My point with all that is that a traditional gym and a staff trainer can work, provided the trainer knows what she is doing. Everybody is different. I have no particular athletic talent; my only advantage is that I am relatively young. However, what I have is time. There are 168 hours in a week. Devoting 5 of them to fitness is not a big deal. For me, finally getting a professional to train me was what I needed. This may work for others as well.
Edit: by the way, getting a trainer to work with you once a week is fairly expensive. I got a raise at the beginning of 2012 and thought that getting a trainer would be a wise way to spend that money. I do not regret a penny I spent. Looking back, the alternatives I considered (getting a loan on a new car, a new computer, etc.) would not have made me as happy as getting more fit than I ever was in my life up to this point.
Guess what the trainers in the gym think about him? They personally do his workouts. They take his advice. They are happy for him to go up to other gym users and coach them, because he knows more than they do about free weights.
They are professional coaches. He's a parts logistics troubleshooter. See the problem there? (And he said that the trainers we have are actually pretty good compared to those at the many commercial gyms he's used).
However, that was the situation I envisioned as well. I knew how to run and how to bench press, but I didn't know when to do it. I am a software engineer, not a fitness expert. I pretended to be a fitness expert for too long, so I decided to hire someone whose job it was to teach me instead.
One small addition to my story is that my gym had a training coordinator who talked to me about my goals and evaluated my fitness level before pairing me with a trainer. So, you could say that it wasn't completely random that I got paired with my trainer, but a result of a deliberate process. Of course that would depend on how good the coordinator is, so the chain of random events goes on.
Ain't that the truth! My wife thought that personal training would get her motivated to lose weight and get in shape. Unfortunately the trainer was a complete jerk. He was inconsistent with making his appointments, to his credit though, he must have the unluckiest family ever because just about ever Saturday was a "family emergency" eye roll. But anyway, since he wasn't consistent with showing up and he didn't do much except count and look at his phone, my wife wasn't getting results. That's when he suggested taking weight loss pills. Actually he didn't suggest, he kept pushing them on her. She actually thought about it (to which I convinced her it isn't a good idea). There has been one good trainer at that place since then but he left for a better job (go figure).
I feel that if you go a big box gym, you are walking in to a personal trainer revolving door and that the trainers are sales people in disguise. I have notice that at the gym in my office building (which is an independently owned gym) the trainers seem much more knowledgeable and nobody I have talked to has had any complaints.
The cost-effectiveness is much higher than one-on-one training, the emphasis is on measurable results (higher totals, Crossfit games, etc.), and the group itself is competitive but supportive.
One-on-one fitness studios can be good, but it's a high-cost niche.
Quite the market failure IMO.
While your story is both anecdotal and second-hand, what you describe doesn't sound that remarkable: Information is largely free now. It is entirely possible if not probable that someone with an interest in a niche will learn more about specific subject matter than generalists who have to know about the whole field.
The issue with many personal trainers (and people you discuss fitness with in general) is that, for the most part, if your diet is good, doing pretty much anything in the gym will get you results. Many trainers have desirable figures and they know it and they constantly have people asking them for advice in their private lives and are paid to give it at their jobs. This causes many to simply assume that what they did is the "correct" way to workout when the truth is that had they dont most any routine with that devotion for many years, they would have gotten similar results.
This is much more similar to investing in the sense that the experts often give worse recommendations than you could find yourself with a few hours research. Im sorry this is too anecdotal for you, but if you walk into most gyms, talk to most people who have a clue about training, etc, then this is what you hear; people simply arent properly educated on personal fitness even when that is their job
This. A great example of this is Tim Ferris and The 4 Hour Body. That guy basically says "well, here is what I did, and here's what I look like now. Do exactly as I say and you will too." His "research" has a sample size of 1, yet he claims that his method will work for anyone in the world, from a skinny teenager to his overweight mother. True, it will work for some, further muddying the waters.
The thing is, if you work in a gym daily, I'd expect you to have intermediate knowledge of a lot of things: cycling, running, rowing, free weights, warm up exercises, safe stretching techniques, nutrition. The ability to perform assessments of form, fitness, give advice about contra-indicated exercises based on disclosed medical histories, and more.
It's when I see people completely incorrectly adjust their gym bikes, start stretching before they touch any equipment, etc. because their "trainer" told them. When I personally get "corrected" on my "bad" form by a gym trainer (at the time I was attending twice weekly sessions with a qualified amateur lifting trainer instructor), telling me to do the exact opposite of what I was taught. When I see trainers get on the rowing machine and demonstrate poor technique that could lead to repetitive strain back injuries... the list goes on, and it's depressing.
For example you can make yourself steadily stronger by gradually increasing the amount you're squatting each week or by running longer distances. You don't have this level of control when playing competitive sports.
That said I agree with the social elements. Sports are great fun and joining a team sport would be worth it for the camaraderie alone.
One characteristic of aerobic athletics is that most individuals peak in their mid 20s to late 30s, after which raw capabilities typically decline (albeit gradually, less than 1% per year). There's some exception for endurance activities, in which maturity, pacing, training, and nutrition can provide gains until later years (highly competitive 40, 50, and 60-something ultramarathoners aren't uncommon). And for activities involving fine motor control or finesse, skills may be developed over a lifetime, though injuries can also accumulate: gymnasts, dancers, and football players often peak out young.
For strength sports, progress is cumulative over years, meaning peak strength may not occur until the mid 30s or early 40s.
In competitive sports, you're looking at a mix of skills and abilities. Individual progress is harder to measure as it's team results that are most evident, not that stats aren't available (how meaningful they are is another matter). High-contact sports tend to be games of youth, but this isn't always the case.
And for anyone, coming to an activity fresh means a lot of latent potential to unleash: you'll likely improve dramatically over the first few years of participation.
Stretching happens after if ever, not before :)
From what I know: Stretching after doing a workout is bad, because it tenses muscles even more, stopping the flow of blood in the muscle and thus, making muscles more sore. But maybe that opinion is just the current trend.
on phone, but sources are a quick search away.
I just picked up a couple of brochures of yoga and taekwondo classes near my home - each go for 150$ per hour (individual) and 100$ per hour(group) !! And crossfit is 200/month.
I am not a fan of CrossFit for many reasons. At best, you simply don't get your money's worth. At worst, it's a one-size-fits-all system with no structure to it. From personal experience, and word of mouth, it's also really easy to get injured doing it.
I have tried doing dieting alone but it never worked: I could lose weight, but then would gain it back within a year. Combining diet and exercise completed the feedback loop. Eating like crap meant feeling like I was going to die when working out. Conversely, eating well meant performing well. This clicked for me.
I still agree with his point that it's one of the best ways to spend that extra time, but I think it's important to acknowledge it and plan for it. The commitment of a one hour workout is quite different than one that's twice as long because you have to deal with after-work traffic. There's also the matter of which 5 hours, as not all hours are equal in value.
(Next you buy a squat rack. Or skipping rope, or pull up bars, or olympic rings. If you feel you need to use your triceps, buy olympic rings and do dips on them.)
The cage itself is good for squats, rack pulls, shrugs, high-racked overhead press (as opposed to cleaned presses), and bench press, among others. The safety pins can be used for additional protection where the bar might put you at risk, especially in squats and bench press. Most cages will have a high bar suitable for chin-ups, if not one can generally be added. Similarly a dips attachment. An adjustable pulley gives you the added flexibility of a cable station allowing for pulls with resistance at different orientations (high, low, mid). With front racks, you can work outside the cage while still racking the bar onto it, much as you would with your bar stand. Bumper plates and a platform allow for Oly lifts, which are great for developing not just power but strength (you can do Oly lifts without these, but it's safer and easier on your equipment if you do have them).
You can also set up a rack for use with bands, chains, or both, to change and target your training. A rack generally offers anchor points for bands (chains just get draped over the bar): http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_trai...
Something like this offers most of what I'm talking about, many other cages do as well: http://www.texasstrengthsystems.com/powerracks.html
An adjustable DB is just a bar, a set of plates, and a locking ring that you can set up for a wide range of weights, it's cheaper than buying a full set of DBs over the same range, and the manual ones will give more range than the adjustable DBs you can typically buy (usually 5-50# or so, not enough for the serious lifter).
A rope hanging from the ceiling for climbing is pretty minimal equipment. Kettelbells (even just 2-4 of a few weights) offer some increased variety to a workout, though most KB moves can be done with DBs.
A Concept2 erg is something I happen to like, and if I had my own gym it's what I'd want.
Total space budget isn't all that huge
Powerlifting tends to make for longer workouts because I would take more rest between sets. When I would do BB or cut workouts I would be in the gym ~30 minutes. Keep in mind that this 30 minutes was full on balls to the wall intensity. It's the intensity that matters and not the time. Also, many people do not know true intensity. I know I didn't learn it until I started doing BJJ training and puking multiple times during 1.5 hour sessions. Protecting yourself and competition has a way of drawing people out to the very edge of what they are capable of.
There was an article recently in Outdoor magazine where even amateur marathon runners are training differently. Instead of slogging out many many miles, they have cut miles and are doing less work but at maximum intensity.
My goals were 500/400/300 DL/Squat/Bench, but I could never get the squat. My legs are long and I do true ATG squats. My quarter and half squats were into the 400s though. My other problem with squats was that I tore my ACL wakeboarding and have had it surgically repaired. It feels great now, but the timing set me back on my squatting.
Benching in the 300s hurt my elbows too much so once I hit that number I backed way off. I rarely bench over 250# during a workout now.
Most people would be surprised at "how little" bodybuilders work out. Sure, they work out much more compared to the average person, but less than let's say your olympic swimmer, volleyball player, etc
It's still a "full time job" but training is not a lot of time compared to other activities (mainly eating)
A power lifter might spend 3-5 hours a week, but a bodybuilder likely spends up to ten or more.
1. explains the supercompensation period and how to time your workouts.
2. champions free weights and resistance exercise.
3. explains injuries and gives some practical exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff (frequent injury among bodybuilders)
However, I'm not sure if I agree with the "Fundamental Four" and him saying muscular endurance (low weights, high reps) "is great for endurance sports but tends to undermine the first three, shrinking your strength, power, and muscle size."
There's a recent paper refuting this theory, http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/pdf/10.1139/h2012-022 . It basically says that low weights, high rep actually builds as much muscle mass as high weights, low reps... but both need to be done to the points of exhaustion, and that's they key.
Edit: Just wanted to give some more background on my thoughts on low weight, high rep. I became interested in this after I visited a trainer who suggested high reps (ie., 50+) with low weights. He demonstrated on me and made me do 25 reps of low weight bench press. At around 20 reps I couldn't do any more but helped me barely finish the remaining 5. His point was that you can do low weights, high reps but you need to work past what your mind is capable (and thus he suggests a personal trainer to push those limits). He also said with lower weights, high reps I could gain muscle mass and it's healthier (ie., less injuries) but if I wanted to be huge like a bodybuilder that lower reps, higher weights is better.
So, I've been trying this out on myself recently - doing low weights (30-40% of usual) and high reps (25-50), and doing each rep until the point of exhaustion (not able to lift any more). And then I take a short break (15-30 seconds) and do it again. Break, repeat, etc... until I do about 10 sets. Each set is to the point of exhaustion and I can't lift any more. The results is I'm super sore and it feels great. Prior I tried the StrongLifts 5x5 program (5 reps, 5 set) and also the typical 6-12 reps per set. But with heavier weights, I'm more scared of injury and it's harder to go to the point of exhaustion by myself. With lower weights, I don't fear injury as much.
I'm not trying to become a bodybuilder- rather just trying to bulk up a bit, lose fat and get fit.
If you want to get better at something, do the something you want to get better at.
Interesting. But I would still be skeptical because of one thing: bone/tendon resistance
Not sure small weights/high reps can create the kind of bone changes (and tendon resistance) that bigger weights do. And this may be critical in some situations.
Take a video with your phone and either check your form yourself or ask online for a form check.
I requested an exception once at a 24 hour gym and they had the most inane excuse. They said "there may be witness protection people here that could be compromised". I really had no response to that one...
One academic study of 18 untrained athletes.
Mark Rippetoe (author of the Starting Strength book recommended by the original article) actually says that an untrained subject will improve their performance by doing any exercise.
The problem with reps at that level for me personally is that its very difficult to know where your limit is. With failure around 5 reps it's very obvious which is your last possible rep.
Also 50 reps is just much more pain for the same (or less) gain as I see it. I can do 60-70 press ups which would be in that range, but it's significantly harder work than 5 reps near my max bench.
A while ago someone posted an article on Reddit about a group of 5 people who had tried a 1000 kettlebell swings per day for 10 days challenge, and about the outcomes. The discussion turned to whether it'd be possible to get close to that with squats or various other execises. So I figured I'd see how close I'd get with squats.
I didn't finish a full 10 days, and I didn't reach 1000, but I did ~400 bodyweight squats a day for 5-6 days in sets ranging from 20 to 100 at the time. It'd not be that hard to do more if you have time, after the first few days of soreness.
What I learned (apart from how funny you'll walk the day after 400 squats) was that the difference for me between 20 and a 100 squats was whether or not I drew my focus away from the burn, and how I counted, coupled with pacing. When I counted towards 20 and then at 15 said to myself that I'm halfway to 30, so I might as well continue, and kept going like that, meeting 100 was "easy" and I probably could do more. But I'd slow down substantially towards the end, and I'd get more done in less time by confining myself to sets around 5 0 reps.
But I could just as well reach 20 and feel my legs were on fire and I needed a break, if I didn't pace myself properly or didn't "tricky" myself into moving the goalpost.
I honestly don't know what my actual failure limit is for bodyweight squats. I just know that it's somewhere beyond 50 and likely beyond 100 depending on what restrictions I were to set on pace. I thus also don't know, without experimentation, how many reps I'd need to see growth that way... Too much hassle to try to find out.
The mental maths helped block out the discomfort!
People seem eager to find some magic, half-hearted shortcut to reaching certain goals. There really aren't any. The best advice is often the kind you don't want to hear. To really improve, look at the people who are the best in their field and mimic them. Why would you blindly trust a magazine written by someone trying to sell you a product?
Look at any college gym to see how well the article's conclusion is supported. Women generally stick to cardio machines. The skinny guys trying to get strong are all on the weight machines, and the big guys are all using free weights.
Having recently switched from distance running to weight-lifting because of an injury, I've had a rapid improvement in a few months. The exercises recommended to me from a guy that benches 400 lbs (180 kg) include: squats, deadlifts, bench press, dips, chin-ups, flys, and ab-crunch machine (only machine he mentioned). Dips and chin-ups should have weight added when body-weight becomes too easy.
Also, since I've very paranoid about injuries now, I've been watching and reading as much as I can on proper lifting form. In this case, I would recommend against copying the strongest guys. I see some very strong people with bad form. All that means is that they've been lucky so far.
Women generally stick to cardio machines. The skinny
guys trying to get strong are all on the weight machines,
and the big guys are all using free weights.
Often yes, and in this case probably especially so, but I'd like to make a general comment here as I hear this sentiment repeated in many other situations: in general, this is not true. The entire technological progress of humanity is based on this simple assumption: there must be a better / faster / magic way to do this, even a half-hearted shortcut, so that we do not have to work much to get what we want. That's why we invented... pretty much everything. We can call it "looking for half-hearted shortcuts" or "optimization", but it's the same process.
It took me about 18 months after reading it to actually buckle down and start lifting, but it's no doubt that the journey started here. I ended up reading "Starting Strength" and started up on the program. It's been about 6 months now and I'm stronger than I've ever been in my entire life- by a significant margin. I've gained 40 pounds of muscle. I feel confident, capable, and strong.
The only downside is that I cannot fit into regular clothes anymore- I have to buy clothes made for fat people and just deal with the extra room in the midsection. I also eat an incredible amount of food, which can get tiring and expensive (I eat $40 a week in steak alone). Overall, though, I'm thoroughly satisfied with the path that I'm on, and wish I had started years earlier.
And here's why. _Proper_ squats and deadlifts are hard. You breathe heavily, your whole body (as opposed to just certain muscles) exhausts itself in just a few movements. In the beginning you go to bed with every muscle sore. But I figured: It's pointless to go to the gym and avoid strain and exhaustion. So I might just as well aim for it.
And I did the Ripptoe program, and my life changed for the better.
My posture, ruined by years of computer programming, was fixed in less than two months. People started asking me if I've grown recently. I was just standing and walking properly.
My mood nowadays is good 99% of the time. It's just hard to be depressed or care about the little annoyances (or the whining of some people) when your body is strong. I don't know why exactly, but the mood improvement is significant, lasting and one of the best benefits of weightlifting. I can still enjoy every good thing that happens, but I don't sweat the bad stuff as much. I just shrug it off. A wonderful feeling to be able to do that consistently.
People react differently to me. Women, as you would expect, initiate flirting and so forth, but also I get the feeling that other men, children and the elderly, just look at me in a kinder way. Perhaps increasing strength also makes one seem more reliable. Or maybe they think I am used to hard work. Well, I guess they are right. Building strength is hard work.
There's one downside to all that.
When I started to follow the Ripptoe program, the barbell area at my gym was mostly deserted. After a year or so it's almost always busy. Perhaps I inspired the others or it's a general fitness trend of "less BS" and "back to the fundamentals". But if they don't expand that barbell area and install a few more chin-up bars this year, I'll have to find a new gym where I don't have to wait up to 30 minutes to start lifting.
Would you mind sharing the 80/20 gist of what aspect mainly contributed to that? I'm sure the best method would be to follow the program totally, but if one wanted just to see gains in that area with the least possible investment, what would you recommend?
You strengthen the posterior chain by training it: squats, deadlifts, rows, chins, power cleans.
The best way to get the gains you're looking for with the least possible investment is to do the program. Get the book. Do the program. Three workouts per week. Squats, deads, bench, press, power cleans, chins. Six to nine months will change your life.
As for your questions, I'd strongly recommend looking over the Wit and Wisdom of Mark Rippetoe page as well, I believe you'd benefit from it, particularly the entry beginning "Responding to someone who wanted the book".
I also recommend proper warmups. e.g. start with no or very little weight, and then keep adding until you reach your maximum, then do 3 sets at the maximum. I usually do 5 - 8 reps each set.
As for time investment: 2 - 3 times a week (doesn't matter if I was tired or lazy, I knew I would feel fantastic at or after the gym), 60 - 90 minutes each time. (no time-wasting, breaks only as long as necessary.)
As for 80/20: After doing the squats and the deadweights, I usually feel very motivated to keep doing other things. It's really switching the body into "workout"-mode.
Check these two videos for proper form: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huVujjfzphI , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JYCvtNKWc8
You should honestly consider learning some basic tailoring. I'm starting it myself - I buy 'vintage' clothes from charity shops and most wouldn't fit.
Buy a decent antique sewing machine if you want a cheap one.
Its a sufficiently rare but useful skill to make good conversation too. And you can vastly increase the perceived value of your clothes by claiming they are hand tailored! ;)
Here is a good forum to pick up knowledge: http://www.cutterandtailor.com/forum/index.php?showforum=26
All the stuff from this article is what my coach used to have us do for weight training. This really isn't comprehensive, though. Weights are important but actually going out and using your abilities is important too.
I'm 46 now, before I began I was overweight and had frequent, severe back problems. I'm now two stone lighter, hell of a lot stronger and my back is just fine.
My back problems gradually improved over two years of training. I had a disk that had slipped gradually over the previous several years. Exquisitely painful episodes 3-4 times a year. Certainly not helped by my weight and lack of muscle tone. After a year of lifting I noticed that I recovered from these episodes quicker, and that the intervals between them were longer. I think it's well over a year now since the last. Obviously, don't even think about lifting if you are currently suffering back pain.
I believe there is general agreement that any strength program will be based around low-rep sets of exercises that involve a large number of muscle groups. Typically squats, power cleans, dead lifts, overhead presses and bench presses. Rippetoe's Starting Strength book and DVD are an excellent introduction to these. Eventually (6 - 18 months) you will plateau and need to change program. I'm currently using Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 and so far am very happy with it, but a beginner will progress faster with Rippetoe.
If you don't mind some extra, unsolicited advice;
- start with much lighter weights than you think you can handle and aim for regular, small weekly increases - even a pound or two is fine and quickly adds up.
- Be prepared to end a session the moment you feel any discomfort in your lower back, and don't return until it clears up completely. I didn't do this at first and each time ended up unable to train for a fortnight.
- technique matters. While these lifts are nothing like as complex as the olympic lifts, there is still some technique that you need to learn for your safety, and also to allow progress to occur. If possible film yourself from time to time to check you're not developing bad habits.
Good luck - and have fun.
It's also very difficult to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, especially if you're not a teenager anymore. Still, congrats on your progress!
I've also changed my diet significantly- I eat way more protein and fat and almost no carbohydrates. I think that has as much to do with my fat loss as the exercise.
Your post doesn't really refute my point anyways, because it's very hard to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time for adults. You're talking about one direction i.e. gaining muscle.
I say this only so that you don't read this and think these are some kind of fringe theories. They're widely, WIDELY known and 100% true.
It's the exact same way with articles advocating diets relatively higher in protein and fat. An assertion of novelty seems to be a mandatory element of any attempt to market anything fitness related.
(Sweeping generalisation) Most women avoid free weights because they don't want to put on muscle and look like a body builder. Doesn't happen. Hell, some men have that same attitude because "hey I don't want to get bulky". My comment is "well if you discover that secret, you should market it because millions of people will buy it"
Free weights as better than machines was fairly well known at least as far back as the early 90s. "Machines don't work your stabiliser muscles" was the phrase I generally heard.
Ha! Hard to argue with that because you pluralized 'definition.'
But what I mean is, (1) If I'm doing a chest exercise, for example, with 270+ pounds, and I fail on a machine, I can get out of it. With free weights, I need a spotter and it's much trickier. (2) Perhaps more important: If I'm doing heavy legs (450 lbs, for example), with free weights I have to load a lot of weight on my back for a squat. This is dangerous even for younger men (I'm 50 years old) because slight distraction and they can hurt their backs in a way that is really hard to get over. Load up a weight machine and I don't have to worry about it.
I hit the stabilizer muscles doing light weight squats on a bosu ball.
So, yeah, in a perfect world I'd be 25 years old and doing all free weights. But I've adapted to my circumstances in what I believe to be a reasonable way.
It's a bit like barefoot running vs shod running. Shoes protect your feet, so they are ostensibly safer. But they also make it easy to have bad technique and wreck your joints, especially your knees.
> (1) If I'm doing a chest exercise, for example, with 270+ pounds, and I fail on a machine, I can get out of it. With free weights, I need a spotter and it's much trickier.
Depends on what you are doing, and how you are doing it. The only real need for a spotter is for barbell bench pressing. There you can bench press in a squat rack with the safeties set to the right level. But there are lots of other exercises that provide a similar benefit without trapping you. E.g. (weighted) dips (on rings), push up variations, hand stand push ups, standing overhead presses.
Yes, that was my point #2.
The only real need for a spotter is for barbell bench pressing
I was specifically thinking about the bench-press-like machine press, but also true for the dumbell fly exercise.
I do the free-weight lifts, just not with heavy weight. When I want to seriously stress my muscles I go to the machines.
I just started with the bosu-ball stuff last year and I have to say I like it. It hits stabilizers the squat doesn't begin to touch. I'm a sailor- just got back from a week-long bareboat charter in pretty choppy seas, and I really like the results. I'm not sure I can articulate it though- while it helped my balance, it also helped my strength while maintaining balance. For example, the task of picking up a mooring ball with the boat bouncing seemed easier. But that may just be a distorted perception.
Interesting. How much do you squat in relation to your bodyweight? Have you ever tried slacklining?
For life in general, or at least the things that matter in life, it's always a good idea to do your own research. Otherwise you end up going through life believing the half-baked stories people make up so they don't have to think, and the bullshit people tell you to sell you stuff.
Or anybody who picked up an issue of IronMan magazine, dating back to at least the late 80's or early 90's.
That's news to me. Not saying it is wrong, but if it is a fact, it's one even reasonably informed people doesn't know. Studies (http://jap.physiology.org/content/102/4/1439.long and http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100311123639.ht...) suggest that High-intensity interval training is an incredibly time efficient way to get in shape.
I don't blame them for thinking that way, the fitness industry has conditioned an entire generation into thinking cardio is the way to go and that high rep work with pink dumbbells is how you 'tone'.
The more articles there are like this, the more likely we will see a shift in how everyone tries to get fit.
Both have their place, though I put a heavy emphasis on freeweights.
What's really shocking about lifting free weights is how little time it takes to stay "acceptably fit" (not "ripped like Jesus" fit, but "looks pretty good in clothes" fit). It just doesn't take a long workout to work all your muscles to exhaustion, and since it's often counter-productive to work the same muscle group on consecutive days, you don't need to go to the gym every day.
If you progress enough, you will eventually need more complicated programming.
Going to failure is not a good idea in general. You do not want to train your body to fail. Going for slightly higher maxes each time is excellent advice for beginners, though.
I think the author is overlooking one of the great benefits of elliptical trainers. They get the job done and they're very safe. If you're an obese out of shape person you're unlikely to get hurt getting your cardio in on an elliptical, whereas activities like hoops, bike riding, and Ultimate Frisbee can really fuck you up.
If you wear a heart monitor and keep your HR in the appropriate zones the elliptical can be a safe, effective cardio workout. I spent three years doing hour long cardio sessions 3-5 days a week, with around 60% of that hour spent in the high end of the aerobic zone. At the end of it I had lost a considerable amount of weight, and I had a resting HR of 38.
And at the high end of the out-of-shape scale, just getting out of the house and walking would be a great start.
Or just the floor (burpees). Or sprinting up stairs.
KB swings are surprisingly aerobic and very low impact.
Walking / running up stairs is an easy way to get in intense exercise without much stress on your joints.
KB swings are fine. Just need equipment.
If one is fairly out of shape, than one can benefit from very simplified burpees: just lie on the floor, get up, lie down again. With speed. Add jumping, once you are fitter. Then add negatives of push ups. And full push ups later.
Of course you said fat loss, and perhaps you'll quibble about how much of the calories burned comes from fat vs. muscle, but I think more people are trying to get to a healthy weight rather than achieve a single digit body fat percentage.
The point is that anaerobic exercise builds muscle, which boosts your basal metabolic rate. Unless you're doing cardio several hours per day, lifting will be much more efficient.
edit: minor word change for clarity.
With resistance training you are not trying to burn calories, you are building muscle. This new muscle will need calories to support itself and will make it easier to lose fat in the future because your body will need more calories to function.
I've done that a few times. Consistently 140-160 BPM, peaking higher, sustained over 40-80 minutes.
My peak during Tabata sets is 180-190 BPM, so lifting isn't quite at that rate, but it's decidedly aerobic, especially for mid-high range sets (5-20 reps).
When people say healthy weight surely they always mean healthy body fat percentage?
That's a big if. I don't trust myself to do it properly by myself based off a diagram from the internet. What's my alternative? The evil big box gym and overpriced personal trainer?
Or get Starting Strength, by Mark Rippetoe, which has about 70 pages of instructions and diagrams on the correct form of each lift.
Or find a gym that has a personal trainer willing to teach you the proper form.
Or do it, record yourself with a camera of some sort, and find a community of weightlifting people (/r/fitness welcomes this) to correct your form.
I think the author is overlooking one of the
great benefits of elliptical trainers.
The problem is that the fitness industry, in order to justify its own existence, feeds people so many little details and tricks and drivel that it intimidates those who want to start, and quickly overwhelms those who actually do start. Furthermore, when someone fails to see results, they attribute it to some little detail that they must have missed, which perpetuates the existence of all those fitness magazines and websites.
Combine this with people's natural tendency to look for quick fixes, and you got yourself a huge mess. What I tell people who want to become fit is this: your current body is the result of years and years of certain habits you followed. You can't undo that in a month.
For those who are reading this and want to become healthier, my advice is as follows.
1. If you want to lose weight, then you need to eat below maintenance, do a mix of cardio and weightlifting, and sleep eight hours a day.
2. If you want to build muscle, then you need to eat a LOT of food with tons of protein, do mostly weightlifting, and sleep eight hours a day.
3. If you want to get "toned", that actually equates to losing body fat to make underlying muscles more visible, so follow 1.
4. If you want to build cardiovascular endurance (e.g. for sports), then focus mainly on cardio, with some weightlifting to build the muscles used in those sports.
From there, it's a matter of figuring out the basics and sticking with them.
I would add some general principles with regards to diet that could benefit most people. Reducing or eliminating processed foods and sugar, for example, can benefit anybody. Maintaining a reasonable proportion of fats, protein and carbohydrates is another.
Humor aside, lifting heavy works for women, to. Women are afraid to get bulky. I got over the idea that lifting heavy wouldn't _make_ me bulky. This is just the way I am. Might as well make the best of what my DNA doled out. As for gyms, I've been harassed at my gym by a trainer for dropping 250lbs a bit too hard (it ripped the callus on my left hand and fell less than a foot, and gym doesn't allow chalk) when I routinely see/hear male lifters throw 100+ dumbbells to the floor. Can't wait to get a cage in my basement so I can spend less time in that place.
I'll be trying Brown's movements to see if they help with the pain in my knees from derby drills. Thanks for posting this!
Speaking of women lifting heavy things, my Coach's wife Jo-Ann Aita just set a world record in raw powerlifting last month, and she is far from bulky! See for yourself http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n7c5KoyaLI
Congrats on your heavy lift! 250lbs is no joke.
JoAnn definitely not bulky. And cripes would I love to be able to bench 165! Sometimes I resent stumbling on this type of training in my 40s instead of my 20s.
Nia Shanks is something like 122lbs and (last I saw) could deadlift 315lbs. She is not bulky or "'roided out." It is because of her that I've set my goal at 315lbs. I've had two kids by c-section, though. Dunno if I'll get there or not. Sometimes stuff hurts.
Daniel makes this point in his article, in a way: goals are important. From what I understand, there are three goals: get strong, get lean or look good naked. All three are perfectly respectable goals in my book. Approach a random person in the gym and ask them what they are training for, "To lose weight." This is a meaningless statement we believe has meaning.
So far, the best response I've heard is, "Retirement." I forget who said it, though.
It's really difficult to explain to unfit people (who always complain) that the solution is not a pill or some crazy diet you do for a week. It just takes a bit of effort and common sense.
The DVD is a great guide to the six or so major movements in weightlifting and I found it was much easier to visualise what I was meant to be doing.
I got serious in May '11 and by Jan '12 my personal bests were a massive improvement over where I had started, and I found that I was really enjoying tracking my progress and getting strong and fit.
I'd gone from benching 80 kgs to a 1 rep max of 120kg, and squatting 90kg a 1 rep max of 160kg.
I found the major contributor to my improvement was
- consistency (3 times a week, every week), and
- focussing on getting the biggest impact for your time in the gym.
Even if you just squat and deadlift, I believe you're doing much more for yourself than by focussing on what most people do - tricep pulldowns and bicep curls.
I highly suggest giving it a a read or scan. It's very well written (fun to read, he's a great writer), short, and very to the point. He applies the 80/20 rule to working out, your body, your diet, and so forth.
My favorite section is how to build what he calls an "engineer bag", which costs a total of around $10 and replacing pretty much all gym equipment.
Anyway, was struck me about CrossFit and really any group exercise routine is how much more it makes you tax your own body. When you're at the gym, you don't push yourself. You run comfortably fast on the treadmill, lift a comfortable amount of weight, and do it at a comfortable pace. Group exercise is great for breaking you out of that habit and making you push your limits. It's too easy to pretend that 45 minutes at the gym, 15 of which is "cardio" and 15 of which is "cooldown", is going to change anything.
My big takeaway from that was that olympic lifting is much more fun and rewarding than CF for me. (Note to HN pedants: for me.) The only problem is that it's hard to find a big box with a barbell, let alone two or three.
This article has fired me up again.
The problem with Crossfit is that it is an affiliated brand. Every CF facility pays about $5,000 per year to use the Crossfit brand, but each facility is independently owned and operated, and so the programming at each facility is usually unique. There exist a number of questionable facilities, especially out in California where the concentration of gyms is much higher.
The Crossfit affiliates need to start doing some quality control. As I've watch the program expand over the past half-decade, I've been excited at how many people the gyms have helped, but dismayed at how the trainers at some facilities don't share the same love or ability for the basic lifts.
Says who? This seems like a false premise to me.
And yes, of course there are people who can put in supremely productive 9-to-5 days at the home office and/or whip themselves mercilessly in solo workouts. But they're a minority.
Well, it started off with complete bullshit like this. If we could get 10% of people to the gym (instead of their usual home-bound sugar-feast), it would be fucking wonderful. My gym time was never a waste, regardless of my form or which equipment I was using.
The rest of the article, however, I'm pretty in line with with. But it's preaching to the choir for the most part. We could make this article mandatory reading and it wouldn't make a goddamn difference. And that's the problem. Got a solution?
You'd get the Nobel Prize in EVERYTHING if you could figure out an effective way to get masses of people to effect these kinds of changes in their lives. That kind of science spans the realms of pyschology, sociology, medicine, biology, physics, and wizardry.
This is, by far, the most interesting and useful resource I have found when it comes to fitness:
The author covers cellular biology and debunks ideas such as "cardio workouts", treadmill bunnies, jogging and walking around your neighborhood to loose weight with plain-old science. Here you'll learn about the cellular metabolic process, Krebs cycle, Insulin resistance, fatty acid synthesis, glycolitic cycle, Cori cycle, Bohr effect, glycogenolysis, amplification cascade and whole host of other topics that are important, relevant and reasonably well understood.
What's more important is that everything that is proposed in this book is backed by science and scientific studies. It's like open-source software. If you care to dive deeper into why something works the way it does the scientific references are provided. The book has over 25 pages of listed references (about 10% of the book is reference data).
Anyhow, one of the claims of the book is "12 minutes a week" every seven to ten days. In other words, that's the actual time under load you need every seven to ten days to affect significant changes in your body. This does not include time walking around, watching TV or resting. Time under load.
I have to say that it works pretty much exactly as advertised. After reading the book I tried it and had a friend try it. We'd spend about fifteen minutes under load at the gym once a week. For me it changed to fifteen minutes every 9 to 12 days (you track your data in order to determine frequency). I got stronger with every passing week. Something that I was not able to do without a ton more effort in the past.
If you are interested in learning about this, start with Dr McGuff's (the author) videos:
The commentary on big-box fitness clubs is also dead on. It's all about maximizing revenue / sq ft, not changing lives. That leads to a 40% industry attrition-rate, because the offerings and environment are so broken, off-putting and ineffective. What other industry survives when you need to regenerate 40% of your client base every year just to stay at zero-growth? Insanity.
Last stat, for more than 30 years, the fitness industry has been trying to attract what's perceived as the holy grail, sedentary adults. But, no matter how much marketing they throw at the market, 85% of US adults refuse to join or stay members of clubs, even though more than 90% say exercise is mission-critical to their ability to live the lives they want to live.
I sold my last facility 4 years ago, but just writing this is reminding me how ripe this space still is for mass-disruption. Crossfit is doing a great job, but there's still so more that can and should be done.
If that's not a CTA for startups, I don't know what is.
(Oh, right, there's already a ton of those...)
My kids joined a swim team, so I decided to try it as a work out (already had a membership at a gym with a pool).
I never swam as a workout before. I could barely do 500 meters when I started, switching up strokes (mostly free with my sad approximations of breast, fly, and back), having to stop and catch my breath often.
Now I'm at 600, have to stop much less often, and see some upper body development. I feel like swimming fits into the "muscle endurance" column from the article. I had just recently told someone swimming is like "upper body cardio".
So I'm curious if anyone else reading this swims and how you think it compares to other exercise regimens.
I've swum for several decades. It's a good form of cardiovascular training. It's also very much a skill sport that's difficult to pick up in later life -- your entire workout distance is a small portion of my warm-up routine (workouts run 3k - 6k meters).
The specific part of the article you want to pay attention to is the training goal matrix (http://archive.mensjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/picture-21...). Swimming does not load your muscles at 40-60% of your maximum. For an utterly untrained individual you'll see some development as the result of doing virtually anything, however that progress will max out very quickly.
Any serious competitive swimmer (national / international / Olympic level) is doing a considerable amount of strength training in addition to their pool work. The same goes for athletes in any other field. While there may be adaptations to limit total mass gains for some (long-distance marathoners and cyclists tend to have low bodyweights), there absolutely is strength training.
If you want to gain muscle, lift. If you want to get better at swimming, invest in a stroke clinic and join a masters team.
On a different note, though: swimming works very well for building lung capacity, which cross-trains very well with other exercises.
Though swimming does give you a modest amount of lats and trunk stimulus.
You may want to address imbalances (look up "upper crossed syndrome") by strengthening parts of the system in opposition to those which are overstimulated.
Generally, there's not a whole lot of increase in flexibility you can accomplish by casual stretching, and excess flexibility can be a problem -- pregnant women experience a loosening of tendons and ligaments (it helps in moving the baby through the birth canal) which can present problems in strength training.
Kettlebell swings are most decidedly low-impact training.
The most surprising aspect of swimming was how ripped my chest and arms felt afterwards. I've been an avid weightlifter since high school and it's the same feeling I get after doing bench presses or fly's.
For an extreme example, put someone who doesn't know how to swim at all into a pool. As they thrash about wildly they'll get a rather serious workout even though they'll scarcely make a lap.
The biggest problem is that a standard swim is 2-3 hours, whereas I can complete all my lifts in 45 minutes.
I used to swim ~3 miles a day. That was before I had two kids, a house, etc.
While this can help with skills development (though my thinking is that training in an exhausted state reinforces poor form), and may be a good way to keep kids off the streets, it's largely useless for developing maximum capability in the shorter-duration events typical of pool meets (50-500 yards / 50-400 meters), taking anywhere from 15 seconds to 5-6 minutes or so. The primary exceptions would be 1000m or 1650y events (10-15 minutes or so). Triathalon / open-water swimming is almost a wholly different sport.
You'd benefit in swimming from a regime that's similar to other HIIT training: 15-60 second maximum-effort pieces followed by brief rest (5-15 seconds) and a repeat, in sets of 8-10 or so. Incorporate warmup, skills drills, and strength training, and workout time drops markedly.
I still enjoy doing longer pieces and the whole-body flush accompanying them, but they're not something I undertake daily or even weekly.
You don't just get in the pool and lap swim. We would do laps on 1 minute intervals (sprint the lap, rest for 30 seconds, repeat), 100s on 90 or 120 second intervals, 200s on 4 or 5 minute intervals, etc. You've also got isolation exercises ( pull/kick/swims, 25s off the block, half-pool 25s with the turn, etc)
But during a 3 hour practice, you still wind up swimming a few miles. Even doing an average of 25 yards a minute (a snail's pace), you're looking at 2.5 miles.
If you haven't lifted or trained seriously before, and have been looking for a solid guide and starting point, you could well do worse. If you're looking for further reading, the suggested library (Rippetoe's Starting Strength and Practical Programming, Zatsiorsky's Science and Practice of Strength Training, Schmitz's Olympic-Style Weightlifting and Gambetta's Athletic Development: The Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning) is solid. I'd add Schuler & Cosgrove's The New Rules of Lifting* more for its fitness and nutritional background than its training program, though that too is good.
For community, Reddit's /r/fitness, /r/advancedfitness, and /r/weightroom are good.
The one significant omission from Duane's "Men's Journal" article is of HIIT (high intensity interval training) and Tabata intervals (http://www.rosstraining.com/articles/tabataintervals.html). As with strength work, it's amazing how little a time investment can provide returns. Your work sets for both lifting and high-intensity cardio training can be completed in a very few minutes.
The other key point is that consistency over time, rather than instantaneous effort, is what pays dividends. Lift for a week and you'll be sore. Lift for a month and you'll start feeling things. Lift for a year and you'll see results. Lift for 5 years, and it will be obvious to even the most oblivious. And you can look forward to benefits throughout most of your life, not just your 20s and 30s.
It's interesting how many people don't know that size does not necessarily mean strength. When I was in university, a gym friend, who happened to be a trainer, was an accomplished amateur bodybuilder, and was fairly close to getting his pro card (he might have it now, I'm not sure). This guy was easily twice my size, but to my surprise, I could lift quite a bit more than him. Now, I'm quite sure that I look like I'm in good shape, but I don't think anyone would guess that I'm 195 pounds, and can oly squat 2x my lean body weight. It's been more than once that I've seen someone at the the gym who looks merely "lean" at first glance, but turns out to be quite impressively strong. Just goes to show that it's hard to judge how strong people are just by looking at them, until you see them lift.
With weights, you can just use lower weight, and can thus freely work your muscles to exhaustion. With body weight movements, you can try negatives, but again- much more difficult.
See this diagram for example: http://www.operatorchan.org/pt/src/135399773193.jpg
The book recommended by xweb explains in more detail how to fill the holes between these exercises.
The logic works the other way, too, for increasing difficulty. Can you do 3 sets of a hundred one-armed pushups? Well, start climbing your feet up the wall!
If you can do free-standing one-hand vertical pushups without strain, I've got nothing for ya. Go ahead and start vert pressing 600 pounds. Also, try out for the Olympic weightlifting team--the gold medal should be easy!
My progression went:-
Cycling -> Running -> Machines -> Body Weight Exercises -> Discovering Rippetoe/SS -> Barbell (Power Rack)
The barbell is the king, and the great thing is in my gym it's always (95%) free. Everyone is on the cable machines.
Now I try and get all my friends and family doing some sort of 3x5/SS program because it. just. works. I even have my daughters doing it!
With SS/Stronglifts/Whatever, you begin with an empty bar, (or no bar if you can't squat at all), so the weight doesn't start out being something you need any genuine assistance with. With the power rack you have the safety pins. You adjust the safety pins to be at a point where if you are in the bottom of the squat, and you can't return to standing position, you just drop the bar off your back onto the pins (or lower it onto the pins)
With the bench press it's the same thing - you set the pins so they're below your lowest point in the bench press (bar touching sternum), but slightly above your neck level (I'm lucky in terms of bench / safety pin positioning, it's perfect for me) - when I fail a bench press, or can't push it off, I just let it hit the pins and slide out from underneath the bar.
Youtube example of what I'm talking about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCOo3RtKu1E#t=59s
If you don't have access to a power rack with safety pins I would not recommend doing the bench press without a spotter unless you back the weight off to something you will always confidently re-rack safely.
However a spotter with the squat is a recipe for ruin, best to just rely on the pins. Supposedly designed to handle 200kg+ dropped on them from 4+ft. Hopefully your gym hasn't bought a cheap shitty rack!
The thing I've come close to injuring myself the most with is the press. I was arching my back too much and putting a lot of pressure on my lower back - trick is to keep stomach tight when doing the press. Something I wasn't doing.
Glad I'm not partially wasting my time, and going onto the good stuff!
starting point, began cycling to work about 2 weeks after this photo was taken (~118 kg, ouch)
6 months later with riding every day and body weight exercises (~97kg)
I would highly recommend taking some photos, because you don't notice changes yourself, everyone else does. :)
One of the fun things about working out is it appeals to my love of keeping and viewing personal statistics :)
Large gain of 5+ kilos this year - trying to get squat past 140kg, hah. Playing rugby next year.
The biggest key is keeping a record. Doesn't really matter what you do, as long as you log it.
I have a wireless scale from Withings that logs my weight for me, and I try to stand on it every day or two. I think I should get a tape measure and start tracking that too.
And while we're talking about cycling, you're familiar with the bone-loss issues (which if you're lifting you're addressing nicely)?
Get some gymnastic rings some day. Even if you just do dips and pull ups in them, they will be worth their small purchasing price.
They'll find out exactly where you're at, help you figure out the optimal diet for your goals, help you with your form and regimen and will continuously work with you to make sure you're on track. The only variable in the equation is going to be your own personal willingness to stick to your own program. For the cost, I can't recommend it enough.
As semi-pro strongman and powerlifter, i've to say that Hackenschmidt's book has been most helpful for me, because it's give good tips about diet, mental preparedness and encouraged to do other sports than just Gym.
The timing is also very good with New Year's resolutions and in particular for me as I'm finishing my studies and will actually have time to exercise.
I think for general body health, any exercise is better than none but some are more effective than others. Top to bottom:
- Yoga ( ermm... The serious kind. Lots of bs out there)
- Strength exercises like in the article
- Competitive sports. (I used to fight Tae Kwon Do tournaments)
- Casual sports
- Biking to work
- The Gym
I know some Yogis and they're overall the healthiest, best-shape people I know. Little wonder as Yoga was developed over thousands of years and specifically to heal the body. Maximizing the - amazing - self healing powers of your body. Those basic strength exercises are IMO just the western version of it, a slightly less advanced form. And it'll work better for some, no doubt.
> Little wonder as Yoga was developed over thousands
> of years
> Those basic strength exercises are IMO just the western
> version of it, a slightly less advanced form.
Yoga has its place, however asanas are only a small part of total fitness. "Western fitness" is based on empirical results and studies, while much traditional yoga is founded on mystical explanations (and don't even get me started on Auyurveda). If you explore deeper, I think you'll find that Western fitness has in fact examined and adopted those parts of yoga which are shown to be useful and effective.
You don't see many people at gym yoga classes singing prayers or trying to control their dreams :)
Many gyms will allow chalk if you're reasonably discrete and neat about it. A rock-climber's chalk bag and sock can usually pass. If not that, there's always liquid chalk.
Yoga is a collection of meditation techniques. The transformation of a very specific form of yoga (Hatha) into an exercise routine is a western development.
> The serious kind. Lots of bs out there
In fact I think that for physical fitness, it would be better to concentrate on western-style yoga rather than the "serious" stuff (prayers, sleep control etc).