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Introducing Harris Ng: Personal Trainer At BLK BOX Gym

December 12, 2020

In this post we will be interviewing one of our personal trainers Harris Ng. He has been working in the fitness industry for the past 3 years. We are going to ask him questions related to his fitness lifestyle, his exercise routines and what it takes to go from a beginner level in fitness to an intermediate level. How to overcome sticking points and what you need to do to get past a plateau. Let us get started. 

Harris is currently completing his Bachelor  's Degree in Psychology at Simon Fraser University. 


To learn more about how Harris trains, let us dive into his routine.

Training

Harris trains 5 to 6 times a week where he divides his training day splits into push, pull, and legs.  

Warm-ups

Before he starts to train, he makes sure to warm up thoroughly.He indicates that proper warm ups are essential before training and tells every one of his clients that they must warm up before the workout, otherwise he won  't train them until they ve done so.  


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Injury Prevention


Harris goes through some of the important points as to why warmups are necessary:

Reduces the risk of injury

Warming up creates a psychological benefit, mentally preparing yourself for exercise 

It warms up your muscles and creates a mind body connection. 

Synovial fluid gets released in the joints, therefore reducing joint friction and allows for smoother movement during training

Warming up can be used as a screening mechanism for injury

His warm-up routine is pretty consistent no matter what kind of training day it is. However, he may have workout specific warm-ups on certain days. For e.g. if it's a push day, he will do banded adduction single arm activations, contract the muscles and hold for 3 sec and go back. Repeat that for 8-10 repetitions. 


He divides his warm-ups into:

Upper body warm ups and

Lower body warm ups


For upper body he works on thoracic extension, rotation of the spine using the  €œbow and arrow dynamic stretch €, arm swings, chest openers, rotation of the trunk, wrist rotations and uses massage tools to access areas that might be tight.


He mentions that he frequently has tight pectoral muscles and releases some of the knots prior to the workout using various massage tools.

Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching

After his warm-ups Harris does dynamic stretches. He does dynamic stretching before his workouts and static stretching after his workouts.



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Research has been shown that if you do static stretching before a workout it can lead to a decrease of up to 30% in performance.

Source: NSCA, NCBI


The reason he needs to do dynamic stretching before his workouts is to help him optimize his training and prepare his body for the strength training portion. He provides the analogy of putting a rubber band into a freezer and taking it out. If the rubber band has been in the freezer and you stretch it, it  's very likely it  's going to snap. However, if the rubber band is at room temperature or  €œwarmed up €, then if you try and pull the band apart, it becomes more resilient to snaps or tears. 


Assessments

One of the things Harris does in every part of his training are assessments. He is constantly looking for mobility issues as he goes through his workout. For e.g. if he is doing an overhead triceps extension with dumbbells, and finds that he is having trouble getting his arms next to his ear, he might focus on a mobility drill where he would use a stick, lay on a bench, and hold the stick with both hands and move the stick above his head, and back to his waist while his arms are extended the entire time. 


His constant attention and assessments to his own body makes it easy to understand what he needs to work on.

Timing

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One thing about Harris that really stands out his how he tries to monitor time when he trains. He always 'times' his sets. The importance of timing is that when he works out, it allows him to train at a very high intensity. For lighter weights he may rest between 45 sec to 1 minute and 30 sec. For certain movements when he is lifting heavier weights he may rest up to 3 minutes.


He recommends everyone to time their sets when they workout. The reason being is when you do not see progress it is easier to look at your diet, nutrition or other things you believe is hindering your progress. At times the reason you are not seeing improvements is because you are not training hard enough. He advises those who are hitting the gym but seeing little to no progress to start timing their sets first.


One question he often asks his clients is how training with him is different from training by themselves. The common answer he gets is that the training intensity is much higher. They do have discipline but having someone be there with you and telling you when you must do your next set or next rep makes a big difference. When you start to time your sets you build that kind of discipline that takes your training to the next level.  

Diet and Nutrition  

When it comes to diet and nutrition, Harris uses an app called "Lose It" which is a calorie tracking app.


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When Harris didn  't see much improvement in his physique and strength for about 2-3 years after the beginner gains, he decided to start tracking his calories.


The beginner phase is broadly defined as the first year of consistent training. Progression in strength and muscle development is extremely fast in this phase. As individuals move into the intermediate phase results are slowed down drastically. Most people struggle to move past the intermediate phase because of unoptimized training and/or nutrition.


As Harris  's plateau endured, he lost his motivation to maintain the fitness lifestyle. However when Harris first came to BLK BOX GYM and observed Ken and Matt  's training, he was motivated by Ken and Matt  's training intensity, dedication, and consistency. One thing he learned from them which he wasn  't doing himself was calorie tracking.


This motivated Harris to also start tracking his food intake and when he started doing so, he realized he wasn  't eating nearly as much as he should be to grow.

There is something called the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Everyone has a baseline calorie intake to maintain their weight. Weight loss and weight gain is similar if you know how to track it. 


For weight loss, you simply need to eat under your TDEE, and similarly for weight gain, you need to eat over your TDEE. Typically +/- 300-500 calories is the range he mentions that you want to aim for when you want to gain or lose weight.


However, If you eat too many calories over your TDEE, he says that you  'll tend to put on more fat than muscle. Instead, you should take it slower and play the long game. By eating slightly over your TDEE, you will minimize fat gain while also putting on muscle; this is called lean bulking. He prefers this method as he can stay fairly lean year round instead of the typical bulking and cutting cycle. 


Advice For Hard Gainers


Harris considers himself a hard gainer (hard to gain weight) which is why he preferentially selects calorie dense foods in his diet. This allows him to fit more calories into his diet without having to eat 8 meals per day.


Calorie dense food: Calorie dense foods and foods which are small in portion but high in calories. For e.g. Avocado, peanut butter, whole milk etc €¦ as opposed to spinach, broccoli, carrots etc...


One of the most popular calorie dense supplements are mass gainers. You can easily get over a thousand calories in a serving of mass gainers. However, Harris says it was difficult for him to drink those shakes long term because they it can get quite costly and they often left him feeling bloated and uncomfortable. He concludes the interview by mentioning that everyone should try and find a healthy diet that works for them. It  's crucial that you  're able to incorporate foods that you enjoy so that you can sustain the diet for a long long time.  

Written by

Ken Lu

Ken has a Bachelor's Degree of Psychology from the University of British Columbia, specializing in Sport Psychology. As well as being a Certified Personal Trainer, Ken is also a Movement & Mobility Specialist, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He has trained for and won the 2018 NPAA BC Men's Physique Championship.