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Q&A With Strength Coach Lee Boyce

By Kristin Rooke / October 14, 2016

Lee Boyce is a fast-rising strength coach and fitness writer based in Toronto ON. His work is regularly published in the most popular fitness magazines, including Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, TNATION, Muscle & Fitness, and STACK. A former national level varsity sprinter and long jumper while studying Kinesiology in university, Boyce was selected in 2013 as part of the training and treatment staff for Team Jamaica at the Penn Relays International track meet. He took the time to discuss some of his training history, how he works with clients, and what he recommends as the most important parts of the fitness lifestyle.

If you’re interested in keeping yourself in top shape, this is definitely an interview to check out.

1. What got you started in the fitness industry?

I have always been involved in sports, starting in high school. I knew from the beginning that a typical desk job wasn’t for me. However, up until my senior year, I kept telling myself that I wanted the classic “white collar” profession because it sounded better to the masses – especially my parents. When I found out in my senior year that there was an actual credit course in exercise science and university studies for Kinesiology, I was first in line. That framed the next chapter of my life, and I landed my first job as a personal trainer for a box gym while I was still in school at age 20.

2. What’s your specialty as a trainer and coach?

I don’t like to think I have a “specialty.” Contreras is the glute guy, Cressey knows shoulders inside out, but me – I try to be special in not having a specialty. I really try to apply common sense, anecdote, logic, and lots of understandable science to what I do. I find that helps me address the goals of a broader range of clients. I’ve worked with a whole range of clients, from typical office jockeys (who I currently do the most work with), athletes in cycling, football, track, and hockey, to powerlifters. One group that I don’t normally work with are physique competitors. My training focal point is to always look for improvement in the primal, foundational barbell movement patterns, and use assistance work in any form when weaknesses are identified that stymie that progress. It all comes down to helping a client move better.

3. What are 3 of your favorite exercises and why?

I’ll choose the squat (front or back), the Z-Press, and the clean. All three of these are compound movements and will completely expose any weak links a lifter can have in the body, especially when performed correctly and with considerable weight on the bar. If you’ve got a weak core, tight hips, or bad posture, all 3 of these exercises will go to the crypt. If you’re not familiar with a Z-Press, here’s what they look like.

4. For the busy professional interested in losing fat, what are your top 3 recommendations?

My first would be to consider your diet. Making sure sugars and carbs are kept on the lower end is a huge component. Most professionals can be reckless in this department, especially if they’re constantly eating on the fly (for example, grabbing something at the nearby food court between meetings).

My second would be to consider your lifestyle. Sorry to say it, but sometimes folks who don’t exercise or eat well give themselves too much credit when they begin to do so. Seeing a lasting improvement in body fat percentage takes a lifestyle change – the same way it took a lifestyle change to progressively get out of shape. Working more hours every day, sitting down for longer periods of time, eating bad foods day after day. This didn’t all happen in 1 or 2 weeks. It definitely was a cumulative occurrence.

Having said that, it’s important to remember that it will be a gradual change if you do the right things and stick to them. Make eating right and training regularly your lifestyle. Not just an add-on. Exercising just two or three days a week likely won’t cut it. Neither will eating a decently clean dinner when breakfast and lunch are still horrible.

My third recommendation would be to educate yourself in the gym. Whether that means hiring a good personal trainer to be your coach, or cracking open some books, it will definitely expedite your results if you’re getting the knowledge to train right. For example, isolation training on machines will likely get you limited results where fat loss is concerned. Using the right compound movements and manipulating the weight, reps, and most importantly, the rest interval will set you up to achieve your goals.

5. What are your thoughts on HIIT vs. steady state cardio for optimal results?

As a former college level sprinter and jumper, I’m a HIIT guy. You’ll potentiate more fat burn from it, due to a state called “oxygen debt.” The result is that your body tries to play catch-up for quite some time after your workout is complete, which increases stress on the metabolism. (See: The Afterburn Effect). In English, it means you’re going to burn more fat – for longer, after your workout is done.

6. What is the most effective way to get over a workout plateau?

In my opinion, change your training phase. If you’ve been doing the same thing for a lengthy period of time, your workout program may be becoming redundant. The body is an impressive machine based on how adaptable it is.

Take this as an example – I’ve been recently doing a lot of Olympic lifting. That’s something I never made an actual “training phase” out of before; I only would arbitrarily pepper them in when I felt like it. This time around, I started training the lifts with a buddy of mine who’s competing in the sport. He told me his coach had worked him up to training the clean and jerk, snatch, and squat patterns six days per week. The amount of volume of the same movements shocked me, but at the same time it showed me how easily the body can adapt to what is imposed upon it.

At this point, I work out with him 3 days per week on the lifts, and my body feels better than it did when I only trained them once per week (at the time we started). My point is this: knowing the body is so adaptable can work for us, but it can also work against us. Especially if your goal is cosmetic (to look leaner or lose fat or weight), then it’s important the body doesn’t get the time to fully adapt to a given program. You can still center your training system on the same overall principles, but manipulating things like rest time, rep range, and intensity can go a long way.

7. Do you have different workout recommendations for women and men?

Nope. I train women the same way I train men. Unfortunately women often think that weight training – especially heavy weight training – will make them get “too muscular.” I think that’s a product of the fact that too few women actually weight train. I encourage the ladies to think of their favorite fitness model or sports athlete (maybe a volleyball, track or tennis star). Then look into the way they train themselves, and also the demands of their profession. I can guarantee they didn’t Tae-bo, Shake Weight, or Pilates their way to the bodies they have. To look athletic, you have to train the way athletes do. Period.

8. Can you recommend some healthy snack ideas for the office?

When it comes to snacks, I always try to think of protein and/or fat sources. Since it’s between meals it’s important to up the fats to (a) feel fuller and (b) use as energy. Avocado is a solid go-to for a healthy fat source. So are almonds. I’m a fan of allegro cheese, since it has a very high protein count and low carb ratio. Plain Greek yogurt is another great choice.

9. What is a quick breakfast idea that’s healthy and on-the-go?

Eggs – even if you don’t make them yourself, most breakfast spots in office buildings serve eggs. Having them scrambled or as an omelet is a smart choice. Adding a small serving of fresh vegetables to the eggs is also recommended. Since we’re trying to avoid sugar, sadly, the classic OJ is out as a drink choice. Have water, or mix in some protein powder. Remember that we’re trying to feed your muscles, and not your fat cells. Breakfast is important since your muscles have been starved of any nutrients the entire time you’ve been asleep. What you choose to eat at this point in time is very important.

10. Any other information you would like to offer?

I talk a lot on these very topics both in writing and on TV media on my website, www.leeboycetraining.com, and post updates of my latest print and online articles on my facebook (www.facebook.com/lee.boyce.52.) and twitter accounts (@coachleeboyce). Be sure to check me out, and follow my stuff. For those interested in working with me, I do offer online coaching for clients outside of my hometown, Toronto, ON.