What follows is fitness information which I’ve chosen to entitle ‘Gym Shorts’: factoids and anecdotes in the realm of muscle and might, timely nuggets of fitness info, pearls of wisdom, and cosmic truths, intended to help those of us whose training has drifted into the doldrums. My goal is to help you in your quest to shape up before it’s time to ship out.
Those starting a weight program wanting superior results are advised to make compound movements the cornerstone of their program. This means squats, deadlifts, rows, various kinds of presses, dips, and chins, etc.
Anyone wanting increased muscle mass would be advised to eat up to six small to medium sized meals per day, making sure to include complete protein with each of the fees. If your boss won’t let you eat on the job, do it in the bathroom stall and no one will know.
Don’t let anyone try to kid you. For those of us wanting superior levels of fitness, the aerobics class is a complete waste of time. What amazes me is that most of the public has bought into this nonsense for so long.
The only sensible way to go about a safe and effective weight loss program is to change our lifestyle. After all, it’s our lifestyle which got us where we are in the first place.
When lifting weights, the prime directive is that we control the weight. Never let the weight control YOU.
Most injuries from lifting weights are incurred not by the actual lifting of the weight, but rather by lowering the weight too quickly; as may happen when a dumbbell is dropped on your foot or head (or on someone else’s foot or head).
Best way to train in a crowded gym – grab several pair of dumbbells and a bench. Do all of your exercises in an isolated corner of the gym. Do not leave your post until all of the exercises, sets, and reps have been completed with minimal rest between your sets. If by chance you choose to go to the water fountain for a drink, you may find your equipment gone upon your return. Alternatively, you could choose instead to do deadlifts, clean and presses, power cleans, dips and chins. Nobody does those, so you won’t have to contend with people cutting in or swiping your stuff. Those wanting to use the pec deck, abdominal, or leg extension machines may be in for a very long wait.
Self preservation tip: prior to using the high or low pulleys always be sure to check the cables for wear or fraying. In addition to rarely if ever wiping down the upholstery with disinfectant, today, most fitness center staff also do not check the cables. You also may want to make sure that on plate loaded, pro-style dumbbells, the plates are secure and the allen bolts are intact.
How Many Reps?
Conventional wisdom tells us that heavy weights for low reps build bulk, while light weights for high reps build definition, but it’s more complicated than that. In a nutshell, our muscles can’t count, so why should we? What matters most is time under load in conjunction with the fiber type of the muscle group being trained. Someone with a high percentage of fast twitch fibers in the quads, for example, may gain greater hypertrophy with a heavy load for very low reps (4 to 6) in the squat. On the other hand, an individual with primarily slow twitch quads may obtain a better response via very high reps (20 or more). This will translate into a time under load from 30 seconds to as much as two or more minutes. The tough part is in determining our approximate fiber type. Some have said to use 80% of our one rep max, but for the novice, determining his or her one rep max may not be worth the risk. A safer approach would be to experiment with various set and rep combinations, analyze the data, and draw your own conclusions. Still need to count reps? Recite the alphabet instead. This way we will end the set because of muscle fatigue, not because we have reached some arbitrary number of reps. We can’t relate as readily to letters as we can to numbers. Such an approach promotes honest work.
How Many Sets?
Generally speaking, a larger, complex muscle group trained for low reps will require more sets than a smaller muscle group done for moderate to high reps. The back, for example, will need more sets than the biceps, though going by what I see in the gyms it’s just the opposite. We need only the amount of sets to provide adequate growth stimulation to the muscle. More than that will simply make a greater inroad into our recovery ability. As Arthur Jones has said
repeatedly, if it takes only one properly aimed bullet to kill an elephant, more than that will accomplish nothing except to destroy more meat.
Wanna Get Big?
Those wanting larger muscles need to eat right as well as train right. I’ve yet to see a picky eater gain much size. One of my clients tipped the Toledos at 120 pounds. Two years later he was somewhat larger at 135 but bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t get any larger. Typically he would have a bowl of dry, Kellogg’s Special K for breakfast. He could have no milk or other dairy products, claiming he was lactose intolerant, and recited a list of other, nutritious foods which did not agree with him. For lunch he would have a sandwich with a diet soda, and chicken for dinner with coffee or tea. I suggested he vary his meals instead of eating the same
thing every single day but to no avail. I told him to eat more often, but he claimed that eating on the job was not allowed at his place of employment. “Do they let you go to the bathroom on the job?” I inquired. “You can always sneak a sandwich or hard boiled egg into the toilet stall and no one will know”, but this approach was too radical for him. As is the case with those wanting to lose weight, if it’s not a priority, it won’t happen.
We’ve all noticed how slow and lackadaisical the exercise programs of those seeking to lose weight often are. Face it; sitting on the leg extension machine talking on your cell phone won’t do it for you. What’s needed is constant motion, elevated pulse, increased respiration, which leads to the burning of more calories. Makes a good case for circuit training, don’t you think? “Hey! I’m using that leg press machine! Do you mind if I work in with you?”
It hit me the other day as I was running around setting up the equipment and changing weights between sets for a client of mine. I’m running around while he’s just standing there with his thumb in his ear. “Stretch!” I told him, wondering why so few of us ever do. Okay,
so it’s boring. But if between sets we can stretch the muscle group that we’ve just trained, we can make those between set rest periods a time for active rest, the stretching gets done, we develop an awareness of the muscle’s location and function, we finish sooner, and our workout efficiency has been improved as a byproduct. Too good of a deal to pass up, is it not? So stretch!
Many bodybuilders, having peaked for a contest by following a low carb or restricted diet for several months, have found that they actually look better with larger, harder looking muscles, and more separation several days to a week after the contest. This, despite little to no training as well as having inhaled vast quantities of pizza, beer, ice cream etc. for all that time. How can this be? It could very well be that the increased carbs have gone to replenish the glycogen reserves, volumizing the muscle, and that the extra calories have actually contributed to muscle growth via adaptive supercompensation. This, I believe, may be the principle behind so- called ‘zig-zag’ dieting.
There’s a new psycho / medical term being bandied about to describe those of us who try to make the correct food choices and substitutions. The term is ORTHOREXIA and is a supposed analog to anorexia. It also could be an expected development from the media blitz over the past decade telling us how fat, sloppy, and unhealthy we’ve become. It’s ironic that we’re accused of being fat and unhealthy…eating fast food and getting no exercise…but when we seek to remedy the situation, we’re told that we’ve become an orthorexic with muscle dysmorphia. Sometimes you just can’t win when the health experts are chronic malcontents with problems of their own.
Most of us know that spot reduction is a myth, but from time to time we all need to be reminded. Even though Irvin ‘Zabo’ Kozewski, the ‘abdominal sandman of Venice Beach’ used to warm up before his weight workouts with 500 sit-ups and leg raises, even though Frank Zane used to do up to an hour of continuous Roman chair sit-ups, the fact of the matter is that we cannot remove fat from one part of the body (beer gut or cottage cheese thighs), by doing reps for that area. We’ll achieve better results via riding a bicycle or circuit training.
In THE NAUTILUS BOOK, Dr. Ellington Darden, PhD. attempts to differentiate between exercise and recreation. He states categorically that exercise is NOT supposed to be fun. Yeah? I’m supposed to do squats next Tuesday, and I can hardly wait. Realistically, if exercise isn’t supposed to be fun, how can we expect the millions upon millions of obese couch potatoes to get up off of their collective gluteus maximi and develop their deltoids? Put bluntly, if it ain’t fun, it ain’t gonna happen.
Lately there has been a lot of talk about augmenting our hormone levels via nutritional intervention. Of course the biggest proponents of such a strategy have a special ‘clinically tested’ food supplement to sell us. The leading legitimate experts in endocrinology do not have all of the answers at this point in time. What is known is that all of the body’s hormones are interrelated via a feedback loop and that elevating the levels of one hormone may have unexpected consequences in areas of the body far removed from the area targeted by the hormone we are seeking to increase or decrease. Also, elevated levels of HgH may contribute to the development of acromagaly, hypertension, and diabetes…that is if HgH levels can be modulated nutritionally, and most of the available data tells us that this isn’t possible or practical. The benchmark research in HgH therapy was conducted in the early 1990s by Rudman and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin at Madison…but this study involved the administration of real human growth hormone to elderly men via intramuscular injection…not isolated amino acids and B-complex vitamins taken orally.
Most of us will have a clearer view of where we are headed fitness wise if we keep a workout journal. What amazes me is that so few of us do. In the workout journal not only do we keep
track of the obvious: the exercises, sets, reps, and resistance, but we can also monitor pre and post workout sensations, duration of the program, delayed onset soreness, mental attitude, etc. Say for example we wanted to drive from New York City to Los Angeles, we could get there without a road map…eventually, but it might be by way of Fairbanks, Alaska. The road map will definitely make our trip quicker, clearer, and more efficient. Look upon the workout journal as your road map to fitness land.
Someone on a limited budget can still train productively with the following: an adjustable bench, an adjustable pair of dumbbells, and a comfortable pair of running shoes. Believe it or heave it, the whole body, including your cardio, can be trained this way.
True pain, the kind that indicates injury, should be avoided at all costs. In fact, with the exception of muscle fatigue, there should be no discomfort whatsoever while exercising. “It hurts when I go like that,” people always complain to me. “Don’t go like that!” I tell them.
Anyone wanting to get into top physical condition or lose body fat really ought to start and maintain a food journal to go along with their workout journal. This way you’ll be able to know what your caloric input, output, and macronutrient ratios are at any given point in time. You can also correlate the data therein with your exercise program. Some may object that such a chore may be too difficult. My response is that while doing the journal thing may be a chore, it’s nowhere near as difficult as getting lean and staying that way.
It’s been my observation that the majority of women I have seen in the gym do not train heavy enough. Conversely, most of the men train much heavier than they should. Heavy is a relative term. We (men and women) need to use enough weight so that we can complete the exercise for the designated sets and reps while maintaining proper form.
Until next time, keep on pumpin’!