The NET Approach to Strength Training

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My Journey Towards the Integration of a Strong, Healthy Body and a Peaceful Mind

Walking away from financial security to start a new business is not a recipe for peace. I had a secure, high-income position at a geophysical company and a young family to support. Although I had taken many risks in my life – including leaving the Ukraine at the age of 20 with less than $5 in my pocket – this was the biggest and there was no turning back.


I knew I had discovered something that had the power to transform people’s lives, including mine. This discovery turned into a passion that I could not ignore.

I had come across the concept of High Intensity Strength Training and was spending all my free time researching it, starting with articles by Arthur Jones, who pioneered this evidence-based exercise approach. Along with a couple of colleagues, I experimented with his methods over the period of a year. Our training consisted of only one 20- to 25-minute session per week, but we did it with absolute consistency and a full-out intensity of effort. In fact, those short sessions were so intense that they left us huffing and puffing on the floor. Over time, I saw some profound physical changes, especially in one of my colleagues. Gradually, I became convinced that this method of exercise works.

The question then became, why isn’t this exercise method more widely known and practiced? A common reason people give for not exercising is lack of time. This approach takes almost no ‘gym’ time by conventional standards and produces exceptional results.

Further research unearthed various gyms offering high intensity training, and the one that impressed me was Kieser Training, a premium brand that is well-known and trusted in German-speaking areas of Europe. They offer safe, time-efficient and health-focused strength training. After an e-mail exchange with Werner Kieser, the founder of Kieser Training, I decided to check out their facilities in person. From the moment I walked into one of their gyms in Zurich, everything clicked and I knew that I wanted to be part of this groundbreaking project to help people attain physical strength and health. Werner encouraged me and gave his blessing to create my own brand, New Element Training, which is strongly inspired by the Kieser Training model.

Because the NET approach is counter-intuitive to mainstream beliefs about fitness training – that you must sweat for hours every week to attain a strong, fit and pain-free body – the first challenge is to convince people to listen with an open mind.

The same doctors who urge their patients to incorporate exercise into their daily regime hear the phrase “high-intensity” and instantly counsel their patients to back off. This in spite of the fact that some of our therapeutic machines (for the back and neck, for example) have been credited with greatly reducing the need for remedial surgery in areas of the US where they are used. I quickly saw that educating people about the concept was the highest priority, and we have been doing that, one person at a time. However, this approach is too valuable not to be widely known, so the education effort has to be scaled up: hence, this book.

There was another aspect to the NET approach which I had introduced intuitively but not really recognized as something special. One of our clients, Barnet Bain, was in Toronto working on his movie, Milton’s Secret (which many have found life-transforming). He is a strong proponent of living life in the present moment and he mentioned that a major benefit of our approach is how it allows him to de-stress his mind while he strengthens his body. He finds our training method and the design concept – which promotes a quiet, focused workout session – ideal for practicing mindfulness while working out. And so Mindful Strength Training ™ (MST) was born. (Part II of this book, Inner Gym, discusses this in detail).

Since I started to explore the ways of living a more mindful life, I have become more relaxed and less judgmental, about both people and situations. The focus on mindfulness has also changed the way I approach my business decisions, making them less about the bottom line (as numbers-based decisions are often based on fear and short-term outcomes) and more about the needs of the people who have come to rely on our training approach to help them lead healthier lives. It has also influenced decisions about how I select our personal trainers and therapeutic professionals, favouring those who truly have a passion for helping others. This has led to more word-of-mouth referrals and a growing excitement about the outcomes of the NET approach.

At NET, we believe that a combination of three key factors – research-based high intensity strength training, a sensible diet template, and trying to be mindful in everything we do – paves the way for a long, healthy, and truly peaceful life. I welcome you to explore this lifestyle and see for yourself how it can transform your life experience.

How much protein do you need to optimize strength training results?

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Protein supplementation during strength training significantly increases muscle strength and size

Are you eating enough daily protein? In a recent systemic review paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine researchers looked into 49 studies involving 1863 participants who participated in strength training and investigated their dietary protein intake. They concluded:

“Dietary protein supplementation significantly enhanced changes in muscle strength and size during prolonged resistance training [strength training] in healthy adults.”

What is the optimal daily protein intake for someone who does strength training and wants to maximize muscle strength and size? It appears to be around 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Eating more than 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight did not demonstrate any additional benefits.

“Our data show dietary protein supplementation is both sufficient and necessary to optimize resistance adaptations in muscle mass and strength.”

For example, the ideal daily protein intake for someone weighing 70 kg would be about 105 grams.  Assuming three meals per day, this translates into 35 grams of protein per meal.  A chicken breast weighing 100 grams has about 31 grams of protein, so optimally each meal should include protein equivalent to one 100 g chicken breast.

We also know that muscle protein synthesis is increased for 36 hours after your strength training session. Eating more protein during this time frame will help maximize exercise results in terms of muscle strength and size.

Supplementing your dietary sources of protein with a high quality whey protein is a quick, easy way to ensure you are getting enough. We have sourced an excellent New Zealand whey isolate, and it tastes delicious – it comes in chocolate, vanilla and an unflavoured option. The recommended approach is to drink a serving one hour before your workout and another within 30 minutes of completing your workout.

The New Element Training Team

 NET New Zealand Whey Protein Isolate, $59.95 for 2 lb container

NET New Zealand Whey Protein Isolate, $59.95 for 2 lb container

Goals set the direction, but the focus is on the journey.

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A single-minded focus on an ultimate goal creates stress. Instead, paying attention to the journey towards your goal, every step of the way, brings joy and peace of mind.

Rigid Goals = Stress & Frustration at Setbacks

Focusing on the Journey = Excitement with Your Progress & Peace of Mind

Our philosophy at New Element Training is that the process of moving towards your vision is more important than the actual goal.

If you value your final goal over the process of achieving it, you will feel frustration, anxiety or even anger at every setback. The resulting stress will diminish the quality of what you are doing, and you may feel frustrated enough to give up your exercise routine altogether.

Also, setting an aggressive goal is not necessarily an effective motivator. Depending upon your genetic makeup, amongst other factors, you may or may not be able to attain that goal. As this becomes apparent over time, you feel disappointment and a dissatisfaction with your body. Not a great outcome.

On the other hand, what if you achieve your goal. If that was your primary motivation for exercising, what are you going to do now? Set yet another goal and put yourself through more stress and mounting frustration?

Our approach is to focus on incremental achievements – including increased strength, improved appearance, increased motivation to stick with a healthy diet, decreased joint and back pain – while paying attention to every step in the process. This way, your workouts become a kind of dynamic meditation. The physical effects of the exercise, plus the fact that you are tuning in to your body, reduce stress. You will feel more energetic and be in a more positive frame of mind. And you will probably find that you actually achieve much more than you thought you would, while enjoying your progress along the way.

To help you become more aware of the benefits accruing to you through the New Element Training approach and to keep you highly motivated, here’s a list of scientifically backed benefits that you might want to review from time to time.

Physical benefits which are externally visible

  • Increases lean muscle tissue
  • Oxidizes subcutaneous (under the skin) fat
  • Improves physical appearance

Physical benefits internally

  • Strengthens lean muscles
  • Improves muscular endurance
  • Reduces/eliminates muscular pain
  • Increases bone mineral density
  • Results in more energy (in most cases)
  • Decreases low grade inflammation
  • Inhibits cancer cell development (via Myokines)
  • Improves liver function 
  • Improves gastrointestinal transit time
  • Alleviates arthritic discomfort
  • Improves learning ability, memory and cognitive function
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Improves lipids profile
  • Improves cardiovascular system
  • Oxidizes visceral (organ) fat
  • Increases resting metabolic rate
  • Brings age-related gene expressions closer to younger populations

If you want to explore the science behind these physical benefits, please visit our resources page.


Mental outlook

  • The NET focus on mindfulness throughout the workout is a powerful tool for de-stressing
  • The mind is less distracted by the body, as discomfort and pain decrease over time
  • You gain a more positive outlook with increased self-confidence as you look and feel better, your posture improves, and your movements become more fluid.

Your frame of mind during your workouts

The New Element Training mindset during training is to give your entire focus to executing each movement, one inch at a time. For example, when you are doing a leg press (perhaps our most metabolic exercise – read, challenging, uncomfortable!), the mindset is not one of suffering through each repetition in order to finish the set. In contrast to this stressful approach, the NET frame of mind is to intensely focus on maintaining perfect form throughout the entire range of motion; on keeping a slow, controlled cadence; on noticing sensations created by constant muscular tension, and on acknowledging, without judgement, any feelings that come up in the course of the exercise.

Bringing a nonjudgmental awareness to your workout will help you achieve better physical stimuli while simultaneously de-stressing your busy mind. Performing the exercises mindfully in a state of acceptance, where you experience ‘What is’ without judgement, creates a feeling of peace that elevates your workout beyond a merely physical routine.

Between workouts, notice the many ways in which your life is improving.

Whether or not you can see or feel the difference, be aware that with every good quality workout, you are moving forward. On a daily basis, pay attention to little things like:

  • You are feeling less fatigued by the end of the day
  • You are less winded after climbing a flight of stairs
  • You are more relaxed  
  • You are sleeping better
  • You feel stronger after lifting a heavy object
  • You notice that you are able to lift a heavy object without straining
  • Pain in the body is alleviated or gone completely
  • You feel like you are walking taller than before
  • You are once again participating in a sport you gave up long ago

And, as reams of scientific papers will attest, your general health is also improving.  

Be mindful of the small, incremental changes you are experiencing in your daily life. Make the effort to appreciate them all. Over time, they will add up to the kinds of big changes envisioned in your long-term goal, but don’t make it about the future. Make it about NOW. Enjoy your life NOW.

Frame your goal as a vision, a philosophy. Your mantra then becomes: “I want to be the best I can be.” Then simply notice and enjoy all the experiences along the way.

To sum up …

Setting rigid goals is what most of us do, with the result that we often live in a continuous stream of stress and unease. Not only do we suffer internally, we bring that unease into our environment. We have a much better experience when we do not make the goal more important than the journey. Paying attention and appreciating the little things as they happen helps reduce stress and brings more joy into our own lives and those of others.