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FITNESS AND PERFORMANCE TRAINING
Sections: (click to jump)
- Finding A Good Trainer
- Weight loss Vs Fat Loss
- Women And Weights
- Body Types
- Body Fat
- Lean Body Mass
- Resistance Training
- Strengthening Of Joints And Connective Tissue
- Mind Muscle Connection
- Warming Up
- Exercise The Entire Muscle Group
- Number Of Sets Per Exercise
- Goal Specific Repetition Range
- Training Intensity Levels
- Achieving Muscle Failure
- Exercise Form
- Range Of Motion
- Use A Training Partner Or Spotter
- Workout Duration
- Change Your Workouts Frequently
- Training Frequency & Over Training
- Cardiovascular Training
- Putting It All Together
This is a very good question. There are many trainers out there today and to be honest, many of them are crap! It is very hard to tell the good ones from the bad by simply looking at them. Although, generally if a trainer is in terrible shape him or herself chances are he or she is not going to be able to mentor you like I feel they should. With me my physique was always my best marketing tool, I don’t just preach, I practice what I preach.
A good place to start would be to look at their education, unfortunately this can sometimes be misleading. I have come across many trainers with university degrees in kinesiology, physiotherapy and many other sport related degrees. These people generally have a very good knowledge of the human body but can’t seem to apply it. Without their own time in the trenches, working out hard and picking up many tips and pointers you don’t learn in school, they can’t offer you real world knowledge.
Often the information taught in schools is far behind the advances made in training and nutrition in the private sector. Many people come out of school with a head filled with outdated theory. It takes a long time for new discoveries to make it to school curriculum. That’s why it is so important for a trainer to be passionate about fitness and nutrition. If he or she is not they will not keep on top of the latest discovery that could help their clients achieve their goals faster.
There are many associations providing certifications for trainers out there. Again some are good, some are not so good. Anyone with a few hundred dollars and three days to spare can become certified. Provided they pass their often easy as pie certification test. Some of the more respected certifications in the industry are ISSA, ACE, of course there are more but at the end of the day the trainers track record and confidence they give you is more important.
I feel that you should sit down with a few trainers you are interested in before you make up your mind. Try to get a feel for each of them, you are going to spend a fair amount of time with this person so you better make sure you can get along with him or her. The trainer you choose should be passionate about fitness and nutrition, they should be as excited about your goals as you are. If they come across weak in your consultation, chances are they will on the gym floor too.
If the trainer you are thinking about works at a gym watch him or her with clients. I have had people choose me as their trainer after watching me for a few weeks with different clients, seeing how I interact with them and hearing the coaching I give. I have even had people choose me based on watching me go through my own workout. Seeing how hard I push myself enforces the mentor relationship.
Once you make your choice, give yourself 100% to your trainer. You are paying for this person’s expertise, take advantage of it. I have had clients with a little knowledge (and we all know a little knowledge is a dangerous thing) try to take control of a session. I remind them that they are paying me to make a change in the body that they couldn’t and that they should listen to me more and offer fewer opinions. Trainers don’t like to be told how they should train. Acting like a know it all with your trainer is a sure way to be forced into a vomit inducing workout!
Another thing trainer’s hate is the word “can’t”! I hate having a client say that they can’t lift something, or do one more rep. If your trainer is aware of your level of fitness and is reading your body language he or she knows what you are capable of more than you do. I would never make a client do something that would put them in an unsafe environment. My clients learn this and put complete control in my hands.
So bottom line, scout out a few trainers before making the final decision. Ask as many questions as you can and see how the trainer’s answers make you feel. Feel free to ask for referrals or testimonials. Inquire about their education but take it with a grain of salt, the proof is on the floor not a piece of paper hanging on the wall.
At Emerge all our trainers are certified and passionate about what they do. Our record speaks for itself and present and past clients are always available to assure you that you are making the right decision joining Emerge.
If you want to change the way that your body looks you need to have a goal. Goals are necessary in order to come up with a plan of attack, without a clear goal you will no doubt waste time with program or routine that will leave you spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. You may want to get into better shape to simply feel better or you may want to take it to the next level and develop a head turning physique. Regardless of how big or small your goal is, you must first recognize that goal to understand what you have to do to achieve it.
You must take into account many factors when looking at your fitness goal. Factors like:
- How many days a week am I willing to workout?
- What type of lifestyle do I want to maintain?
- Are my expectations realistic?
- What is my timeline?
- Do I REALLY want it?
- How much am I willing to spend?
Basically it all boils down to how much you are willing to sacrifice for this goal. Only the lucky few walk around in great shape without sacrificing for it. Some people have won the genetic lottery and can eat whatever they want and don’t exercise but look great. Most people are not so lucky and have to sacrifice on some level (time, money, comfort) to achieve the look they want. Make no mistake, if you want to change your level of health or the shape of your body you will have to sacrifice something. Your present lifestyle has got you where you are today and you have will to change it. The more extreme you want your body image the more extreme your sacrifices are going to be.
- How many days a week am I willing to workout? – If your goal is to improve your health and feel better, you may be able to get away with 2-3 trips a week to the gym. You may only have to spend 30 minutes at a time in the gym. However, if you are trying to transform yourself from a flabby couch potato to a hard body, you may find yourself in the gym every day of the week for an hour at a time.
- What type of lifestyle do I want to maintain? – Your lifestyle will not only change by making time for the gym. Gym time will have the least impact on your lifestyle. Even someone who is trying to build the perfect body is only going to have to make time for one hour of a twenty-four hour day. The other twenty-three hours of the day spent outside of the gym are just as, if not more, important as the time spent in the gym.
This is where your lifestyle really changes. You will have to change the way you eat through out the day. You might have to change the way you socialize. This may mean anything from going out to eating less, consuming less alcohol or not at all, and it may even mean not being around certain people in your life right now. For example, lets say that you are trying to lose 30 pounds and have a few overweight friends you usually socialize with. If they are still on a destructive course of overeating or eating the wrong foods, you don’t need the pressure or temptation that socializing with them may cause.
- Are my expectations realistic? – This is a big one! If you have been 30 pounds overweight for the last 20 years and haven’t done anything more physical than walk to the fridge, chances are you are not going to build a great physique in a couple months. That’s not to say you can’t get there. You will just have to come up with smaller goals to achieve on your way to that one big one.
It may take you many months to get from a 40” waist to a 32” waist. Make that your long term goal. Your short term goal may be to get to a 38” waist. Once you reach that set another short term goal. This way you stay motivated rather than thinking that it is going to take forever to reach your long term goal.
- What is my timeline? – You will want to establish a timeline. This will enable you to set realistic goals. If it is a lifelong journey to a fitness lifestyle you wish to take (regardless of achieving your goal, you should continue with a fitness lifestyle to maintain it) then, you can take your time with slow steady progress. You can take baby steps and ease into this new lifestyle. However, if you need to get down to a certain weight, or body fat percentage by a certain date, you may have to jump in headfirst and take some huge steps. Once again, be realistic, you don’t want to try and lose 30lbs in a month. If you try to lose too much weight too fast, you can cause yourself long term harm. This is the basis of most “yo-yo” diets.
Once you determine your timeline you can develop a plan of attack to achieve your goals within that time. Keep in mind that the less time you have the harder it is going to be, not just physically but emotionally too.
- Do I REALLY want it? – Well do you? Are you willing to go to the gym even when its miserable outside and you have had a terrible day at work? Are you willing to watch what you eat and put temptation aside for as long as it takes? Are you willing to stay home and rest your fatigued body when friends are asking you to go out and party? Well, are you?
If you REALLY want it, you will sacrifice whatever you have to in order to reach your goals. The people who are successful in changing their bodies for the better work hard at it. There is no easy way. You must sacrifice and your goal and end result must be more important to you than any temptation or distraction you encounter.
- How much am I willing to spend? – It is going to cost you money one way or another. Are you going to buy equipment for home or get a gym membership? How much can you afford to spend on supplements? If your goal is to go beyond the norm you will more than likely require supplements of some sort. Do you hire a trainer to get you started on the right foot or try to wing it on your own? Hiring a trainer may seem like a lot of money but it could shave off lots of time that you might waste spinning your wheels trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s funny how some agree to pay thousands to get lyposuction and endure months of recovery and permanent scarring to lose 10lbs when they could achieve even better results for far less with a proper diet and training program.
Ask yourself all these questions and come up with a plan of attack. Whether it’s to hire someone to show you the way or buy a book and educate yourself, the bottom line is, if you want it bad enough and it means enough to you, you will do whatever it takes. Stay focused on the goal.
Almost everyone I see in a consultation wants to lose weight, very few (and I mean very few) come to me with a specific body fat percentage they would like to be at, just a specific weight. The thing is losing weight is NOT what you want to do, you want to lose FAT and fat alone. Most weight loss approaches are exactly that, weight loss, body fat, water weight and lean body mass. The problem here is that more often than not people lose more water and lean body mass than they do body fat. In the end they are left with a smaller version of the original body or even softer or flabbier body than before they lost the weight. The only way to become toned or leaner is to lose fat alone. As well, it is your body composition (body fat level) that determines your risks for diabetes, heart disease, hypertension etc. If you lose weight for health reasons but you maintain a high body fat percentage you have accomplished nothing from a health standpoint.
When people lose weight the traditional way they tend to put it back on and then some really fast. Why is this? Simple, when you lose lean body mass you slow your metabolism down. Your organs and your lean body mass require calories to function properly. The more muscle someone has the more calories they burn while sleeping let alone exercising. Most people (95%) that follow your typical low calorie diet with cardio or no exercise end up losing up to 70% of the weight from lean body mass. This results in a higher body fat percentage at the end of the diet and a slower metabolism, making it very hard to maintain the new weight. Often they end up eating less than they did before starting the diet yet they continue to gain weight at a record rate.
At Emerge we never have clients lose muscle when losing weight, we have them lose fat only and maintain or build muscle through the process. At the end the client is left with a much leaner body with a lower body fat percentage and a faster metabolism than when they started the program. As a matter of fact they have to increase the amount of food they eat in order to maintain the results because of the faster metabolism. This ensures that the new body is easier to maintain and that all health risks related to the original weight are taken care of.
We also look at fat loss as a lifestyle change, one that has to happen and stay changed for the rest of your life. Your present lifestyle has left you with a body image you do not like and if you return to this destructive lifestyle after achieving you desired body image the old one will eventually return. That is why the Emerge Lifestyle approach is for life, it isn’t a quick fix to lose weight at all costs for the short term. It is a healthy way to look and feel your best for the rest of your life.
“I don’t want to get bulky, isn’t heavy weight training just for guys?”
This is probably the most common thing I hear from women when I talk to them about resistance training. NEWSFLASH! You aren’t going to get “all big and bulky”! First off, most women aren’t able to obtain a huge muscular physique, very few have the genetics to do so. Second off, you don’t wake up one morning after lifting weights and find 30lbs of new muscle in the mirror. Gaining muscle takes time and you will reach your goal and maintain that look long before you would have too much muscle. Getting huge doesn’t happen by accident, it takes a lot of work and dedication.
Resistance training is the ONLY way to achieve a “tone” body, focusing only on cardio will leave you with a loose flabby appearance despite the weight loss. Have a look around the gym sometime and watch the women with the best figures, they have the proper balance between resistance training and cardio.
Resistance training maintains muscle when we lower our caloric intake in order to lose body fat. This is very important since we do not want to lose muscle and lower our metabolism. Resistance training also firms and tightens those sagging body parts, cardio burns calories and strengthens the heart PERIOD. Cardio alone will not firm and tighten anything.
As you age past 30 you lose on average ½ pound of muscle a year. This lowers your metabolism forcing you to gain on average 1-½ pounds of fat a year. Resistance training for six weeks, for example, can lead to a fat loss of 10lbs and a muscle gain of up to 5lbs (1lb of new muscle burns up to 100 calories a day). This is like turning the clock back 10 years, you will have the same metabolism of someone 10 years your junior. You will also look and feel healthier and more confident.
It doesn’t matter if you are trying to just lose a few pounds to drop a couple dress sizes or if you are taking it to the next level trying to build an extremely lean tone body. Resistance training is an essential component that will help speed along your results.
Make sure you follow a resistance training program that is designed to suit your schedule and goals. Make the most out of your time in the gym, don’t waste time doing exercises you THINK will get you there. No one gets “big and bulky” by accident and neither will you.
So remember, cardio will burn fat but also muscle, resistance training will maintain and build muscle to help you burn fat long after you leave the gym.
What kind of shape are you in right now? What kind of shape do you want to be in? No one can say what the perfect body image is. That is a personal thing. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder or so they say.
When women look at the “beautiful” people in fashion magazines, they are led to believe that the ideal body image is to be skin and bone. Women will generally look at these images and hope to achieve the same look. The thing is that these images belong more in medical journals under eating disorders than they do in our psyche as something to aspire to. Often these models are considered clinically obese despite being so thin. They have so little muscle mass that their body fat percentage is actually quite high.
It isn’t much different for men. When they look in fitness magazines, they are often looking at images of professional bodybuilders that, aside from having rare genetics, also use massive amounts of drugs to obtain their look. Too often, young men in their teens end up taking various types of anabolic enhancing drugs to build their bodies only to damage their own hormone production.
The problem with both these body images is that they are generally not healthy images and cannot be obtained through a healthy lifestyle. In recent years, there have been some changes that we have seen in some magazines. Some women’s fitness magazines have come out showing healthier body images. This applies to some of the male fitness magazines also. Instead of seeing anorexic women, we are seeing fit athletic women and instead of seeing 300lb bodybuilders, we are seeing lean athletic men.
I am not saying that you have to look like a fitness model in order to have a healthy body image. Your body image is up to you. After all, it is how you want to see yourself that is important. Look at yourself as a blank canvas and your training and nutrition as your paint and brush.
This is where I come in. I am providing you the tools (the paint and the brush) and you are providing the canvas and the goal. No matter what body image you want to obtain, you now hold the tools in your hands to get there.
We should talk about body types. Knowing what kind of body type you are will help you to determine what approach you need to take in order to achieve your fitness goals.
There are three major body types:
Ectomorph, Endomorph, and Mesomorph. Everyone falls into one of these body types. Just because you fit into one of these categories, doesn’t mean you are forced to follow the general pattern it sets for you. Through proper exercise and nutrition, you can still transform your body to look whatever way you want. Keep in mind, your body type is still going to play an important role in the way you workout and eat.
- Ectomorph: – A thin person with a lean physique and a little muscle. The ectomorph generally has a hard time building muscle but can shed body fat fairly easy. The ectomorph usually has a fast metabolism. The ectomorph is typically known as a “hard gainer”, someone who will have some trouble putting on lean body mass. They are going to have to focus very hard on eating enough food and working out with weights at a high intensity. Generally the hard gainer should stay away from cardiovascular training if they are trying to gain muscle. By the way, I am your classic ectomorph and have a heck of a time building and maintaining muscle. But trust me, if I was able to transform my body as significantly as I did, anyone can.
- Endomorph: – A heavyset person with a predominantly round and soft physique. The endomorph generally has a hard time losing body fat. Often they are able to build muscle easier than an ectomorph but not as well as a mesomorph. The endomorph usually has a slow metabolism. The endomorph isn’t the hard gainer that the ectomorph is. They will require a high intensity training program. Since they generally have a hard time with excessive body fat, they will generally have to keep a close watch on their diet. The food should be nutrient dense but not calorie dense. Cardiovascular training can often help the endomorph with their weight loss goals. Since they have a greater amount of body fat, the amount of fat to lean body mass lost while performing cardio will be in their favour.
- Mesomorph: – A person whose physique features a powerful musculature. The mesomorph generally has an easy time building muscle and an easy time losing body fat. In my opinion, the mesomorph won the genetic lottery. The mesomorph usually has a moderate metabolism. The mesomorph can almost gain muscle by reading a muscle magazine, they can train at a lower intensity and still progress quite well. However, the higher the intensity, the greater the return. They can choose to perform cardiovascular training if they wish to aid with fat loss as it will speed up the fat burning process with minimal effect on lean body mass.
You should now know what body type you are. No matter what body type you are your body consists of the following components: body fat, water, and lean body mass. I will break each of these components down so we can understand them better.
BF can be found in many forms, either intramuscular (within the muscle), around organs and subcutaneous (under the skin). We want to lower BF levels while dieting more than any other component.
The BF that is most noticeable to the eye and the fat most people wish to shed is the subcutaneous fat. This fat smoothes out our appearance causing us to lose all muscle definition and can cause ripples under the skin called cellulite.
By working to remove this subcutaneous layer of fat, we can transform our body into the toned body we once had or wish we had.
BF is caused by more calories being consumed than required for maintenance levels. It is not necessarily caused by consuming fatty foods. The media has lead us to believe that by consuming low fat products, you will not get fat. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of these products contain the same amount of calories as the regular products and these products are usually loaded with sugar and/or sodium. Too much sugar (carbohydrates) can cause us to get fat just as much as too much fat being consumed. We will discuss this point later.
It is believed that most of our fat cells are developed in our childhood back when we used to find some change and chase the Ice Cream Man down the street. That is when we laid the foundation for our body’s future. Those fat cells just sat there for years while our furnace of a metabolism burned every calorie we consumed.
Then one day our body slows down the growing process and we notice that these fat cells start to expand. That is how it works. It isn’t necessarily our body making more fat cells but our existing cells expanding. They fill up with the excess fats and glucose in our system little by little until one day you look in the mirror and stare at your Mom’s thighs or your Dad’s spare tire!
This is why plastic surgeons say that you won’t get fat again after lyposuction. They remove the vast majority of fat cells in the problem area. No new cells form there so you don’t have to worry about getting that spare tire again. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, not quite.
In the absence of all these fat cells, the remaining ones all over your body take up the slack. If you continue on your same diet as before, you may not get the spare tire back but you will have that fat accumulate elsewhere.
For instance a man can have lyposuction on his midsection and a few months later be back at the surgeon’s office because he has developed breasts. This wasn’t breast tissue but the fat cells around his chest expanding. Now all the women reading this are thinking, “ get lyposuction on my thighs and get a free breast enlargement!” Not so fast. You don’t know where that fat will end up. You may just get ankles as big as your thighs!
I am not knocking lyposuction. It just isn’t a miracle cure, and it is only for those that have truly achieved all they are going to with diet and exercise. Don’t believe what you see on those surgery shows either, 90% of the time when the Doctor tells the patient that they need lypo they usually can still lose a lot of fat with PROPER diet and exercise. Remember, the Doctor makes money off you and will very rarely turn you away. Even if you did get lypo you still have to change your lifestyle or you will end up regaining the lost fat… elsewhere.
The main component in our bodies. It makes up a large portion of our lean body mass. Water retention can also be manipulated by our diets. Many factors can cause us to retain or deplete this essential element. Even though water is essential, retaining water can cause problems. Retaining too much water can increase blood pressure as well as have many other negative effects. Too little water can be even worse! Sounds confusing doesn’t it? Well don’t worry, it isn’t.
Simple things like controlling the amount of sodium we consume can make a huge difference with water retention problems. This is one of the reasons people with high blood pressure are put on a low sodium diet. Conversely, too much caffeine can cause us to dehydrate; acting like a diuretic.
Since we are working on our appearance here, I will mention that retaining water (which most of the time is represented subcutaneously) like fat can smooth out the appearance of even a very tone muscular individual, making them appear fatter than they actually are. It is important to find the proper balance of water to lead a healthy lifestyle.
The more water you drink the less you will retain, sounds weird I know, but the body is a weird machine. If your body is fed a constant supply of water, it will flush all excess water out keeping you in balance. What is this magic amount? Well, it varies but a good place to start is about 4 litres a day. The more you sweat during the day the more you will require.
When you are working out, it is a good idea to drink about 1 litre over the course of the hour if you are sweating. Even slight dehydration will affect your performance. So every 15 minutes or so, drink some water to help keep you at your best. After working out, it is also important to rehydrate. Generally, the water in your post workout shake will suffice.
LBM represents pretty well everything in our bodies other than fat. Like I stated earlier, water is actually included in LBM since it again makes up such a huge portion of our body. LBM also includes all tissue in our body. It basically represents our muscles, bones, organs, tendons, etc. This is one component of our weight that we want to remain the same while dieting or if we are lucky, to go up. That’s right. It is a good thing to gain weight if it is LBM! “How?” you ask. Let me explain.
LBM weighs twice as much as fat therefore if you were to lose 20 pounds of fat and gain 20 pounds of LBM, you would look 10 pounds lighter even though your weight has not changed. The major benefit to anyone trying to lose BF is that LBM burns calories!
As a matter of fact LBM is the reason we eat. Fat uses no calories to just sit there, and BF is a by-product of excess calories. LBM requires calories to fuel it for your daily activities. Activities such as exercising, typing, reading and even sleeping! The more LBM you have the more calories you burn in your sleep. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Even when we sleep, our bodies are producing heat, working on processing our macronutrients, and just keeping up with normal bodily functions. For every pound of muscle you gain, you require an additional 50-100 calories a day to maintain it.
Bottom line: the more LBM you have the more your body has to work to maintain it. Hence, the more you get to eat and the easier you lose the unwanted fat.
Preserving LBM while losing BF is a goal we should all have. It is very easy to lose 10, even 20 pounds in a month to get ready for that class reunion or family get-together. The problem with this type of weight loss is that it is just that, WEIGHT LOSS. Over that month of extremely low calories, we will drop mostly water and LMB. Sure some BF will be lost too, but it will be far less than these other two components combined.
You will also find that once the big day has come and gone you will go back to your normal diet and will gain weight very fast. The weight you gain will be the lost fat, the lost water, and some new fat. You will notice that I didn’t include LBM. Chances are, it isn’t coming back. Even if you follow a resistance weight training routine on a regular basis, it may take some time.
When this weight gain reaches your original pre-diet weight your body composition will have changed from its pre-diet BF percentage to a higher BF percentage.
Body Composition (body comp) is something that many diets ignore. Most probably because it will make your results on the diet look bad in the end. The body composition is the only true tool to chart your progress whether your weight goes up or down.
What is a body composition? It is basically tells you what your body is composed of. It tells you what your percentage of BF is, versus your percentage of LBM.
The lower your BF percentage is the better. Well… to a certain extent. We have basically two types of BF, essential fat and storage fat. A man’s essential BF requirement is a minimum of around 3%. This essential fat protects organs from trauma as well as being required for normal physiological function. Women on the other hand require approximately 12% BF. This is due to their sex-specific requirements for breast tissue and the uterus. Storage fat is excess fat. This is usually found subcutaneously and is the fat we want to try and shed. We don’t want to get rid of it all. Even though it isn’t essential, we should have some storage fat to fall back on if need be.
You don’t have to worry about falling below safe BF levels. Even though it has been intentionally achieved by professional and recreational bodybuilders, as well as other athletes for competitions or aesthetic reasons. This is only achieved with extreme dedication and a fine tuned diet. In some cases, the use of drugs including diuretics and thyroid medication were used to get people to such low BF levels. I seriously doubt that anyone could casually get this low, not without knowingly trying to get there or being genetically super lean.
These extremely low levels should not be maintained for any extended period of time as you would inevitably have some negative effects. Usually anyone who knowingly achieves this low level stays at it for only a few days and then returns to safer levels. I would imagine the average man or woman would be VERY happy with their appearance long before these super low percentages were achieved.
The charts below will show you what category you presently fall into. This will help you determine how far you have to go as far as fat loss to reach your fitness or body image goal.
So as you can see by this chart, it isn’t necessarily what you weigh but “what you’re made of” that matters. If you are just trying to improve your health you should be aiming to fall somewhere in the good to excellent level. If you are trying to have a body that could appear on the cover of a fitness magazine, you are going to have to be in the single digits for a man and the low teens for a woman.
You are probably wondering how you find out what your body composition is. Well, there are a few different methods. Three common ways to have your body composition tested are Hydrostatic weighing, Electric Impedance and Skinfold Method. All these methods have their pros and cons.
Hydrostatic (being weighed while submerged in water), is obviously something you would have to have done at a large gym with a pool or a medical center.
You are weighed twice, once on land and again while submerged in water. Since fat floats, there will be a difference in the two weights. These two figures are then compared and your BF percentage is revealed. This is considered one of the most accurate methods for finding your body composition.
Electric Impedance (an electric current is passed through your body) test is usually accessible at most gyms. As a matter of fact, there are many scales on the market now that are quite affordable for home use too.
The machines are quite reliable and the test can be as easy as getting on a scale. An electric current, don’t worry you don’t feel anything, is passed through one side of your body and is read through the other. The computer then analyzes the amount of water and tissue it encounters and compares that to your weight figuring out your BF percentage. This test is generally reliable for the average person. If your BF level is very high or very low, it is not as reliable.
Skinfold Method (calipers are used to pinch your skin and measure the millimeter thickness of the fold) can be done with relative ease at any gym. You can also buy calipers for home use. Some areas that you need to pinch may require assistance.
Calipers are used to measure the thickness of a skin fold at various areas on the body. The sum of these measurements is compared with the age of the person having the test done and an overall BF percentage is determined. This is a regression equation that determines these results. This equation may not be suited for every body type to incorporate things like, if you have more muscle than an average person your age or gender. However, it is still a very valuable tool. Knowing how many millimeters that each skin fold measures can tell us exactly what parts of our bodies we are losing subcutaneous BF in. This may aid us spot reduce through diet manipulation or supplementation.
I prefer the skin fold method myself. It’s a simple method and is generally accurate. With the added benefit of being able to monitor specific subcutaneous fat loss on any area of your body, it’s my personal choice. This feature makes it very useful for someone at a low level BF who trying to focus on spot reducing while maintaining muscle mass.
So as far as your body image goes, it’s up to you. If you are trying to get into better shape all you have to do is bring your body composition into a healthy range for your age. If you are trying to build a real stand out physique, then, you are going to have keep on working until you are happy with what you see in the mirror.
Speaking of that, many people are never happy with what they see in the mirror, no matter how much they improve. Some experts have a real problem with this. I, however, don’t. The way I see it, as long as you are trying to make continued progress in a safe and healthy manor, there is nothing wrong with this ongoing quest to build your perfect body. If it results in starving yourself or taking in massive amounts of drugs to go beyond your genetic potential then, I do, however, have a problem with it.
I would like to give you a little tip as you travel down the road towards a better you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Always look back at how far you have come. We are all different and improve at different rates. As long as you see an improvement, you are on the right track. The best way to chart this progress is to take a before picture. This picture should be taken in a swim suit to show as much of your body as possible.
Eventually if you hit a plateau and start to get frustrated or get off track and take a few steps back, you can look back at this picture to see how far you have come. Another good thing about having a before picture is that it isn’t always easy for us to see our progress since we are looking at ourselves in the mirror every day. When dieting to get lean or add lean mass, I like to take new pictures every few weeks in the same lighting, same pose and swim suit then compare.
So good luck achieving whatever body image you wish, as long as it is safe and healthy.
My philosophy when it comes to resistance training is pretty basic. Go to the gym on a regular basis, work hard, fatigue the muscles, rest and do it all over again. You don’t have to do all kinds of confusing programs with many different exercises in order to develop the best body you can. The best approach is a simple well balanced one that you can follow and adapt as your goals change. This applies to the beginner as well as the experienced lifter (I will get into programs for each group later on).
We are often mislead by the muscle magazines that tell us how to train like a certain pro bodybuilder or have the newest and greatest way to get a six pack. The bottom line is magazines have to sell in order to make money, and they want to suck you in with the latest fitness “discovery”.
Most of the information confuses the person new to fitness by contradicting other magazines and sometime themselves with their training information. As for any workout you read from a pro bodybuilder, take it with a grain of salt. If you follow their program, you will probably be overtrained in short order. They are nowhere near the average person. So what works for them will more than likely not work for you.
There are basic rules that we want to follow in order to change our body to look the way we want. I don’t care if you just want to feel better or look like a fitness model, you are going to have to work hard and smart in the gym. Your body will adapt to this approach by adding more fat burning shapely muscle or by maintaining and toning your existing muscle.
I see people in the gym every day who come religiously but make no progress, day after day month after month. Why? Well, something is obviously missing with their approach. It could be that their diet is not tuned properly or that they are following a program that doesn’t fit with their goals.
I have had many consultations with people who are confused by their lack of progress. Once I find out what they are doing wrong, I can suggest a few simple changes they should make and within no time, they are on track and seeing results. Most people are out of their element when it comes to performance nutrition and weight training. They do too much or not enough. It is hard to find that perfect balance.
In order to force our body to change, we must comply with the following rules:
Too many people go to a gym for the first time and start on machines based workouts. As a matter of fact, most gyms have beginner programs designed around a machine circuit. This is probably the worst thing to do as far as your body is concerned. Why do health clubs do this?
Basically, because its easy to show you how to perform the exercises (even though most of the time you are just reading a very vague instruction on the machine with a simple diagram). It makes you feel like you are doing something productive and are on the right track. But most of all, it’s cheap and helps with member retention.
When you follow a machine based program, you miss some very important body parts. You see, machines are made to isolate certain muscles. They do that by moving you in a fixed range preventing other muscles from helping out. You may be thinking, “isn’t that the point?” well, yes and no.
Free weight movements (with barbells and dumbbells) may look more advanced because they are more technical and require more coordination. However, this is what you are trying to develop. This lack of coordination in the gym is due to under developed stabilizing muscles. Muscles that those machines don’t target.
Stabilizing muscles are smaller muscles that work in conjunction with larger muscles. They are generally around the joints or areas that twist and rotate. As very little movements in your life move in a fixed range, these stabilizing muscles become essential to your workout. If you lift a box off the ground, carry groceries, or climb stairs, you have many stabilizing muscles working to keep you balanced and protect the joints.
When you train with free weights, you are moving in an unstable environment, just like in real life. So you are targeting the stabilizers as well as the main muscle groups. This develops the body as a whole, building real world strength as well as working more muscles to help elevate your metabolic rate.
I have taken people who have been working out on machines for years and thought they were quite strong only to prove them wrong. For example, I had a woman in her early 20’s who would use the seated chest press machine, she was able to do many reps with 105lbs. When I explained about how she wasn’t working her stabilizers and put her on a flat bench with 15lb dumbbells in each hand, she couldn’t push them straight up without my hands guiding her. She was shocked to see how hard it was to do the same move with only 30lbs!
As you can see, your prime mover or larger muscle might get stronger but the supporting muscles don’t. This will often lead to injuries in the real world when you go to lift something. You feel strong enough to move it and your prime movers may be, but your stabilizers aren’t and they give way, leading to injury.
So don’t be intimidated by free weights. They should be your main tool in the gym. You want to make sure you strengthen those joints before you work on the larger muscles.
To some this may sound obvious but I can’t count how many times I have asked someone performing an exercise what muscle they are working and they have no idea. You can’t properly target a certain muscle if you are not mentally focused on it.
Much has been written about this connection, the mind/muscle connection, over the years but many people do not practice it. The human body is extremely adaptable and tries to perform tasks as easily as possible. Often this results in other muscles kicking in to aid in an exercise. Since we are trying to focus one muscle group at a time, we cannot let this occur.
You have to make the movement as hard as possible rather than as easy as possible in order to force your body to adapt and look the way you want it to. You have to mentally focus on the muscle working at all times and try to shut down any other muscle trying to help out. The more you can focus and feel the muscle work the more you will work that muscle and the faster your results will come.
This will take some time to get the hang of but you will develop this connection. Make sure you feel the muscle stretch as you lower a weight and feel it contract as you raise a weight. Focus on the full range of motion (ROM) with every repetition and you will start to isolate muscles more effectively.
First off, I don’t consider walking for 10 minutes on a treadmill as a warm up. It might get the heart pumping and the blood circulating a bit faster but it isn’t going to get your chest ready for a workout.
I want to warm up the specific muscle group we are going to be working by performing small sets with lighter weight to prepare our muscles for the coming workload.
I don’t like to perform many warm up sets with clients. I find that it tires them out even before we hit our first working set. This means that we can’t handle as much weight and therefore don’t stimulate as much of a growth response.
Most of my clients will perform a few minutes (5-10) of cardio of some sort prior to our session. From there I will usually have people perform the first warm up set of the movement we are doing with about 50% of the working weight for 5-10 reps. The second warm up set will be performed with approximately 75% of the working weight for 3-5 reps. The third and final warm up set will be performed with approximately 90% of the working weight and will only be 1-2 reps.
This approach will get the blood pumping to the muscles being worked as well as develop your co-ordination for the exercise you are about to perform. By performing the last warm up set near your working weight, you can get a good barometer of your level of strength that day. You may feel strong and want to raise your intended working weight or your last warm up weight might have been a struggle and you may want to lower your working weight to stay in the proper rep range.
If you are lifting a heavy weight (for example you are squatting 405lbs), then you would perform more warm up sets starting with a lower percentage of the working weight. I would, however, follow the same amount of reps per warm up set. So by the third warm up set, I would just continue to perform 1-2 reps per set leading up to your working weight. This way you will not tire yourself out with millions of reps performed prior to your working set.
I will generally just perform one warm up like this per muscle group. So if you were working chest, you would follow this warm up for your first exercise and when you move on to your second just perform a couple reps at a weight 75% of what you expect to lift. From there, you can determine if you need a couple more reps to get the co-ordination down.
When lifting weights, you want to think of the muscle as a whole and what the basic purpose of that muscle is. Once you establish this, you want to work it through its full range of motion. I like to start with a big movement for the first exercise and work my way down to smaller ones to finish the muscle off.
Using our chest as an example, I would start off with a flat bench press (which covers the entire group of muscles within the chest) ensuring that I work the muscle hard right off the bat. I would then move on to an incline bench press (sometimes I might start with this if I am trying to build the upper portion of the chest more) and finish off with something like dumbbell flies. By having dumbbell flies as my last movement; use the lightest weight, keeping me in a safer environment while isolating the chest very well.
I will provide a list of movements that I think will produce the best results in the shortest amount of time. I will also list alternatives in case a certain exercise is not available to you or you want to change things up for some variety.
I will also list them in the order they should be performed, starting with the biggest movement. This way, you get the most work done while you are fresh and can lift more weight once again forcing the body to change to meet the demand.
I would like to address the amount of sets to perform for each exercise. By sets I mean groups of repetitions.
There are many theories out there regarding how many sets you should perform. On average they range from one set to ten, sometimes more. I like my clients to perform three sets per exercise. This way I ensure that I have hit their full potential with each exercise.
In many cases, your first set may not be your best. You are still developing that co-ordination required to perform the exercise. It is also your first set you’re using your actual working weight.
Usually the second set feels the best on the muscle. You have adjusted to the working weight and can focus more on each rep. The third set is where you ensure you fatigue the muscle. Ideally, I like to see muscle failure in the lower part of your rep range. So if you are working in the 8-12 rep range, I would like to see my clients hit muscle failure somewhere between 8-10 reps.
Rep ranges will vary from muscle group to muscle group depending on what your goals are for those individual muscle groups. Your body responds to internal or external changes by adapting to these changes.
If your body is challenged to lift a greater amount of weight on a regular basis your body will adapt by increasing the amount of skeletal muscle to make this new demand easier. On the other hand, if your body is required to lift less it will respond by ridding itself of some muscle mass. It’s the old “use it or lose it” philosophy.
The rest you require between sets will depend on the rep range you are in as well as the muscle group you are working. A larger muscle group will require a longer rest period than a smaller muscle group. It obviously is more demanding doing a set of heavy squats than a set of heavy barbell curls, therefore, more rest is required after the squats.
- Muscle Mass And Strength – If you are trying to add mass and increase strength in a muscle group, keep your reps low (4-6) and weight heavy. This rep range should produce the greatest strength gains. Working in this rep range will require the longest rest times between sets. Depending on your intensity level, you can give yourself up to 5 minutes rest or until your heart rate and breathing return to normal (or close to) levels.
- Muscle Mass: – For primarily increasing mass gains your rep range should be moderate (8-12). This rep range should produce slightly greater gains in mass to the low rep range but will not increase strength as much. Rest between sets at this rep range should be 1-2 minutes at most. Once again, your heart rate and breathing should be relatively close to normal before your next set.
- Maintenance and Endurance – To maintain and or refine a muscle group, your rep range should be high (15-20+). This rep range will increase the muscle group’s endurance to enable your output for a longer period of time. It will cause the least muscle gain and have the least impact on your level of strength. Since you aren’t lifting much weight, your rest between sets here will be in the 30-second range. The lighter weight isn’t very demanding on your body and your breathing and heart rate should be fairly stable throughout the set.
This is the one thing most people lack in the gym. They think they are pushing themselves. They are lucky if they are tapping into 70% of what they are capable of. Without the proper level of intensity, your body will not be forced to adapt and change. It has no reason to.
Your intensity level is not only how hard you work your muscles but how hard you mentally push yourself. Your body will naturally make physical tasks easier by incorporating other muscles to help perform a movement. Your mind set can do a similar thing, only with negative or lazy thoughts that make you stop prematurely.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect someone walking into a gym for the first time to start grunting and spitting all over the place to get through a set. You will obviously build up your intensity level over time. When you first start, you want to take your time to learn the exercises and develop your technique. I don’t want you pushing too hard and hurting yourself. After approximately 4 weeks of consistently working out (about the time you start to feel confident with your technique) you should start to kick up your intensity level.
Most people (myself included) will tend to stop a set a couple reps shy of where they should. They will often give in to the burn or the fatigue setting in instead of pushing past it. I usually get mad at myself if I finish a set and I know I could have done more. When this happens, I will make sure I give it my all for my next set.
You should do whatever you have to do to get you past that point. Think of something to inspire you. Think about the hottie across the gym looking at you in the mirror or think about someone who has a body you admire. Sometimes thinking about something that gets you mad will help squeeze out a couple extra reps. Then again you could always refocus on the goal that has you there in the first place!
Use whatever it takes to motivate you and if your intensity level drops for one set, don’t let it drop for the next.
Most people I watch in the gym don’t reach muscle failure. As a matter of fact, they don’t come close. As I stated earlier, you must fatigue the muscles when you work out. By fatigue, I mean annihilate them! It frustrates me when I see people perform their last repetition and it looks like it was no more of a struggle than the first rep.
Your last rep should be exactly that, your last! You couldn’t perform another if someone offered you a million dollars for one. This is how we force the muscle to adapt, to grow, to become stronger and more toned. If we fail to reach this point, our muscles have no reason to adapt. They are already capable of performing the task required at their present level.
If you are not hitting at least concentric (when the muscle contracts, or when we are lifting the weight) muscle failure with each set, you are not challenging that muscle. For absolute muscle failure, you must reach eccentric (when the muscle stretches under stress, or when we are lowering the weight) muscle failure. This shouldn’t be done on a regular basis as it is so taxing on the body and a spotter is a must with certain exercises when performing absolute muscle failure. Performing absolute muscle failure on a regular basis can definitely lead to over training.
Bottom line, when it comes to muscle failure, it is to make sure you can’t perform another rep in good form if your life depended on it. You should make sure you use a weight heavy enough to hit this point before you reach the end of your target rep range.
For the most part, we want to move the weight in perfect form to ensure proper recruitment of the targeted muscles as well as training injury free. However, if you are an experienced lifter then there are times that you may sacrifice form (somewhat) to go a little heavier with the weight you are using. By sacrificing form or “cheating” you can handle more weight, you don’t want to go overboard with this technique though. Here are two examples of cheating. One is acceptable and the other is not.
Lets say you are doing a barbell curl and the weight is a little more than you can move in perfect form. It is acceptable to sway the body a little bit at the start of the movement to get the bar moving upward. The minor cheat will enable you to get the weight moving past your sticking point so you can stress the muscle more than you would with a more manageable weight.
It is not acceptable to swing the weight up with a huge rocking motion and arching of your body. The major cheat will only increase your chance of injury and incorporate so many other muscles that you will not hit your targeted muscles as effectively.
You want to be able to feel the muscle go through its range of motion at all times during the lift. You want to feel it engage and contract as you lift the weight and you want to feel it stretch while under resistance as you lower the weight. Basically, that’s all you do as you lift weight, contract and stretch under controlled resistance.
It is very important to train a muscle through its full range of motion (ROM). You have to feel the muscle stretch on the negative portion of the lift and fully contract on the positive portion of the lift. Only by training the full ROM, can you strengthen and develop the muscle to its full potential.
Now there may be times when you don’t want to do this. One time that comes to mind, is when you may have some sort of injury. I have had many clients with bad shoulders who can perform a shoulder press but if their upper arm goes any lower than parallel to the floor, it causes them great discomfort. If this is the case, it is fine to just bring your arms parallel to the floor. You are getting the majority of the benefit of this exercise by doing so.
It is one thing to slightly decrease your ROM due to injury but it is another to decrease it due to laziness. Remember, you always want to make an exercise harder not easier. Don’t sacrifice your ROM to make the movement easier. It is only sacrificed when the risk outweighs the benefit.
Having a training partner is a very valuable asset. A partner can help keep you motivated and especially help keep you safe. Whether you are working out in a gym or at home, you can find yourself in a situation where an extra pair of hands would come in very handy.
Saying that, sometimes we are better off without a training partner. This is when we choose someone who doesn’t want to achieve his or her goals as much as you may want to. I often see people spending more time goofing around in the gym or not spotting each other properly. This is not only a waste of your time but it is also unsafe.
I have had many training partners over the years and have great workouts with some and terrible workouts with others. When working out on my own, I find that I don’t push myself as hard as I should. For an extra kick, I will get someone that I see in the gym that looks like they know what they are doing to spot me. This will often force me to push a little harder because I don’t want to look bad in front of this new person.
I will usually instruct the person on how I would like them to spot me as well. Not everyone spots the same way and not everyone knows how to spot. I will discuss proper spotting technique later.
If you are working out at home, you are going to have to be careful not to push yourself too hard. Unless you can call someone to help you on a couple lifts (just in case), I would keep the weight at a level you know you can handle safely.
Keep in mind that when you are pushing your limits, a spotter is not just a convenience but a necessity. If you do not have a spotter and are going to push your limits with a heavy weight, I suggest using a machine-based exercise for the majority of your workout. Using a safer free weight exercise at the end of the workout will hit the stabilizers around the major muscle group you are working.
From the time you step on the gym floor and pick up your first weight to the time you walk out the door on your way home, no more than one hour should have passed.
The main reason we want to limit our workout to an hour or less is because of muscle tissue damage. At around 45 minutes to one hour after we start weight training and breaking down muscle tissue, our body sends cortisol, a catabolic hormone, to eat away at this damaged tissue. After all, we don’t build muscle in the gym. We only break it down in the gym. We build and repair damaged muscle outside the gym through proper rest and nutrition.
So, we want to prevent this catabolic phase from doing too much damage. We do this by ingesting a combination of quickly absorbed protein and carbohydrates as soon as possible (within an hour) after working out.
I have my clients bring a post workout shake (specifically designed for that client) to the gym with them. They bring it in powdered form, add water after they workout and drink it in the locker room while getting changed. This starts to repair the muscles and speed up the recovery process right away.
Since we want to be in and out of the gym in one hour, I design programs that, including rest times between sets, should take approximately 45 minutes to an hour to complete.
You not only have to challenge your muscles with increased weight to make them grow and prevent them from adapting, you also have to change the way you workout from time to time. Usually, it takes about 3-4 weeks for your body to adapt to a workout, no matter how simple or complex it may be.
These changes do not have to be major, something as simple as changing the order in which you perform the exercises will be good enough. You can also change your rep range from month to month. By changing your rep range, you will target different muscle fibres, this will not only prevent your muscles from adapting but also develop strength and endurance.
I find that many people trying to build muscle (myself included) tend to stay in the lower rep ranges for too long a period. This often results in injuries to the joints and connective tissue from constant overload and stress. It isn’t a bad idea to go from the lower rep ranges to the higher rep ranges every few weeks. You can stay in the higher rep range for a couple weeks then go heavy again. This way you can give the joints a break from the constant beating they take and prevent injury.
So keep mixing up your workouts every 3-4 weeks, whether it’s changing the order, the exercises, the rep range or trying something completely different. The more experienced you get and the higher your goals and expectations are, may require you to come up with a long term plan of attack with these changes in mind. This type of plan in called Periodization.
So there you have it, as long as you follow all of those rules you should do just fine. Sounds easy doesn’t it? NOT! This is why so many people come to see us at Emerge, because its not easy and it can also be very dangerous if you are working at the level you should be to make your body change. If you aren’t following all of these rules right now you aren’t seeing the results you should, stop wasting time and do what so many others have done and join Emerge. Let us make sure you are following all of the rules to resistance training and start seeing results today.
I touched on this topic when I wrote about your goals. How often you are going to be resistance training over the course of the week depends on your goals and the level you are at. The more experienced you get and the higher your expectations are, the more often you will have to go to the gym.
It isn’t just a case of how often you are going to have to go to the gym but what you are going to do there. Are you going to train all the muscle groups each time or are you going to split your muscle groups up? Well again, this depends. We will look at this from a beginner’s perspective to an experienced lifter’s perspective.
I believe that you should resistance train at least three days per week, saying that, I have had people make significant gains with only two days per week. However, these people worked VERY hard over those two days and admitted there is no way that they would work that hard on their own. Their goals were not to make major changes to their appearance but to mainly increase their level of strength.
If you are just trying to elevate your metabolism and toning up a little two days of resistance training per week MAY get the job done. However, if you want to make sure you accomplish this, think about three days a week as your minimum.
Keep this rule of thumb in mind when planning your days of resistance training. You never want to train with weights more than two days in a row. Even if you are training different muscle groups, your body can only repair so much damaged tissue at a time. Training more often could lead to a condition called over training.
Over training is a condition that is quite common with people who workout. They don’t give their bodies enough time to recover from a workout before they hit the same muscle again. Another cause is just working out too frequently where the body is always playing catch up regardless of the muscle worked.
Signs of over training are, low energy levels, lower immune system, loss of strength in the gym, trouble sleeping, increased injuries, loss of appetite and a lower metabolic rate to name a few. Basically an overall feeling of “Blah”!
Saying that, the two day rule applies to people who are training “naturally”. What do I mean by naturally? Well if you are working out and eating properly, that is it. You are training naturally. If you are taking many supplements to increase the anabolic environment that your body is in and aid with performance and or recovery, then you are not training naturally. You may be able to get away with training more frequently. This is something you will have to experiment with as we all recover at different rates.
Each muscle group recovers at a different rate and, therefore, some may be trained more often than others. Everyone is different when it comes to muscle recovery so there are no set rules. I have found that most people when training at a high intensity level need more time to recover the larger muscles than the smaller one. Your quads, hams, glutes, chest and back can take many days to recover. Your abs, calves, biceps, triceps and shoulders tend to recover faster.
Without getting into the scientific reason why this is (mainly due to muscle fibre dominance within each group), we can determine our own recovery rate. In the beginning, as you train your different muscle groups, try to gauge how many days it takes them to recover (or stop hurting). Keep in mind though, the first day after a muscle stops hurting from the workout doesn’t necessarily mean that it is ready to be worked again. It still may take another day or so.
If you are working your muscles hard, it usually takes 2-3 days for your abs, calves, biceps and triceps to recover. It could take 3-4 days for your chest and back to recover and up to 5 days or more for your hams, quads, and glutes. If you are going to work a muscle group again and still experience muscle soreness once you start to lift, it may not be ready to be worked and could become over trained. In cases like this, just change up your routine and hit a different muscle group.
Just remember that you don’t build muscle in the gym, you break it down. You build muscle through proper rest and nutrition outside the gym. So you have to make sure you give your muscles proper rest and feed them with quality nutrients.
Cardo… hmmmm… Anyone who knows me or has trained with me, knows my feelings about cardio. Now don’t take this the wrong way, cardiovascular training does has its advantages. Personally, I hate it with a passion! I would rather eat 500 less calories a day then sweat my butt off on a treadmill for an hour. Have you ever gone into your local gym and looked at the people on the cardio machines? More often than not, they are the people with the worst physiques in the gym. Why is this? Let me tell you.
Like I stated earlier, your body adapts to various changes, internal or external, and it can adapt in many ways. I have informed you that to build muscle you must challenge your muscles by lifting weights. Your body is put under the external stress of having to move more weight and must adapt by adding muscle to make the task easier.
Conversely, when your body is put under the external stress of running, cycling, or any other form of cardiovascular training it adapts by shedding weight. Sounds good to those of you trying to lose weight right? Wrong! The thing is that your body doesn’t care where that weight comes from, muscle or fat. More often than not, the majority of weight lost from a strictly cardio based workout is from muscle and water.
In order to shed weight to make the task of running, or the like, easier you must become lighter. Since each gram of protein or carbohydrates is 4 calories and each gram of fat is 9, your body can lose weight faster by burning protein and carbohydrates (in the form of muscle) than fat.
You see, cardio burns calories and those calories have to come from somewhere. We would like to take them from our stored body fat but it takes sometime before the fat burning process kicks in when doing cardio, generally 15-30 minutes depending on the individual and sex. The preferred fuel source is carbohydrates in the form of blood sugar and carbohydrates stored in the muscles (glycogen), those are used first.
An additional benefit to burning off those carbohydrates in our system is that each gram of carbohydrates we store will enable us to carry four times that amount of water. So just getting rid of the carbohydrates will enable you to lose more weight.
After an elite distance runner finishes a race, there is major atrophy that occurs in the legs. Studies on the calves of runners has shown the how catabolic the mere act of running such distances is on the muscle. Now I realize that you may not be running 30 miles at a time when doing your cardio workout but by looking at these extremes we can assume that this is happening on a lesser but still relevant level to you.
It doesn’t require much muscle to run far or for a long period of time. It merely requires muscular endurance and enough muscle to move your body weight. As you know, your metabolism is determined by the amount of muscle mass you carry. The less you have, the less food you can afford to eat and the harder it is to burn excess calories.
That being said, there is a benefit to performing cardiovascular exercise. Basically, it is one of the best ways to exercise and strengthen your heart. Although, if you follow a strenuous resistance training program, your heart should be pumping throughout your workout. Studies were done comparing the heart of an elite distance runner to that of an elite power lifter. These studies confirmed that the power lifters heart was in just as good (in some cases better) overall condition than that of the distance runner.
They both had larger hearts from the stress placed on them through the training they do. However the power lifter has a heart with a thicker more muscled wall. The distance runner had a thinner wall since they don’t put their heart under the same pressure that a power lifter or a sprinter would. The distance runners heart has to be able to pump a lot but not a hard as that of a power athlete.
If you are looking to just improve your overall appearance and lose body fat, I don’t believe that cardio is a must. If you are looking to improve your cardiovascular endurance, it is beneficial. So is there a balance, and if so what is it? Well, that is different for everyone.
If your main goal is to put on muscle, forget about doing any cardio. It isn’t worth the effort. It is just going to hamper your lean mass gains. Worry about any fat gained in the process after the fact. Mind you, that doesn’t mean you should let your body fat levels soar. With a proper diet, your muscle to fat gain ratio should be 3 to 1.
If you are trying to gain muscle and lose fat, you can get away with a minimal amount of cardio. Ideally, you would focus on one at a time. Too often people try to accomplish too much at once. Technically, gaining muscle and losing fat contradict one another. In order to gain muscle, we must consume more calories than our body needs to maintain its present shape. To lose fat, we need to consume less calories than we require to maintain our shape.
However (there always seems to be a however), I have found that with my diet approach, I have been able to keep clients in an anabolic environment to gain muscle and a fat burning environment to lose fat at the same time. The newer you are to working out the better the odds are of accomplishing both goals.
If your main goal is to lose fat and you are quite overweight, you can afford to do more cardio. The more overweight you are, the more cardio you can do. Again, your body knows what it has to do. If you have a lot of fat, it will tap into those stores more readily than it will on someone who is quite lean. Having a large amount of body fat, will require you to have more muscle to lug it around. Therefore, your body will spare your muscle to an extent until your body fat levels are lower.
So how much cardio should we do, when is the best time and how often? Again, it depends on your goals. If you are trying to preserve as much muscle as possible (which you better be) and lose fat you will require less, if you want to improve your cardiovascular endurance you will have to do more. Lets look at some examples.
One of the best ways to use cardio to aid in fat loss is a technique called interval training. This basically refers to training at both a high and low intensity levels for short periods. This will tend to not only burn more calories than the traditional slow and steady low intensity cardio but will jack up your metabolism for hours later. Don’t worry about the calorie counter on the machine you use, keep in mind it is only telling you half the story.
The best time to do your interval training is as soon as you crawl out of bed in the morning. You body will tend to be in a slightly carb depleted state and tend to tap into fat stores as fuel at a faster rate. So with an empty stomach and a bottle of water, you head off to the gym or jump on your piece of cardio equipment at home.
You will perform your interval training for 20-30 minutes tops, that’s right no more than 30 minutes three times a week. Using a treadmill and myself for example, after warming up, you will start with 2 minutes at light jog (approx. 4-5mph). From there you will go all out for 1 minute (approx. 7-8mph), after that minute you go back to the light jog. This will go back and forth for the 20-30 minutes and you are done. To continue burning fat, try not to eat for the next hour, take advantage of the jacked up metabolism.
Keep in mind this is a very simple approach and I hate doing cardio. So if you want to know more ways to interval train, there are many resources out there where you can learn more.
If you want to help lower your blood pressure, lower your resting heart rate or just improve how long or far you can run, you need to kick the cardio up a few notches. You are going to have to work up to a high intensity level with your cardio training. We aren’t concerned about calories burned here because this isn’t your main goal or you would be doing what we spoke about earlier. If maintaining lean body mass is a big issue, you should take this level of activity into account when planning you daily caloric intake.
You are going to have to perform 45-60 minutes of high intensity (all out effort) cardio three times a week. Doesn’t matter what piece of equipment you use, mind you if you want to be a better runner it would help more to run than to bike. It doesn’t really matter what time of the day it is unless you want to do it first thing to help burn a little fat at the same time. If your health or overall endurance is the main goal, you can perform this exercise any time of the day.
You want to always keep in mind your max heart rate (the highest beats per minute your heart rate should reach) and your target heart rate (training zone to improve cardiovascular endurance). To determine your maximum heart rate, you take 220 and minus your age in years from this number. Your target heart rate will be somewhere between 60-90% of your maximum heart rate depending on your cardiovascular fitness level and age.
It doesn’t take a long time to start to see and feel the improvements in your endurance, thing is every week you don’t maintain this cardio routine you cardiovascular endurance will drop by 10%.
I am sure there is plenty more I could tell you about cardio training but as you can see it is far from my favourite topic. Most people who come to me come for one reason, to look better. For some cardio will help but in many cases it isn’t required and can in some cases do more harm than good, aesthetically speaking.
By now you know what you want to achieve. You can picture your new body and you are ready to sacrifice whatever you have to in order to reach your goals. So what does it take to reach them? How are you going to succeed where so many have failed? That’s why we at Emerge are here, to help you put it all together and get you to achieve or surpass these goals in record time.
You need to have the proper balance between exercise, diet, rest, and supplementation. The first three are the most important. The type of exercise and diet you choose will make or break your progress. As for rest, without it your muscles will not recover and grow.
Most people think that you go to the gym and lift weights to build muscle. This is not true. You go to the gym and lift weights to break down muscle. You build muscle outside the gym with proper rest and nutrition. This is where most people get it wrong. Working out is the easy part. That’s only one hour of your day. The other 23 hours are making sure your body gets what it needs to recover and be ready to do it all over again.
Another thing I want to stress is why you are working out, if you are going there to lose fat. Don’t think about how many calories you are burning when you are working out with weights. In an hour it could be 500 calories or more depending on your overall size and intensity level.
I want you to think of lifting weights as a way to maintain or increase your metabolism while dieting to get leaner. Too often I see trainers in gyms pushing their clients through their workout with jumping jacks, shadow boxing or running up and down stairs between sets. I want you to save your energy for lifting weights so your body adapts by adding muscle. Tiring yourself out on cardiovascular exercises will only take away from your weight training objective.
When it comes to supplementation things can get tricky. There are many products out there with many amazing claims. Some work, most don’t. What works for one person may not work for you. With supplements, like any medication you need the right product for a specific symptom.
So how much rest do we need? How often do we have to workout? What and how much should we eat? That’s why people come to Emerge, to skip the trial and error and find out the facts, not the fads. Unfortunately, there are no simple answers for these questions or everyone would look great. But don’t worry, we will give you all these answers and you will look great!
At Emerge we will cover all of these topics to help you put together an action plan that will place you on the right track and keep you there no matter what your goal is. You will learn everything you need to about resistance training (lifting weights), recovery times (rest), and nutrition.
Basically we will teach you how to jack your metabolic rate up so you can burn as much body fat as you want. I will also teach you how to gain as much muscle as your body will let you, and maybe even a little more. With your desire and our techniques, you will be able to reach and surpass your fitness and body image goals.