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The Science of Strength
With Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, fitness director of Men’s Health
Fundamental muscle and strength is something we all need. Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, fitness director of Men’s Health, joins us to delve into the science of strength, including what it does for our physical health and other aspects of our well-being. He shares how to make strength training more accessible and create a quality workout plan, regardless of our fitness level or experience with this type of training.
Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, is the fitness director of Men’s Health, the director of training innovation at FlexIt, and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of experience. He’s logged training time with NFL and track athletes, and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. He also has a new ab workout program coming out in June on All Out Studio.
“There’s so much variability out there — and variability is great as it forces us to move at different speeds and planes. But if I’m building a workout for somebody, we can often go back to the basics,” says Samuel.
To create well-rounded, fundamental strength, he recommends including exercises from each of these six movement categories in your regimen at least once per week.
|Movement Category||Example Exercise|
|Knee Dominant||Goblet Squat|
|Horizontal Pull||Dumbbell Row|
|Vertical Pull||Lat Pulldown|
|Vertical Push||Push Press|
- @ebenezersamuel23 on Instagram
- Men’s Health
- The Fascia Connection
- Men’s Health Live: Strength Intervals With Coach David:
- Strength Training: Total Body vs. Split Workouts
- The Case for Strength
- Why Strength Matters for Weight Loss
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Transcript: The Science of Strength
Season 10, Episode 10 | June 1, 2021
Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy-living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor-in-chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.
And I’m David Freeman, the national digital performer brand leader for Life Time. We’re all in different places when it comes to our health and fitness, but no matter what we are working toward, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.
In each episode, we break down the various elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, mindset and community, health issues, and more. We’ll also share real inspiring stories of transformation.
And we’ll also be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond, who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.
Hey, everybody, I’m David Freeman.
And I’m Jamie Martin.
And we’re back with another Life Time Talks episode. We got our special guest, Mr. Ebenezer Samuel, this time around, talking about the science of strength.
Jamie, let me know some of the gems that you took from this episode.
OK. So, we had a really long conversation with Ebenezer, and I have three or four pages of notes, from this conversation. So, I will say, there was a whole bunch of stuff he said, but I really liked his approach t, like strength is movement, right, and functional movement. Everything we do in our life is about strength, in some way, shape, or form, and using that as a reminder that strength isn’t always . . . yes, it’s great to build muscle. We need that to function in our day-to-day lives, but also, like, it’s just like movement, and everything we do, its tied to strength in some way, shape, or form.
And then he got into, like, I love the basics, about here’s the moves and how I organize them. He got into our energy systems. I mean, we kind of covered the gamut of the science of strength and all of the components of it. So, I don’t know if I can pick a favorite part yet. I’m just excited for our listeners to tune in and hear all about it. How about you?
I mean, the content and the information as a whole, was just, in my eyes and my mind, digestible. Like, so, whoever listens to the episode, you can have so many different takeaways. Like you said, you have all your notes, but at the same time, it wasn’t like it was being talked over your head. So, I appreciated it. Obviously, I have my bias towards it, because this is the space I live in, 24/7, but it was so many different moments that stood out.
Before we get too far, I want to make sure everybody knows who our guest is, so, Ebenezer Samuel, he is the Fitness Director of Men’s Health magazine, the Director of Training Innovation at FlexIt, and a certified trainer with more 10 years of training experience.
He is logged training time with NFL athletes, and track athletes, and his current training regimen includes weight training, fit conditioning, and yoga. He also has a new ab workout program called Epic Abs, coming out in June on All Out Studio. Before joining Men’s Health in 2017, as their fitness director, he served as a sport’s columnist and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.
He’s got quite the background, and I know, David, you have been working with him for quite some time. So, do you want to speak, just for a second, about the work you’ve been doing with Ebenezer?
Yes. So, we’ve known each other now for three years. I did an article back in 2017 for Men’s Health, and then, later on, he came on as the fitness director there, and we just connected, and then, during the pandemic, we ended up doing some live videos, so, I ended up being a featured coach, on Wednesday, to deliver live workouts to an audience. So, we’ve done a lot of different projects together, some articles as well, within Men’s Health, so, just once again, good vibes, good people, tapping into good people, so that’s how we know each other.
Alright. Any final notes before we get into this?
Well, you know that this is labeled as “the science of strength training,” and I always like to tell people that science is the poetry of reality, so let’s go ahead and get real with this episode.
EB, Mr. Ebenezer, welcome to Life Time Talks. How you doing, brother?
I am doing great. I’m excited to be here. I mean, you and me talk all the time on all kinds of things, but yes, it’s cool for me to — I’ve had you in Men’s Health world to be able to come into your world a little bit, too. I’m super excited for this.
We’re so excited to have you, Ebenezer. Today, we’re talking about the science of strength with you, as the fitness director for Men’s Health, this is something that you’re constantly writing about, creating workout around. One thing, just to kind of clear the air right off the bat, you know. Some people will say, oh, strength it’s not for me. It’s about bulking up. It’s about throwing heavy things over my head. But we all know, that it’s about more than that. It’s not just about our physique. There’s so many components to strength and why it matters for health and well-being, so, let’s just level set, right off the bat, what is your, kind of, philosophy around strength, and why do you think it matters for all of us?
It’s interesting, because I definitely came from, early on in my, kind of, career and my time in the gym, I came from that life of, strength is all about throwing around stuff. I got to throw around the biggest weights. One of the coolest things for me, I’ve been at Men’s Health now four years, and one of the coolest things is I’ve had to broaden how I approach strength and who I approach it for, and to me, we all need fundamental muscle and strength, that’s the first thing, and it’s not just for, kind of the muscle, which is again, kind of the world that I came from. Like, we’re all walking around and exhibiting strength in ways that we don’t even realize, in every single motion. Like, one of the coolest stories we’ve done recently is on explosive strength, right, and we typically think of explosive strength and kind of that ability to exhibit power as something that happens when you see a shot putter throwing, or a discus guy throwing, right, or you see Lebron James dunking a basketball.
But if you talk to a lot of the top trainers out there who run sports teams, they’ll also tell you, you need a measure of explosive strength, an instantaneous strength every step that you take. In order to decelerate your body, which has to happen when you just put your foot down every step, you need a level of explosive strength. You need a level of explosive strength to decelerate your body when you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s what prevents you falling, right, is the ability for small muscles to do that.
And so, that means every person needs to kind of utilize and have some fundamental strength, and it’s a thing that we, thus, once we’re 40 years old, I mean, once we’re 40, we’re kind of losing strength, losing muscle every year, so it’s important for us to all train on some level to maintain what we have, and to enhance what we have, especially as we get older.
You know, we all talk about the fountain of youth anti-aging. I mean, that’s huge for people these days. And strength and muscle are the two biggest things that you can aim to create, in your quest for the Fountain of Youth, and the greatest thing about them is, unlike all these other things that cost us millions of dollars, strength and muscle, I mean they take some work, but they’re free.
Right. So, we can access them and do them, kind of, anywhere if we have the right information and tools.
That’s good stuff right there, EB, man. So, I mean, we’ve known each other, you kind of mentioned it at the beginning, now almost three years, and we’ve seen a lot in health and fitness industry over the years, and the five pillars that I’ve stuck with, that are vital to me, and I think are just applicable in so many different ways is mindset, sleep, nutrition, management of stress, and movement.
So, you kind of just touched on strength and muscle building, and how that is the fountain of youth, as we look at longevity and vitality. So, within today’s topic, the strength training falls within the pillar of movement, however, its’ still connected to the others. So, could you explain to our listeners, how those are connected?
First of all, I love the pillars. It’s interesting, I was thinking about that, just as you were saying it, and I think they’re a really, really kind of great way to frame life in 2021, right. I think that the way strength fits in…so, obviously strength kind of fits in in movement, right, but I think three of your pillars there, so you have mindset, sleep, and nutrition, right, and in order for me to build strength and build muscle, I have to get those parts of my life in order. So, once I kind of commit, and again, on some level, kind of based on what I said earlier, I think, like, all of us need to commit to building some fundamental strength and muscle, once we commit to that, in order for us to kind of cover our bodies after workouts, in order for us to build that strength, we need to make sure that we’re getting that proper sleep, that we’re arriving to the gym in a mindset to train, and that we’ve created like a really good nutritional environment to train.
So, we’re in a strange, kind of, roundabout way, the quest to build strength and muscle, is going to lead us to enhance those other three parts of our life, if we’re serious.
So, I think, that’s how it addresses those first three. The last part, I think, I feel a lot of us learned this last year, because 2020 was such a wild and crazy ride, right. There may not be a better way to alleviate stress and anxiety and frustration than going to gym and throw some stuff around. So, I think that’s how it fits in, but I love the pillars in general. I do think strength broadens out into basic movement and I think sometimes we look at strength, it can intimidate people a little bit. Oh, I have to be strong. Or it can come across as something that only certain people need, and I love kind of broadening it out into the concept of movement, because I think that’s the right way for us to kind of look at fitness and look at how we move.
It’s a great segue, as far as how you say, a lot of people define it as, well, I got to be strong. I got to move this. So, when we look at strength, how it’s defined is it’s defined as the quality, or state of being, physically strong. So, it’s seems pretty clean cut when you hear that, but we know there’s more to the story.
So, really dig into the science here, because I know that’s the theme, the science behind strength, what exactly is happening in our bodies when we are doing strength training.
When we’re doing strength training, there’s a whole ton happening. It’s not just happening, kind of, within our muscles. Once we get a good movement, and to me good movements occurs in multiple planes, it’s going to occur in multiple speeds, and I think that speed piece is very important. You know, you see guys going into the gym and they grind out out all these slow pushup reps. I love slow pushup reps and pause everything, right, but there’s an important quality that our bodies capable of with acceleration, and I know you do a lot of that with like the kettle bell swings, jumping rope, so much of that stuff. All of that, kind of qualifies as good movement, and whenever we’re doing that, I think there are three things happening in our body.
First of all, any time you’re applying force with your muscles, and again, this can occur at different speeds, it can occur at different rates, but anytime you’re applying force with your muscles, and we’re doing that when we got out for a sprint, when we curl a dumbbell, when we do the bench press, which is like my all-time favorite movement, even though it’s probably the one movement that I don’t need to do, but anytime we’re doing that, we’re kind of, creating these microtears within our muscles.
I feel like this relatively known these days, right. Like everybody talks about ripping muscle. But we’re creating these microtears in our muscles, which then, to some extent, after we’re done training, that’s going to lead to a flood of kind of nutrients, metabolites, other good things, and blood, basically, because that’s how it gets there, that are going to help aid in the recovery of those muscles. So, that’s kind of the fundamental thing taking place in our muscles. I think there are two other things that are really, really important for us to think about, too, and that’s kind of, both our nervous systems and cardiovascular systems.
We’re kind of creating an environment where those systems can grow and blossom, too. There’s a lot of research out there that says, literally, basic strength training, so, it’s funny, people look at my biceps workouts and their biceps workouts and you think it’s just a glamor muscle, right. I track my data on some of those workouts, and my heart rate, again, it’s not the hardest workout in the world, but it will hang up around like 120-130 beats per minute, because I’m moving at that rate of speed. So, I’m conditioning my cardiovascular system. I’m conditioning my nervous system a little bit, and readying it for greater performance.
And then, you look at kind of what’s happening through my central nervous system, and kind of how, there’s going to be a great hormonal response, and this is total body. This is not just localizing whatever muscle you’re training. And this, I mean, it helps to do kind of top/down movements. It helps to get in your larger heavier weight movements. But you’re spiking your insulin. You’re going to have a release of HGH. You’re going to have a release of a whole brilliant bunch of hormones that are going to position your body for growth and for recovery, and also, on some level, and there’s been a lot of research into this, too, you’re going to position your body to get those happy endorphins, that are going to leave you feeling great, when the workout’s over.
Last thing. So, there were four things. So, I can’t count. Funny, I’m an accounting major. I have an accounting degree. This is why you don’t want me doing your taxes. There’s a lot of research into fascia now, right. I know we’ve all generally thought of it as something that we just foam roll, right, and you foam roll, and you’re kind of improving the health of your fascia. Right now, the three of us, are having this brilliant conversation but we’re all sitting, as we’re sitting, our fascia is setting in very, very tight ways, and then we’re going to get up and we’re going to walk sagittally in one plane, not going to change direction, too much, until we all go out to the gym, and all of this is not necessarily what our body was meant to do from the cave days.
When we get into those workouts, and especially, I’m very big into trying to make sure every workout I do, there’s a little bit of some multiplanar aspect to it, once we’re changing direction and doing all that stuff, on some level, were readying our body and bulletproofing our body, and we’re conditioning our fascia to be aware, hey, I’ve got to be ready. Hey, fascia, you’ve got to be ready to move in multiple planes, and that’s going to help protect us against injury, and it’s going to help us just feel good.
I try to simplify it for most people. Like I want look jacks. David wants to look jacks. Jamie, I’m sure you want to look super awesome, too. But most people just want to move better and feel better and if if you give me, like a half-hour a day, of good movement, I can have you really moving better and feeling better.
I think it’s interesting, what you bring up with fascia there, because this is one thing, that just in the last few years, we’ve also covered in Experience Life, and realizing just how integral it is to movement, and how it’s this web in many ways, that wraps around every organ, all of our muscles, and when it gets stuck, so do we. Right. So, how do we support that? Can you just talk a little bit more, go a little bit more in-depth on fascia, and why and how we can deal with that, so we can support strength overall?
Yes. It’s interesting, because I think in the story that we put together, because it is, it’s this web that wraps around everything, not just out IT bands, even though we’re foam rolling, right. But this was also a little bit eye-opening for me, because I’ve always thought of the fascia as, I want to roll it out, right, and I also want to get like a really good amount of dynamic movement, so that goes back to my favorite stretch of all time, which is like the spiderman lunge into a thoracic rotation, and that’s kind of how I’ve always thought of it.
And what we’ve learned, doing this story, this is going to sound like something I’ve said already, but this is really how you treat your fascia, right. You try to make time, every week, to move in multiple planes, right, and at multiple speeds, and that second thing super important.
I think for a while now, we’ve realized that, you know, we’ve got to foam roll it, we’ve got to keep it smooth, we’ve got to prevent it from getting bound up. Right. But what’s come out in a lot of the research, as they’ve looked at cadavers, they’ve kind of looked inside the body, and they pulled stuff out, is that there’s actually like a level elasticity to this, to fascia, I mean, it can almost serve, to some extent, as a performance enhancer. If you want to jump higher, your fascia can help you do that, because it has almost like that, very similar to how we talk about elastic energy and your muscles ability to kind of create that elastic energy, fascia can aid that if you treat it right.
So, I believe in the story, we, and you guys should all read Men’s Health, we broke it down into three categories. One, there were multiplanar exercises. So, something as simple as a skater lunge, like, let’s get out of sagittal plane, because that’s going to help train your fascia. Two, bouncy exercises. To be honest, I can’t remember what our type was. I’m really bad at counting today, but this is the one that was kind of eye-opening to me, and that was bouncy exercises.
So, simply like, jumping rope, or literally drawing a line in the sand, and kind of like, on a single foot, like hopping back and forth, at a quick rate of speed, and focusing on minimizing that contact time, in addition to the fact that it’s going to make us better athletes, it’s conditioning our fascia and readying our fascia to assist us in all this other movement that we’re going to need, and in that way, it’s kind of bulletproofing us, too, because it’s . . . and that’s where we get back to the basics of fascia, which is you know, when it gets bound up and then suddenly, we’re a little more prone to injury and soreness. We’re bulletproofing ourselves that way, too.
So, I think the big takeaway for me, is get out in multiple planes, but also, take the time to bounce around, like you did when you were a kid. 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, for just like pogo jumps, is great for your fascia.
I love that. OK, so, we’re going to get back to some of the basics of this. I’m just thin king, I’m in my late 30s, I’ve been strength training since I was a teenager. I lifted weights for high school basketball and volley ball, and you know, going on 20 years of doing this, and how recommendations have changed over time. I did a lot of straight lifts. Back then, I didn’t have a lot of variety to my strength routine. So, let’s talk about, like, what are some of the basics? As you’re working to create a really solid, well-rounded, strength routine, what does that look like, and what movements do we want to include to be well rounded in that?
I feel like Brad Schoenfeld put it really, really well, a while ago. Like on a base level, like, David’s job, my job, the job of any good trainer, is to make sure that people are moving, right, and so, there’s some really, really cool research a couple of years ago, I believe from Brad Schoenfeld, and they tried a bunch a of workouts on normal population people. The takeaway from that research…and they had a whole bunch of kind of insights, right, but you know, that final paragraph in the study, basically amounted to Schoenfeld saying, the best workout if the workout you’re going to stick to, right, because then, you get that movement in there.
It’s interesting, too, because yeah, there’s so much kind of, crazy on the internet, and especially Instagram, these days, and there’s so much variability out there, and variability is great, because it’s actually another way that we kind of — that variability forces us to move at different speeds and different planes, so it’s a good thing, although it kind of gets demonized sometimes, but I think, if I’m building a workout for somebody, we can go back to the basics, right.
For the average person, if you’re doing, say, three to four exercises in a workout, OK, and you’re doing, say, three sets of each exercise, and you’re doing eight to 12 reps, you’re working in that range or you’re working for about 30 seconds per set — I like to think of it as time, sometimes, instead of reps, because I want your muscles under tension for a certain amount of time — if you’re doing those things, then you’re going to be in the right neighborhood to kind of enhance and maintain you’re strength.
There are more, kind of, complicated things, or more in-depth things, that we get into, I think, as we get more advanced. You know, like, let’s start to drop the reps. Let’s start to . . . what I like to do with people, as I train them more, is the first exercise you do, we’re going to make that a very powerful exercise. We’re going to make it a multi-joint exercise, whether it’s a squat or a deadlift or a bench press, and we’re going to go heavy on that movement. Right. Maybe do like three to five reps. OK. Challenge ourselves to move some weight, and every exercise after that we’re going to do, we’re going to keep in that eight to 12 range. Where we’re working for 30 seconds of time on the tension, we’re going to do three to four sets of that.
I think that’s like the best way to program, but if I can get you doing three exercises, eight to 12 reps, about 30 seconds of time on the tension, that’s where I want you. I divide the body into six different categories, and how we’re moving, and these very much mirror, I think, what a lot of trainers do.
You’ve got your deadlift-style exercises, your hinge exercises. That’s the most important thing. Every human has got to learn to do. We sit so much. We kind of forget how to push our butt back, but if we can learn to do that, one, we’re going to strengthen our glutes, which is are a massively key muscle for us, and two, we’re going to prevent a lot of back pain, because back pain occurs because we don’t really how to understand how to hinge.
Second level of motion is going to be your knee-dominant exercises. It’s going to be your squats. That’s the second thing everybody should do. And again, even the squat starts with your butt back, so people have to learn to hinge first.
Once I’m through those two movements, we’ve got horizontal. Horizontal pull and horizontal push, and we learn them in that order. So, I need you to row. If everybody could learn to row, again, it’s going to solve a lot of back problems, it’s going to solve a lot of shoulder problems, so that’s critical. Then, I’ve got horizontal push. Once we learn how to row and move that way, comes really easy to horizontally push, because it’s the exact opposite motion. It’s the exact same mechanics.
And then the last two things we learn are vertical pull, which is the pull-up, which is the gold standard move for a lot of people, but it’s a very, very challenging move for a lot of people, too. It’s a move I think that, again, it’s the gold standard move, but I think sometimes we overrate it a little bit. I think you can — again, if I can teach you to horizontal pull, that’s more important than me teaching you to vertical pull.
And then, the last thing is going to be, the horizontal push, which again, you pull down, so you’re going to push up, you’re going to push overhead, and that’s going to be like, your shoulder presses.
If people build from those moves, and to do at least one of those every week, hit those rep ranges, you’re moving in the right direction, and you’re going to start to feel great. You’re going to start to build really good fundamental strength.
There’s a lot of fun, other than that. Like, we can curl and do all this crazy stuff that I love to put on Instagram, but if you can hit those other things, those are the things that I really want everybody to do.
It’s so good. I’m kind if laughing, because you guys probably can’t hear it from here, but we have a little gym in our basement garage area, and my husband is down there deadlifting right now, and my house is shaking as he’s dropping them.
Guys, this is what you’re listening to. We’re listening straight to the science of strength, and Ebenezer is definitely breaking it down for us, so let’s give a quick recap so everybody, get your pen and paper out. Number one thing, and this is no particular order, but this is certain things, how I remembered Ebenezer going through it . . . first, training in 3D, right. He said, the different planes of motion. For those who are curious as far as what those planes of motion are, we got sagittal, which is front to back. We got frontal, which is side to side, and we got transverse, which is coming across the midline, so like a rotational twist.
So, one, put that down, so you guys understand, these are three planes of motions, and then we can start with body weight exercises to master those mechanics, consistently. And he said, the best workout is going to be the workout that you’re going to stick to. So, there goes back to that whole consistency. Alright. So, let’s focus there.
And then from that, he went through the different movement patterns. The squat, the horizontal pull, the vertical pull, the push. I love that.
So, now you guys should have a little bit of a reference of how to take the science behind what it is, the science behind strength, AKA movement, and out it into work.
I want to talk about something that we focus a lot on. We focus a lot on the gains in the gym, right. Let’s go bust it up. Let’s go, like you said, these microtears of the muscle, get the pump going, and we feel like that is the pinnacle of what it is when it comes to getting the gains. But the reality is, work hard, recover harder. A lot of folks hear me say that a lot.
I need you to share with everybody, since this is the science of strength, why your recovery after the workout is so vital.
If you look at this from a basic math perspective, a basic perspective of the clock, right, I can train hard, like I can train hard for what, maybe two to three hours a day, and this is not necessarily what people should do, but that’s going to be my max before I’m totally tapped out and I’m starting to waste my time, right. If I can understand and learn how to maximize the other 21 hours in my day, or 22 hours, if I can maximize the time that I’m not training, and use that to continue to build that muscle and strength, why wouldn’t I, right?
So, I think on a fundamental level, it’s something we should all kind of think about. But then you get back to, what are we doing in our workout, and you get back to this idea, that we’re ripping muscles. Right. We’re creating microtears within our muscles. So, that occurs during the workout, and that also creates this atmosphere, throughout the rest of our day, where we need to heal up in order to be able to get back to the gym, and be productive the next day, and how do we heal up? It’s interesting, because you go back to your pillars a little bit, and we heal up with sleep and nutrition, because when we fall asleep, that’s when our nervous system can kind of down regulate for us, and work to heal up our muscles.
And when we’re immediately post-lift, and even a little bit after that, that’s when we have…everybody talks about the pump, the pump is a very real thing, and the pump is basically blood rushing into whatever area of our body we trained, and what is that blood bringing with it? That blood is bringing with it nutrients. Now, in order for our blood to supply those nutrients, we need to have created a nutrient-rich environment, throughout, again, those other 21 hours. So, that really goes back to your nutrition pillar, which I think is great.
It’s funny, real quick segue. When I was like 16, I started going to the gym and putting in all this work, and even when I up to like 22–23, I’m going to the gym and putting in all this work, and I remember like, not seeing the results I wanted. It was really, really frustrating. Even though, like side note, 22-year-olds are super hard on themselves and a lot of times they’re in better shape than they think, but I remember talking to a bodybuilder, and at the time, I was literally, I was trying to be a cost-effective college student, and so I was drinking protein shakes, because I’m like, I can buy a tub of this for 70 bucks a month, and I’ll just eat this. I’m going to save so much money, and I’m going to burn all that money on video games.
And he basically asked me, what are you eating, right, and I was like, I’m taking this protein shake, basically because it’s on sale at GNC. And he’s like, yeah. That’s not real food. You need real food in your body, and as soon as you get that, you’re going to see progress. And I started doing all this stuff, basically my mom told me, when I was like 7, like drinking my milk, and eating all my green vegetables that I hated, and eating a lot of chicken breasts, and all of a sudden, I started making gains, because suddenly, then, I’m putting…to bring it back to where we’re supposed to be, before my annoying sidebar — I’m suddenly putting what my needs into it. I’m utilizing those other 21 hours. Drinking lots of water, so suddenly my blood flow is better, and I have all these vitamins, and I have all these proteins and amino acids, suddenly floating around my system, so that when I finish up my workout, and when I get that pump, which especially we all get when we’re younger, I get that pump, that pump is coming with the nutrients that can help those microtears heal up faster, and there’s also this cellular environment, where like, all of those nutrients are a lot more useable.
So, I guess that, again, I just think, recovery is so important, and even the advanced recoveries that are out there. The other thing we want to do is, like, we have that blood flow post lift. Everything about recovery is based around blood flow, and so, we have that blood flow immediately post lift because we have the mythic pump, right, and then a couple hours go by, and maybe we fall asleep, or maybe we wake up the next morning, and we’re not going to train for a little bit.
But the more blood flow that we can create, the more blood flow that we can get moving, one, throughout our muscles, in general, and through to those regions that we’re aiming to training, or we just trained, again, that blood comes with nutrients. So, a lot of this whole like, growing massive recovery industry, from Theragun’s to compression boots, to just massages and cupping, all of that is deigned to create better blood flow, and the more we can do that, the more consistently we can do that, whether that’s because we’re going to foam roll, or we’re just going to get in — I mean, people don’t realize, like, that dynamic recovery workout, or that early morning jog that is super light for us, all of those things, the more we move, the more blood flow e create, and the more we can create blood flow, the more we’re creating that environment for us to heal up.
Hold that real quick. I love everything you just said, and hopefully everybody listening took that in. Recovery is key. The thing that I want to throw out, because you just sat there and said, if I’m working out 1 or 2 hours within the actual day, I still the other 22 or so hours to recover, right. Putting the nutrients in my body, getting the sleep, once again, managing your stress, as well.
No check this out. During the workout, there’s also a form of recovery. I talk about it a lot. We got to allow the CNS, or the nervous system, you spoke on it earlier, to recover. If you are exerting a lot of energy, whether it is a squat, lunge, push/pull whatever it is, you have to incorporate rest before you go into the next piece. What I’ve seen, you probably see this a lot, too, from a social standpoint over the year, is oh, I got to get the most in in the short period of time, so I’m just going to go, go, go, and yet I’m not getting the quality of the movement now, probably, or somethings being compromised, because I’m not allowing the rest to happen in between the sets. So can you talk about the recovery within a workout as well.
That’s huge, and that’s something, yes, it’s like, especially you have all . . . I feel like you have all these integral workouts, out there right now, and they’re always on — they always seem to be designed to make you sweat. It is not a necessity to have to break a sweat during workout, although it is like a cool feeling, especially if you want to take that sweaty selfie after the workout, but it is not a necessity.
You need to rest between sets, especially because certain — our body has three energy systems, and they don’t all recover at the same rates. I do mess this up sometimes, so, I’m going to have David fact check me, because I think he has a really good handle on this. But you got the phosphagen system, right, which is basically using the stuff called ATP to kind of . . . and it’s our power system, right, and in order for me to be powerful, in order — it’s actually counterintuitive, too, because you think like, oh, I’ve done three, in order for me to be powerful, in order for me to make a really quick, my very best vertical leap, or my very best 100-meter sprint, or my very best three reps of a heavy bench press, that energy system takes a while to recover, and so I can’t go right away, if I’m going to go heavy. If I’m going to go, if I’m going to be my most explosive self, and again, we get back to changing speeds, there’s a lot of value to spending some time being your most explosive self.
We got that system. Then, you’ve got the glycolate system. And I think this is that system where you’re, kind of, hitting in that eight to 12 range, and we’re still relying a ton on, we’re still not relying on our oxygen, as much, right, and this can recover a little bit quicker, right. But at the same time, we still need some rest, so, that’s where like, I’m doing eight to 12 reps, suddenly instead of needing two minutes off, like I might need after that super explosive vertical jump, I can get back to it, that system is going to recover within, I can get back to it in maybe 60 to 90 seconds, right.
And then, the final system is that system that’s kind of, that aerobic system, and that’s the one that’s going to make us sweat, and that’s the one where we can kind of keep going. We’re going to have to use a lot lighter weights for that, but we can keep going.
Now, the life, is kind of a mix of all of these three systems, switching on and off and kind of taking different responsibilities. Like, moving day. Like, OK, I’m going to lift a heavy box and my ATP system is functioning very critically for that. I’ve got to hold that box, that’s my glycolate system getting it out to the truck, right, and I’m constantly moving, all day on that moving day, and that’s my aerobic system just taking it in overdrive, and never getting a chance to rest, but it’s important for us to train all these three systems, and take time, like you said, rest between sets, especially when we’re hitting that ATP system, let’s take our time so that we can use that ATP and train it and make it stronger, because that’s like such a key piece of strength.
I just want to say something, because that was so good. EB spoke on the three energy systems, and the last one that he just hit on, the oxidative, that is where you’re burning the most fat at, but people tend to go into the other two energy systems, the red lining, the high intensity, and you’re burning carbs when you’re doing that, but this is the thing, people want to lose fat, but they don’t spend a lot of time in that last system that EB just spoke on, so I just wanted to make sure we threw that out there, too, because we associate great workouts to the high intensity, the sweaty selfies, and everything that you were talking about, but the reality is, it might be the slow boring workouts, that you’re actually utilizing the most fat during the workout, as far as the energy source.
You said something, David, in introducing that question, about quality of movement, and I want to touch on that briefly, because it’s really easy if you’re starting a strength program, I know I’m really guilty, because look, I’m going to go on and I’m going to lift as much as possible, but I’m not going to do it well, because I don’t have my form down. So, let’s talk a little bit about the importance of the quality of movement and form, when it comes to strength training, because I think that’s something we kind of compromise…
Yes. It’s interesting because I think we compromise it sometimes, again, because we fall into that trap of, let’s pile up a whole ton of reps, or let’s do as much work as we can, but it’s not quality work, let’s do as much work as we can, in the space of an hour.
I think, I talked a lot about of ownership of reps, and the mind-muscle connection, right, and especially when we’re trying to build strength, like at the start of our strength training journey, I think it’s very, very valuable to, one, to work at different tempos, right. To actually count out, let me do my biceps curls at say, I’m going to curl up for one second, I’m going to pause for a second. I love pausing in the middle of a rep, because I think it’s a very underrated way to prove that you have control of the entire rep, because you can stop at any point during it, right. So, let’s pause at the top of the rep. Let’s lower down for two seconds. Let’s pause when that form is parallel to the ground, and then, let’s lower down for another two seconds.
And by the time we’ve done that, we’ve understood every piece of the curl. Right. And we’ve also, very quietly revealed some stuff to ourself, that only we have to know, we don’t have to tell anybody, but we know that when we got to that point where say, our form was parallel to the ground and we paused, we kind of arched our back a little bit and we cheated, and we realize that. So, I like it to work at tempo, and kind of develop that mind-muscle connection. I think it’s really, really valuable for people to do early in their journey. It’s not going to work for every exercise. It works for a certain — it’s not going to work for say a power clean. There’s no such things as pausing in the middle of your rep when you’re doing a box jump. But for classic strength exercises, for a lot of the body middle exercises, which do have fundamental reason and purpose and are a really good way to start a strength training journey, the ability to kind of pause and control each stage of the rep is something worth kind of learning, and worth mastering at the outset.
The thing I try to impress upon people, too, is again, it’s like, these motions aren’t about point a to point b. I like to try to get — when I work with clients, I like to talk to them a little bit about — and we do this at Men’s Health a lot, too, with how we kind of present our workouts — is think about the muscles that you’re working on a motion, and know what they are, and if you’re not feeling those muscles working, right, then ask yourself, are you doing the motion correctly, right. And so, before you go into an exercise, you should know, OK, I’m going to do a row. This is going to train my back and my biceps, and if my hamstrings are hurting, if my forearms are feeling this, if my biceps are feeling this, but my back feels nothing, can I be doing this exercise better, because I’m obviously not getting the training stimulus I want.
Another real quick story. When I was like 16, I found the bench press, right. And I immediately fell in love with the bench press because I wanted a severe chest, and I want everything severe. And I started benching and I got up to like 115, because I was like, 16, so, I’m not, I wasn’t the biggest kid. And then I kind of couldn’t start moving the weight anymore. My form was impeccable though. It was like, feet flat on the ground, butt glued to the bench, lying on the bench, like whole body on the bench, because I didn’t know any better, right. I went to the gym with a friend, and then I’ve discovered this really cool thing. If I lifted my butt sky high in the air, way off the bench, all of a sudden, I could like bench, like 175, and it was amazing, right. And intuitively, I knew something was wrong, because I was benching 175, and my chest was never getting sore, right. Intuitively, we know when we’re doing an exercise wrong, and we just have to…when we pause and force ourselves to work at tempo, we just owe it to ourselves to listen, right.
But then, when I glues my butt to the bench again, I went all the way back down to like 115–135, but I was a lot more productive with the motion. So, I think it’s really important to just know the muscles we’re working and ask ourselves, if you’re not feeling what you’re training, if I’m not feeling what I’m training, can I just make this motion better, because it’s not about the weight, it’s about quality of movement.
Right. You’re touching on something, and we don’t really have a ton of time to get into this, but this whole idea of mindful movement, right. You know, awareness in what we’re doing that drives the quality, right. So, it’s not just, we’re not just here to knock out a bunch presses and get out of here. We’re really paying attention to all the different elements that are of the movement we’re doing, and our environment, and everything that’s going on around us, as well.
One thing that I wanted to note, I know you have a huge social media following, people can follow you @ebenezersamuel23 on Instagram, but how do you make your content there, relatable, and relevant for a broad audience, because you do a lot of stuff that’s like super inspiring. How do you break that down to make it accessible for people if they’re at the very beginning?
No flips. I can’t do a back flip. But yes, I think Instagram can get a little crazy and intimating some times. The thing I try to think about, and I think I learned it early on at Men’s Health, is my Instagram page is not like to showcase the most amazing stuff I can do. If I want to do that, it’s like, you know, come watch my next Marvel movie, right.
But I think what I try to do . . . it’s tricky because we know the basics work. Both me and David know the basics work. You know it, too. If I can get somebody in to deadlift and squat and row, you know, I’ve made them better. But people are bored with that. Right. So, I think, what our job is as fitness professionals, our job as fitness professionals is to take the basics, and take the things we need them to do, and take the things they want to do, and sort of marry those two ideas. What we need them to do, and what they want to do, and make it fun, right.
So, what I try to do in everything I post in Instagram, is I try to take . . . it’s interesting, because sometimes I’m on Instagram and I worry that people are going to be like, oh, it’s the same thing over and over, because that’s all it really it is, right. I need for my back workout, I want somebody to horizontal pull, I want them to vertical pull, I want them to kind of get into kind of an incline row, and I want them to change planes with a little bit of, either how they have to manage the weight, or what direction they’re rowing in, and then I want them to add a little core stabilization. It’s always the same stuff, but by changing up tempos, by changing how we squeeze, by pausing a little bit, that makes it interesting for people, that makes it feel different, and those little differences, and those little nuances, keep people interested and excited, and I think that’s what we need to do. Our job is to take the basics, make them more exciting for people, because that’s what they want. Like, nobody wants to feel like they’re in sixth grade and they have to take that pushup test. But it’s our job to help them do pushups, anyway, because we’re making them more fun.
So, you talked about the superhero deal, and I love that. Right. So, it was an article that we actually read up on you, as far as, you can be a stunt double for anybody in spandex, as a crime fighter, right, so, you and I are both are huge superhero fans. I have that twisted connection, because I like the villains, so, they have to both exist, though. We understand they both have to exist for there to be able to be a story. With that being said, from your personal point of view, what do you think, the current super hero is, in this fitness space, and what do you think the villain is?
Well, the super hero is obviously me. Aside, from me, if I had to pick a sidekick, right…let me give you the villain first, because the super hero is however we choose, right. I think the villain in fitness right now is David Freeman…no. I think the villain in fitness now, is almost like stubborn adherence to dogma, right. I think there are too many trainers out there who think that a single discipline is the only way. Like you have to train CrossFit, or I see this a lot with kind of group performance trainers who train teams, you know, they’re like, you have to train this way. You can’t go off . . . don’t get too variable. Don’t start integrating kettlebells. We got to do everything with barbells. I think what we’ve discovered, one of the cool things we’ve discovered the last couple of years, and even earlier in this discussion, when you talk about moving in different planes, moving at different speeds, is that there’s this world where you can marry…and recovery and you talk about all this stuff, there’s this world where you marry…you use yoga ideas, for recovery. Yoga ideas very often parallel a lot of basic stretches. Like the spiderman to thoracic, to T-spine stretch, you know, I didn’t learn that in yoga. It probably descends from yoga, but we don’t need to be dogmatic where it comes from. It’s just a good movement. Right.
So, I think that’s our big villain right now. I think the hero in the story, in a weird way, and I say this very, very carefully, is Instagram, right. Because for as bad as, and again, Instagram fitness gets demonized, and very fairly so sometimes, because there’s a lot of people doing crazy stuff, right, but Instagram has also, it’s gotten people excited about fitness. It introduces somebody who might not be into it, Instagram, and throw TikTok in there, too, right, It creates challenges. It makes fitness accessible, and it’s helping to learn, hopefully, right. It’s introducing us to new movements, right, that we might not put into our programming, and if we can sort of filter that, filter that super hero through some really, really smart trainers, through smart trainers kind of taking the good movements and integrating them into workouts, then we get smarter with our program variability, because I think that variability is important based on a lot of what we know about fascia, and then, I think we just start to understand that movement is movement.
So, dang good. I love the way you responded to that, as far as the super hero. The keyword you said is filter. I love that. The filter. We can get through all the craziness, and see the benefits that it actually brings. It is that gift and a curse, right. It is the perfect storm, if you will, and when we look at that oxymoron, there’s so much good, that we tend to, this is just how we’re wired, we tend to, or individuals tend to focus on the negative, but there’s so much good out there, and if we know how to filter that, and out that into our day-to-day routine, it changes the game for us.
So, you had a vision, for 2020, and I also read this in an article as far as you hope to energize and educate people of ages and walks about life, within fitness. So that was your goal for 2020. And you already said, at the beginning of this podcast, that it was a year to remember, needless to say. So, we want to know, from you, do you feel you were able to accomplish that, and if so, how?
First of all, I don’t think it’s an I thing. I thinks it a we, like all trainers, right. I think it was interesting. I think we, and I say we especially this year, because it was a very, very strange year, but it was also a year, even if you go back to your pillars, kind of managing like stress and anxiety, right, I don’t think I’ve ever lived a year on planet earth that was filled with as much stress and anxiety, and weird, as 2020. Right.
And so, I definitely went into 2020 with different ideas of how this would happen, but I think what we saw happen is around, what was it March, March/April, the world went haywire. Right. And for a lot of people, this led them to be locked in their basements, you know, couldn’t leave their house, a lot of anxiety, a lot of concern over so many things and so many different reasons, and all of that led to a lot of pent up, oh my god, what do I do with myself, right.
And I think we were able to introduce . . . I think what you saw was trainers come together, again, on social media, just on the internet throughout, right, doing . . . that’s when we at Men’s Health introduced our Instagram Live workouts. Right, which, David, obviously, I mean, you still do them, and crush them, and what you saw was, people, trainers using the internet to kind of make, to take advantage of this moment in a useful way, to show people that, hey, fitness is more than about muscle, right. Fitness can be an outlet to help release some of that stress and anxiety. We’re all moving a little bit a less, because we’re all stuck at home, because you can’t leave your basement, right, and suddenly for 15 minutes a day, they’re getting on a live workout with me, or a live workout with David, and they walk away feeling better. Right. Because they got that movement, and again, we got all that fun stuff we talked about at the beginning, in terms of like, the endorphins, loosening up their fascia a little bit and suddenly they felt great.
And my hope for 2021, is that all of these people realize that fitness and working out can be this really, really awesome stress reliever, and it could really help their bodies feel better, and all of that kind of combined affects, they’re going to carry into this year, and stay with it, because again, it doesn’t have to be long. It can be super and super great that way.
So, I think we did it, not in the way I wanted to, but I think we did it, and I think the we is important, because it couldn’t just be one person.
I love that, and I love that as a kind of way to transition, you know, as a final message. Like, exercise is not just about the way we look. It’s about the way we feel, and what is can do for us, and in so many different ways.
Alright. It’s pretty simple. It’s painless now. So, we got the two-minute drill. Two minutes, 10 questions, try to answer in less than three to five seconds so we make it happen, Alright. You ready?
First question. Your favorite lift?
Bench press. No Biceps curl.
Least favorite lift?
Alright. Pet peeve?
People in the gym who don’t know how to spot you and they take the weight away. Like before, when you have the lift under control, they just take it over.
Yes, I know that feeling, all too well. OK. If you could be any super hero, what would you be?
Superman, without a doubt.
Alright. Run or swim?
Run. Swimming scares me. The water scares me.
Alright. If you had to pick between the two, marathon or 100-mile bike ride.
100-mile bike ride. Can I choose neither. I would go neither.
Your favorite food?
Oh, god. Favorite cheat food or regular food?
Whatever you want it to be.
So, that’s just a regular meal then?
No, that’s a cheat day.
OK. I just wanted to throw it out there. OK. Alright, we ended up, these last few questions here, we got to go deep. Now, most embarrassing moment?
Wow. There’s so many to choose from. When I was 13, I actually got chosen to give a speech a Veterans Day in my town, I grew up in Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania, and my dad took me there, and I froze, right, couldn’t come up with . . . I got yup there, I’m like 13, super nervous, I froze, couldn’t come up with anything. They basically had to take me off the stage because I was so nervous in front of like, 15 people, because Jim Thorpe’s not a big town, and on top of it, a bird pooped on my dad, while I was there.
Hey, it’s a day that you will always remember, right. It’s memorable. Here we go, the last two questions here. Take a deep breath here. If you had to take away one of your sense for the rest of your life, which one would you give up?
Smell. OK. Last but not least. What is the legacy you want to leave this world with?
That’s deep. That’s like a life question. I think the legacy I want to leave the world with, is that I was able to, on some front, impact . . . I just want to impact as many people to move in ways that they trust. My goal with all my clients is that they never need me after year, because they’re so good at moving. And the more people I can do that for, the better.
Love it. Love it. Good stuff.
I never know what he’s going to ask you, and so it’s just as fun for me, and I kind of answer them in my own head, so, thanks for playing the game, here.
Ebenezer, where can people find more about you? I know we mentioned your Instagram handle, but any other places you want to point listeners to?
Honestly, it’s probably my Instagram. I do, also, have a Twitter, I believe that’s @ebenezersamuel, but yes, mainly the Instagram. And follow Men’s Health, that’s where I’m at, and follow FlexIt Fitness, that’s the other place I’m at, too.
Awesome. Thank you, so much for taking the time to join us. This was a really fun conversation. Thanks, Ebenezer.
Thanks for having me on.
Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today, and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life. What works for you? Where do you run into challenges? Where do you need help?
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Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time on Life Time Talks. Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time, healthy way of life. It’s produced by Molly Schelper, with audio engineering by Peter Perkins, and sound consulting by Coy Larson. A big thank-you to the team who pulls together each episode, and everyone who provided feedback.
The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.