Everyday I have clients ask me about some exercise or routine they’ve read in a magazine. Usually the secret routine of Mr or Mrs ”exactlyhowiwannalook”. Most recently it’s that dude from Thor. If you look at his routine it’s based around squats, deadlifts, bentover rows, bench presses, dips and chins for 4 sets of 4 to 8 reps each. How sad is it that this is considered “new” by some people! This is the way people have been putting on muscle since long before Zubas started overcharging for gas pants! Don’t get the 80’s reference? Thats ok! All you need to know is that exercise magazines make their $$$ by selling copy and no ones going to keep buying them if every copy says: “Use basic exercises and try to get a little better at them week to week. Make sure you don’t do too much more so you’ll have a little left to go up again next week”. Right now crossfit is taking the exercise world by storm! What are they doing? Squats, cleans, presses, dips, chins, jumping and running… all the basics! They package them neatly in small bite sized easily digestable morsels to keep things interesting and give them cute little names like “Fran” or “Isabell”. They then do timed rounds or post maxes so that everyone is competing with themselves trying to get better. Nothing new at all, just a way to keep working out interesting and bring a commuinity of like minded people across the world together with a giant team atmosphere. Again, nothing new just hard work at trying to improve on the basics. Later!
I see people coaching others all the time with phrases like “dont give up” “dont drop that weight” “dont you dare stop!” While this is obviously meant to be highly encouraging they are planting the words “give up” and “fail” in the athletes head. The athlete then starts trying to fight a battle they cant win because eventually they will have to drop it, they will get so tired they will have to give up. It’s inevitable and the coach is planting the seed. Instead try and keep those thoughts out of their head. Try “faster, faster!” “One more rep!” “keep going” “powerful push” etc…. These are battles the athlete can win and keep the seeds of failure out of their mind… something to think about!
The other day I was training someone and after having them do a set of 20 burpees they commented “That was so mauch harder than when I did them in gym class!” after I got over my initial shock that a gym teacher actually had the kids doing exercises we talked a little about the differences: 1. I made him do a full pushup each rep. 2. I made him try and touch my ceiling each rep. In other words I made him put effort into each rep. There is a big difference between doing burpees with a half assed pushup and a little hop at the top and doing a full crisp rep and a powerful leap like you mean it. Its like jumping rope: Its great for little kids singing songs at the park and for pro-boxers getting ready to go 10 rounds with the champ…It’s all in the effort!
The number one question I seem to get asked by new trainees is “How many sets and reps should I be doing?” Talk about a loaded question! Now of course there are certain rep ranges that are more applicable to one goal than another and a host of variables that will contribute to the answer. However, no matter what the long term plan is the answer for now is always “a little bit more than you are currently doing”. When planning out training the long term goal must be taken into consideration along with the current plan. For example: If the person is currently doing 2 sets of 15 to 20 reps of 2 exercises per bodypart training 3 days a week and they decide they want to powerlift I won’t automatically start them on 7 sets of 3 or 5 sets of 5 or some other popular program. This is because they are programmed and conditioned to doing sets of 20. If I drop their rep range down to 5 they will find that they cant even express their true 5 rep max because they are so conditioned to doing higher reps. They will usually find that if they can do 5 reps they could probagbly do 8 or even 10. It will take a while to get to the point where they can express a truly productive all out set of 5. Also, going from 2 sets up to 5 with that much more weight will lead to overtraining and burn out quickly. So I have them start adding 5 or 10 lbs a week to their 2 sets of 20 and just do as many reps as they can. So it may look like this: week 1 100x20x2 sets. week 2 105x19 on set one 17 on set 2. week 3 110x18 on set 1, 16 on set 2…. and so forth until they get to a weight that limits them to 10-12 reps and then I will increase to 3 sets still increasing weight by 5-10lbs weekly until they are at 3 sets of 5 with a good solid weight. the next week I may have them stay at that weight for 4 sets then the next week for 5 sets. This way they will have continually adapted and made gains for the entire time and will be 100% conditioned to the 5x5 when they get there. Also, the end result is usually at least 10-20 lbs stronger in the same amount of time as if they had just went to 5x5 with a slightly heavier weight and just added weight weekly from there.
Aaaaahhhhh……It’s SPRING! well it feels like spring here in AZ anyway. There was a time when I lived in Massachusetts and this time of year was still covered in ice and snow. If the weather had decided to give us a break from it’s winter clutches then it was dirty snow and mud, plus all the salt and sand still on the roadways and sidewalks that were now all damaged from the frost heaves….but Arizona is a whole other story! This weekend was 80 degrees of blue skys and sunshine! I can feel a new found spring in my step and the warm & sunny reminder that bikini season is not too far away! Back in Massachusetts by the time it was warm enough for you to have this realization it was already JUNE! Not much time to prepare for a bikini ready body. But thankfully it is only the first week in March, PLENTY of time to get ready for when the sun has warmed my pool to a lovely 80 degrees. I have already cleaned up my diet - this should be step #1 of shedding your winter layers of fat. I have pretty much adopted the Paleo Diet, and am loving how good I feel when I stick to it like it’s my job. Now I am starting to add some cardio - step #2 - and also increase my weights during my workouts. I have spent the last several months nursing some injuries; one to my shoulder and the other to my low back / sciatic nerve. Having these two injuries has made it difficult to get the results I want from my workouts but I am still working hard and training around my injuries. Cardio has always been my weak point because I HATE just being in one place on a piece of cardio equipment, and as much as I want to be a runner, I am just not that good at it. But with all the warm weather we have been having lately, I dusted off my bicycle and took it out for a spin. My first ride I clocked 5 miles, my second trip out my husband (that workout guy) came along for the ride and “encouraged” us to go a little further and we ended up going 12.5 miles! So now I am ready and motivated to make cardio a consistant part of my workout routine and with 4-6 weeks until the warmth of (almost) summer is upon us I will be bikini ready in no time! So no matter where you live, remember…It’s MARCH! only about 3 months left until JUNE! Don’t wait another day to clean out your cabinets of all that winter comfort food, dust off your workout gear and get full use of your gym membership! Summer is coming my friends - get moving!
Pyramid training is as old as the hills and has been written about in all the major muscle magazines since the dawn of ironman. Basically you do your first set of an exercise light for a lot of reps then increase weight each set and decrease reps until you end up somewhere around your max for the day. For example: Set 1: 45lbs(empty bar)x15. Set 2: 95×10. Set 3: 135×8. Set 4: 185×6. Set 5: 225×4. Set 6: 275×2. Set 7: 300×1. This is a good basic way to train for beginners and intermediates. It allows practice with the lighter weights, plenty of warming up and a good solid heavy weight at the end. The pyramid system has been criticized as crossing too many intensity zones and it has been suggested that staying within 10% of your targeted intensity zone will yeild better results. Depending on what your goals are this may or may not be true.
If your goal is to get as maximally strong as possible it may be smarter not to waste too much time on your warm up sets and focus more on weights 85% or closer to your max. If you are focusing on speed it may be better to do multiple sets with 50-60% of your max explosively. However, if you are trying to get a solid combination of size and strength this is a great system. Lets take a look at 2 ways it can be used:
1. Traditional way: Add a couple pounds to the max set at the end and plan your weights on the way up accordingly using the original example (45×15 95×10 135×8 185×6 225×4 275×2 300×1) as workout one the next workout would be planned with 305 or 310 as the top set and would look something like this: 45×15 95×10 135×8 185×6 225×4 275×2 305×1.
2. Building the base. Now what if you’ve been training a while and 300 may or may not fall on a good day. What if you miss 305 continually? Well you could narrow the base so you would have more strength left over for your top set and maybe you would hit 305 and 310 maybe even 315. Something like this: 45×10 95×5 135×3 185×2 225×1 275×1 305×1 easy! Next workout repeat and hit 310 then the next repeat and hit 315! After a few workouts you will stall. Now what? Now we go back and start building the base. workout number 1 may be 45×15 95×12 135×10 185×8 225×6 275×3 300×1 see how we added just alittle bit of work to the sets on the way up and ended at our old max of 300? Next workout would be 45×20 95×15 135×10 185×8 225×6 275×4 300×1. Were still keeping the top set at 300 but slowly increasing the work we are doing before it. This can be done because none of those sets were an all out effort to begin with. Next workout would be 45×20 95×15 135×12 185×10 225×8 275×4 300×1. The next may be 45×20 95×15 135×12 185×10 225×8 275×5 300×2. The next may be 45×20 95×15 135×12 185×10 225×8 275×6 300×3. Then the inevitable comes and you miss 275 on the way up because the last workout took too much out of you and you didn’t heal and come back stronger. It looks like this: 45×20 95×15 135×12 185×10 225×8 275×4 and failed on the 5th one. So you end it there and come back a week later and narrow the base up like this: 45×10 95×5 135×5 185×5 225×5 275×5 300×4-and you PR with 300×4 because now you aren’t burned out from the earlier sets. The next workout you go 45×10 95×5 135×5 185×5 225×3 275×3 300×5-and PR again on 300 for reps because you further narrowed your base. The next workout you could come back and do 45×10 95×5 135×5 185×3 225×2 275×1 300×1 325×1 for a new max PR! Next time you come back and do 45×10 95×5 135×5 185×3 225×2 275×1 300×1 330×1 another PR! Maybe you could hit one or 2 more weeks with a new max if you are lucky. Let say your final max looks like this: 45×10 95×5 135×3 185×2 225×1 275×1 315×1 340×1 and you know for sure you wont hit another max next week. You just start back wideing the base with 315 as the new top. This method works great for beginners and intermediates that aren’t real close to their potential. It also works good for advanced guys as long as they are careful not too push too hard and get overtrained. The added bonus is if you pay attention and keep accurate notes you will learn a lot about how your body responds to various rep schemes and how long your strength cycles should last when considering future workouts.
Train smarter and harder!
These days most of the people I train are into “fitness” versus the old days when everyone wanted to be jacked! I think it’s the same the world over judging by how many ellipticals you see in most gyms and how many power racks you do not. I guess it makes sense most people don’t care about being strong they just wanna look good naked! So if everyones into fitness why do we need heavy weights? Well if your absolute strength increases you can use more weight on your fitness exercises. “So? I don’t care about moving weight, I just wanna look toned and burn calories” you say? Well check this out: Lets look at it using basic physics: If your max squat is 400 lbs you will be able to do your reps with 300 lbs no problem. 300lbs x10 reps x3sets=9,000 lbs of work. Now if your max squat is only 200 and you are doing your sets with 150lbs x10reps x3 sets=4,500lbs of work. Leaving out all the other variables and benefits of being stronger and concentrating merely on the work performed. Which is going to burn more calories? 9,000lbs of work or 4,500???????? Using one of my favorite crcuits as an example lets compare 2 athletes Jason and Jim. Jason is a powerlifter who watches his diet and stays very lean at about 220. Jim is a tri-athlete who also lifts weights and weighs about 175. They both carry about the same amount of bodyfat (around zero-lol) but Jim spends about 3 times the amount of time working out as jason. They both eat a very similar diet, their calories almost identical. How is this possible? Jasons muscle mass burns much more calories at rest than Jim and when they train cardio Jason’s body is burning more calories than Jims because it takes more calories to move a bigger body through space. Also, they both train conditioning with the following circuit:
Kettlebell thruster, Kettlebell Swing, Pushups with weight, pullups 5 rounds of 10 reps each.
Jim’s Weights: 25x10 50x10 200x10 175x10=22,500 lbs of work in 5 rounds.
Jason’s Weights: 50x10 96x10 265x10 220x10=31,550 lbs of work in 5rounds.
I hope this simple math convinces you of the need to increase your limit strength. Jim sees the need and is constantly trying to improve his limit strength as well. Conversely, Jason is always trying to improve his conditioning. Even though they are on extreme ends of the spectrum in relation to their athletic goals neither will overlook the importance of being well rounded physically.
Ok, so you have added some new healthy choices, you have been good about portion control, and you are parking further away from your office and are walking faster than usual to get places. If you have made these changes hopefully you are feeling like you have more energy and have noticed the scale and the tape measure moving in the right direction. Now it’s time to step it up a notch.
Portion control is important – what foods you put on your plate is also important. In the beginning of this class we didn’t make any changes to WHAT you were eating, you just started to make changes about how MUCH you were eating. Now we are going to make changes to WHAT AND how MUCH you are eating.
Example: For dinner you watched your portion control and only ate 4 chicken nuggets, a small fry and a small diet coke compared to the usual Big Mac, large fry and large coke. This was a good change, but you need to learn to give up the fast / processed foods and start choosing REAL wholesome food.
Life can be very busy and many people tell me they do not have time to prepare 6 small meals every day. YES YOU CAN! Everything does not need to be a gourmet meal that requires hours of preparation. You can prepare healthy meals and snacks with little effort as long as you use a little forethought and planning. Here is a sample grocery list for this week. Feel free to substitute any of the fruits or vegetables I mention with your favorite fruits and vegetables. The meats should all be lean, healthy meats such as chicken, turkey, lean cuts of steak or ground beef, salmon or your favorite fish. The meat choices should NEVER be breaded, fried, or coated in salad dressing. This is just a sample list and may not work for everyone depending on medical conditions, allergies, and personal taste.
Omega 3 enriched eggs (it will mention the omega 3 enriched on the label)
Jennie O lean turkey kielbasa
Oranges green onion
Bananas garlic powder
Pineapple (fresh not canned) avocado (3-4)
Bell peppers (red, yellow or orange) vinegar (or flavored Asparagus vinegar)
Lettuce low sodium soy sauce
Cashews fresh ginger
Chicken breast (boneless / skinless)
Tyson grilled chicken strips (frozen)
Crushed red pepper
Now that you have the list, let’s use the list to create a sample meal plan. This meal plan is designed to show you portion size for 1 person so double the amounts if cooking for 2, triple for 3 etc…
1 glass of water with slice of lemon
6 – 12 sliced mushrooms (chopped)
3 – 4 asparagus (chopped)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ cup blueberries
-add olive oil to pan, over medium heat sauté the mushrooms and asparagus; add 2 eggs and either scramble or cook omelet style. Put blueberries in a small bowl and enjoy with a glass of water.
1 oz cashews (weigh this on a food scale)
Glass of water
Glass of water
4 oz Tyson grilled chicken strips (heat in microwave for about 2 min until warm)
1 oz walnuts
½ apple (diced)
½ bell pepper (diced)
1Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon strawberry flavored vinegar (or whatever vinegar you prefer)
-combined all ingredients and eat the other ½ of the apple
Glass of water
1 oz pistachios
Glass of water
1 chicken breast
3-4 slices pineapple
1 bell pepper (sliced)
5 cherry tomatoes
2 Tablespoon olive oil
-sprinkle garlic powder and lemon pepper on chicken, coat with 1 Tablespoon olive oil; grill until done (flip chicken every 5 minutes) coat bell pepper slices and cherry tomatoes with 1 Tablespoon olive oil stir fry briefly, for the pineapple either grill it or serve it fresh with the meal.
Sample meal options#1:
1 serving size of shrimp (how many will depend on their size but you want approximately 18 – 25 grams of protein)
1 bell pepper cut into chunks
6 – 8 chunks of pineapple
Alternate each ingredient onto a skewer and grill until done
Sample meal option #2:
4 oz Tyson grilled chicken strips (heated in microwave approx 2 min)
3 avocados (chopped)
2 tomatoes (chopped)
1 bell pepper (chopped)
Garlic powder (sprinkle to taste)
½ a lime
4 green onions (chopped)
-combine the avocados, tomatoes, bell pepper, green onion, & garlic powder in a small bowl and mix well. Squeeze the juice of ½ a lime into the mixture and serve with warm chicken. This will make enough fresh guacamole for more than one person so measure out approximately ½ cup of the guacamole mixture.
Sample meal option #3:
4 oz salmon
1 cup broccoli
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
½ bottle low sodium soy sauce
3 Tablespoons fresh ginger (diced)
-combine soy sauce, minced garlic and ginger in a bowl; marinade salmon in the mixture for 30 minutes. Steam broccoli in a steamer, done to your preference. When making this dinner I prefer to cook the salmon using the George Foreman Grill for 8 minutes; but you can also grill the salmon – grill until it flakes easily with a fork.
Sample meal option #4:
4 oz lean steak
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Garlic powder & ground pepper
1Tablespoon minced garlic
6 – 8 asparagus spears
8 – 12 mushroom slices
1 bell pepper (sliced)
-sprinkle steak with garlic powder and ground pepper to taste, coat with 1 Tablespoon olive oil & grill until done. Steam asparagus spears in a vegetable steamer until done, Stir fry mushrooms and bell pepper slices in 1 Tablespoon olive oil and minced garlic until done, pour mushroom / pepper mixture on to steak & serve with steamed asparagus.
None of these meals take more than 30 minutes to prepare and many can be prepared ahead of time to bring to work with you. If you do not have a refrigerator at work or you are traveling most of your day; you can use a cooler. If you have the will to make healthy changes you can find a way to make it happen. Healthy does not mean tasteless!!! All of these options have flavor and will fill you up due to their high fiber content. However if you are used to eating a 12 oz steak, 2 cups or more of mashed potatoes and green bean casserole for dinner or if you spend a lot of time at the Golden Corral enjoying the all you can eat dessert buffet, it will take some time before you adjust to the new portion sizes. The first few weeks will be the hardest. Your body and your mind have become accustomed to eating a certain way and change isn’t always easy. But the benefits of making this change so greatly outweigh any discomfort you may feel while you get used to this new way of eating.
You will notice that this meal plan is full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean protein choices. There is a reason for this; these foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and seafood) are high in the beneficial nutrients (soluble fiber, antioxidant vitamins, phytochemicals, omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, along with low-glycemic carbohydrates) that promote good health. There is no sugar, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fast food or processed food on this meal plan because refined sugars and grains, saturated and trans fats, salt, high-glycemic carbohydrates, and processed foods are the foods that frequently may cause weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and numerous other health problems. Be creative! If you stick to the basic grocery list I provided for most of your cooking you can make many wonderful, delicious, healthy meals for yourself and your family. If you come up with a new recipe I would love to hear about it! I am always looking for new healthy meals J
I would recommend reading the book Bod 4 God and also The Paleo Diet. Or go online to http://www.thepaleodiet.com. You will be amazed to learn how food affects our health. The Bod 4 God book is a very inspiring, motivating book. When making any change in your life, you need support; and many people feel that they do not have the support they need from friends and family. The book Bod 4 God shows you that you are NEVER doing this alone. God is with you every step of the way.
For more workouts and nutrition tips, check us out at www.thatworkoutguy.com
Your ultimate diet is about what works for your lifestyle and what you are willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals. You must ask yourself what your goal is and what its worth. If you weigh 300lbs and HAVE to eat ice cream every night to be happy, weighing 200 with rippling abs may not be worth the sacrifices you have to make. Conversely, if you weigh 150lbs fully clothed and soaking wet and hate eating you may want to think twice about your dream of winning ESPN’s “World’s Strongest Man” contest. Life is give and take. You need to figure out how much effort you are willing to give and how much crap you are willing to take! Let’s assume your goal is to get as lean as possible and it’s worth giving up eating your nightly twinkies after finishing off a bottle of wine because nothing will ever taste as good as walking down the beach with a 6 pack on your waist instead of in your cooler will ever feel.
99% of our foods should be found in nature and be as close to their natural form as possible…..
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