How To Build Strength With Matt Crowe
We discuss in this podcast:
- The importance of building strength for people with inflammation
- The function of muscles in supporting joints
- When to exercise in order to get the best results
- Moving joints through their range of motion
- Minimum Effective Dose Theory
- Four golden rules for an effective training
- Isometric training and other techniques
- The role of motivation
Clint – I’m really excited about this episode. We’re going to be talking all about building strength. My guest, Matt Crowe, has a vast amount of experience over many years. Helping people under all sorts of physical challenges to build strength. And why do we want to build strength? Because with inflammatory arthritis, it’s all too easy to lose some muscle mass and it’s very common to want to put on some weight. Well, putting on some weight, and putting on some muscle is what we’re talking about today. You’re going to learn why we really should build some strength. We’re going to learn about muscle-building fundamentals and what the body actually needs to be able to put some muscle on. We will also talk about working out from home, some starting exercises and using some stuff around the house that’s simple and available that can help you with your objectives.
Clint – We’re also going to discuss some myths, is it easier for men or women to do exercise? We are going to dismiss or dispel some of these myths. And we will talk about some workarounds if your joints hurt. So that, we can overcome those hurdles and still be able to build some strength. So that’s what we’re going to covering this episode. Matt is also going to be joining us in the rheumatoid support for the monthly live training webinars that I do. And if you like what you hear from Matt today, come and join us in the rheumatoid support or just send me an email, Info@PaddisonProgram.com, and I will ask a few questions and I will find out if you’re a good fit. And if I believe that I can help you over the next 12 months, come and join us in the rheumatoid support. Matt’s going to be the special guest for this month, and he will be able to go into specifics about, how to build some exercise routines around problematic joints, building some muscles, and supporting muscle mass for those parts of the body. So, that’s what we’re gonna do and let’s get stuck into it now. Here’s myself and Matt Crowe.
Clint – Today, we’ve got a special guest who’s actually a really good friend of mine from Australia, his name is Matt Crowe. He’s got over 28 years of experience in the fitness and wellness industry as a personal fitness coach, a gym owner, presenter, researcher, and an educator, who specializes in helping men and women of all ages and fitness levels to stay in the peak of physical and mental conditions. He holds a degree in human movement and exercise physiology. He’s a former professional athlete and has conducted over 50,000 personal and group training sessions. And today, we’re going to talk about building strength. Good day Matt.
Matt – Good day Clint, thanks for having me on the show.
Clint – And thanks for doing this nice, bright, and early podcast. I know it’s 6:00 a.m. there in Sydney, and I appreciate you making time for us.
Matt – I’m happy to do it and the sun is just coming up here as I speak. So, it’s a bright sunny day.
Clint Now, you’ve been putting out a lot of content recently, and I’ve been watching what you’ve been putting out. And this is really what caught my attention and said I’ve got to get Matt on the podcast, even if he has to get up at 6:00 a.m. to do it. Because the content you’re putting out is around strength. And during the past several months, we haven’t really exited this sort of COVID period of the world. Strength building has just become a big challenge for us. Like, no access to gyms, and particularly people with inflammatory arthritis at home, it leaves them really exposed. So today, I want to talk about strength building. And I’m going to throw to you the first question, why should we build strength?
Matt – First of all, everybody should build strength no matter what inflammation they have in the joints. Whether they’re just looking to improve their quality of life. But for anybody with rheumatoid arthritis or any inflammation, it becomes even more important. In fact, I would consider it, the most important conditioning element you can do above all others. And mainly because, what we’re going to do when we strengthen the muscles is we’re going to support the weak and inflamed joints, and it’s as simple as that. That’s the number one reason on why you should build a muscle. I like to think of it like a small sapling. But, when a small sapling is planted in the ground, it’s not going to stay up by itself because it’s weak and it’s just growing. You’ve got to put stakes in, you’ve got to put strings around, and hold it up. That’s what happens when you do strength training. You build muscle then, build the ligaments around that joint and support it to make it stable and strong. And what that effectively does is, it takes a strain off the joint. After we take the strain off the joint, we have less inflammation, we have less pain, we have a greater range of motion, and aside from that, strength training is getting to do a lot more for you. You’re going to increase your bone density, which rheumatoid arthritis will affect. Especially, if you’re taking any of the drugs that they are recommending. So we’re not condoning that whenever we can. It’s also going to help your posture. it’s going to help your balance and your stability. It’s going to help your body weight because strength training is the number one long term way to look after your body weight. Now, if we can control your body weight once again, we can control how much stress is on the joint. So less the weight, less the stress on the joint. Once again, the less inflammation, the less pain you can experience. And what you can get most of all from the strength training is, you just get this feeling of confidence, wellness, and ability. You are able to move, you’re able to work on potential a little more and that’s strength training I cannot recommend it enough, as you can see, I’m very passionate about making sure people in certain demographics. And especially the elderly, are the ones who are really concentrating on strength training, first and foremost.
Clint – And I’m sure, everyone would be nodding along as I have been. It just makes sense, doesn’t it? There’s nothing in here that’s even vaguely controversial. If I think of a couple of studies coming out of the medical published literature specifically rheumatoid arthritis and exercise. Whilst, the actual references are on my mind but I can post them on the notes for this show. One is it recommends cardiovascular activity, just to reduce the risk factors of other diseases. Because with rheumatoid, you tend to be susceptible on getting all the other diseases more so than other people’s cardiovascular, diabetes, and so on. And then also the strength training that you’ve just talked about and how the clinical studies show a reduced amount of inflammation overall in the body by doing some resistance training, within people’s physical capabilities over a period of three months. And science supports it and common sense supports it. And I love what you mentioned about the feeling of self-confidence or self-esteem because when we get too skinny. For example, our bodies are struggling and it hurts to move the joints, we lose self-esteem. But then, if we can put some muscle on it amazing, especially if we’ve lost a lot and we put some back on it matters tremendously. So now let’s talk about, how we can build some muscle, some strength-building fundamentals?
Matt – I wanted to make sure that everyone understands that. I think the biggest obstacle I get when I’m talking about strength training with inflammation-based people is, that they’re scared that it’s going to affect them more. That’s something I really want to make sure I touch on. And in every study, after study shows quite conclusively that people with rheumatoid arthritis have substantial improvements in all their factors. As far as reducing inflammation, reduced flare-ups, and reduced pain. Whilst you’re doing it, you have to be careful and you know you’re not going to do it during a severe flare-up. But there are two other things you can do that and it becomes more important the older you get. And on top of that, sort of the range of motion is something I just mentioned before. Taking that joint through the range of motion as possible, as often as possible is really important. Because we’re flushing out that joint, we’re lubricating that joint when we’re taking out the joint to free range of motion continues. And that just keeps them working in an optimal order. And the question is, how can we do it?
Clint – How are we going to do it? Because a lot of folks with RA are struggling to pull on weight. So the word weight comes up and I respond, well, you got to get some fundamentals and you’re about to finesse my answer here. I’ll just give you a broad response. They say you need to eat enough energy each day. So, you’re able to have a surplus energy to provide some muscle growth. You also need to work the muscles, you’ve got to do something. Then what’s the more complicated or full answer?
Matt – And the underlying strength training is very simple. We’ve got to take the muscle past its comfort zone on a repeated basis. So that the body on a physiological basis breaks down or has to respond and it has to adapt to get that stimulus on a continual basis. It has to break down and rebuild and become stronger. So essentially, strength training just makes muscles stronger. It makes them bigger and it makes them more endurance resistant. And that’s what we really want from them. So when it comes to strength training, I’ve worked on what’s called Minimum Effective Dose Theory. I’ve studied exercise science for the last 30 years. In the last 10 years, it’s great for everybody because the science is really showing that you have to do a lot less time as far as all of your cardiac training than you’ve ever thought before. Because the body is much more responsive and adaptive than we ever thought. So I’ve worked on this Minimal Effective Dose, what does that mean? That simply means, what is the minimum amount we have to do to elicit a good physiological or a positive physiological response? So the workouts that I work with my rheumatoid arthritis clients, is called the jigsaw effect. That is a series of these little workouts that take anywhere from seven to twenty minutes. And we piece them together to make sure we cover all the facets of the conditioning that we want to cover. So when we are talking about strength training in particular.
Matt – I have four golden rules that everyone should follow when they are doing strength train, there’s four. So first of all, when you’re doing strength train, number 1 technique. Never compromise the right technique. So if you can get your technique right, you make sure you’re working the right muscles, you’re working safely and you’re working effectively getting into that right muscle. Numebr 2 is the range of motion. Very important when you are doing a strength training to go for a complete range of motion through the exercise as you can. So we’re not going to ensure that we’ve got loads through the full range of the joint and through the full range of the muscle. But as I said before, we also kind of flush that joint out with synovial fluid, we’re going to keep lubricating it and it’s going to make it more mobile in the future. The third is the speed of movement. So the speed of movement is really critical and something which I focus more on than any other aspect of the strength training with rheumatoid arthritis. Because the speed of movement dictates how many repetitions you can do. Repetition is how many times you do the actual exercise and how much weight you can lift. So the speed of movement is really key. Fourth is the weight that you add. Now the rule with adding weight is that it can’t compromise the first three rules. Weight is only good as long as the technique is perfect, the range of motion is full and the speed is the speed that you have chosen. If you get those four rules, then you can construct any program and do any exercise safely and effectively, and that’s very important.
Matt – So as far as choosing what to do, I have a number of different workouts and I also work on all different aspects. But effectively, I have three sorts of speeds that I’d like to do the training at. Because weight training in general and people who have suffered any type of debilitating some sort of injury or who are elderly or people with rheumatoid arthritis inflammation, the speed of movement is slow. And there are three speeds that I choose for working with rheumatoid arthritis. The first one is the standard speed and I’m going to explain it briefly. For example, imagine we are doing a squat and we’re standing up straight. The standard squat you have four seconds to lower yourself down to the lowest point of the squat, pause for one second, and stand up relatively quickly for two seconds, that is the standard pacing of weight training. What it means, the training is nice and slow. It is also called the E-centric phase because that’s the downward phase. That’s the most important one, not the one where we push up the weight. But where we lower the weight down with gravity. Whether that’s doing bench press, where you are pushing things out in front of you, or whether you’re doing pulling on the left or down towards you. But, that downward phase is the most important. That’s where we get the real strength from the real control, that one-second pause is really important. And that happens at the change of direction. What that means, and especially for rheumatoid arthritis, is that we don’t bounce the joint. You can see that in people at the gym where they go really fast and they just bounce off their joints. People with inflammation joints that I can not take that strain and that’s just going to make it worse. Above all else, that pause has to be really emphasized. For standard, four seconds down, one-second pause and two seconds to get up. Then we have probably the one I do most of all, which is very simple four seconds on the down, hold for one second and four seconds upwards. So the whole movement is controlled and slow and I really like that. And the rep ranges, weights and sets we will get to that in the second. And the third one is what I called, super slow, eight seconds down, hold for two seconds, and then push it up for two seconds. So I work on three speeds of motion and from that speed of motion, I set sets and reps. When it comes to sets and reps, everyone wants to know how much weight, how many sets, and how many reps?
Matt – Well, the speed of the motion and the exercise would dictate it. But I would do between ten reps or eight reps and thirty reps, depending on what speed and motion I do. The most important thing is not the reps and not the weight, but it’s the fatigue factor. To get a strength response, to make the muscle adapt to builds, you have to break down the muscles, build up the muscles, get the muscles stronger, and have to take the muscle to fatigue. Now, whether that’s six reps with a really heavyweight or 30 reps with a light weight, the effect is the same. We take the muscle, we can do many reps, where it’s quite fatigued and it’s quite difficult to do another rep with great form. And we know that we’ve taken that muscle to fatigue and the body gets a response. So I work across all the board, I like to work on it’s quite a complex training program. During on Monday’s, I might do a normal weight at a normal pace. Where I’m doing four seconds then, one-second hold and two seconds up, and I might do thirty reps. The next day, I might do eight to ten reps of four down, one pause and four up, but with quite a heavy to medium weight, that means I can’t do anymore. Now the next days, I might do eight seconds down, two seconds pause, and then two seconds up and I’ll do that at medium to heavy weights again, but it has time and attention. And that’s what we’re really manipulating, time and attention into how much fun we really hold the weight. I mean, I can do the same weight as I could have if I was doing fifteen or twenty of the fast. I don’t want to confuse you too much but what I want to really emphasize is that I like to keep it mixed, but I like to keep shuffling the body. So it keeps soliciting as it keeps making sure it has to adapt and respond. But nice and slow or nice and controlled, and just let your muscles tell you how many reps you’ve done. And that’s the basic framework of how I do strength training itself. And then we get onto the exercises that I use.
Clint – So some of the ones that you mentioned may not be available folks at the moment with the gyms. Although, I know that Australian gyms are about to open in a few weeks. We’re recording this early June 2020. But, I love the principles and the concepts that it doesn’t matter as much as how many reps. It’s just this time under pressure concept. And the extreme version of this is when I’ve done Bikram yoga over the years, as you know. And when I was getting into it really passionately and doing it all the time. I was noticing my leg strength getting more and more literally just holding isometric postures like not even doing reps, but just like holding one posture for a long period. So it just goes to show that the extreme also can apply if the body is just held at that time under load with just a single rep for a long time to write.
Matt – That’s right, I mean isometric training is something that can be very valuable for rheumatoid arthritis. It’s not my go-to, but it’s there. What I see is it has sort of different levels beginning level, intermediate level, and advanced level of what really suits them or what type of actual exercise or strength training modalities suit them. So when it comes to a beginner it is called, contracting hold. If you had biceps and you just squeezed your biceps and then contract it, hold it and then release it. That has significant advantages for you because you’re actually just forcibly contracting the muscle group. It means that we don’t need any weight. We can do it anywhere, anytime and it has advantages for you. And the one that’s great closely to that is isometric training. It is essentially pushing against a force that doesn’t move. For example, put your hands together and push it together with your hands. There are muscles that are working hard to hold that contraction of maximal tension. And so they are very beneficial and that can be really good for the (Inaudible) people I’ve been with. I also really like to use resistance bands. Resistance bands are really a good, safe, and easy entry in strength training. Because they’re quite loose in the first range of motion and we get hard right in the range of motion, and so we can do the techniques properly. We’re also going to squeeze that muscle that we’re trying to work at the end of the range of motion. It combines a little bit of the isometric training at the end. And then there’s a modified bodyweight that I also like to do in the beginning. Modified body weight, which means that we’re going to use things to help us.
Matt – Like so many people, a squat is quite a difficult motion, not just sitting down to a chair and getting up. So we sit down on a chair or an armchair that has nice handles. And we can sort of just help ourselves out of it and lower ourselves into it. Now, how many different exercises that I use, depending on what you’ve got available? We can use milk cartons with handles on it, canes (Inaudible), water bottles, and shopping bags. I’ve got a whole series of exercises that use one chair and two shopping bags. Just because we can lift them, pull them, push them, and do things that really do make a difference. When you think about it, you can pick up a shopping bag, you squat down, and you pick it up. That’s one of the biggest strength training moves in the industry that’s called, deadlift. And that’s as good as it gets but, you’re just using the shopping bag and that’s the beginner level. And in the intermediate level, we just move on a little bit. We start to introduce possibly some machine weights, possibly some more advanced bodyweight and possibly dumbbells. Everybody has dumbbells, right? , I work even side wins. They were dumbbells that small little but holding hands. And at the advanced level, it has the same type of exercise, the same rep ranges, the same sets, the same weight, and the same theory always applies. It’s just a matter of depending on where the client is, what level are there at? As we talk about, (Inaudible) and they may not able to hold things in their hands because there’s a flare-up in their hands. It’s extremely painful to try and hold anything. Like, we can put weights and things that go on their forearms. We can use like isometric exercises, which don’t involve them holding anything. We can use resistance bands with a hook around their forearms. It’s really important and I just know the variables to know what’s possible. And that’s the hard part for people out there in the public eye. But it is something, so I can’t do anything. Well, there’s always a look around and there’s always a way that I can get you to do something that’s very beneficial.
Matt – But once again, if you understand the minimum effective dose, can work out for seven minutes today and that’s going to be effective? Absolutely, in just seven minutes you can have a workout, seven exercises in seven minutes. You can do it nice and slow (Inaudible). But if that’s all you do today, that’s fantastic and you are already winning. If you do something like that every day, the progressive consistency builds up. Because at the end of that range we can see the advanced people, that there are many people that do extremely fit before rheumatoid arthritis kick. They still want to train hard and they want to get back to doing knees stuff. So we can do all the free weight range and it’s enough that they can do it on any given day. They can use like dumbbells, cattle bells, and then barbells. It is doing some good and solid strength training was aimed at getting the bigger gains from that because the movements are more complex and a little bit more intense. But it is very much individual and this thing is more than maybe any other population group I work with. Because if you’re working with the elderly, (Inaudible) it’s just a little bit weak. It’s the same every day. You know what I can do yesterday? You know what I can do today because it’s just a progressive thing. Rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t work like that because you might be great on Monday and on Tuesday, it’s just we can’t do the same type of things and we have to work around that. You can just go like, what can I do today that’s going to make a difference because it’s how I feel today? And it’s really the key and sometimes for me and I might go, can we have a strength day plan? We can do that 20 minutes strength train and as I said, it’s fine. We’ll just go to the water. But that’s always the way that one is always. When it comes to some bad days, we might just do some range of motion exercises, some mobility, and some flexibility works, that really opens up those joints. (Inaudible) those joints as I said earlier. And more often than not, it makes them feel a little better as well. Not only because I feel like it’s still done something, but because the actual muscles and joints themselves get a little bit alleviated. Because they’ve been taken through it and they have been mobilized to just less stiff and stagnant. It is something in which there is a method to it. It just goes to show that you sort of know your options and work within your limits on any given day.
Clint – Yeah, I loved all that and that was fascinating. And the way of the workarounds that you talked about are some I have never even thought of. Like, putting stuff around the forearms and resistance bands and things. I mean, I have some resistance bands here and some of those cables that also offer resistance like those tube resistance cables. I’ve been using those, I’ve been using the elastic bands, and I’ve been doing some makeshift deadlifts. You’ve mentioned those but, I think that it’s really surprising how much we can get done even without a gym and without full complete abilities that we used to have. And whilst this isn’t pointing the finger and say, hey, you need to lift your game, it’s not that. It’s saying that if you’re motivated to do something, there’s always a way to do something, right?
Matt – But it’s the old saying that knowledge is not power but, no age followed by action is power. So you can know about it and that doesn’t do anything. But if you know about it, then maybe you can get motivated and go do it. That’s when the real magic happens. So we’ve got these (Inaudible) had coined a long time ago but, you do have to get out there. But you’ve got to have the confidence to understand that this is not going to mean or this is going to benefit me, especially in the long run. It might be a little bit uncomfortable right now, and I might have to go past my comfort zone right now, and to some people that is difficult. For example, I don’t want to go past my comfort zone because I’m in so much pain so often. Why would I want to hurt myself voluntarily? And you’ve got to have some faith by taking yourself past that comfort zone. Just a little bit and griffin it slowly and eventually it comes back around full circle and everything gets better. You get better, you get stronger, and you say you feel better about yourself, you can move better, you have more balance, and you have more coordination. You can do more on the day and you don’t get fatigued as much. And have some little bit of faith to start with, but you’ve got to just sort of draw that line in the sand and go, I’m going to do this and I’m going to see whether this (inaudible) on what he’s talking about. Whether you’re working with a physical therapist or you’re working with a physio or somebody or a trainer just like myself, who’s done a lot of work with people who have this inflammation in their joints. And you just gotta do it now and understand that there’s going to be bad days and there’s going to be good days. And, you know, life is like a rollercoaster, you just have to enjoy the way down and then it goes up. And you get to the end of that rollercoaster that I have gone a lot. I understand that the mentality and whilst I don’t have that suffer from the joint pain, I do fully understand what’s going through your head.
Clint – I know you also you’re running short of time now. I might just check the time and time is going very quickly. I will just eliminate some limiting beliefs here. Is this going to be easier for men than women, or do you feel that women have an equal opportunity to build some muscle as men? So can we dismiss that myth?
Matt – Yeah, absolutely. Men and women have equal strength. There’s absolutely no disparity, men are not stronger by nature. Now (Inaudible) with 50 percent stronger in the upper body and thirty percent stronger in the lower body due to the muscle fibers, due to things like testosterone, (Inaudible), and things like that. But the responses are the same for men and women. It just means that we’re not comparing apples with apples here, but the individual themselves. That can both get equal gains and improvements are going to make a difference to their rheumatoid arthritis, and that’s all that matters. And then I would say women should do it more than men for that reason.
Clint – Last two questions, what are some simple strategies to get the mindset right or to get started. What do you do if you don’t feel like exercising one day or if a client is not in the mood? Is there anything that you can just change your state?
Matt – Lately, I have something that I tell everybody when they don’t feel like exercising or they don’t feel like doing anything. And what I tell everybody is that, when it comes to with those cardio sessions, put your joggers on and walk out the door. If you get to the front gate and you want to turn around, turn around go back inside. You’ll find that human nature being what is important. Like, I’ve got my shoes, I’ve got my gear and I’m at the door, I may as well keep on going. Same with doing weight training. No, I’m not gonna do anything today and this is where the minimal effective dose really works well. I might give you two or three little jigsaw workouts or it might have five workouts or five bodyweight exercises in one day or it might be five hand exercises in another. It might be that three core exercises in another. But I don’t feel like doing the bodyweight and I don’t feel like doing the core. I’ll do my hand exercises or I’ll get my (Inaudible) Don’t get my squishy ball and I’ll squeeze that. Then I’ll do my circles and flexes up and down. And then what happens is you just do the easy thing. Just start with the easy thing with what I’m saying. Do the thing that doesn’t mentally trouble you. And what happens, as I say, well, I started now maybe I will do that core exercise I scrape up while I’ve done that. Maybe I will do those six finger exercises. But as I take the pressure off, so do the easy things. Do one thing and when you don’t feel like it, just do one easy thing. And then reassess after you’ve done that one thing. Make no that there’s the net by doing the one excising really good. Now, I’m not doing it today. So be it, but at least you’ve tried. You’ll find that you will actually continue one because human nature is built that way.
Clint – I’m sure everyone can feel like you’re describing them, I certainly feel that way as well. Thank you so much for your time this morning. You’ve gotten up super early to do this for us. How can people contact you, if they would like to get some input on their situation and some personalized training programs from you?
Matt – Guess the best case would be to get through my email, just email me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org for Australia.
Clint – Okay, perfect mate. Well, thanks again. This has been fantastic and great to see you as well. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other face to face. And all the stuff that you’re doing is fantastic, that information was brilliant. So thank you very much for coming on this episode.
Matt – Thank you, Clint. It’s been a pleasure and good luck to all those people out there. Maybe you can do it, too. It’s very important and you will reap the benefits, just start with one thing.