bodybuilder or physique model/competitor, or anyone in between. It doesn’t matter, if you are looking to drop fat and or gain lean muscle, you are a fitness athlete to me.

If most people could get over the vanity of it all and just be honest with their own personal assessment, I would bet that 75% of the people that walk into a gym are primarily training to attain some kind of a “beach bod”. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed about it. Just embrace it. Trust me, as a body composition trainer and nutrition adviser by profession, a fitness competitor/model as a side gig, and a natural bodybuilder at heart, I get it more than anyone else you know. If you are checking yourself out in the mirror more than three times a day, your goals are related to body composition change. Otherwise, you are just in love with yourself, and unfortunately and embarrassingly enough, I understand that too.

Once you come to the conclusion that changing your appearance is your primary exercise goal, you need to make sure that your training program is structured in a way that matches that goal. If you don’t, as is the case with many who just blindly follow the latest and greatest trends in the gym or media, your results will be less than optimal. You can’t just do something at the gym. You have to do the right thing based on your goals.

Now I will admit, there are other less noble and interesting reasons to strength train, including: To increase power, speed, or strength for a sport, increase muscular endurance/lactic acid threshold for a sport, rehabilitate an injury, correct muscle imbalances, improve alignment and posture, improve balance, etc. Seriously though, these are all great reasons to train, but the key point is that they are all DIFFERENT than training primarily for body composition change. Thus, the program design and training protocol should be different as well.

In the medical field, there is a reason for specialization. You can’t be an expert at everything if you want to be THE EXPERT at one thing. That’s why there are gastrointestinal doctors, cancer doctors, cardiovascular specialists, knee surgeons, etc. Referrals happen on a daily basis to ensure that each patient ends up with the right specialist and treatment for their specific condition. This ensures the patient receives the best care possible.

That doesn’t seem to happen as regularly in the fitness industry. Many trainers and coaches try to be experts at everything, and what results is a blending of strength training concepts and expertise that is not optimal for the pursuit of any one specific goal. These days strength trainers are giving rehabilitation advice, postural experts are giving body composition advice, bodybuilders are giving athletic performance advice, and everyone across the board is confused as hell. That’s illogical and ineffective as Ben & Jerry giving healthy eating advice. Unfortunately because of this, many athletes and trainees are not training correctly for their specific goals. They are putting forth effort, sometimes a lot of effort, but are not getting results.

Listen, I’m the first guy to refer a client out if I don’t think their training goals match my area of expertise. If a client has chronic pain from alignment issues or is rehabilitating an injury, I send them over to one of San Francisco’s premier physical therapists; I know he can straighten them out. If an athlete is preparing for a sporting event, I hook them up with coaches who specialize in strength and sport performance; they have the knowledge and expertise to get the job done. But training for body composition change — that’s my thing baby! That’s my job, my hobby, and my passion. I’ve been studying the process and living through the practical application of those strategies on a daily basis since college.

I wrote the Body Composition Training 101 Series because there is too much confusion in the industry. I wanted to separate out the core strength training principles geared towards physique development from the principles of other styles of training, so we can get you training effectively and efficiently for your goals.

Balancing on a ball or wobble board may be great for improving balance and core strength, but its not doing much for body composition enhancement. Boot camp and cross training drills may be great for sport performance, but they are not ideal for physique development. Balancing on your ass or having your ass kicked is different than building your ass. And while those styles of training may be cool, innovative, and trendy, the real question is — are they effective? That is debatable. My theory is that if you have bodybuilding goals (dropping body fat and gaining/maintaining lean muscle mass are bodybuilding goals whether you are a bodybuilder or not), than you should be training like a bodybuilder, not like a rehabilitation patient or performance athlete.

I understand we all have our own biases regarding the optimal way to train. Talk to ten different people and you’ll get ten different answers. Many have accumulated training information from various sources and come from a variety of backgrounds and personal experiences. That’s cool. Everyone has his or her opinion. But also that’s why you, the consumer/client, can’t just rely on opinions. You must also rely on science.

In my Fitness Nutrition 101 Article Series, I talked about why learning the science behind fitness nutrition can be a valuable exercise. Primarily, I talked about why it helps you make informed decisions, gives you confidence in your plan, and gives you a strong bullshit detector in an industry full of hype. I feel the same way about learning the science behind bodybuilding/body composition training. This is the best way to make sure your programs are aligned with your goals and your efforts will bring you optimal results.

The Body Composition Training 101 Series is the science behind “cosmetic training”. It’s the reasoning behind why you should set up your training programs a certain way if your primary goal is to change your appearance, fit into a dress, look good at the beach,build big guns, bare a six pack, etc. No you don’t need to spend an hour balancing on balls or swinging kettle bells or killing yourself in a boot camp. You need old school, basic weight training exercises.

This series gives us an intelligent, logical, and scientific reason to bring our training back to the Old School. It bases our training programs not just on the physical evidence of the fittest “looking” people in the world (natural bodybuilders, fitness models, and figure competitors), but also on the scientific principles of human physiology, exercise physiology, and kinesiology. Its not “meathead bodybuilding” or “diva fitness training”, it is scientific-based body composition training. The goal is to combine the best of both worlds, the scientific AND the practical. This prevents us from getting caught up in the fitness trends or health club hype that are more geared towards selling the consumer a product, service, or system rather than giving them real world results.

So if your primary goal is body composition change, lets get this thing rolling. If you have any other primary reason for strength training, shoot me an email and I’ll hook you up with the right expert based on your goals.

The Body Composition Training series will discuss the strength training portion of your exercise program only. Cardio/aerobic activity will be discussed in a separate article. Why? Because strength training is much more important for cosmetic enhancement than cardio. The hierarchy for physique transformation goes something like this: Diet #1, Strength Training #2, and Cardio a distant #3. But let’s focus on teaching you the value of strength training first before I get your panties, running shorts, or bike pants in a bunch.