Monday, August 6, 2007

Chest Day

When working out chest, I like to again focus on compound exercises. I'll usually start with some variation of the bench press--be it flat, incline, or decline; barbell or dumbells. Incline is my favorite (because it is the hardest), but I'll mix it up. This time, I will start with flat bench and use a technique similar to what I used for squats on leg day. However, this time I will perform a "hold" with more weight than I can actually lift before performing my true working sets. Simply load the bar with 25% more weight than your 1RM and have a spotter help you unrack the weight. Then, hold the weight with arms extended for ten seconds and rack the bar. This "hold" will get your body used to relatively heavy weight, so when you drop back down, the weight will feel really light in your hands. After flat bench press, I'll do another bench press variation, followed by some type of flies (either with the cables or dumbells), and call it a day. In detail, the workout looks like the below:

Flat Barbell Bench Press:
Set 1: 135lbs * 10 reps (warm-up)
Set 2: 225lbs * 8 reps (warm-up)
Set 3: 275lbs * 3 reps to failure
Set 4: 365lbs * "hold"
Set 5: 225lbs * 10 reps to failure
Set 6: 225lbs * 8 reps to failure
Set 7: 225lbs * 6 reps to failure

Incline Barbell Bench Press:
Set 1: 185lbs * 10 reps to failure
Set 2: 205lbs * 4 reps to failure
Set 3: 225lbs * 2 reps to failure

Cable Flies:
3 Sets to Failure in 8-10 rep range

Sometimes, later in the week, I will add some additional chest work (or leg work) where I focus on dynamic lifts with 50%-60% of my 1RM for speed--this practice gets the body used to moving the bar quickly. It will help develop functional strength for your muscle building hypertrophy workouts.

If you want to try this workout for your chest day, simply adjust the weight to what is relatively heavy for you. Also, don't forget to practice good form--it is good practice to have an arch, but keep your butt on the bench and drive the bar up in as straight a line as possible. Grip tightly and try to "pull the bar apart"--that will get more of your triceps involved.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Leg Workout

For leg day, the bread and butter lift is the squat. It is a compound lift that incorporates all of the muscles in the leg (quads, glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings). Therefore, the leg workout should focus around performing squats. I try to go up weight as high as I can, and when I can no longer do full squats, I begin to limit the range of motion. Then, I drop weight and do three working sets to failure with the heaviest weight I can handle and still make full squats with good form. In this manner, my body is used to the very heavy weight from the half and quarter squats, so, at this point, the weight feels very light on my shoulders. After squats, I do deadlifts--another great compound exercise. At that point, my legs are wobbly and I am ready to go home. I know a lot of people like to do leg extensions and leg curls, but I don't feel like they add a tremendous benefit after the compound exercises. Additionally, the machines limit your range of motion as compared to free weights. In detail, the workout looks like the below:

Set 1: 135lbs * 10 reps for full squat
Set 2: 225lbs * 10 reps for full squat
Set 3: 315lbs * 10 reps for full squat
Set 4: 405lbs * 5 reps for half squat
Set 5: 495lbs * 2 reps for quarter squat (basically just getting used to the weight)
Set 6: 315lbs * 12 reps for full squat to failure (after 495, the weight feels very light)
Set 7: 315lbs * 10 reps for full squat to failure
Set 8: 315lbs * 8 reps for full squat to failure

Set 1: 225lbs * 10 reps
Set 2: 275lbs * 10 reps to failure
Set 3: 315lbs * 4 reps to failure

If you want to try this workout for your leg day, simply adjust the weight to what is relatively heavy for you. Also, don't forget to practice good form--squats and deadlifts are the easiest way to injury your back or knees if you don't do them correctly.

Monday, July 30, 2007

My Workout Routine

Well I'm back for my vacation. I am definitely excited to get back into the gym. I thought I'd share with you my current workout regimen including both weights and cardiovascular exercises. My goals are very diverse as I want to run as fast as possible including both sprints, distance, and everything in between, as well as lift as much as possible--that way I'll be ready for anything. I workout twice a day during the week, and once a day on weekends. I try to make sure I am completely recovered from workout #1 before attempting workout #2. In subsequent blogs, I'll delve into specific exercises. But, for now, below is the high level view:


Workout1: Legs
Workout2: 4 Miles Easy Pace


Workout1: Chest
Workout2: Jump Rope: 2,000 jumps


Workout1: Back
Workout2: 5K Tempo Run @ 10K Pace


Workout1: Shoulders
Workout2: 4 Miles Easy Pace


Workout1: Arms
Workout2: 8 * 400 meters


Workout1: 4 Miles Easy Pace


Workout1: 10-12 Miles Easy Pace

Friday, July 20, 2007

Vacation Workouts

I am about to leave for 11 days at the beach (where I will unfortunately not be blogging), and that seems like a great opportunity to answer the question "should I work out while on vacation?" There are two schools of thought on that subject:

The first argues that if you work out consistently throughout the year, it is a good idea to give your body a week off every three to four months. I've seen many very fit people believe in this approach. Also, if you see your week off as a reward for four months of hard work, then it may serve as a motivating factor during your workouts. So, if you workout consistently throughout the year, and you want to give yourself a break while on vacation--then go ahead and enjoy it.

I, however, am a firm believer in routines and habits. If you practice good habits (like exercising, eating right, and treating others with respect), then positive experiences will follow. If, on the other hand, you practice bad habits, then negative experiences will follow (like gaining body fat). Therefore, I like to continue working out during my vacation, but instead of doing the same old routine, I will switch things up a bit. First off, I am lucky enough to be on the beach, so that will make for lots of good runs in the sand. Softer running surfaces (like sand, or even grass as oppose to concrete) force your body to push off with more power. Also, it is motivating to run around some different scenery rather than the same old routes. Secondly, I will not be near a gym, so that will give me a chance to focus more body weight exercises (push-ups, pull-ups, body weight squats, lunges, ab exercises, etc.). I will probably run every day (although I will vary the distance) and do a full body workout with just my body weight every other day. When I get back to my normal routine after vacation I will feel refreshed from doing something different, but not any weaker because I avoiding a potential week of atrophy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Supplement Review

So, you've figured out your diet. You're eating frequent small meals that are high in protein, whole grains and vegetables. Now, you'd like to add a few supplements to your diet. (Make sure your diet is rock solid before adding supplements—because a “supplement” is just that “an add on, not a base”). However, with so many supplements out there and a limited budget, how do you know what to purchase and what should be disregarded as marketing hype? Well, below is a list of supplements in order of importance:

  • Daily Multivitamin—A lot of people may overlook this supplement, but it is nonetheless the most important. Vitamins and minerals contained in multivitamins are essential to many functions of the human body. These include regulating hormones, metabolism, proper digestion, and immune functions.
  • Whey Protein—We know that a high protein diet is very helpful in gaining muscle and losing body fat. Whey protein is great post-workout because it enters the bloodstream the fastest when your muscles need that protein the most. On the other extreme, casein (which is found in diary products) is a slow release protein and is great before bed because you are not getting any nutrition during the seven to nine hours you're asleep. I would not recommend a casein or nighttime protein supplement though, because it would be much more cost effective to drink a glass of skim milk.
  • Creatine—If you are looking to get stronger, creatine will definitely help. It is used in muscle to store energy for explosive movements such as weight lifting. It enhances recovery and ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate is the primary energy currency of the body) replenishment, which will allow for the creation of an anabolic state in your body. The efficiency of creatine delivery is greatly increased if it is consumed with simple carbohydrates, which spike the insulin. In turn, insulin helps to deliver the creatine to your muscle where it can be used to hydrate and replenish ATP levels. I recommend five to ten grams post training with a generous serving of simple carbohydrates. Creatine should also be cycled (try eight weeks on, four weeks off) as oppose to protein which you can take continuously.
  • Glutamine—What is the most abundant amino acid in your muscles? That's right glutamine, and it supports protein synthesis and immune function, enhances recovery, glycogen & glutamine replenishment and reduces catabolism (muscle breakdown).
  • Thermogenetics—I personally do not take any of these supplements as I am an ectomorph. However, they do increase your base metabolic rate and help burn body fat.
  • ZMA—If you want to try it zinc magnesium aspirate, research has shown that it may aid in sleep and increase growth hormone. Many athletes are deficient in zinc and magnesium, and this supplement will help correct that issue.
  • Other supplements—Some other supplements you might consider include BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids), essential fatty acids, and nitrous oxide. BCAAs are essential amino acids, however, I personally have not seen any improvement when supplementing with these. Essential Fatty Acids are healthy fats such as flax seed oil. I try to keep my diet high in fish, nuts, and olive oil, but you might consider this supplement as well. Lastly, I've heard mixed reviews about nitrous oxide (which supposedly gives you a better pump when lifting) but I have never tried it myself, so I can not attest to if it actually improves performance or not.

Well, there you have it. In order of relative importance, these are the supplements you might think about taking after you've solidified a rock solid diet.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sample Diet

After giving my nutritional guidelines, I thought I'd give you a sample of what my diet looks like on an average day. I also included any supplements that I take.

7 AM—Whey Protein Shake + Glutamine
7:30 AM—Go lean Cereal with Skim Milk and blueberries (3 eggs and whole wheat toast on the weekends when I have more time)
8:30 AM—Bowl Oatmeal, 5 Prunes, 1 Banana
9:30 AM—Chicken, Whole Grain Rice, Carrots
12 PM—Post workout #1 Protein Shake + Glutamine
12:30 PM—Chicken, Whole Grain Rice, Carrots
3:30 PM—Chicken, Whole Grain Rice, Carrots
5 PM—Bowl Oatmeal, Almonds as snack
7:30 PM—Post workout #2 Protein Shake + Glutamine
8 PM—Hamburger with whole wheat bread and Lean Ground Beef
8:30 PM—2 Servings each Broccoli and Spinach
9 PM—Peanut Butter on whole wheat bread + Yogurt
10 PM—ZMA tablet before bed

I am somewhat fortunate in that I have a job where I am at a desk most of the day and can eat at my convenience. If you are not in that position, try to at least get a healthy snack in between meals to keep your metabolism cranking.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Nutritional Guidelines

Below are the three most important nutritional tips to help lose or maintain body fat while achieving your macronutrient needs to support a strong mind and body:

1. Don't over eat

This may seem obvious but losing and gaining weight is simple math. Take in more calories than you burn and your going to gain weight, take in less calories than you burn and you'll lose weight, take in and expend an equal amount of calories and you'll maintain weight. If you take the first path and consume more calories than you burn, you're going to put on weight. Now, if you workout and want to add muscle (remember muscle helps increase our metabolism and burn body fat) it is not necessarily a bad thing to eat a little more than you expend. However, if you don't workout or significantly over eat, you'll put on the other type of weight--body fat.

2. Eat six small meals throughout the day

By eating frequently throughout the day, you'll keep your metabolism cranking. In this manner, you'll actually be able to eat more in a day than if you ate three large meals because you are burning more calories through increased metabolism.

3. Eat a clean diet.

  • Eat whole grains rather than refined grains--they contain more fiber and less sugar.
  • Eat healthy fats (monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids), which can be found in fish and nuts, rather than saturated and trans fats--they help prevent heart disease, cancer, and support brain development.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables.--they provide vitamins and minerals (antioxidents used to ward off disease).
  • Last but not least, eat enough protein to support your muscles--if your working out hard, that's one gram of protein per pound of body weight each day.

To help you figure out how much you should be consuming each day, use the calculator below. It will give two benchmarks for caloric intake. One if you workout, the other if you don't. It also divides your daily intake into six separate meals. Enjoy!

Calculate Your Caloric Intake!

Enter Your Bodyweight In The Appropriate Box Below:

Your Bodyweight In Pounds: OR In Kilograms:

Your Body Fat Percentage: % (Do not enter the percent sign.)