- Whether you’re overweight or underweight you should try a test to see how strong you are. Push-ups measure the overall strength and endurance of your entire upper body. If you’re weak at push-ups, chances are you’ll be weak everywhere else.
- One of the biggest mistakes an exercise newbie can make is focusing too much on the scale. Your weight can become an obsession and isn’t an entirely truthful reflection of the progress you’ve made. If you’re trying to lose weight using weight training, you’ll probably add a few pounds of muscle while losing fat. Set your long-term weight goal and check the scale once a month just to see where you’re at.
- The foods you should eat to get big and those you should eat to trim down are exactly the same. Your body responds to healthy, nutrient-dense foods the fastest, so to achieve results in the shortest time possible you shouldn’t be filling up at your local fast food dealer. Excess calories from poor food choices will do the job if you’re trying to bulk up but they can cause long-term health problems.
- Your body has evolved to eat foods that you’d be able to collect in the wild. If you can’t kill it, pick it, or grow it then you shouldn’t eat too much of it. This is the most important piece of advice. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient or don’t keep it in your pantry, simply don’t eat it. Because humans haven’t been eating these ingredients for very long, there’s no way to know what they’ll do to you in the long term. To live to old age, eat the way your grandparents ate.
- For a total novice, strength gains made in the first six weeks of a program come from improved communications between the brain and muscles. The brain of a veteran lifter is more accustomed to telling his muscles, “Yes, I can do this.” In a sense, the brain holds back the muscles of a novice lifter purely in the interest of protecting him from injury. With training, the body develops a can-do attitude that helps the lifter push more weights or run farther. This gradually dissolves the natural self-defense mechanism.
- The best way to work your biceps is to team them with the triceps. Your biceps flex as your triceps relax and vice versa, so your triceps will warm up in any case. Many trainers pair biceps workouts with legs, chest, or back workouts and pair triceps workouts with chest or shoulders workouts.
- Almost every exercise you can do with a barbell or a machine can be done with dumbbells, and it’s best to roll in this substitution as much as possible. Barbells create strength imbalances in the shoulders very quickly. These imbalances come to light when you train your chest and back with dumbbells. What’s more, barbells and machines can cause injury and mess with your symmetry.
- Do not wear a weightlifting belt on the bench-press machine. Olympic lifters and powerlifters wear belts at two times: when they lift their competition weights and when they need to keep their trousers up. They need to develop core strength first by not using a belt and the same holds true for you. Aim to improve stability in your shoulders, torso, and hips in your workouts. None of this will happen if you belt up on chest day.
- Although push-ups may seem vanilla, they’re chocolate in chest-building results. Many muscle-building pundits applaud the chest-buffing benefits of the humble push-up. You can do a few push-ups every day without risking overtraining. Try setting a target to do 100 each day. By the time you reach that goal your chest will be impressively bigger.
- A tip to maximize your power: Clench you jaw when you bench press or do any other heavy exercise. It helps your muscles go from 0 to 100 faster, so you’ll lift significantly more weight.
- It’s universally accepted that the squat is the very best leg exercise. With this in mind, a lot of trainers say you should bend your knees only until the bottoms of your thighs are parallel to the ground. The strange thing is that your legs can bend until your hamstrings touch your calves. Your body can and should be able to move through its fullest range of motion, so train it through that range of motion to maximize your muscle gains.
- When training legs, try to avoid wearing overly cushioned shoes, especially those you run in. This kind of footwear is designed to absorb impact. If you have a weight on your back, your heels will compress into your shoes, which can compromise the strength of your ankles and cause injury. Instead, use weightlifting or barefoot running shoes when training legs. You’ll put your feet in the most natural position, thereby strengthening all your joints and muscles in the right places.
- Like anything else, stretching is addictive, but there’s no need to overindulge. Research in Physical Therapy (Bandy, Irion and Briggler, 1997) found that stretching once a day yielded the same flexibility as stretching three times a day.
- To lose a lot of your gut quickly, don’t think of lifting weights as an option. Consider it a necessity. Why? If you don’t pump iron, part of the weight you lose may come from muscle.
- Your muscles get bored easily. If you haven’t been hitting your goals fast enough you need to break the tedium—quickly. To refresh your workout you’ll need to include new challenges as much as possible, and to do that you need to plan.
Source: Body Trainer for Men (Human Kinetics, 2013)
*Why do you consider it a mistake for new exercisers to focus on their weight? Is a guy’s weight a truthful reflection of the progress he’s made?
*What are the benefits of doing simple push-ups, and how well do they measure the overall strength and endurance of a guy’s entire upper body?
*Why do the strength gains for a total novice in the first six weeks of a program come from improved communications between the brain and the muscles?
*What is the best way to work biceps, and how do trainers tend to work the biceps differently from what you recommend?
*Why do you feel it’s best to utilize dumbbells instead of barbells or machines? What are some of the problems associated with using barbells and machines?
*Should a guy wear a weightlifting belt on the bench-press machine? Why do you feel it’s important to improve stability in the shoulders, torso, and hips during workouts?
*What are your thoughts on the conventional wisdom behind doing squats? Why do you feel a guy can maximize his muscle gains by moving through the fullest range of motion?
*What kind of shoes should be worn while training the legs? Why should overly cushioned shoes be avoided?
*How much stretching should a guy do? Will his flexibility be harmed by not stretching frequently each day?
*Why do you feel it’s crucial to refresh a workout and include new challenges regularly? How does this relate to the importance of having a plan?
*Do the kinds of foods a guy should eat differ if he has different goals in mind, such as bulking up or simply trimming down?
*You say, “To live to old age, eat the way your grandparents ate.” What do you mean by this, and what is your most important piece of advice when it comes to foods?
To schedule an interview with Ray Klerck, contact Maurey Williamson at 1-800-747-4457, ext. 7890, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Chapter 3 — "Site-Specific Gains"
Five Muscle-Building Rules
It’s damn tough balancing work, play, family time, and exercise that will give you the muscles and health to get through it all. If you’re making a comeback to sweating or just want a new way to train, let out a sigh of relief because right now you’re holding the rules to both. Before you bolt out of the blocks, get clued up on the very basics. Warning: Some of this may challenge every bit of exercise dogma you’ve ever heard, so prepare to be amazed. Remember these simple truths and you’ll endow yourself with a lifetime of muscle.
Rule 1: For Fast Results, Treat Your Body as a Whole
You are not the sum of your parts. Despite what the juggernaut in your gym tells you, your muscles work best if you train them all in the same workout. Strictly speaking, it’s impossible to isolate muscles. They’re woven together with facia, tendons and ligaments. Yes, it is possible to emphasise a muscle group, but it’s tough to isolate it. Think of a pull-up. It may work the back but it also works the biceps, forearms and abs.
A landmark study (McLester, Bishop and Guilliams, 1999) has proven this. The labcoats at the University of Alabama found that full-body regimens led to an average of 2.27 kilograms more muscle gain per month than did sessions that focused on single muscle groups. Don’t get confused: Training one or two muscle groups in a workout the way bodybuilders do will work. Check out chapter 7 to see how to do it. However, this strategy can backfire if you skip a few training days.
Full-body workouts spread the muscle-building stimulus for every muscle over the entire week. Instead of growing only on the days after your chest workout, your chest will grow all week. Think of full-body regimens as the low-hanging fruit of the muscle-building world. When life throws up a business meeting, no muscle is ignored. You simply train three days a week instead of four and continue to grow in perfect proportions and keep yourself injury free. For the fastest muscle growth, treat your muscles as a team that performs best when all players graft together.
Rule 2: The Starting Point is the Number of Days You Can Train a Week
As you learned in chapter 1, setting exercise goals is the easy part. The hard part is finding the time to reach those goals. The first step: Click your diary and decide how many days a week you can train. Be realistic. An accurate prediction will make or break your muscle growth.
Everyone’s enthusiasm is rock solid at the start of a programme. Optimistically assuming that you’ll do six sessions a week often ends in disappointment. It may go well in week 1, but your life might get busy in week 2 and your priorities may change. Be conservative when you map out how many sessions you can make each week because time is sure to bring justice to your estimations and uncover the truth, leaving you either scrawny or brawny.
Of course, the number of days you are able to exercise each week will change from month to month and often depends on the sunshine, your next fishing trip or when Santa imposes on you. This isn’t a disadvantage; it’s life. The trick to achieving continued growth is to mix things up. Train five days a week for six to eight weeks and then try three days a week for two months. Life is change, and growth is optional. Choose wisely. The variety will spark new gains in size and strength year after year.
Rule 3: Variety is Key
It’s easy to find a groove and stick to it. Just look at the rest of the dudes in your gym. They look comfortable with the poundage they’re shifting and that’s probably part of the reason they have cushy-looking physiques. That’s not what you want.
You don’t need all sorts of fancy exercises to build muscle for years to come, but you do need to change up your reps, sets, rest periods and the intensity at which you exercise. Your body will stop getting results from a training routine in about 4 to 8 weeks. An athlete’s gains taper after about 4 weeks, whereas beginners can soldier on for up to 12 weeks. Your muscles are brilliant at adapting to the stress you make them suffer through. The trick is to keep challenging them. Change your programme the second you find yourself not pushing heavier weights.
The golden rule? Listen to what your body is telling you. If you’re not making progress each week, your muscles are bored and it’s time to try something new. Refer to ‘Refresh Your Workout’ in chapter 6 to learn how to manipulate your training using the same exercises so that you’re constantly improving your goals.
Rule 4: Understand the Basics
This Muscle 101 class explains the brawn-building basics.
* Repetition (rep): Doing an exercise, such as a push-up, just once.
* Set: Doing a group of reps without a break. For example, completing five push-ups.
* Lifting speed: How long you take to lower and raise a weight.
* Rest: The length of a break you take between sets.
* Frequency: How often you train, usually each week.
* Order: How you arrange the exercises.
By tweaking these variables you can create thousands of workouts that’ll keep you muscled well into old age.
Rule 5: Settling the Intensity and Volume Debate
Ask 10 trainers whether a volume- or intensity-based routine creates the best results and you’ll get 10 different answers. But what does each approach mean? If you follow a volume routine, you’ll bombard your muscles with a massive quantity of sets and reps (several times a week in 60- to 90-minute sessions) so that they have no choice but to adapt and grow. If you follow an intensity routine, you’ll do brief and intense workouts (two or three times a week in 30- to 60-minute sessions) with extremely heavy weights and then take a few days rest to recover, which is when you grow.
Both types of routines have their merits. The former is based on work and the latter is based on rest. The solution? Raise your right foot and stamp it firmly on the fence. Try a mix of both approaches. Do a volume routine for a few months and then try an intensity-based approach for a while. You’ll soon see which approach gives you the best results.
For beginners, it is best to start with a volume-based routine. A volume-based routine teaches you good exercise technique because it doesn’t demand that you lift relentlessly heavy weights that can compromise form.
From Chapter 8 — "Minor Slimming"
There are two big players in the weight-loss game: enjoyment, which has already been mentioned, and planning. If you make a cast-iron commitment to drop fat and then set about doing it in the fastest and most efficient way possible, you’ll probably choose the two top-ranked methods: weightlifting circuits and HIT. You might think that you’ll tick the enjoyment box when you see your shiny new six-pack. That’s a fair assumption, but the top-ranked fat-loss methods, although very effective, are bloody tough. They’re like a bitter medicine: You pinch your nose and happily take it because you know it will make you better. After two months on one of these programmes you will definitely be a few kilos lighter and happy with the results. You’ll also have learned something important: Your workouts are gut-wrenchingly tough. So each time you consider exercising your brain automatically switches to hard-work mode. This can be a real problem because some days you’ll be a little more tired than usual (even Usain Bolt has these days) and the thought of exercising—especially training until you feel like puking—won’t elicit enjoyment. The result? You skip the session rather than do a slightly milder form of training that you’d enjoy and that would probably rejuvenate rather than obliterate you. This is how you risk brainwashing yourself into thinking that you must do the very best type of exercise or nothing at all. Do not fall into this trap. If you’re really keen to begin with, you should drip-feed yourself workouts to keep your motivation high. This strategy is far more effective in the long term than racing out of the blocks at full speed and going so hard that you eventually burn out and end up back at square one. This is why planning is so important. It helps you ration your motivation over the long haul and be lean forever rather than just over the summer.
Plan to Succeed
Make a list of all the cool activities and fitness-based stuff you’d like to do. Yes, we’d all like to go surfing in Hawaii a few times a week, but not all of us live near Maui. Limit your list to the stuff that’s local, realistic and accessible. This could be running in the local park, cycling to the beach for a swim, taking up wall climbing at a rock-climbing centre, trying a boxing class, digging in the garden, whatever. Choose only stuff you actually want to do because you think you’ll genuinely have fun doing it. Feel free to list things you’ve never done but have always wanted to try. Experiencing a new activity burns more calories than doing the stuff you’re an old hand at because using new muscles burns extra calories. Once you have a minimum of 10 entries on your list, research the hell out of each one to find ways you can do them near your home or work. You’ll soon have all the information you need to get started and will have no doubt whetted your appetite and stoked your motivation. Stick that list of 10 activities on your fridge so that it stares at you first thing in the morning.
Now set a goal for how much weight you aim to shift. The more weight you have to lose, the longer it will take and the more varied your training plan should be to keep you interested. If you want to shift only a few kilos, you probably need to follow a more regimented programme for quick results. The big thing is to pick a number and work towards it.
Click open your diary and shift, juggle or cancel things so that you can schedule the time for yourself that your body desperately craves. Mark off a 45- to 60-minute time slot in your diary for every day or at least every second day. This slot might be before you go to work, during your lunch hour, after work or even the weekends. When you look at your diary you won’t see just business lunches; you’ll see a commitment to your health and a promise to yourself to look precisely the way you want.
Once you know how much you want to weigh or what you want your body fat percentage to be, ask yourself another question: How good are you at following plans? Do you enjoy writing lists and crossing things off or are you more of a take-it-as-it-comes bloke who thrives on spontaneity? You can probably answer that question quickly just by looking at your clothes cupboard. If it’s a jumbled mess of T-shirts and socks placed on the same shelf, chances are you’re a spontaneous guy. If your shirts are folded into neat piles and placed far away from any sock, you might be better suited to preplanning your training. Both ways work but only if you’re honest with yourself from the start. If you have a change of heart, it’s dead easy to switch approaches.
If you’re a guy who folds his T-shirts, follow the plans in this section. They outline exactly what to do based on how much weight you want to lose. The plans are quite rigid but you can always go over to the dark side with the guy with the scrunched-up T-shirts. If you’re willing to embrace the randomness of the universe, a rigid training routine will not work for you in the long term. You may have tried with little success to follow a plan you got out of a magazine. That’s cool. You just like being in charge of your own destiny when it suits you. Follow the rule of haphazardness and hit the shuffle button on your fat-burning sessions. Stick on your fridge your list of 10 activities you really enjoy doing. (Watching Mad Men shouldn’t be one of them.) Each day, wake up and pick an item of fun without thinking about it or, to make it really random, have your significant other or flatmate do it for you. Do at least four items a week, which isn’t so bad considering that they’re fun. If you find that an activity is not fun, choose a new one. But make sure you follow this no-plan plan.
Now that you have your list you don’t have to slog through the boredom of gym work or spend hours running on a treadmill. You have a firm excuse to get out there and enjoy life. Should you wish to kick up the pace of your fat burning, simply find a fat-burning workout in this book that suits your level of experience. If you get involved in a sport or activity you like doing, you’ll probably benefit from a little extra training and will find yourself getting bigger thrills from the stuff you love. Fitness is life, so put aside time every day to go out, live life and have fun. Can’t find the time? Then you need to change your work–life balance. There’s no point in spending your health making your wealth and then spending that wealth to get back your health.
From Chapter 10 — "The Time-Poor Man’s Workout"
The Leading Questions
Here are the answers to the questions most commonly asked about training with your nose firmly to the grind.
Q: If I have only a few minutes to hit the rows of cardio machines, which one should I choose?
A: The pulling power of the rower will make you hit your fitness goals faster than will any other machine. A treadmill canter is nothing more than glorified run on the spot, so it does little to build your fitness. An 80-kilogram bloke burns only about 765 calories per hour on the treadmill. Use the bike only to warm up your legs because it burns a measly 535 calories an hour. The rower ropes in the muscles of your legs, core and upper body, which are the biggest muscles in your body, and tops the charts by burning up to 802 calories an hour. It’s also impact free, so you can give your muscles a good thrashing even if your joints are tired. If there’s a spare seat on the rower, then jump on to get your fitness on the pull.
Q: I want to build muscles at home to save time. I can afford a machine that costs about £250, but is it worth it?
A: For that price you can probably get an Olympic barbell set and a used weight bench, if you hunt around. Don’t worry about the equipment being secondhand because it’s nearly impossible to damage steel. If you buy a used bench and weights, you might be able to find some adjustable dumbbells as well. No gimmicky machine is going to significantly help you. You need iron. Fortunately for you, it’s plentiful and cheap.
Q: During the week I do short workouts but on Saturdays I sometimes do a 2-hour workout. Afterwards I feel almost hungover. Why?
A: That’s your body telling you to chill out. You’re probably dehydrated and have accumulated too much lactic acid in your system. You should hydrate and have food in your stomach before strenuous workouts. Working out too hard for too long can deplete your electrolyte stores and lead to cramping and nausea. If you insist on doing a long workout, prepping with fluids and food should help you avoid feeling like you sunk a bottle of Jack.
Q: I have a high-profile job and a big family. How do I find the time and energy to get in shape?
A: Time’s easy: Just pick an hour when you focus on something less important than your health. That’s pretty much any hour, right? Use that time for exercise and reorganise your life around it. Energy takes care of itself once you start eating five or six small meals a day, cut out junk food and alcohol and structure your life around that hour of exercise. You’ll sleep better, feel better, shed fat, build muscle and have more energy. As for motivation, do you really need to be told to turn off the television for an hour and eat better? Don’t spend your health getting your wealth or you’ll spend your wealth getting back your health.
Q: I only have time to run in the morning before work but during winter my body just doesn’t work properly when it’s cold. What can I do?
A: The cold weather blows in and suddenly you’re 20 years older, feeling every minor injury in every joint and muscle you’ve ever used, from the time you fell off your bike when you were five to last season’s pulled hamstring. To prevent injury in cold weather, warm up your muscles indoors before venturing outside. When a muscle is cold it’s less pliable and you’re more susceptible to injury and more likely to cause a muscle pull. To feel like yourself again, do 3 sets of 12 reps of squats, push-ups and lunges in your hallway before you head outside.
Q: If I work out at lunch I’m wiped out and sore for the rest of the day. How can I recover faster?
A: You’re probably rushing things and your muscles don’t have enough time to recover. Give yourself at least 60 seconds rest between exercises. Also, try reducing the weight you’re lifting by 10 per cent. Drink a protein shake before and after each training session and eat a solid lunch. These surplus nutrients will energise you for the rest of the afternoon and help you build muscle. Don’t worry about the effect of lunch on calorie burning. Your body is the most forgiving postworkout, so your meal won’t make you ache with fat.
Q: I cycle after work in the cold of the early evenings and my nose runs like a faucet. How can I stop it?
A: Get a pair running gloves with terrycloth on the thumb and use it to wipe your nose. Alternatively, you can wear a bandana, which will act as a buffer by warming the air before it reaches your nose. Just remember to take it off before you go in the shops or the tellers might start giving you money.
Q: Is it better to lose weight first and then add muscle or vice versa?
A: The upside is that you can do both. The downside is that it takes a lot of work and dedication. Start a sound nutrition and supplement plan and train three to six days a week. You’ll increase your lean body mass, which will give you more muscle. More muscle is the long-term solution to staying lean and healthy because it causes you to burn more calories when you exercise and when you laze on the couch watching television. And there’s just no downside to more muscle.
Q: How can I stay focused enough to keep exercising when I really don’t like the gym?
A: Your plan to get fit by visiting the gym is doomed because, well, you don’t like the gym. A beginners who chooses a workout that matches his personality is more likely to improve his fitness. The seven major characteristics to consider when selecting a programme are sociability, spontaneity, self-motivation, aggressiveness, competitiveness, mental focus and risk taking. So, if you’re a social, spontaneous type, consider team sports. Risk takers may like skiing or mixed martial arts. Aggressive and focused? You should love rugby. The key to winning with fitness is simply to find your perfect match.
Q: I work out in the morning before work. How long should I wait after eating to hit the gym?
A: The larger the meal (and the more fat or protein in it), the longer the wait. If you eat a typical breakfast of oats and orange juice, you should wait 30 to 45 minutes before exercising. This should be enough time to get ready and drive to your gym. You’ll have to test your tolerance through trial and error. Don’t exercise on an empty stomach. Raising your blood sugar with a banana or a few eggs will help you hang on to your hard-won muscle.