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.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My First Workout Program that Really Worked

I was a freshman in college. I had done some weight training in high school, but I wasn't very informed on what I was doing. I did, however, see some small gains from my very flawed program. I think I did something like a full body workout every other day. However, not long after, I hit my first plateau. Naturally, I thought that if some working out was good, then more would be better. Soon I was doing a three hour workout every other day. I performed just about every exercise I knew. Not surprisingly, I didn't make any progress and probably got a little weaker from being so overtrained. Fortunately, I played a club sport, and one of the athletes on the team was a graduate student that had played division I football. Lucky for me, he was willing to help me with my workout program. He made two major changes:

  • Drastically reduce the amount of volume. Good-bye three hour workouts—I was in the gym an hour at most

  • Perform compound exercises with forced reps. That means that after I went to failure and could not physically lift the weight one more time, I'd have a spotter help me with a few more repetitions.

Compared to what I was used to, the results were amazing. First of all, despite the fact that I had previously been doing long workouts, I was never terribly sore the next day. After my first workout on the new program, that changed in a hurry—putting my mind at ease because I was worried that I was not doing enough volume to get good hypertrophy. More importantly, I made fantastic gains and was very pleased with the results.

So what can you do to learn from my mistakes?

  • Don't spend all day in the gym. If you are there more than an hour, you are probably being counter productive, as your testosterone levels may start to dip.

  • Get the most out of your sets. If you've been lifting for a few months and your just starting to hit your first plateau, try forced reps to see if you can create a little more hypertrophy.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Exercise Efficiently

Many people do not workout because they are unwilling to make the perceived time commitment associated with starting a workout program. To get folks over that hurdle, below are two relatively simple strategies to build the most muscle, lose the most fat, and become fitter in the least amount of time:

  • Perform only basic compound exercises when strength training
  • Perform high intensity interval training rather than enduring long cardio sessions at a relatively slow pace.

Compound Exercises

Compound exercises are exercises that involve multiple muscle groups. Some examples include squats, bench press, and pullups. When performing these exercises you are “getting the most bang for your buck” because you are working several muscle groups at the same time. For instance, bench press works chest, shoulders, and triceps. Unless you're a bodybuilder and have hours to spend in the gym, why spend your time doing specific isolation exercises when you could hit many body parts at the same time? Instead, do three sets of squats, pull-ups, and bench press for eight to twelve repetitions to failure and you've got yourself a full body workout in 30-40 minutes. Do that twice a week (feel free to switch in and out exercises working similar muscle groups such as incline bench press or dumbbell bench press instead of bench press) and you will be well on your way to adding muscle. The more muscle mass you are able to add, the faster your metabolism will become because muscle burns up to ninety percent more calories than fat. By adding three to five pounds of muscle you could actually burn 100 - 250 additional calories per day.

High Intensity Interval Training

Have you ever spent 45 minutes or more doing cardio because you heard that you don't start burning fat until after that point? Well, there is a much more efficient way to go about cardio training. Instead, perform ten one-minute intervals of perceived high intensity work (this work can vary from sprinting, to the exercise bike, to walking fast depending on your current fitness level) with a 30 second break in between. This type of exercise will not only burn more calories in a shorter amount of time, but will also increase your metabolism through out the day as well as raise your level of overall fitness. This workout will take you 15 minutes (maybe 20 minutes if you include a quick warm-up and cool down). Try this twice a week on days when you are not strength training.

These workouts are highly efficient. You'll probably spend more time surfing the Internet today than it would take to complete one of these workouts. So what are you waiting for? Get to it!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Workout and Nutrition for Young Athletes

I've been looking at a lot of questions from young athletes lately on various message boards. That got me thinking about all the mistakes I made as a young lifter. Therefore, I thought I give some simple advice for those just starting to lift weights:

  • Use compound exercises (exercises using multiple body parts, such as bench press, pullups, squats)--these should be the core of your workout. In fact, you could make darn good progress using only those three exercises.
  • If you do try muscle specific exercises (such as bicep curl or tricep extension) make sure you do the big compound exercises first because they work the largest muscle groups and that is where you will add the most muscle mass.
  • Don't workout for more than one hour at a time. This was a huge mistake I made because I wanted to add muscle so badly. When you do workout for over an hour, your testosterone levels start to dip and you are being counter-productive.
  • Eat your protein. Try to get 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. As an ectomorph, I didn't make big gains until I applied this concept.
  • Do your homework and think about the future. Working out will get you plenty of girls for now, but when you're a poor twenty-something year old, nobody will be interested in how much you bench press.

There you have it. Its actually pretty simple. The good news is, as a beginner to weightlifting you are going to make gains way faster than I do these days.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Beginner's Exercise Program

Starting with the basics and moving towards more advanced, this post will be dedicated to a beginner's program with the premise that the trainee does not have a lot of history exercising and does not have much time to devote to fitness. The following will consist mainly of:

  • compound exercises (movements that involve multiple muscle groups)

  • short, but intense interval training (brief periods of high perceived exertion followed by rest)


  • Incline Bench Press or Other Pressing Movement: 3 Sets * 8-10 Reps

  • Stationary Bike or Other Cardio: 10 Sets (1 minute sprint, 30 seconds rest)


  • Chin-Ups or Other Pulling Movement: 3 Sets * Reps to failure

  • Row Machine or Other Cardio: 10 Sets (1 minute sprint, 30 seconds rest)


  • Squats: 3 Sets * 12 - 15 Reps

  • Ellipse Machine or Other Cardio: 10 Sets (1 minute sprint, 30 seconds rest)


  • Choose a weight where you are performing all lifts to failure (meaning you could not perform another repetition)

  • Other compound pressing movements may include bench press, shoulder press, etc.

  • Other compound pulling movements include pull-ups, row variations, etc.

  • Running is my personal favorite for cardio, but I assumed that the trainee would not have access to a track or field.

  • Rest 90 seconds or so in between lifting sets.

You should be able to knock out each workout in about half an hour--very efficient. If a sedentary person made a life style change by committing 1.5 hours per week to this program, they'd be quite pleased with the results. Your metabolism should increase both from added muscle mass and the short cardio sessions (which has shown to be more effective than longer sessions of light intensity).

Comments ......

Workout Mission Statement

To provide the readers with advice, support and assistance pertaining to their personalized diet and fitness regimens. While experimenting with different dieting methods, lifting programs, and types of supplements, it became obvious that individuals need individualized programs. Whether you've never touched a weight in your life and have minimal time to workout and eat right, or compete regularly in bodybuilding or powerlifting and consider fitness a 24-7 job, I'd like to:

  • Dispense my nutritional and exercise related advice to help improve your current fitness level
  • Learn others' diet and fitness related successes and failures to disseminate their knowledge and even apply to my own routine