Tag Archives: strength training

Understanding Sets and Reps

Numbers. They’re such a part of our lives and all have different values and significance. When it comes to exercise, more specifically weight training, numbers can become one of the defining differences between accomplishing a goal or missing it completely. Take for example sets and reps. Most will exercise with a number(s) in mind but do they truly know what they represent and are they using them according to their goals? Let’s take a deeper look.

The Obvious

Repetitions, or reps, are simply the number of times you perform an exercise. For example, in weight training when you do a bicep curl for 10 reps, you’re lifting the weight 10 times. Sets are simply a group of reps. The ultimate goal with sets and reps is to stimulate a change, whether it be to increase strength, muscle growth, power, or endurance. It’s important to note that all four desired outcomes require different stimuli and no one set of reps are going to take care of all four. So what scheme is one to use to maximize their workout goals?

Start at the Beginning

It’s become more cliché but no exercise plan should ever start without a goal. Too many “go through the motions” and then blame exercise not working for them. They come up with generalized goals like wanting to lose weight or increase muscle size but have no real specific approach to how they’re going to get there. When deciding on sets and reps schemes, a goal must be clearly defined. Following are some specific guidelines on where to start:

Training for Strength. When your goal is to increase strength, you need to lift heavier weights for fewer reps. For example, those with a strength goal might use five sets of five repetitions. With the relatively higher loads for these reps and sets, you will want to take longer rest periods (1-3 minutes). The neuromuscular system responds to heavyweights by increasing your ability to lift those heavy loads.
Training for Muscle Hypertrophy. A typical approach to reps and sets for those looking to build muscle (the main goal of bodybuilders) might be three sets of eight to 12 reps, at loads that reach failure point (or near) on the last few repetitions. Muscle requires metabolic stress to increase in size. This means working the muscle to the point where lactate builds and muscle suffers internal damage. Size increases occur when you rest, eat appropriately and the muscle repairs, growing larger in the process. This sort of training requires a higher number of repetitions in each set in order to stimulate that breaking point, sometimes called “training to failure.”
Training for Power. “Power” is the ability to move an object at a high speed. In other words, force equals mass times acceleration. Power training requires practicing the acceleration part of a lift, then resting and repeating. In power training, you lift moderately heavy weights, accentuate the concentric first movement of the exercise, then rest sufficiently to recover before doing that rep or set again. Training sessions include six or fewer repetitions for a higher number of sets, about 10 to 12. The goal here would be to get better and stronger at these particular movements, and also increase the weight used in the exercises.
Training for Endurance. Endurance weight training requires more repetitions in each set, perhaps up to 20 or 30, with lighter weights. You may want to consider why you’d set this as your goal. What is the day-to-day function that requires muscular endurance? For example, a runner might want more endurance in their legs or a swimmer in their arms.

But of course most will begin with a basic fitness program that looks to target both strength and muscle building. When deciding on reps and sets, somewhere in the range eight to 15 repetitions for two to four sets will help you accomplish both. Choosing eight to 12 exercises is also a good idea, as is making sure to hit your lower and upper body, and your core. At this stage, don’t lift too heavy or too light (you should feel fatigued by the last rep, but it shouldn’t be overly difficult) to ensure a good foundation before trying more goal-specific workouts.

Making Sense of it All

Bottom line. Exercise is meant to cause a stress; a physical stress to cause change. The bigger the stress, the better the result. Manipulating the sets and reps that you use (a concept known as periodization) is the best bet with creating consistent gains and decreased boredom. Other concepts such as rest periods and tempo of lifting are for a different discussion but even manipulation of those two variables are of importance. The most important key as with any exercise program is to stay safe and injury free. Even light weights at low reps can be hazardous. Sets and reps are merely a guide to help you along the way.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Age Is But A Number

Age IS just a number. It’s the number assigned to you to represent the number of years you have been alive on this Earth. That’s it! Some have higher ages than others, some younger. But here’s the thing. No matter how much you want to try and “slow” it down or “defy” it, it’s going to continue to grow. There is no stopping it. You’ve been aging since the day you were born – get over it! What you can control however is your mentality and attitude about it. If you think you’re old, well, then you’re old. But what if you were to take a moment and see your age as it is, just a number, and live your life to the fullest and tackle each day as it it was your last. I wish to share with you the story of a client who does just that.

Meet Dr. Tucker

Two yeas ago I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Tucker. He lives in Florida most of the year but spends his late spring and summers here as well as the holidays. When I first met Carey as he’s known, he was looking for a trainer to keep up with his newly started workout regimen that began in Florida per his doctor’s recommendation. He had started with a trainer in Florida and wanted to keep it up with someone qualified to do so here in Pennsylvania. He was referred to me by his daughter who knew of me and my reputation. The union had been set and shows no signs of ending! Carey’s approach to exercise is much like an ambitious twenty something. He arrives for his session about thirty minutes in advance to get some quality time on the elliptical trainer (his preferred cardiovascular exercise of choice). Then we get into our session which may look something like this:

• Dynamic movement prep and/or core work
• Combinations of upper and lower body strengthening exercises, everything from squats, lunges (his favorite), DB chest presses, pulldowns, rows, etc.
• A variety of accessory work such as exercises for the biceps, triceps, shoulders, etc.
• Randomly selected “athletic” moves such as ladder drills, plyometrics, suspension training, etc.

The really cool thing about working with Carey? He never makes excuses for his age. In fact, there are many times he’s the one asking for another set, rep, or weight increase. I’m not kidding but I’m more than happy to oblige. He demands a lot from me but demands even more from himself. He knows his limits and what he can do as well as being able to take it a step further at times. Many could learn a valuable a lesson about exercise and how to best approach it from Carey and through all the sweat and fatigue, it’s way better in the end than the alternative.

Exercising and Age

Carey is someone who gets it. Of course things are going to be harder than they were twenty, thirty, or even 40 years ago. But exercise no matter what the method ever loses its effectiveness. It’s all about physical movement. Period. We simply don’t get enough and many as they age will avoid it because they’re “old”. However you get it and keep with it consistently will pay huge dividends. It’s not about what you used to be able to do but what you can do right now, regardless of your age. Exercise is not age selective; mindset is. Always keep in mind that the only one who places limits on yourself is you. Keep a strong, fresh mind and you will remain forever young.

By the way, Carey is 74.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.



12 Days of Fitness 2014: Day 2 – Common Strength Training Mistakes to Avoid

(This is Part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

too-lightEven before my days as a fitness professional, I spent a lot of time in gyms, including backyard, basement, garage, as well as brick and mortar buildings. Through my own experiences and subsequent educational background, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about how the muscles work, how they adapt, and how they grow. But despite all of that, I still learn something new every day that just keeps it that much more fascinating. So imagine my disbelief and frustration when I see those who are clearly investing the time to lift weights, whether it be to build strength, change the shape of their body, or improve some level of performance, and they’re going about it all wrong. It’s not just about proper form either as there are exceptions and individual characteristics to consider (we’re not all built the same) in each case. The lifter from beginner to the experienced is guilty of making the mistakes too as it pertains to strength training and here are a list of some of the most common ones to avoid.

Using Too Much Mr. Mo-Mentum

Certain power movements require some momentum to complete but not every day, standard lifts. I’ve witnessed way too often when a person uses way too much momentum and swinging when they lift. Momentum doesn’t work a muscle through the full range of motion. Instead, it works towards improving your reversal strength. When you lower a weight down (eccentric contraction) and immediately reverse it (concentric contraction), there is a large amount of stored kinetic energy. This energy acts like a spring and ends up neglecting the beginning of the concentric phase of the movement. It’s like driving a manual transmission without first taking your foot off of the gas to step on the clutch.

Pumping Ego Instead of Muscles

A lot of people, men in particular, are afraid to use the amount of weight they should be using rather than the weight they’re attempting to lift. They’re more afraid to be thought of as weak rather than sensible as they proceed to load up a bar with weight they can’t lift correctly. Train smart and progressively by using the right amount of weight and don’t worry what others think. If being in a contest is what you want, there are plenty that you go train for.

Using a Reduced Range of Motion

There are times when partial reps have a benefit – like when you’re trying to train your sticking points. For most people though, they should be lowering the weight and raising it through the full range of motion. Unless you want to get really good at doing quarter squats or partial pull-ups, you must carry the load from beginning to end as much distance as safely possible.

Neglecting the Lower Body

Men are by far more guilty of this than women are. It’s the beach body mentality – arms and chest get priority. Unless you want to look like Mr. Potato Head standing on tooth picks, you need to be training your lower body with the same intensity as your upper. Your quads, hamstrings, hips, and glutes are huge muscles – much bigger than your chest, biceps, and triceps. Adding muscle to these areas will do amazing things for your physique.

Not Having a Plan of Periodization or Progressive Overload

I’ve seen this way too many times when you can tell the day of the week by the body parts that are predominantly being worked in the weight room. With that, the same exercises done in the same order with the same weight for the same number of reps. If you’re going into the gym and doing the same thing each time, you’re never going to make any real progress. You must plan your workouts so that you’re continually getting stronger over a period of time. You might have to push forward with weight and then back off some before pushing forward again, but the overall trend should be up if your goal is to get stronger.

Unknowingly Creating Muscle Imbalances

Antagonistic muscles, the muscles that are opposite the muscles getting worked, need to be trained in balance. In addition, stabilizer muscles often get neglected, which keeps them weak and leads to injury when lifting heavy weight. Make sure all muscles in your body, however small or unnoticed, are being trained equally.

Trying to Spot Reduce With Exercise

Using the leg extension, leg curl, abductor/adductor, or glute machines aren’t going to help you tone up your butt and legs any better than any other exercise. That’s because fat loss cannot be targeted with a specific exercise. Fat loss is systemic, not localized. Use strength training to work your entire body and to create a metabolic environment that’s conducive to fat loss. Your diet will take care of the fat loss.

No Respect For Rest

You stimulate growth when you train, but you grow when you rest. Training and recovery are equally important. Your muscles must be recovered if they are to work at their max capacity. Depending on the intensity of your workout, the amount of work you did, and your diet, you may need 48 hours or more to fully recover.

Overdoing the Isolation Exercises

Isolation exercises are fun, but they are the long route to results. Compound movement exercises, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, etc., that use multiple muscle groups at once, are much more effective at building muscle and strength. Make the core of your strength training program composed of compound exercises, and then use the isolation movements to work on weak points to compliment the bigger muscles.

Not Doing a Proper Warm Up

The best way to avoid injuries when weight lifting is to be properly prepared. Warming up for weight lifting doesn’t get the attention it should as in other physical endeavors. You should at the very least get your heart rate up and blood to the muscles before asking them to move resistances heavier than they experience on a daily basis. Doing some dynamic warm-up exercises before a workout can help prevent injury and even improve performance.

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.



Do Women Have A Harder Time Losing Weight Than Men?

77444-406x296-Weight_PlateauWho’s stronger? Who’s smarter? Who is more fit?? The battle of the sexes has raged on for years and will most likely continue as the years go by. However, when it comes to fitness it really does come down to the science. There really are differences between the way men and women diet, lose weight and respond to exercise. Most of the differences are rooted in biology; other differences are behavioral. But though many of these seem to give men the upper hand, they shouldn’t be taken to imply that men have it easy either. Losing weight, more specifically losing fat, is not easy, if not confusing for either sex. Research over the past few years is really starting to provide some light, and an answer, to the question.

The Current Solution

For years nutritionists have long insisted that losing weight is simply a matter of burning more calories than you consume. Despite that seemingly easy concept, nearly 50% of Americans are obese and that number is increasingly on the rise. So what gives? Are we really eating more? Yes. Are truly moving less? Yes. But the information that researchers are unearthing about the differences in the way that men and women lose weight inspires hope that the next generation of weight-loss advice will be more tailored and effective than the generic tips that have gotten Americans fatter and unwell.

Differences in Exercise and Nutrition

First, let’s talk M&Ms, and no, I don’t mean the chocolate that melts in your mouth and not in your hands. I’m talking about muscles and metabolism. Men tend to have more muscle than women, and because muscle burns more calories than fat tissue, men tend to have a faster metabolism, too — anywhere between 3 to 10 percent higher than women, studies have shown. When it comes to working out, that difference just gets magnified all due to exercise myths and false beliefs. Women, worried about bulking up, tend to lift lighter weights and focus more on cardiovascular fitness, while men tend to gravitate toward the kind of heavy lifting that boosts muscle building and increasing metabolism. In terms of how we eat, there’s evidence that men and women’s brains are actually wired a bit differently. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (January 2009) even though women said they weren’t hungry when asked to smell, taste, and observe treats such as pizza, cinnamon buns and chocolate cake, brain scans showed activity in the regions that control the drive to eat. Not so for men. But it doesn’t end there. In women, ghrelin — the “I’m hungry” hormone — spikes after a workout, while leptin — which tells the brain ‘I’m full!’ — plummets, according to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integral and Comparable Physiology. Again, not so in men. Post-workout, women tend to eat more, which puts them at risk to gain weight. On the contrary, men don’t experience this same hormonal fluctuation. Researchers hypothesize that it’s the female body’s natural way of fighting energy deficits in order to preserve fertility and perpetuate the species. When women aren’t getting enough calories, ovulation and hormones that make reproduction possible get suppressed. But there’s more than just biology at work here.

The Head Game

A complex of emotional and behavioral issues has a powerful impact on the way men and women approach weight loss. Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitian and author says she “has seen many women gain weight as soon as they get into a relationship with men because they start eating as much and as often as their male partners. That turns out to be too much,” she says. And then there’s the question of what drives men and women to eat: hunger for food, or some more profound craving. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition established that women are more commonly emotional eaters than men. And emotional eaters, in an effort to feel better, are prone to reach for foods that will ignite the reward center of the brain, which tend to be the sugary, fatty, salty, hyper-palatable foods. Despite that the research has shown that both men and women are prone to an all-or-nothing approach to weight loss, women generally take extreme measures to get back on track, with tactics such as skipping meals or extreme calorie deprivation.

What To Do?

“Lifestyle choices are immensely powerful,” Sass says. Biology is not a destiny; it is a journey – much like fitness. If you’re convinced that your sex gives you certain limitations, you need to change your mentality. Don’t blame the exercise; you choose what you participate in. Don’t blame your metabolism; you are its creator. Don’t blame the food; you choose to eat it. Don’t blame your age; there are many more just like you “choosing” to not make that their excuse.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.





6 Exercise Mistakes You Could Be Making 2013 – 12 Days of Fitness: Day 12

(This is the final segment of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

0709-a-wh-fitness-1847One of my favorite sayings is “That which does not kill you only makes you stronger.” I find it both motivating and powerful at the same time and it can apply to anyone in their own unique way. For me, I have always come to use it with regards to my personal health and fitness development. I seek the challenge both daily and consistently pushing the limits of my own capacity. But exercise is something that is good for me regardless and for that I will always continue to remain physically active. For others, just getting that message is tough and for those that do they often go about it blindly doing something they know is good for them without any sense of purpose. A lot of people will say “any exercise is good exercise” to which I inevitably reply, “You can always be better.” So if you’re of the fortunate number of people who not just understand the value of exercise but attempt to live it fully, here are 6 common mistakes to avoid along the journey.

  1. Stop Doing Exercise You Don’t Enjoy. And no, the excuse “but I don’t like exercise” doesn’t count here. Media and pop culture all too often and unfortunately influence what types of workouts are not only “hot” and the “thing to do” but generally have little to no scientific data to support their validity. Hence, you get a bunch of people doing something that they either 1) really don’t enjoy, or 2) get injured in the process and are back to square one disliking exercise in the first place. Find something that is not only enjoyable and repeatable, but has real value in benefiting your fitness.
  2. Doing Too Much Exercise. A difficult concept to understand because after all, exercise is a good thing, so more must be better. Wrong. In a few short weeks, thousands will hit the gym to begin working out for the first time or to get re-started (again) and the number one mistake they will make is trying to erase weeks, months, perhaps years of bad health decisions by “crash training” themselves into the ground. Too much exercise can be just as counterproductive as not exercising at all. For exercise to be effective, remember the three “P’s”: have a plan for why you’re working out and what you’re doing; have a proper progression in the amount and type of exercise you choose; have passion for what you’re doing.
  3. Not Preparing Properly. Exercise is properly defined as any physical activity you do that is above and beyond anything you would normally do on a daily basis. Therefore, preparing for a workout should take just as much a priority in the workout as the regimen itself. It is often neglected or copied blindly by doing what was always done. See my post on the importance of the warm up from earlier last month to discover the how and why it is supposed to be done.
  4. Exercising Through Injuries. Injuries happen and if you do anything long enough you’re bound to get hurt. Accidents and injuries happen and as tough as it may be at first, it’s always best to cut back and give the injury time to heal, rather than push through the pain. The alternative is developing a nagging injury that never goes away.
  5. Thinking Cardio and Strength Training Are To Be Separated. Most people have come up believing that cardio workouts were to be separate from strength training workouts. This line of thinking became so popularized that people started to forget that cardio is simply cardiovascular training. Cardiovascular training can also be accomplished at the same time as strength training. You just need to push the intensity of your workouts.
  6. Working Out Your Ego Instead of Your Muscles. A whole chain of fitness centers of which I will not name grew its entire brand from this. If you go to the gym to compete with others, you’ve already lost the point of getting exercise. In addition, if you go to the gym and are worried about what others think of you and what you’re doing, there’s a deeper issue there than simply not getting enough exercise. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Work out with a weight that allows you to use proper form and move through the full range of motion. And if it’s an audience you crave, there are alternatives to stoke the ego.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

In case you missed any of the 12 Days of Fitness – 2013, here’s a convenient link to each day:

Day #1 – Holiday Fitness Survival Guide
Day #2 – 6 Lies The Food Industry Is Feeding You
Day #3 – Can I Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle?
Day #4 – The 10 Best Fitness Apps
Day #5 – Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer
Day #6 – 7 Reasons To Stop Drinking Diet Soda
Day #7 – Is Cardio Necessary To Lose Weight?
Day #8 – Are Your Eyes Bigger Than Your Stomach?
Day #9 –  Successful Resistance Training 101
Day #10 – Can You Please Pass the Salt?
Day #11 – Still Good Enough For Us To Eat?

Successful Resistance Training 101 2013 – 12 Days of Fitness: Day 9

(This is Part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

weighttraining1As someone who has spent a lot of time in the gym, I can honestly say that no reality TV show has anything on the things I’ve seen in the weight room. There are those who think they own the gym and consequently there are those who don’t go in there because of them. The novice needn’t be intimidated or afraid though because there is a vast difference between those who think they own the joint and those who really know what they are doing. Of all the exercises that one can choose, nothing will strengthen and reshape the body more effectively than resistance training. For that reason, it’s not something to be taken lightly or time spent wasted with minimal or no results.

For Resistance Training To Be Successful….

  1. Use Proper Form – I’ve seen it all. Legs flailing, rounded backs, flared elbows, bouncing bars, etc. You aren’t doing yourself any favors using bad form. The greatest chance for injury occurs towards the end of the set when form begins to waver. Do yourself a favor and do a little research before attempting an exercise. Hire a trainer, read a book, etc.; just don’t make the mistake of trying to be so macho you injure yourself. It’s not how much you lift; it’s how you lift it.
  2. Don’t Compare to Others – I think a lot of the boneheaded mistakes people make in the weight room are ego related. They want to know how much you lifted. They’re afraid of people watching them work out. They’re afraid of doing something wrong, so they avoid it. They’re afraid of not looking very strong, so they sacrifice form for more weight on the bar. You are only in competition with yourself. Don’t compare your numbers to others. Resistance training is about personal development; there is no room for ego.
  3. Mix It Up – The body is a very adaptive machine. Do the same thing over and over again, and it will become very efficient at that movement. That sounds good, but not if you want to make progress. I used to think Mondays was international chest day because everyone would bench on Monday and with that, the same exact sequence of exercises, sets, reps, and weights. Motor neuron adaptations take place very quickly. A large portion of your strength gains are not only from muscle growth, but better motor neuron recruitment too. Change your routine up every few weeks.
  4. Take Time For Recovery – The real result of the workout comes from the recovery; the workout was just the catalyst. You grow when you rest, not when you work out. Working out tears down your muscles so that you can build them up bigger and stronger while you’re resting. If you don’t allow enough time between workouts, you’ll be limiting your strength potential come workout time.
  5. Use Compound Movements – Compound exercises involve the movements of several joints. They allow for maximum muscle fiber and motor neuron recruitment. I see this a lot in what I call “charmers”. They work their chest and arms (biceps) only with using the bench press as their sole compound exercise. They don’t do squats, deadlifts, etc. so they have nicely developed upper bodies supported on toothpicks. For 90% of fitness individuals, compound exercises will be all they need to be successful. Isolation exercises are fun but not completely necessary in most cases.
  6. Work Out With Intensity By using compound exercises, you’re already on the right path towards boosting your intensity. Recruiting a large majority of muscles forces you to work harder. In doing so, you stimulate the release of all kinds of favorable hormones that will help you build muscle and lose fat. Another even simpler way to boost your intensity is to take less time between sets and exercises. I can’t tell you the number of people over the years who take credit for spending three hours in the gym for doing 20 minutes worth of work.
  7. Chart Your Progress – You need to provide a stimulus to your muscles if you want them to grow. More weight on the bar, an extra rep, or more work in a given time, all are ways to make progress. If you went to the gym and lifted 135lbs for 10 reps, and then did the same exact thing the next workout, or even 3 workouts later, why would your body think it needs to adapt? It already has the strength it needs to perform that activity. If you want to grow, you need to better your last workout.
  8. Man (Woman) Up – If you want the result and you’re going to invest in the time and energy it takes in the gym, you better understand that your nutrition is the biggest determinant of your success, not your exercise. Building muscle requires calories, and unless you’re eating an excess of them, you aren’t going to grow much at all. And no plastic tub of powder is going to be the only solution.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.



7 Reasons Why Women Need to Strength Train

Statistically, more women train with weights today than they did 10 years ago.  Unfortunately, the myth still perpetuates that strength training (aka resistance training, weight lifting, weight training, etc.) leads to big, bulky muscles in women and creates a masculine look instead of the sleek, sculpted feminine look that so many desire. So in an effort to recruit more ladies to a diet rich in iron, here are 7 reasons WHY women need to train with weights.  And for the guys, pay attention, because for the all the reasons it’s good for the ladies it has the same benefits for you as well.

  1. You have to lift some weights to get toned. Getting “toned” is such a catch phrase and misnomer (muscles always have tone or they wouldn’t function) but it’s essentially what women are looking for when they pick up weights. Strength training puts stress on the muscle fibers, breaks them down and then when you recover they will build back stronger. Cardio doesn’t have that effect at all.
  2. Strength training helps you lose weight. In order to lose weight one of the things you can and need to do is boost your metabolism. Strength training stimulates the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system. Muscle is a much more active tissue than fat and needs more energy (calories) to work. Strength training develops more lean muscle; more lean muscle burns more calories; more calories burned equals weight loss.
  3. The right kind of strength training won’t bulk you up. Most women have lower testosterone levels than their male counterparts so it’s pretty much impossible naturally. Muscle bulk comes from high volume of work, progressively heavier loads, protein synthesis, etc. – more than most women care or have the time for.  Instead, the focus should be on doing the same exercises as men, just at a level that’s challenging for you.
  4. Strength training is fun. Forget all about the stereotypes associated with lifting weights – the grunting, dropping of plates, banging of metal, veins popping, etc. Most of that is all for show. Strength training is hard, yes, but it can and does create more of a sense of physical accomplishment than just running aimlessly on a treadmill.
  5. Lift more to lose more. Lifting heavy weights with perfect form is primarily stimulating the nervous system so you are getting stronger without adding “size” to the muscle. Plus you burn more calories and challenge your body harder than small weights with high reps. Lifting a heavier dumbbell or dead lifting a barbell is 100 times more effective than 25 repetitions of bicep curls with iddy biddy 5 pound weights.
  6. You can get strength training and cardio training all in one workout.  Want to really change the shape of your body? Ditch the cardio exercise. Perform a 30-40 minute workout combining movements (large multi joint movements super set with smaller, isolation movements with minimal rest periods (30-45 secs tops) for a metabolic cardio effect while getting strong and lean.
  7. It is ALL about body composition. Throw the scales away. Would you rather be 130 pounds and 28% body fat (36.4 lbs of fat) or 130 lbs and 20% body fat (26 lbs of fat). Same scale weight, drastically different looking physique. It’s not always what the scale says, but instead how much fat you are packing on and how your clothes are fitting. If you are looking to lose weight, use the scale in moderation and instead get an accurate body fat percentage reading and take your measurements. Oh, and by the way, muscle does not weigh more than fat. It is just more dense but takes up less space.

You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to appreciate the benefits of strength training nor will you look like one. With the right program of exercises just a few days a week, the benefits of strength training are unsurpassed by any other exercise modality.


Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.



12 Days of Fitness 2011 – Day 7: Four Strength Training Tips For Real Results

images (1)(This is Part 7 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season)

Strength training, weight training, resistance training – whatever you want to call it, is an essential key component to any fitness program. Without it, there’s no way to get stronger; no way to combat the effects of gravity; no way to develop lean muscle, and on and on. But because most pick up weights for the wrong reason (“I just want to tone”) or have no idea on how to do the exercises properly (“I saw this great workout in Muscle and Fiction”), it often leads to diminished or no results.  One of the great mentors in the industry, Coach Mike Boyle, ranted in a post I read earlier this year and as with most things that Coach Boyle discusses, he’s dead on. I share it with you today whether you’re intimidated by weight training or even consider yourself a seasoned veteran.  These are great points to consider next time you pick up the weights.

Point 1 – No one ever got better lifting light weights.

Light weight is an oxymoron. A weight should be appropriate to the goal but, rarely, if ever, intentionally light. The load should be based on the strength level of the person. The reality is if you are lifting a weight ten times, numbers nine and ten should be difficult. If you can lift a weight 20 times but choose to do only ten, you are wasting your time. Period.

Point 2 – The essence of effective strength training is a concept called progressive resistance exercise.

This means that that even if the resistance may be light to begin with, it should not stay that way. I go crazy when someone tells me about the routine they’ve been doing with their eight-lb hand weights. (P.S. Call them dumbbells. Calling them hand weights is a dead giveaway that you are clueless.)  My first question is this. How long have you been doing this? Often, people respond with something like, “I’ve done this three times a week for three months.” The doctrine of progressive resistance says that the first two weeks were beneficial and that 10 weeks were wasted. It’s no wonder people stop working out.

Point 3 – Once you have passed the first three weeks of training, you should lift a weight that is heavy but allows perfect form.

Be wary, however, of another all-too-common mistake. When we say the load should be heavy, people begin to cheat. We are not encouraging cheating. Strive for perfect technique in all exercises AND progressively increase the resistance.

Point 4 – Work on basic strength in basic exercises.

If your trainer has you practicing your golf swing with a dumbbell in your hands, get a new trainer. Do not wave dumbbells around and call it strength training. Learn to bodyweight squat, learn to do a push-up. Good basic training should strongly remind you of the calisthenics you used to do in high school.

Here’s the truth. The secret is, there is no secret. If you want to hit a golf ball further, you need to get stronger.  You will not get strong lifting a five-pound dumbbell.

Thanks Coach Boyle!

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.



My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #1 The Shake Weight

(This is the final in a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

Get Sexy, Toned Arms & Shoulders in just minutes per day using the Shake Weight!!The Shake Weight

Well, we have reached the end of My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment.  Mind you, this list was for the gimmicks sold on TV, not the abundance of useless equipment that fills health clubs; that’s for another time. I could have created a Top 20, 50, or even 100 list of the most useless pieces of exercise equipment and it still wouldn’t have covered it all.  Aside from the equipment, such as the Hawaii Chair, the Ab Doer, and the High Tech Ride Ijoy, there are also the useless gimmicks such as the Sauna Belt, the AbTronic, and countless others that could make a book all their own. I see a new one just about every other week and as is proof from my list, abdominal gimmicks seem to proliferate the market the most.  But when I first saw the Shake Weight I thought it was a joke…really, like some kind of twisted Saturday Night Live skit. (actually, SNL did do a parody skit, click here to see video parody) To my utter amazement, the Shake Weight (over $40 million in sales) is for real.  How gullible has society become and where does it ever end?

Just For the Women

It is the fear of far too many women that resistance training will bulk them up.  It is a completely unfound fear when in reality resistance training will do more to change the shape of a woman than just about anything she will do exercise wise. There are too many factors, such as the amount of circulating testosterone, total volume lifted, rate of protein synthesis, calories consumed among other things that have to be present in order for women to show much muscle hypertrophy.  A small percentage of women have higher than normal circulating testosterone levels (yes, even women have testosterone naturally occurring in their bodies as do men have levels of estrogen in their bodies) and the grotesquely enormous muscular women got that way artificially. I have always been amused by the woman in the weight room standing in front of the mirror while bicep curling a 5 lb. dumbbell because she only wants to “tone” her arms and not get manly arms. What she doesn’t understand is that she would tone her arms more effectively and noticeably with a heavier weight done correctly to muscular failure.  This woman is the target consumer of the Shake Weight manufacturer.

By merely shaking the Shake Weight, it is guaranteed to tone, trim, shape, and flab blast the arms and shoulders through what the makers of Shake Weight call “dynamic inertia”, which is nothing more than describing the forces moving back and forth from the momentum caused by the Shake Weight’s motion.  The result: the muscles of the upper extremities (arms, chest, and shoulders) are contracting quickly to decelerate and create more momentum.  Will the muscles burn and get tired? Probably.  Will it be enough to strengthen and tone the muscles of the upper extremities? Hardly.  And yet again, the Shake Weight is sold on the promise of spot reduction (eliminating fat from a body part by working that body part) and spot toning (defining a desired muscle by working that muscle). It may work the targeted muscle, but not enough to elicit the change that is sought.

Just For the Men

The popularity of the women’s Shake Weight was so pronounced that someone at Shake Weight HQ decided it would be a good idea to promote a men’s only Shake Weight. When you watch the ads for the women’s Shake Weight it promotes toning and sculpting and not increased size and strength.  The men’s Shake Weight promotes size, definition, strength, and will build muscle.  Wait a minute.  Isn’t that what most women don’t want? Isn’t that what the men would want? What makes the men’s Shake Weight so different? Nothing, except that it’s a little bit heavier (women’s is 2.5 pounds; the men’s is 5 lbs). Hmmm. Do you see now why these things are so ridiculous? They think the average consumer won’t notice or care to notice the difference because they’re too emotionally wrapped up in why their arms are so flabby.  Well, sadly it was enough to generate over $40 million dollars in sales. May be four years of college and 16+ years of real world practical experience have taught me nothing.

Here’s My Answer to That

Wake up people! There is not one single exercise, device, supplement, or diet that is going to make you healthier or more fit than you currently are all on its own.  It requires a lifestyle; a lifestyle of moderate, consistent exercise; healthy and balanced nutrition; stress reduction and plenty of rest.  It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to be better more times than not. It requires a discipline that doesn’t necessarily need to be a hardship, but it needs to be automatic.  For some, it will take more work than others, but no matter how hard the effort or path you follow, the end result undeniably outweighs the journey.  Take responsibility for your own health for ultimately in the end, you have no one to point the finger at but yourself.

My Conclusion to This Series

I hope you enjoyed this series of My Top Ten Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment. I have a lot of pride and a lot of passion for my profession and it is not only my duty but my honor to educate and touch as many people as I can who seek true health, real fitness, and the knowledge they not only need, but deserve to hear.  So as I’ve ended all of my posts and til I post again….

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment so far:

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master
#8 The Ab Roller
#7 The Red Exerciser
#6 Leg Magic
#5 The Ab Circle
#4 The Bender Ball
#3 6 Second Abs
#2 The Ab Lounge


The 12 Days of Fitness – Day 8 – To Lift Or Not To Lift? That Is The Question

William-Shakespeare-007Strength training, resistance training, weight training, weight lifting – they all mean the same thing.  All of these terms are used to describe any exercise in which an external resistance is pushed, pulled, raised, or lowered from or towards the body.  For most, dumbbells and barbells come to mind.  But weight training could also include bands (elastic force), bodyweight, and even water.  However, no matter what you choose, it’s important you know the “why” and not the “assumed”.

It’s Not About Mass at All

Women in particular fear the words “weight” or “resistance” when it comes to training and exercise; fear that it will bulk them up and turn them into grunting Neanderthals.  Truth is, resistance training is probably the single, most beneficial exercise anyone can do, particularly women.  Mass or bulk, while certainly can be the result of resistance training, is a combination of many factors coming together.  The resistance training is just the spark, but if there isn’t enough of the other “fuel” (testosterone, proper caloric intake, cyclic training routines, etc.),  there’s no combustion to create size.  Just ask the hard gainer in the gym who’s weight trained for years and struggles to add any weight to his frame.

It’s About Form – The Human Form

“I just want to tone my muscles” is what I always hear.  Guess what?  Your muscles are always tone and there are approximately 640 of them..  Tonality correctly refers to the ability of a muscle to maintain its designed form and function, so unless you’re dead, your muscles are always toned.  The “tone” that most people are referring to is the ability to see the muscles (i.e., no blanket of fat over them).  Guess what?  Resistance training will do more to create decreased levels of body fat than any other form of exercise, no matter if it’s weights, body weight, water, – it doesn’t matter.  Building quality, functional muscle is what resistance training is all about.

So the question then becomes, how can you afford not to lift?

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of my 12 Days of Fitness.