The Five Element Training Types – A New Training Paradigm

Original article by Charles Poliquin

Famed Olympic track and field coach Anatoly Bondarchuk believed there were three types of athletes: those who respond best to volume, those who respond best to intensity, and those who respond best to training variety.

It was a lesson that served me well for many years, but eventually, I started to realize that perhaps the classifications were too limiting. I found that I might give a high-volume program to one athlete and he or she would make excellent progress, but the same program would not be nearly as effective for another athlete. Likewise, when I gave that same athlete an intensity program, he or she would crash almost immediately.

About the same time as this, I was studying Eastern medicine and herbology, and it suddenly occurred to me that these variations in training types correlate strongly with the five physical types described in Chinese medicine. These elements, as they are known, are used to categorize distinct physical types who manifest very distinct personality traits.

The elements are Fire, Wood, Earth, Metal, and Water.

Amazingly, these ancient classifications predict quite accurately how different strength athletes respond to different types of training. They also predict quite accurately their personalities and even their weaknesses.

For years I have listened to people disparage this type of training or that type of training, saying that whatever they’d been doing did not work for them. Some said that the Westside style is no good or that German Volume Training didn’t work for them. The simple truth is that most likely they were performing the wrong type of training for their type, or element.

Breaking the Element Code

For instance, Fire-types are the most gifted for weight training with a high concentration of high-threshold motor units. They tend to do a lot of volume with high-intensity work. I know, I know, high volume of high intensity would be paradoxical to what Mr. Universe Mike Mentzer did in his workouts, but it is possible for this type. They can train heavy all the time without crashing, as long as they frequently change the exercises.

Conversely, Earth types can stay on a set program for a long time. You have to first stress them with volume and then stress them with intensity. Each phase is about three weeks. When an Earth-type overtrains, their immune system will suffer and they’ll come down with a cold. They are also the ones who have the most trouble reducing carbohydrates in their diet, and it is much harder for them to get lean.

None of the Fire, Wood and Earth types are necessarily disadvantaged when it comes to bodybuilding or strength sports, but it is important for them to train for their type. Obviously, pure types are not that common and most people fall somewhere in between the five points of the element continuum:

FIRE > WOOD > EARTH > METAL > WATER

The Metal and Water types are, unfortunately, individuals who will never make much progress. They have bad nervous systems, the wrong muscle fibers and poor endocrine systems. These types end up being attracted to non-weightlifting activities like yoga.

Following are more complete descriptions of each of the element types, including recommended training protocols.

The Fire Type

Fire types typically make the best strength/power athletes. They gravitate towards powerlifting, shot put, hammer throwing, discus, sprinting, long jump and the triple jump. Excitement is their middle name, and they usually have a great deal of enthusiasm. They are the type that inspires people in the gym, the natural-born salesman.

They are the most Yang of the elements; hence, willpower, confidence and excitement describe them. They are the ones who will explode if they get angry. They are also genetically predisposed to heart disease.

Fire types need both high intensity and higher volume in terms of sets compared to the other elements. In other words, Fire-type athletes will thrive on workouts that consist of 10-12 sets of 1-3RM. What’s more, their work capacity curve is phenomenal in that they can do 10-12 sets with a given weight with very little drop-off in performance. Any sets above 8 reps are a waste of time.

The amazing thing about Fire types is that you can beat them into the ground, as long as you change the program often. If a Fire-type does workout X, they will need to switch to workout Y after five days because they will already have adapted. Because they have a great capacity for training, variety in the program is essential to them, and it is better to change the choice and order of exercise and the mode of contractions. Volume and intensities do not need to vary as much.

An ideal workout for a Fire-type would include perhaps two lifts a day consisting of 10-12 sets of 1-3. This athlete could superset two antagonistic body parts; for example, the bench press and the chin-up, perhaps adding some remedial work at the end. They could easily perform relative strength work followed by hypertrophy training in the same workout. They could also easily train twice a day, six days a week, as long as they changed the exercises.

Fire-types will invariably ask, “Are you sure this is enough work for me?” If they perform a German Volume Training program (essentially, 10 sets of 10 using the same weight), they will do fine on the first 2 sets of 10 but will crash on the third. If you give Fire types an Earth-type workout, their blood sugar will drop alarmingly. An alternate test involves testing their max, letting them rest 10 minutes and then giving them 85 percent of max. Typically, they will only be able to pump out 1-3 reps.

The Wood Type

Chinese doctors best describe Wood types as pioneers. They are very good at devising plans and sticking to them. They love challenging themselves and pushing themselves to the limit. They are bold and decisive, and they have a tendency to overdo things. That is why you have to plan recovery phases within the cycle – in other words, you have to hold them back every now and again.

Wood types are the most likely to abuse stimulants and sedatives and are most likely to complain of tendon injuries. They are also genetically predisposed to liver problems.

Wood Training. Wood types can tend to overtrain very easily when volume is excessive. Likewise, they can only handle the same routine for roughly two weeks. Typically, for days 1-15 of a program, they will thrive doing rep ranges of 6-10, but you will need to drop the number of sets by about 40 percent every third workout.

Furthermore, they need to maintain a one-to-one ratio between volume and intensity. That means that they will do best on a two-week cycle employing high volume, followed by a two-week cycle using increased intensity. They will use rep brackets of 2-5 for days 16-30, making sure to drop the number of sets by about 60 percent every third workout.

A Wood type will invariably ask, “Are you sure this is the most cutting-edge methodology you’ve got?” If they perform a German Volume Training program (essentially, 10 sets of 10 using the same weight), they will complete the first workout, start to peter out on the second, manage only 4 sets of 10 on the third workout and then go home. An alternate test would involve testing their max, letting them rest 10 minutes and then giving them 85 percent of max. Typically, they’ll only be able to pump out 4-5 reps.

The Earth Type

In Chinese medicine, the Earth types are in the middle of the elements. Therefore, serenity and stability are big issues with them. They are well-grounded individuals, as the name would suggest.

As such, they like identical blocks of training and they don’t need variations within the macrocycle. They can stay on a set program for a long time (six weeks), but you have to stress them with volume for the first three weeks, followed by three weeks of intensity. While they don’t have the ability to tap into a lot of high-threshold muscle fibers (i.e., they don’t do well with a lot of heavy training), they have a greater capacity to hypertrophy than the average person.

If you overtrain an Earth person, they’ll come down with a cold. They are generally very particular about the quality and quantity of their sleep. They are the ones who will complain about missing an hour of sleep.

Of all the element types, Earth types have the hardest time getting lean because they have a problem with reducing carbohydrate intake.

Earth Training. Volume and intensity have to be balanced equally, as they have as much Yin as Yang. They respond best to longer cycles, typically three weeks to a month. They don’t do very well on classical maximal strength programs, as they will burn out rapidly. Earth types would progress well on routines of 2-3 exercises per body part for the first month (volume or accumulation phase), with 3-4 sets per exercise and 9-15 reps. The next month, they should do 2-3 exercises for 4-5 sets, but do sets of 5-8 reps (the intensification phase).

Metal / Water Types

Metal and Water types rarely gravitate towards weight training. Typically water types gravitate towards yoga and other “yin” forms of exercise and metal rarely like to do anything physical.

For that reason, I will not be covering them in this article.

Perhaps the best barometer of what type you are, or what blend of types you are, is whether you enjoy a particular type of training. Fire types can perform 10 sets of the same exercise without losing focus, but the same routine would bore an Earth-type to tears.

Trainees should ignore the way their heroes train and just be honest with themselves. If you have not made any progress since the first Bush administration, then it is possible that you have not been training “true to your type.” The Chinese ask, “How can you expect to find ivory in a dog’s mouth?” Likewise, how can you find success using programs that are not suitable for your physiology?

Meet Our Founders: Jeff Bao Nguyen

Jeff Bao Nguyen is a dreamer and the creative one; a modern-day Renaissance man; a jack of all trades.

First and foremost, he is a visual artist. In his late teens, he had four art exhibitions–in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto. He sold most of his artwork as his realistic charcoal drawings had many think they were photographs. He attended photography classes to improve his lighting and composition techniques, only to fall in love with the medium and landed a job as a photographer for a modeling agency shooting up-and-coming models for their portfolios and did a photoshoot for Miss Canada. He also shot some weddings, including one for a high-profile craft beer maker and his wife, a local television personality.

Jeff loves to play tennis and can be found on the court for hours at a time, sweating it out, especially on a hot and sunny day. He got his certification as a tennis instructor with the Ontario Tennis Association and coached a few players one-on-one.

During this time, he washed dishes in a restaurant and worked up to becoming a chef. However, born a natural people person, he quickly grew tired of being stuck in the kitchen. His love for fashion had him opt for a career in retail where he would outfit customers at Banana Republic and made the elusive Million Dollar Club (selling $1M in one year). Being one of only three people in the country that had this distinction at the time, he quickly climbed up the ladder and into management. He was the youngest manager in the company at age 21. He led a team of over 100 people, focusing on visual merchandising, human resources, and teaching other store managers how to train their staff using the company’s sales techniques.

Jeff later accepted a job as a Counter Executive at Barney’s New York in New York City in 2003. He lived there for the next five years, traveling across the US, opening new counters and training employees. After realizing that traveling for work wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, he left that company and started his own graphic tee shirt company, selling to small boutiques in the high-end New York neighborhood of Chelsea. He also worked part-time at a smoothie bar in a gym. But this wasn’t any gym… this gym was home to some of the most awarded and biggest bodybuilders in the nation. He was impressed by their workout regimens and it inspired him to focus on his own physical fitness. Being 120 lbs. soaking wet, he didn’t have genetics on his side and faced challenges in gaining muscle mass. But with consistency and trying all the different protocols that were used by his idols, he slowly grew to over 180 lbs., earning the nickname, Tank.

In 2008, after returning to Canada and looking for a new start and career, Jeff used his sales experience to get a foot in the door at Goodlife as a Membership Coordinator with the intention of becoming a personal trainer. He specialized in kettlebell training and kickboxing and after a year of being one of the most sought-after and well-known trainers in town with a wait-list of potential clients wanting to get whipped into shape, he opened his own fitness studio, simply called BAO–his middle name.

While at BAO, he developed a 90-minute small-group class called BaoFIT90 that combined 30 minutes of kickboxing, kettlebells, and a sequence of poses called Yoga Stretch–which came about after attending years of yoga classes and finding that certain muscles weren’t being stretched. People loved it! So much so that after a year, his program was acquired by a local gym. They made him their fitness and design director, tasked to incorporate BaoFIT90 into their existing offerings as well as to redesign and rebrand the shabby facility into what is now known as The BAO Institute For Healthy Living.

At the same time, Jeff also served as a contributor and writer for a European Automobile Magazine where he shared about his travels across North America attending the prestigious Roll Royce Owners Club events and other car shows.

After a couple of years, he left the fitness industry altogether to open his own branding and design firm, The BAO House, a play on the German design movement, Bauhaus. He designed several international book covers, launched some small artisanal brands, created a series of posters for an academic department at Duke University, and worked on a fitness brand started by a colleague named Adam Robert McDonald. This is where he influenced and greatly impacted the trajectory of his soon-to-be best friend’s company, ARM Training Systems. After three years of designing posters, brochures, and service menus–and using his expertise in the fitness industry–in 2015, Adam convinced Jeff to work for him, not only on design but in the fitness department as well. Over the next few years, the company evolved to what is now ARM SYSTEMS and the intended 3-month short-term gig turned into a flourishing business partnership with no end in sight.

Jeff is now the Vice President, Wellness Director, and Design Director of ARM SYSTEMS. As the Wellness Director, he personally consults with clients about their eating habits through daily food journaling, weekly webinars, and monthly meetings. He also coaches clients–enrolled in the ARM Academy–on their entire lifestyle ranging from career, relationship, community, charity, adventure, and whatever matters to them most.

As the Design Director, his design process involves everything from the brand-identity system to human-resources policies; from the way they train their own team to the way they sell, market, and promote themselves throughout the GTA; from their menu of services to the nature of their delivery; and far beyond.

He is currently working on his autobiography, to be released by the end of 2018.

Meet Our Founders: Adam Robert McDonald

Adam Robert McDonald is the engineer and the analytical one; the expert on the physiology of physique; the methodical entrepreneur.

Unlike most fitness professionals, Adam grew up with a passion for logic and systems, which originally lead to him attending Seneca College for software engineering.

After spending countless days (and nights) behind a computer screen, he unsurprisingly found himself in rough shape—constantly exhausted with a growing waistline.

Because of this, Adam decided that enough was enough and joined a local gym in Milton. Very quickly he developed a new passion for the fitness industry as he used his unique systematic view of the world in a new industry. This is where his journey into the fitness world began.

Realizing that software engineering was no longer what he wanted to pursue, he dropped out of his program at Seneca College to pursue a diploma in Health & Fitness Promotion at Humber College.

After graduating from Humber College, Adam pursued advanced degrees in Kinesiology & Psychology at York University. At the same time, he was hired as a strength coach by a private training facility. Not just any private training facility… This one was owned and operated by Charles Poliquin, a world-famous exercise-and-nutrition expert responsible for training dozens of Olympic medalists for twelve different sports.

Working at this world-class facility inspired Adam to start ARM Systems. He saw a gap between the quality of training that athletes received compared to most traditional personal training programs.

Almost a decade later, ARM Systems has now evolved into something much more than this—creating a whole new category of personal training for those who have not been successful with the traditional model.

Due to his personal and professional experiences in the fitness industry, Adam has come to view exercise as a discipline that can empower clients’ entire lives.

As the Fitness Director of ARM Systems, his roles include: personally consult with clients seeking tailored exercise and nutrition solutions; design and modify plans and programs on a highly individualized basis; designate each client to the trainer (or trainers) best suited to his or her goals; and monitor everyone’s progress to ensure instant satisfaction and on-going success.

As the President and Business Development Director, his responsibilities include all activities in the areas of: sales, marketing, and advertising; publicity, promotion, and partnership; and education, communication, and technology. He also guides the design process, introduces new customers into the delivery process, and on a day-to-day basis leads the deployment of the organization itself.

Adam is known for his belief that people are happier and healthier when they endeavor to constantly educate, improve, and otherwise challenge themselves.

Appropriately, when he’s not at ARM, you’ll probably find him pursuing advanced studies in psychology, kinesiology, and health science.

ARM 500: WHAT TO EXPECT AND WHY IT’LL CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Today we will be sharing the details of ARM 500, the fifth and final course in our ARM ACADEMY curriculum. If you don’t know about our new curriculum please click HERE for a recap.

WHAT IT IS

ARM 500: REFINEMENTS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS follows ARM 400: ADVENTURES & TRANSFORMATIONS. It’s a year-long course that teaches you to survive and thrive, no matter what. During the course of ARM 500, we help students cultivate winning habits, maintain what they’re already achieved, and accomplish even more–despite life’s inevitable challenges, difficulties, obstacles, and interruptions.

Students are given continued support to enable them to achieve those difficult but possible-to-reach, multiple benchmarks. Through the course’s many and diverse programs, students get to learn what works for them and understand where their unique preferences lie.

The stages you and fellow students must go through in this course were designed to test your limits; to push you until you break those limits and attain new heights. With dedication and commitment, the transition from student to expert will take little over a year or less.

The ARM 500’s course is designed with programs that are incorporated into your life; it becomes a natural way to express yourself, in the end possibly becoming a lifestyle.

We have a motto we truly believe in: “Living a life well lived”. It speaks to everything the ARM 500 aims to help you achieve, and make it a reality.

More than your physical and emotional state of being, the ARM 500 also extends to exert a positive effect on social life, because it builds communities and forges relationships through social events, retreats, and more. Thus, you are presented with an opportunity to invite friends and family to experience that same unique culture you’re experiencing.

For nutrition, it’s less about being so strict and more about allowing particular indulgences. At our course, you’ll learn to source, prep, cook and enjoy foods that leave you nourished and satisfied, ultimately leading to better health and optimal body composition.

Your coaching appointments will be as follows: 3 times per week for most people, as this will permit everyone to have enough time to focus on other aspects of life. The monthly tutorials supplement the appointments too.

WHY IT’S WORTHWHILE

This course gives you an opportunity to make the most of your life, enjoying it and exploring things about yourself you’ve never known before. You get to express yourself in ways you never have.

Through the ARM 500’s vigorous yet effective activities, you acquire great and sustainable results. Give it your all and marvel at the positive results you get.

SOME OTHER THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Mandatory completion of the ARM 400 is required before participation in the ARM 500 can be possible.

Training with friends, relatives, colleagues, and anyone you want is a very real possibility-it’s encouraged even, because it is expected taking such an action will further motivate you as you go through the course. What’s more, partner rates are extremely attractive-sometimes, the tuition rates can be cut as low as by 50%.

Tuition is as diverse as it is affordable. Three different types of scholarships are available. Each one fits a specific requirement so all interested parties should please contact us for details. Financing is also available for those looking to commit to our entire curriculum with fixed, monthly payments.

Completion of the ARM 500 marks the successful completion of The ARM Academy Curriculum. This means that if you so wish, you now have the option to review and once more partake in any of our courses and programs at a reduced tuition rate. We further compliment this by giving you invitations to all of our social events, retreats, etc.

ARM 400: WHAT TO EXPECT AND WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT

Today we will be sharing the details of ARM 400, the fourth course in our ARM ACADEMY curriculum. If you don’t know about our new curriculum please click HERE for a recap.

WHAT IT IS 

ARM 400: ADVENTURES & TRANSFORMATIONS follows ARM 300: FOUNDATIONS & FUNDAMENTALS. It’s a quarter-long course that teaches you to set and meet a major projected objective. During the course of ARM 400, we help students design holistic, strategic, altogether realistic plans to objectively, measurably, and impactfully improve their bodies, selves, and lives.

ARM 400 is less about correcting imbalances and eliminating weak links and more about putting the pedal to the metal” and getting great results for your efforts. During the course, we will place emphases on the most effective modality for your goals.

Unlike the ARM 300 Series, which consisted of a single corrective plan, the ARM 400 Series will focus on incorporating a three-phase program executed in stages and with strategic progression.

Having addressed the major digestive issues, clients are primed and ready for a more aggressive Primal/Paleo/Keto protocol to push them on in their bid to acquire an optimum body composition.

Your coaching appointments are scheduled to be held three times per week, as it is for the majority of your fellow students; with bi-weekly tutorials dedicated to other areas like stress, sleep, nutritional, and lifestyle.

WHY IT’S WORTHWHILE

The course opens up new avenues for you to see what’s possible; it makes you aware of your limitations and capabilities, further enabling to strategically outline schemes that will prove even more beneficial to your wellbeing.

The benefits accrued from the course’s activities will keep students motivated all through to the end. Significant results are seen and appreciated from day one.

SOME OTHER THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW 

To participate in ARM 400, you need to complete ARM 300 first, which is itself preceded by the ARM 200 and ARM 100 respectively. 

If you want to train with friends, relatives, colleagues and anyone else that you believe might make the experience better in whatever way, please inform us. Partner rates are extremely attractive–sometimes, the tuition rates are slashed by as much as 50%.

Speaking of tuition, three different types of scholarships are available. If you’re interested in applying for one, please let us know. Financing is also available for those looking to commit to our entire curriculum with fixed, monthly payments.

After completing ARM 400, you’ll also have the option of graduating to the year-long ARM ARM 500: REFINEMENTS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS, where we help students cultivate winning habits, maintain what they’re already achieved, and accomplish even more–despite life’s inevitable challenges, difficulties, obstacles, and interruptions.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Although meditation has been around for a very long time, only recently has it become a part of main- stream media with numerous musicians, actors, professional athletes, Olympians, coaches, and young professionals turning to the practice of meditation.

In fact, science has shown that meditation is one of only three things you can do to improve your will power (the other two being exercise and sleep)!

On top of this meditation will help you manage stress better, have more mental clarity, rejuvenate your spirituality, and help you gain a greater sense of awareness about your body.

WHERE TO START?

Even with all these amazing bene- fits knowing where to start is often confusing so I have created some simple guidelines to help you out.

CHOOSE A RELAXING ENVIRONMENT. Find a nice quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for fifteen minutes or longer. Sit down, relax and rest your hands on your lap. You can sit on the floor cross-legged with support of a meditation cushion, or on a chair with your feet resting on the ground. It is not necessary to force yourself into a lotus position if you’re not used to it. Regardless of how you sit, it is important to maintain a natural curve in your back. That means no slouching.

BREATHE SLOWLY AND DEEPLY. Close your eyes softly. Direct your soft, unfocused gaze downwards. Begin by taking a few slow and deep breaths – inhaling with your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Don’t force your breathing; let it come naturally. The first few intakes of air are likely to be shallow, but as you allow more air to fill your lungs, your breaths will gradually become deeper and fuller. Take as long as you need to breathe slowly and deeply.

BE AWARE. When you are breathing deeply, you will begin to feel calmer and more relaxed. That is a good sign. Now focus your attention on your breathing. Be aware of each breath that you take in through you nose. Be mindful of each breath you exhale with your mouth. Continue focusing on your breaths for as long as you like. If you find your attention swaying from your breaths, just gently bring it back. It may happen many times. Don’t be disheartened. What’s more important is that you realize that you have wandered and bring your attention back to where it should be. As you develop greater focus power, you will find it easier to concentrate.

ENDING THE SESSION. When you are ready to end the session, open your eyes and stand up slowly. Stretch yourself and extend your increased awareness to your activities.

It won’t take long before the benefits of meditation start to show, as for time of day it ranges from person to person (actually there is never a BAD time to do it!) but if you are looking to maximize it’s effects my recommendation would be to include it as your morning ritual within an hour of waking.

Start small. Five minutes a day is all it will take to start but remember that just like exercise, progress is important so look to improve from week to week until you are able to do twenty minutes at a time — seven days a week.

And here’s the thing about meditation: if you are too busy to do it, than it is even more important to get started.

COMPOUND MOVES LIKE JAGGER

Master these key compound movements to add muscle size and strength fast.

Let’s not beat around the bush: every single one of your workouts should be based around compound lifts.

A compound lift is an exercise where there is movement at two or more joints. A good example would be the squat (movement at the hip and knee joints) or the shoulder press (movement at the shoulder and elbow joint).

COMPOUND INTEREST

So why should compound lifts form the foundation of any training plan? Quite simply, because they involve movement at more than one joint the require multiple muscle groups to act at the same time. Compound lifts are more bang-for-the-buck moves because the more muscles involved, the heavier the weight you can lift, and the bigger the weight you lift, the bigger the growth hormone response.

This hormone response is crucial. It means that not only will you put on more muscle in the areas you’ve recently trained, but you’ll also see benefits all over your body. That’s because the hormones responsible for muscle growth also burn fat, so you’ll get bigger and leaner across the board.

MAXIMUM FATIGUE

That’s why bicep curls aren’t actually the best exercise for building big biceps. It’s far more effective to perform compound exercises, such as bent-over rows or chin-ups, to really fatigue your biceps by exposing them to the maximum amount of weight they can manage.

That’s not to say isolation moves don’t have a part to play, they do. For instance, they can be deployed towards the end of your workout to specifically isolate a muscle to cause additional fatigue. But the basis of each workout should be the major compound lifts.

SQUAT

Your feet should be shoulder- width apart with your toes pointing slightly outwards. Slowly lower yourself down— keeping your chest and chin up while maintaining a natural arch in your back. Keep the weight on your feels, your body upright and don’t let your knees roll inwards or forwards. Bring your body down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. The deeper you can squat, the better.

BENCH PRESS

Your head, upper back and glutes should be flat against the bench. Brace your core and maintain a natural arch in your back. Slowly lower the weight to your chest, taking your elbows out to 90 degrees, until the weight is almost toughing the middle of your chest or just over your nipples.

DEADLIFT

Squat down and grip the bar just outside your knees with your core braced, your shoulders retracted and over the bar and your back flat. Use your legs to power the initial lift, pushing down through your heels. Keep the bar close to your body and, as it passes your knees, push your hips forward. Keep your shoulders back throughout the move.

PULL UP

Grasp the bar using an overhand grip with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart. The wider they are, the harder the move becomes. Start from a dead hang with your arms fully extended. Pull yourself up by squeezing your lats together. Once your chin is higher than your hands, slowly lower yourself back to the start position.

LUNGE

Standing upright and feet hip- width apart, take a big step forward and keep your knee over your front foot but not beyond it. Lower down until both knees are bent at 90 degrees before pushing back off your front foot to return to the start position. Keep your back upright and core braced throughout the move.

SHOULDER PRESS

Position the weight on your upper chest with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your chest upright and your core muscles braced. Press the weight directly upwards until your arms are fully extended overhead. Lower the weight back down to your chest and repeat.

BENT OVER ROW

Stand with your core braced, your back straight and your shoulders retracted. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward from the hips, not the waist. Pull the weight up to your lower sternum, fully retracting your shoulder blades to allow the weight to come up to your chest, then slowly lower the weight to the start.

EXERCISING YOUR OPTIONS

Why dedication to a single exercise discipline (yoga, cycling, weight training, or just about anything else) isn’t healthy— and how holistic fitness programs can leave you happier and healthier in less time.

For some people, “working out” means lifting weights (preferably heavy ones); for others, cycling classes (preferably to exhaustion); yet others, yoga or pilates (nothing too strenuous).

Each and every one of these disciplines has its benefits. But also, if practiced exclusively, its drawbacks—primarily involving mechanical strain, adaptational failure, and/or constitutional imbalance/instability.

On the other hand, by mixing and matching approaches, individuals can achieve superior and more sustainable results, all the while saving time and minimizing injury.

As one goes back and forth from strenuous sessions to restorative ones and back again, one gets to know one’s own body—its strengths, weaknesses, and imbalances. One also trains and develops parts of the body—genes, neurons, muscles, hormones, ligaments, and more—in a thorough manner only cross-training can provide. But where to begin—and how to progress?

At ARM Systems of Milton, Ontario, Canada, coaches, trainers, and instructors are mandated to design, develop, and deliver programmes that consider and address all aspects of physical fitness:the mechanical (size, shape, and strength); the adaptational (speed, stamina, and agility); and the constitutional (harmony, stability, and flexibility); plus (if desired/necessary) specialized techniques and/or technologies to help clients achieve specific medical, personal, athletic, and/or professional results.

To be clear, if one were to review these concepts and categories with a clinician or practitioner, they might get critiqued as inexact and/or over-simplified. (In reality, kettlebell drills train for strength as well as stamina, only to a lesser degree. Hot yoga trains for stamina as well as stability, also/only to a lesser degree. So on and so forth.)

On the other hand, when compared to the fitness industry’s big-box, mass-market offerings, these same concepts and categories might be viewed as somewhat theoretical and/ or over-complicated. (It’s rare to find exercise authorities so insistent upon training posture, breathing, and other subtle nuances.) ARM’s middle- ground approach seeks to achieve balance between these extremes—with design, language, and technology that can help anyone become (and remain) fit, well, and vital.

MECHANICAL EXERCISE FOR SIZE, SHAPE, STRENGTH

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THE MOVE: One to three times per week, in the context of an intelligently and result-oriented programme, partake in classic weight training. Noted styles include body building, power lifting, and circuit training.

THE VIBE: Often practiced solo or as half of a duo. Look for coaches, trainers, and instructors who are intense—but not militaristic. No threats. No insults. Nothing dangerous.

THE RESULT: A body that looks the way you want it to—one that’s fit, trim, solid, and ready to take on the world—so that you can manage the strains and stresses of day-to-day life.

ADAPTATIONAL EXERCISE FOR SPEED, STAMINA, AGILITY

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THE MOVE: One to three times per week, bust a move, break a sweat, and challenge your limits with experiences that keep you moving—even when you don’t know what’s next. Options include: boot camps; martial arts; body-weight circuits; and club- and kettlebell drills

THE VIBE: Often practiced in a duo or small group. You want to feel excited, exhilarated, full of confidence and self-esteem— eventually. At first, though, you may feel taxed, confused, maybe even a bit scattered. That’s OK; you’ll adapt.

THE RESULT: Energy. Vitality. A certain springiness that, once you achieve, you won’t know how to live without.

CONSTITUTIONAL EXERCISE FOR HARMONY, STABILITY, FLEXIBILITY

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THE MOVE: One to three times per week, work on those more subtle (but oh-so-important) aspects of physical fitness: breath, posture, balance, coordination, and so much more. Modalities—yoga, pilates, meditation, suspension training, et cetera—range from the restorative to the shockingly robust.

THE VIBE: Often practiced in medium- to large-sized groups. Hot yoga, whenever available, promotes digestion and detoxification especially well. Don’t diminish the value of softer, more “yin” (or restorative) sessions every once in a while. They’re essential to emotional and neurological health.

THE RESULT: Stronger core, faster recovery, deeper sleep, better range of motion, reduced anxiety/tension/nervousness and—oh, yes—total bliss.

DESIGNING DELICIOUSNESS

Why one size does not fit all when it comes to nourishing your body.

Most health experts tend to over- simplify things

when it comes to nutrition and metabolism—insisting upon scientific “facts” that are actually far from certain and translating them into one-size-fits-all rules that take all the fun out of food.

But food isn’t just functional. Ideally, it’s so much more than that: A medium for artistic expression and creative exploration. An opportunity for sensory stimulation and almost erotic satisfaction.

An opportunity to indulge, celebrate, experience, and share good times with both friends and family.

Ignoring all of this—denying oneself fine foods and gourmet cuisines—can lead to diet disaster in the form of cheating, bingeing, and overindulging. On the other hand, indulging in a planned, measured, responsible manner tends to help people stick to their nutritional protocols in a far more healthful, sustainable, ultimately realistic way.

KNOWING WHAT TO EAT COMES SECOND; IT’S KNOWING YOUR- SELF THAT COMES FIRST

In order to determine a diet plan that’s best for you, you need to have a realistic sense of your baseline health, as assessed by both medical and naturopathic doctors.

Are you dealing with any diseases, illnesses, and/or conditions? Do you have any food sensitivities and/ or digestive issues? What specific health objectives are you attempting to achieve? For example: Are you looking to burn fat… build muscle… improve performance?

But there are even more basic questions for you to ask yourself. What foods do you love—and which do you loathe? Are you comfortable in the kitchen—and, if not, would you like to be? How much money are you ready, willing, and able to spend each month on groceries? Might you be able to increase your budget if it means looking and feeling better than ever, thanks to the most delicious and satisfying meals you’ve ever eaten?

THE WAY YOU EAT (AND THE ADVICE YOU GET) SHOULD EVOLVE OVER TIME

In the past, the experts at ARM Systems strongly advised clients to learn and follow the now- famous “primal” or “paleo” approach to eating—pretty much without exception—and for very good reason: It works for most people, most of the time, with dining options easy to find at most restaurants and supermarkets.

However, in the past year, “primal” and “paleo” have become so diluted and commercialized—with such a wide variety of packaged and prepared foods on the market— that this diet trend has started to lose its original appeal, which was about eating whole, unprocessed, ultra-high-quality ingredients, straight from the source, that you’ve cooked yourself.

Additionally, some of the science behind the primal/ paleo trend has been disproven over the past year. Paleolithic- era meats and fruits, for example, had nutritional profiles entirely different from contemporary equivalents.

Furthermore, despite popular opinion, late paleolithic-era humans actually did eat grain and dairy—and evolutionary biologists are starting to wonder if these nutrient-dense foodstuffs (admittedly quite different from today’s supermarket selections) facilitated the formation of language, agriculture, and civilization.

Finally, the field of epigenetics exploded in 2015, altering our perception of how quickly human beings can evolve and adapt to changing environments. Turns out it’s faster than ever imagined—a single generation in some cases. So, no, we’re actually not the same as our ancestors, and we don’t always need to eat the same way they did either.

THERE IS NO ONE RIGHT ANSWER—BUT THERE ARE THREE BASIC CATEGORIES OF ANSWERS

If you’re sick, unwell, and/or imbalanced, you may want to try a healing diet, for a period of one month to one year. Popular healing diets include:

THE WILD ROSE DIET is a basic alkalizing diet, paired with a variety of herbal medicines— all of which cleanse, purify, and detoxify the entire body.

THE BODY ECOLOGY DIET offers a radical simplification of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s nutritional wisdom—efficiently repairing digestive problems and restoring probiotic balance.

VEGAN AND/OR RAW- FOOD DIETS tend to be very high in fiber, enzymes, phytonutrients, and anti-oxidant/anti- inflammatory substances. On a temporary, short-term basis, these plant-based nutritional approach- es may be of special benefit to cancer patients and the extremely stressed and/or fatigued.

If you’re relatively healthy but (A) short on time, (B) uninterested in cooking, and (C) looking to improve your appearance and/or performance relatively quickly, then a primal- or paleo-inspired diet may be perfect for you.

But not for the reasons you may have been led to believe! In fact, it’s the simplicity and restricted nature of these diets— their elimination of common allergens and sensitizing agents—that probably makes them so effective. Some excellent primal/paleo resources include:

PRACTICAL PALEO, perhaps the single best primal/paleo book ever published.

MARK’S DAILY APPLE, a blog featuring some of the easiest, tastiest recipes you’ll ever find.

ARM SYSTEMS, home to a gigantic respository of recipes, shopping lists, and helpful hints, not to mention a wide variety of primal/paleo-friendly frozen entrees from the local kitchens of Primal Cravings.

Now come the truly surprising options. If you (A) truly have a passion for fine dining, (B) have a history of bingeing, stress- eating, and/or falling off the wagon from restrictive diets, and/ or (C) know how to cook (or love the idea of learning), then—believe it or not—your best bet may be to insist upon what the experts at ARM have started to call “gourmet traditionalism”.

For a dedicated foodie, it seems too good to be true. How on earth can rich, satisfying, elaborate meals possibly lead to fat loss, muscle gain, or radiant health by any standard? Scientifically, it makes zero sense. But artistically… sensually… emotionally… it makes all the sense in the world. And here’s why: Insisting upon the very best is extremely satisfying. But it’s also expensive and time-consuming—in a good way. The result: Mindfulness takes over, and over-eating is eliminated—or, at very least, minimized.

When you become a “gourmet traditionalist”, you don’t just eat whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want. Food sources must be local, organic, all natural. Preparation methods are decidedly old- school. (Microwave ovens are forbidden. Beans, grains, nuts, and seeds all get soaked. Dairy products are fine—if they’re raw and/or probiotic. You want ketchup on that burger? Fine—but you’ll have to make it from scratch.) Food is eaten on fine china, only when it can be savoured and appreciated the way it truly deserves.

But that’s not all. Gourmet traditionalism means traditionally sized portions, which tend to be small. It also means fasting every now and then—just like our ancestors did when food was scarce—so that, when you do eat, it’s even more satisfying. (Some people, for example, only eat once per day, or skip food altogether one to three non-consecutive days per week.) So many options—but do check in with your medical and/ or naturopathic doctor to make sure what’s right for you.

If the idea of gourmet traditionalism sounds good to you, check out these resources:

FRENCH WOMEN DON’T GET FAT, which reveals a distinctly continental approach to eating sumptuously but never gluttinously.

THE EVERY OTHER DAY DIET, perhaps the most rigorously studied and medically validated intermittent-fasting programme ever developed.

HEALTHY 4 LIFE, a free publication from The Weston A Price Foundation—chock full of time-saving, money-saving tips and tricks. This resource is especially helpful for couples and families who like the idea of eating traditional gourmet delights but want to proceed slowly and comfortably.

WELL, WELL, WELLNESS… LOOK WHAT WE HAVE HERE

Want to achieve (and maintain) your total health in a manner that’s safe, sane, and sustainable? You can diet and exercise all you want, but some- thing comes before that. It’s called wellness—and, without it, you could be wasting your time, your money, and (most of all) your energy.

When it comes to the eternal pursuit of health and vitality,

some people jump right into diet, while others run (literally) to exercise. Yet others endeavor to bring both into their lives at the same time.

While such energy, enthusiasm and to self can be inspirational to behold—or, better yet, to experience—it’s not necessarily the safest, sanest, nor most sustainable approach. So, then, what is?

According to the experts at ARM Systems of Milton, Ontario, Canada—and their collective quarter-century of observation and experience—what tends to work best is learning, correcting, and optimizing one’s own wellness first.

But “wellness” is a slippery word, meaning different things to different people. So let’s clarify and simplify. According to Adam Robert McDonald, ARM’s founder and president: “Wellness is the most basic level of health. When one is well, one can pursue one’s daily activities without threat of pain, harm, injury, illness, or (worst of all) fatality. In other words, when one is well, one is relatively safe, sane, and stable.”

“Beyond wellness, there’s fitness, which goes beyond the basic, into a new realm—one of optimizing one’s health for better appearance and performance in all areas of work and life. Fitness is achieved very simply, though not always easily, through exercise.”

“Finally, beyond fitness, there’s indulgence, which is a very difficult concept for most Canadians to accept. We think of indulgence as evil, selfish, unnecessary. However, without a certain amount of indulgence, health cannot be sustained. After all, dieting and exercising are physically (and sometimes mentally) stressful. Good stresses, and necessary stresses, but stresses nonetheless. That needs to be balanced out, or compensated for, by foods and other sensory experiences that ease the mind, soothe the soul, and pleasure the body.”

WHY NATUROPATHIC DOCTORS ARE CRITICAL TO YOUR HEALTH

Circling back to wellness, McDonald recommends that clients start with basic physical assessments, which can be provided by one’s own family doctor. A good assessment includes an ECG, lipid/sugar panels (A1C, cholesterols, triglycerides, et cetera), hormonal work-ups (cortisol, prolactin, estrogens/ androgens, et cetera), and other diagnostics as determined by doctors themselves.

Once test results are received and reviewed, the next step is to find a caring, competent naturopathic doctor for another assessment—this time from a slightly different angle.

Once resented and resisted by the medical establishment, naturopathic doctors are now highly respected and relied upon, to the extent that the province of Ontario has recently empowered them to prescribe basic medications. There are many reasons for this expanded trust. First, as complements to primary-care physicians, they have the luxury to treat patients like actual human beings, not just collections of symptoms and complaints.

Second, they tend to excel in areas that leave their better- known counterparts baffled and/or annoyed—subtle and/ or subclinical concerns like obesity, infertility, allergies/ sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, and many forms of mental illness.

Third, they can provide guidance and expertise in areas where patients typically make mistakes, waste time and/or money, some- times even harm themselves— areas like nutrition, supplementation, lifestyle modification, and mindfulness practices.

While all naturopathic doctors pursue the same education and receive the same certification, in practice they tend to vary in approach. Some practitioners favour approaches like Ayuruveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and others drawn from ancient eastern and/or western civilizations. Other practitioners are more traditionally “medical” in their orientation—with additional emphasis upon nutrition, supplementation, and lifestyle/mindfulness techniques. Yet others place themselves at the cutting edge of hybrid conventional/alternative research, with expertise in new areas like intermittent fasting, electro-neurological stimulation, so on and so forth.

WHAT TO DO WHEN EVEN NATUROPATHIC ISN’T ENOUGH

What about dieticians and nutritionists? According to McDonald, “At one point, we were considering bringing someone like that on board. But what’s the point? A naturopathic doctor can also help you figure out what to eat, and how to supplement, but they can do it with far greater accuracy and specificity. Plus, while they’re at it, they can help you manage all of your other wellness issues as well. To us, it’s about efficiency and excellence. Naturopaths, not nutritionists, are the way to go.”

Just as MDs often refer patients to specialists—cardiologists, dermatologists, et cetera—NDs do the same, except their pool of specialists are considered “paramedical” by most SHI (supplemental healthcare insurance) plans.

For those experiencing physical aches, pains, and/ or imbalances, referrals are often made to osteopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists (especially those adept at “cupping”, the common name for moxibustion).

Other common recommendations revolve around: aroma- therapy; products for the main- tenance of skin, hair, and home; and paramedical devices—for example, small battery-operated units that send mild electrical currents into aching muscles or stressed-out brains.

However, not all wellness issues are physical. Others are mental, emotional, and/ or practical—prompted by the stresses and demands of fast- paced, over-booked, tech- nology-saturated lifestyles. Naturopathic doctors can be of service here as well, with knowledge of and access to a variety of modalities that may help. These modalities include: psychotherapy and psycho- analysis (for those seeking to understand themselves and the world around them); hypnotherapy and neuro-lingustic programming (for those seeking immediate psychic relief and/ or behavioural modification); meditation and mindfulness (for those seeking long-term tranquility and effectiveness despite life’s distractions and complications); and even life coaching (for those seeking tactical and strategic advice in the face of major challenges, obstacles, and/or limitations at work or anywhere else in life).

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