Easy as ABC
For my 45th birthday yesterday, I decided to make up and do this craziness. It took me 2.5 hours but was so much fun. t’s 45 exercises with 45 reps each (some for 45 seconds). Unfortunately, I do not believe this will take 45 minutes to finish so carve out a block of time.
Do all sets and reps of each exercise before moving onto the next exercise.
Split resistance into sets of 10-15 reps with 60-90 seconds rest between each set. Use a weight that burns starting with the third to last rep.
Try to do abs/core reps all at once where possible or split reps into two sets and rest 45-60 seconds in between.
Only split burpees, tuck jumps, and plank to frog into sets (no more than 4 sets each) if needed with ample rest between each set. All other cardio exercises should be performed in full with no rest if possible. If you are unsure of what an exercise is, ask me in the comments or PM me and I will describe it. if there’s an exercise you can’t do yet, or because of injury, let me know and I’ll give you a substitute exercise.
As a disclaimer, I will not take responsibility if you injure yourself or die doing this. But I will take credit if you feel awesome afterwards!
Here's the thing. There are a lot of articles online boasting someone's transformation. You see the picture on the left where they look out of shape and unhappy, and the one on the right where you see them fit and smiling. Funny thing about these pictures is often they are taken on the same day!
In the before picture, they usually have the client slouch, be unshaven, have messy hair, and a bored look on their face. Also, they will have them stand looking straight at the camera and put a light facing them to eliminate any shadows that might be cast on their bodies by other body parts--they look washed out.
For the after picture, they have the client exercise until they are a bit swollen, have them shower, shave, and do their hair (maybe even spray tan them). Next, they will pose with the waist turned sideways, but the shoulders facing forward to give that 'V' shape, and then cast lights downward to create shadows in all the right places.
This practice is not ethical and believing that the results are real, people who don't know the wool is being pulled over their eyes, become excited about seeing this so-called transformation and usually end up purchasing whatever B.S. product or program is being sold at the bottom of the same page. I've talked about shortcuts before and how they just don't work, or how they just aren't sustainable. This post is to show you what doing it the right way looks like.
This is my 19 year old son. His journey to transform himself is still beginning, but he has put in the time and effort, both in his exercise and nutrition to change his body the right way. Granted, he didn't have fat to lose in the process, but the same rules apply. Keep in mind, these pictures were taken at the same time of day, with the same lighting, and the exact same poses (Yes, he does have a tan from the beach). Originally, I was going to help him every step of the way in this process, but after a couple sessions in getting him started, he took it over and made it happen. This is how it's done!
Compliance is Key
Compliance is the key to a successful fitness journey. Many times, when asked to report on what they have eaten or how much exercise they have done outside of the few hours they are with their trainer, clients will not disclose every bit of information. Yes, some things are superficial and can be held back, but others are more important and a trainer likes to know what's going on behind the scenes so that it makes the client's path to their goals easier for both to tread. I'll be focusing only on food intake in this post.
Clients will hold things back from their trainer for many reasons. Usually it's embarrassment; feeling shame in not being strong enough to resist. They're embarrassed to say they spent the weekend eating pizza and drinking beer. Or maybe they have been making poor choices in snacks. They feel if they disclose everything, their trainer may be disappointed and either scold them or get frustrated enough to not train them anymore. They know what they've done (even before they do it) is hindering their progress and don't want to appear weak. The truth is, giving the trainer insight into every step of the day is beneficial. Not only does it keep the lines of communication open so the trainer can better guide the client, it also establishes another supporting connection in their arsenal. The trainer can now officially be part of their emotional support network and a person they can talk to and rely on to keep them on track when it gets tough to make the right choices.
Used with permission, and anonymously, is this report below from one of my clients. He did not hold back and I couldn't be happier. I have since sent it back to him with my recommendations on what he can change to better serve his desired goals. This is a prime example of full disclosure; something every trainer should want and expect of their clients. There's no shame in reporting all of your stumbles as shown below. When you hire a trainer, you are often spending a decent amount of money to have them help you get where you want to be. Not giving them all the information, or not doing everything they say (within reason, of course), just delays or halts your progress which, in turn, is a waste of your time and money.
Here's his report. Just for fun, see how much lines up with your intake or, if it doesn't, how many times you make adjustments to it in your head. Looking at it objectively, it's easier to make better choices for this unknown client. When it's your own menu, that's when your emotions begin to manifest excuses for why things went south on a particular day. You'll also notice he's added a couple excuses in there for some choices. This is also disclosure I like to see. It gives us more talking points to help him prepare meals ahead of time if he knows choices may be limited.
Breakfast - none
Lunch (12pm) - omelette (egg yolk, spinach, bacon, onion, shredded cheddar cheese). Apple juice
Snack (3:30pm) - chips and salsa
Dinner (6:00pm) - double cheese burger with bun (pickles, onion, lettuce), breadstick. Powerade (Was nothing good to eat for dinner so I ate that)
Snack (8:00pm) - 5 thin mints
Celebration (9:15pm) - oreo ice cream cake. Sparkling cider (My friend's birthday, not an everyday thing)
-Snack (8am) - fig bar. Water
-Breakfast (10am) - eggs, bacon, tater tots. Apple juice
-Lunch (12pm) - honey glazed ham, potatoes. Water
-Snack (2pm) - 15 pringles. Water
-Dinner (5:30pm) - steak tips, potatoes, salad (Onions, kidney beans, cheese, carrots, olives, sunflower seeds, vinegar, and oil).Sparkling lemon lime water
-Late night dining (10pm) - cheese burger with fries, doritos bag. Powerade (Got out of practice an hour ago, and was hungry)
-Breakfast (7:30am) - eggs, potatoes. Apple juice, french vanilla cappuccino
-Lunch (12:15pm) - white rice, 3 fried falafel balls. Water
-Snack (2:15pm) - peanut and fluff on double protein bread. Water
-Dinner (4:30pm) - 2 bread sticks, white rice, 6 olives. Lemon water
-Breakfast (9:50am) - eggs, tater tots. Apple juice
-Lunch (3:00pm) - double cheese burger with bun, cucumbers with ranch. Lemon water (Late lunch so not many choices)
-Dinner (5:30pm) - tuna melt (marble rye bread, American cheese, mayo), banana. Melon water
-Snack (9:30pm) - Cheez its. Water
-Breakfast (7:30am) - eggs, potatoes, bacon. Apple juice, mocha cappuccino
-Snack (11am) - banana
-Lunch (12pm) - orange cinnamon chicken, white rice. Lemon water
-Snack (2pm) - blueberry fig bar. Gatorade
-Dinner (4:30pm) - 2 bread sticks, chicken nuggets, steak slices, small salad (onions, cheese, olives, carrots, kidney beans, oil, vinegar). Lemon water
-Late night dining (10:30pm) - cheeseburger with fries. Powerade (Had a game and was hungry)
-Breakfast - none
-Lunch (12pm) - 3 slices of bbq chicken pizza. Lemon-Lime-Orange water
-Dinner (8:30pm) - Raising Cane’s 3 piece, fries, texas toast. Mountain Dew and Sweet tea
Saturday (Game Day/ Tournament) 3/31
-Breakfast (9:30am) - hash browns, donut, bacon egg and cheese. Medium iced coffee
-Lunch (2pm) - steak and cheese quesadilla, half chicken burrito. Water
-Dinner (6pm) - 5 small slices of chicken bacon ranch, bread and oil. Arnold Palmer.
Right off the bat, I could see he wasn't getting enough vegetables. The sugary drinks and processed snacks needed to be replaced with better choices. Also, protein was mostly from red meat and not lean meats like chicken and turkey or from protein-rich sources like fish. Without this knowledge, I could only assume he was eating right and that the last pounds he wanted to lose were just being stubborn on their own. But, armed with this knowledge, I was able to make adjustments that he thought were reasonable and that he could definitely substitute into his menu. I also gave him the option to take it step by step, essentially changing one or two things a week, or to change it all at once. With the ball in his court now, he'll report back to me once changes have been made and he will see the positive changes in his body that he wants.
So, the point of this post is not to brag about my client (though, he deserves high praise for this endeavor), but to illustrate that having shame in reporting what you have or have not done (even with regards to exercise) could be holding you back. It causes us to be much less compliant with the forces that are there to help us become better. As an example, this weekend in New Orleans, I practically inhaled three beignets within two blocks of the cafe where I purchased them. I hardly remember chewing. Was I even ashamed in front of my friends as the powdered sugar snowed all over my clothing? No. Those suckers were amazing. Granted, at this point my body can handle and metabolize them quickly and I basically report to myself (those aspects help me not feel as embarrassed about it at this stage of my journey), but I'm a trainer and shouldn't be eating that crap. I should be setting an example for my clients. However, the main reason I don't feel badly about it is because my decision to have them wasn't driven by unbridled emotion. I had calculated earlier that I wanted to eat them (I was in NOLA, so why wouldn't I?) and had prepared myself. Also, because my emotions were in check, I was able to pass by the key lime tarts and caramel nut brownies that could have easily been consumed within the third and fourth blocks of the cafe. They looked amazing and, while I thought heavily about getting those as well, I already had planned my attack, made peace with the little guilt I would feel after downing the sweet lumps of fried dough, and stuck to my plan. Mission accomplished.
Emotion is why most of us eat poorly. We associate certain foods with how they make us feel or how they mask feelings we're having. When those emotions are not regulated by stronger, more beneficial emotions (desires to stay fit, look good in a bathing suit, or know that too much would be detrimental to our goals), we eat the comforting, less healthy foods and it becomes hard to talk about due to the shame of having been weak. Emotion-regulating-emotion is something that has to develop over time, and it can only develop if we practice being honest with ourselves and those who are there to lift us up. Do yourself a favor. Listen to those who are truly trying to help you. Keep them in the loop no matter how hard it is to open your soul. If their honest desire is to see you get better, your information should be as safe in their hands as their respect for you is in yours. Self-improvement comes in many forms. Don't let your pride get in the way of your progress.
Recently, I started playing with a new type of training called German Volume Training (GVT). Normally, I just make up my own routine anymore when I get into my exercise space. I know the muscles I want to focus on, and I do them. Usually, I'll cycle 2 or 3 muscle groups on a given day and do anywhere from 8-10 sets of 6-12 reps depending on how I'm feeling. Sometimes I go for strength, sometimes size, etc. Ever since P90x (1, 2, and 3), I haven't cared to follow any specific program (even then, I only loosely followed P90x) because I know what I like and what helps me.
So why did I start playing with GVT? Basically, it's pretty close to what I do already, although a little more regimented. Seeing as it was similar to my way of resistance training, I opted for a change out of curiosity and, yes, some boredom. I'm very happy I did. For the first few weeks, I was quite sore and loving it. Soreness is great because it tells us we haven't used that muscle in that way in a while and we have just done something to improve it! In just a month, I gained size in my muscles and saw an increase in strength due to needing to increase the weight.
My report on my improvements is at the end of this article. What I did for exercises is also there, so you can just scroll down if you don't want to read all these words that I so painstakingly put together. Go ahead. Scroll! I won't be offended. I won't go cry in a dark corner that all of my prose is just sitting here unread in the digital ether. I won't. Just go already. *sniffle*
What is German Volume Training?:
Without getting into too much detail, GVT starts by having you do a split routine (splitting muscle groups up on different days) and taxing the muscles with a lot of reps (hence 'volume' in the name). You do 10 sets of 10 reps, with 90 seconds of rest between each set, of one exercise before moving on to the next exercise. You do this with a 4/0/2 tempo. This means, the eccentric motion (with resistance) is to a count of 4, and the concentric motion (against resistance) is to a count of 2 (typical weight tempo is 2/0/2). The '0' is how long you isometrically hold the weight. in this case, there is no holding it steady, so the value is '0'. There are A exercises and B exercises, as well. So the A exercises follow the formula above and focus on larger muscles. The B exercises follow a smaller set count and shorter rest and focus on smaller muscles. Also, the B exercises use more of a 3/0/2 or typical 2/0/2 tempo. You can search the interwebs for more on that and everything else that goes into this process.
The first block, they have you doing 5 days of a plan that you repeat 6 times (total of 30 days). After that, you do a 3 week period of other things that I will start tomorrow (still need to figure that out), and then you go back to the original 5 day plan, but with an increase in weight and a decrease in reps. Sets remain the same.
My strength definitely increased in that short amount of time. You're supposed to start with 60% of your 1RM (One Rep Max is how much you can lift one time), or a weight that you can lift 20 times to failure. For instance, on my chest press with dumbbells, I did 60lbs in each hand. On the first day of chest, I was just barely able to squeak out the 100 reps. By the last day of chest, I could do 70lbs in each hand and didn't have to squeak at all. I felt pretty strong throughout. So, that was definitely a good sign that this training can increase strength. This was constant for all muscle groups.
What about size? Every muscle (except my calves; I'll need to change the exercise next round) increase anywhere from 1/8" to 1/2" around. My chest gaining the most going from 39" to 39.5". My upper arms went up by a quarter inch and my thighs by an eighth.
My weight actually dropped by a pound, but seeing as I fluctuate 3-4 pounds up or down depending on the day, time of day, hydration level, and how much food is in my belly (I did, however, check my weight at the same time of day), I didn't pay it much mind for now. If I had eaten like a body builder (more than my maintenance calories), I would have gained weight for sure. When you lift and eat to gain muscle, you also gain fat (just the way it is). Since I'm not a fan of stripping fat off my body, I stay close to maintenance or just under and do the muscle gaining much slower (I've gained an average of one pound of muscle per year over the last 12 years). I'm patient. :-)
What did I do?:
Below, I've written down what I did for exercises on each day. I searched around the internet for ideas on what works best in this type of training, found a few, and settled on one. But, as I was beginning I realized some exercises weren't doing enough for me and I didn't like the order of days because there wasn't enough rest between certain groups. For instance, there was only 2 days between triceps and chest which wasn't enough for my sore triceps to be effective synergists to my chest muscles. So, I swapped two of the days to put 3 days between those muscle groups. It's alright that I then caused a 1 day gap between chest and triceps because the triceps are smaller and the chest doesn't help them in movement. If that doesn't make sense, call me and I'll explain it better. I also added stuff to do on the rest days as options because I didn't want to neglect my core and cardio.
Squats (10 sets; 10 reps; 90 seconds rest)
Hamstring curls on stability ball (7 sets; 15 reps; 90 seconds rest)
Calf raises (3 sets; 30 reps per side split 15L/15R/15L/15R; 60 seconds rest)
Chest press (10 sets; 10 reps; 90 seconds rest)
Chin ups (10 sets; 10 reps; 90 seconds rest)
Chest fly (3 sets; 15 reps; 60 seconds rest)
One arm row (3 sets; 12 reps per side; 60 seconds rest)
Rest or Abs/Core
Skull crushers (10 sets; 10 reps; 90 seconds rest)
Lean back hammer curls (10 sets; 10 reps; 90 seconds rest)
Incline back fly (3 sets; 12 reps per side; 60 seconds rest)
Lateral shoulder fly (3 sets; 12 reps per side; 60 seconds rest)
Rest or Run
So, that's it for the first block. I may not report findings after the next block since it's only three weeks long, but I will report once I finish the second round of what I did here. I may change the calf exercises, so that I can get some size improvement, and maybe swap a couple others for variation as long as they still challenge me. I did not take before pictures like an idiot, so there won't be any after pictures. But, I doubt the camera would show the difference in size anyway with those small improvements. But they are improvements! :-). More to come.
Fitness Nutrition Specialist
I'm excited to announce that I've recently been certified as a Fitness Nutrition Specialist by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. It's another step toward helping my clients achieve more. On to the next!
How Many Sessions?
I'm often asked, when people start private training (in their home, in a gym, or otherwise), "How many sessions should I get?" It's at this point I let them know their real question should be, "How many sessions per week should I do?" The reason for this is not to trick them into purchasing more sessions, but to show them how to get more out of the sessions they do end up getting.
So, the answer to that revised question is: It depends. The national recommendations are 150 minutes of low to moderate intensity or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise (or a combo of both) per week to maintain
current health and fitness. Read that again: MAINTAIN current health and fitness. Those numbers are the minimum requirements--meaning you won't improve your health and fitness unless you do more than that. Now, if someone is sedentary and just coming off the couch of course they will improve for a time, but soon that will level out to where their fitness level should be and they will need to do more.
I know, being of rational mind you're seeing '150' and '75' and thinking those numbers are to clean and rounded and can't possibly be scientifically accurate, and I would agree. The real numbers are different for everyone and without expensive equipment loaded with ding dongs, wires, and whosiewhatsits, there's no accurate way to pinpoint the numbers for each individual. They are really meant to be used as guidelines from where we can adjust per individual, and those guidelines have been relatively successful so far. It's the same as saying 3500 calories equals a pound. From the research I've read, it's really closer to 3554, but since we simple humans like things in nice, tidy packages, 3500 it is.
Back to the topic at hand.
The number of sessions you need to do per week depends on what you do when you're not with your trainer. If you see your trainer once a week for 60 minutes of high intensity exercise and don't do anything the next six days, you're not even meeting your maintenance goal. If one session per week is all you've budgeted for, then you need to make up the remainder of the maintenance minutes, plus the extra for improvement, on your own.
Let's say you buy 40 sessions at 60 minutes each and you plan on those 40 sessions being your only source of exercise until they are exhausted. Scheduling 2 per week is going to have vastly different results than if you scheduled those same 40 sessions at 3-4 per week. At 2 per week, you're only getting 120 minutes, where 3-4 per week gets you to your maintenance goals plus the extra needed to improve. On the flip-side, if you're overtraining, a number of reasons will keep you from improving--torn fibers that need to rest and repair, tiredness and soreness causing you to be not as effective, etc.
So really, no matter how many sessions you order, just make sure you are scheduling them close enough together (keeping in mind rest days) to make a difference, otherwise you're wasting your time and money.
Let the Training Begin!
Accountability has never been much of an issue for me but, as of today, I'm going to need it in spades. The purpose of this post is to publicly hold me to a pledge; a pledge that is going to have me doing something I've never liked and probably will never like to do. Ask me to lift some weights--I'll be there; do core exercises until my insides bleed--you got it; attempt some new and crazy exercise--I'm all about it. But, running? Hell no! I hate it. I hate everything about it. It bores me to no end and I just want to die when it's happening. There's an entire cornucopia of cardio exercises I love doing, but running is not one of them. As such, it is my weakness and one I never cared to attend to.
So what is it that's driving me to torture myself so? For the good part of a year, my son has been asking me to do the next level up in the Spartan trifecta: The Super. The Sprint was fun for me as there wasn't too much running between the obstacles. It was about 3-5 miles with around 20 obstacles. The Super is between 8 and 10 miles with 24-29 obstacles. I'm no math genius, but unless each obstacle spans roughly 1/4 to 1/2 mile, we're in for a lot of this 'one foot in front of the other' ad nauseam B.S. Ugh. But, before he heads off to college later this year, I felt compelled to grant his request and have an experience that would challenge both of us and strengthen that father and son bond even more.
So, this day marks the beginning of my training to keep up with my fleet-footed offspring. While I'll still be doing my usual weekly routines, I'll be adding the elliptical machine while it's cold outside then transitioning to outside jogs and runs when it warms up (no, I'm not running in the cold. I may be crazy, but I'm not insane--or is it the other way around?). Burpees will now be weighted and I will continue with my weighted and unweighted pull-ups to try and increase my strength and endurance even more. As it gets warmer, I may venture out into my backyard and try building representations of some of the tougher obstacles.
It's a long way to August, and I know I can do this, but at the same time it feels so close and that this body would be better served eating mountains of bacon while watching The Lord of the Rings Extended trilogy until I can replay its entirety in a pig fat induced coma. Sadly, that dream will have to wait.
While I may not make a post of everything I do to get ready, I have a plan laid out and I will keep a log for myself to track progress. Today was:
20 minutes on elliptical at level 18 of 20 (squat running for a minute every 4 minutes)
Four Times Through:
20 burpees (20#; 10# per hand): Includes shoulder press, jump, and push-up
Bodyweight pull-ups to failure:
1st Round: 24 standard grip
2nd Round: 14 close grip
3rd Round: 16 wide grip
4th Round: 17 standard grip
8 reps upright row (80#; 40# per hand)
The Man, The Legend, Tony Horton!
When I started my journey of health and fitness, it was a combination of Martial Arts, eating right, and P90X. Though nothing will ever top the benefits I've received from the Martial Arts, having Tony Horton grab my arm, pat my abs, and vocally affirm what I've done to myself over the years, was pretty cool. :-)
This was such a great event. I love meeting like-minded people in the fitness world. The folks around me were so amazing and we all had a great time supporting the athletic department at Tony's alma mater.
The Elusive Six-Pack: Secrets Revealed!
Finally, I'm going to reveal the secret of six-pack abs to the world. And the secret is...(insert drum roll here)...Nothing! There is no secret. Just like any other muscle in your body, you need to do the same exact thing to get them to show: Eat well and exercise. For most people, it's one of the hardest parts of the body to define, so I'll continue typing to give you more ammo for your personal battle. If you want a formula (although, a simplistic one) for getting those puppies to pop, here it is:
Proper Nutrition + Cardiovascular Exercise + Resistive Spinal Flexion Exercises = Six-Pack Abs
Of course, it's bit more complicated than that, but that's the guideline. Will it work for everyone? That, I don't know; everyone is different. But, it worked for me and it should work for more people. Plus, seeing as how the shortcut junk on the market doesn't work (because there are no shortcuts), I'd say this is a pretty good place to begin. Besides that, it's easy to understand and, in theory, makes sense. Resistive spinal flexion exercises grow the muscle, and a combo of cardio and proper nutrition will keep help decrease body fat.
Let's get a little deeper into this while clearing a myth in the process. The myth of which I speak is that performing plank alone will grant you toned abdominals. This is simply not true. Believe me, I love all things plank. Exercises that include isometric hold of the body are fantastic for stimulation of the rectus abdominis (the "six-pack" or "beach" muscle) and obliques (the ones flanking the R.A.) and strengthening the core (the internal muscles that transfer load between the upper and lower body). While plank does all this great stuff, it isn't going to give us the abs we want (as superficial as a six-pack may be); not alone, anyway. Spinal flexion exercises against resistance will put us on that path because, through growth, more defined separation in the muscle can be created (more on that later). So, what now? Fortunately, we're in luck because the rectus abdominis has mainly one function and that function is spinal flexion. Yay!
The Linea Alba runs vertically down the middle, and the Tendinous Inscriptions that run horizontally, split the two halves into "muscle bellies". Since connective tissue is less vascular than muscle, it doesn't stretch as easily; therefore, it allows the muscle to maintain that separated look.
The key is consistency in nutrition and exercise! Compliance will get you there! Stick with it and don't get discouraged; stay tough. It will come.
Does that mean you shouldn't do plank? Heck, no! Do your plank exercises as they are very beneficial (though, they can be dangerous for people with high blood pressure or herniated lumbar spine, so use with caution). But that's not all you have to do. Think of it this way: If you want bigger biceps, do you hold your arm in and extended position and expect the bicep to grow? No. You contract the bicep against resistance by using the bicep to bend the arm at the elbow just as you would use the rectus abdominis to flex the spine, thereby contracting the muscle. Spinal flexion exercises, like the good, old fashioned crunch, will make it thicken. Oh, no! It's the dreaded crunch. Too bad. Suck it up, buttercup. Do your crunches (or some form thereof)! :-P
So why am I giving this information away for free? Why don't I just bundle it up in a nice little package with some fancy graphics and a price tag to match? Two reasons: 1) This is stuff you already (or should already) know but have either forgotten or are avoiding because you know about reason number two. 2) Hard work and discipline don't sell. There is no magic pill or shortcut to the abs you want. I guarantee you everyone promoting otherwise is lying to your face. So, you can either spend time year after year going from one fad diet or program to another (continuing to be frustrated), or you can take that same amount of time to do it properly and in a way that should last you a lifetime. The abs you see in the image up above were made with all of this information. How do I know this? Because it took me two years to make them like that and it's not something you easily forget.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Strength is made in the gym, physique is made in the kitchen. Basically, grow your muscles in size and strength in the gym and let what you put in your face be the vehicle to trimming away the fat so you can see what you've accomplished. Yes, it's a pain in the butt, but so is going in circles and spending tons of money. The hard way is not always the right way, but it is when it comes to health and fitness. I don't write these articles for my health; I write them for yours. :-) Now, go get it!