I see a lot of trainers recommending, and fitness enthusiasts trying to incorporate cheat days into their nutrition plan. I never put pre-planned cheat days into a client’s, or my own routine.
This does not mean I don’t eat indulgent foods on occasions, it just means I do not set a day aside where I plan to go off track.
A whole lot of progress can be lost in a big binge. A cheat meal far too often turns into a cheat day or even a weekend. The following days after a are much harder to get back to healthy eating as sugar cravings are through the roof.
With a few exceptions (processed takeout food with hydrogenated/trans fats) I try not to label foods as bad or good. Typically unhealthy foods eaten in a small portion size can go well with a weight loss or healthy eating plan. Whilst foods typically healthy in too larger portion size (e.g. Large bowl porridge with big spoon of honey) may also hinder your progress.
I TRY and work my nutrition around these principles:
- My core nutrition at home/work is 100% classically healthy/clean foods.
- I say no to ALL treats if I do not feel is it a big personal/social sacrifice to say no to (biscuits/sweets passed around at work/friend’s house/car journeys), these quickly add up to become significant in a week.
- If it is an out of routine occasion (birthdays, family gathering, rare social event) I’m happy to eat what is available/offered yet will often make sure I don’t pick the very worst option available (I may have a good size main course but skip or share a dessert & only have one drink).
- Christmas day is my one exception where I eat what I like but try not to eat so much I feel ill or ridiculously bloated & ruin the day.
The general idea is to avoid big swings in motivation which inevitably ends with some form of starvation followed by binging. It is important for healthy food psychology to have occasional treats in your diet without feelings of guilt or losing all control. If you know that 90% of your diet is that core home/work routine, any deviation is an exception rather than simply a moment of weakness, therefore you can enjoy your food.
If you'd like a personalised nutrition plan with 4 weeks online support & alterations see my services and prices page for details.
Who is it for?
Anyone looking to increase their max strength &/or finding it hard to track their progress &/or wanting to incorporate rep phases within their training &/or coming to the end of a hypertrophy (muscle size) phase of training and wanting to focus on strength for a few weeks before returning back stronger to hypertrophy training.
I have not found many pre set training programs very effective for me or realistic to incorporate into my weekly routine. I usually revert back to my own programs & training methods that have worked well for me over the years. However, the 5-3-1 method (originally designed by Jim Wendler) looked good on paper so decided to give it a go to try and up my max lifts.
In the 12months prior to starting the 5-3-1 program I had hit PB’s on my main lifts increasing my max Bench from 130kg to 135kg and started to think I'd hitting my ‘genetic potential’ on this lift. My Deadlift had gone from 150kg to 170kg (which had/has a lot more room for improvement). Full range Front Squat was at 90kg & Strict Press 75kg.
After 16 weeks on a slightly adapted version of the 5-3-1 program my new PB’s were:
Bench 137.5kg (+2.5kg) also hitting new 3rmx of 122.5kg
· Deadliift 180kg (+10kg)
· Front Squat 110kg (+20kg)
· Strict Press 77.5kg (+2.5kg)
This may not seem like huge gains but when you have been weight training for over 8 years it is rare to see this amount of progress in so many areas over a 16 week period.
So what is the 5-3-1 method?
Below is my adapted version of the 5-3-1 summarizing how the program is structured. Each workout begins with a compound lift with weights and reps pre set based on % of your current 1rep Max. After week 4 you reset your max calculations slightly higher and restart the cycle. If you cannot complete the lifts successfully you have either set you max too high, or need to stay on the same weights for 2 cycles (8 weeks).
What changes did I make to the original 5-3-1 method?
I usually train using a very high volume of sets in an hour often hitting 30+ incorporating lots of supersets (e.g. Push/Pull), I found 5-3-1 prog too low volume for me personally so I usually put 4 assistance/extra exercises with each compound lift as opposed to the 2 in the original 5-3-1 prog.
I often managed to time my de-load with times when I was away and if not I added an extra 2 sets on the compound lift at 60% of max keeoping assistance work the same as usual.
It is important your form on these lifts is kept strict and done correctly, if you are not confident with them and would like some coaching helping you get stronger and avoid injury see my services and prices page for Personal Training details.
Anyone who has been around the fitness industry will have heard at some point that squatting is the king of all exercises, yet it is also one that causes people a lot of trouble. This article should help you make good use of this great exercise.
Why do Squats?
- Good for cardiovascular system & require high energy expenditure: Large movement involving large muscles
- Improves athletic performance: Most sports require good leg strength, squats can help you run faster, jump higher, give better stability and higher power output
- Prevent Injury and Improve Mobility: If trained properly squats can improve ankle, knee, hip and back stability as well as improve your mobility
- Lower Body Muscle Development: They are the most back for your buck exercise for lower body muscle development If done with correct intensity and tempo.
3 tips to help you squat deeper and reduce injury risk
Counterbalance Goblet Squat (video demo in video below)
The counterbalance allows for a deeper squat than usually possible giving you the opportunity to get your body used to these greater ranges of motion and allows you to practice squatting with a neutral spine.
Plantar Fascia Myofascial Release (demo in video above)
Ankle mobility is a common restriction, this drill helps keep your ankles on the floor throughout.
Master a full range Front Squat before a Full Range Back Squat
The counterbalance provided by the weight being in front of the body allows you to train with a greater squat depth allowing better results.
There is also less stress on the lower back which makes it a more suitable option for someone with lower back issues. If performing a Barbell Front Squat and shoulder or wrist mobility is an issue the either do a single dumbbell front squat or use the grip variation using straps shown in the video below.
That should give you something to get started on. For one to one PT services and/or program design see my services and prices page.