The Most Awesome Workout Ever

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It was the year 1899 when then commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents Charles H. Duell declared, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” From our perspective 118 years later it seems absolutely ridiculous that someone who had so much access to the world of innovation could make such a statement.

Is your fitness and nutritional knowledge similar, or on par with what Duell thought regarding innovation back in 1899?

Have you concluded, based on what you “know”, that someone your age and current physical condition simply cannot change your physique or alter your metabolism? I would like you to think again as science continues to evolve and, in recent years has only begun to think differently. It wasn’t that long ago we were all impressed watching Rocky Balboa crack five raw eggs into a glass so he could increase his protein intake but, science has since proved a cooked egg harbors far more nutritional value than a raw one! So, if you’re drinking raw eggs and think you’re making gains, the fact is you’re not. Now I don’t know of anyone who is drinking raw eggs any longer but the point is, it’s time to disregard old workout myths and nutritional knowledge and replace them with some new scientific fact.

One of the old workout myths that may be keeping you away from the weights is that you need to lift hours upon hours, every day of the week. Well, the good news is that’s just not the case. In the pursuit of healthy fitness your body has three simple requirements: Exercise, Fuel, (in the form of food), and Rest-lots of rest! The primary focus of this blog is exercise so I’ll key in on that but you need to understand, the old way of thinking of over exerting ourselves, or “stop when you drop” is quite simply not true.

Contrary to what you may believe, weight training or “resistance exercise” has much more to offer than an overall increase in muscle size. Resistance training causes an increase in your body’s metabolism AND a decrease in body fat all while increasing its lean muscle mass. As discussed in one of my previous blogs, the reduction in caloric intake without resistance training simply teaches our bodies to store fuel in the form of adipose fat tissue, (as future emergency energy stores), while eating away at its own lean muscle mass for its current energy requirements. In other words, if you don’t use your muscles, you’ll lose them! Our bodies literally cannibalize themselves in order to preserve energy in the form of fat as, when dieting, (or caloric intake reduction), we are actually training our bodies to store fat for future energy needs. So, contrary to common belief we MUST eat AND resistance exercise to lose excess body fat!

So now that we know we need to work our muscle to lose fat, let me share my personal experience how I lost 20 pounds of adipose fat tissue and gained 6 pounds of lean muscle in just 6 months.

Like you may be, I was one who came to the conclusion that I simply do not have the genetic makeup to be lean. I always considered myself athletic, I just never had an athletic look, (do I sound like Duell back in 1899???). It was time to make a change. In order to do so I began to read and study. I took what I learned and prescribed a workout formula specific to my personal need. I hung up the bike and running shoes and hit the weights. Here are some interesting facts I learned throughout my research.

Our muscles are comprised of three different types of muscle fibers, each having its own primary function. The proportions of these three muscle fibers vary within each individual person AND within each individual muscle themselves. Genetics determines muscle fiber dominance. Let’s look at all three and find out what they do.

White Fast Twitch, or type IIb muscle fiber is responsible for strength and explosiveness. It is this muscle fiber that gives us muscle size. Work this muscle fiber exclusively if an increase in muscle size is desired. Athletes who possess natural ability for explosive movements required in such sports as sprinting and weightlifting are white fast twitch muscle dominant. To increase muscle size, resistance training requires using a weight heavy enough to be moved in the 4-6 rep range to exhaustion. If you can’t move the weight 4 times, you need to lighten the weight, if you can move the weight beyond 6 times, you’ll need to increase the weight-it’s that simple.

Red Fast Twitch, or type IIa muscle fibers are responsible for sustaining loads over a relatively prolonged period of time. People who genetically have more red fast twitch muscle fibers are best suited to play sport requiring stamina such as boxing, football, or basketball. To improve stamina, work your muscles in the weight room using a weight allowing 12-15 repetitions per set.

Red Slow Twitch, or type I muscle fibers provide energy over long periods of times and are best suited for endurance events such as long distance running and cycling. Exclusively work this muscle fiber in the weight room if it is weight loss desired and improving your long-distance endurance while not increasing muscle size. Using a weight allowing repetition ranges of 20-25 times is the weight required to work these muscle fibers.

I learned each of the three muscle fiber types provide a unique purpose from its other two counterparts but when called upon they can all work in unison. For my own specific purpose, I determined I wanted to lean up AND increase muscle size and stamina. I decided I needed to work all three. Sounds like a lot of work? It’s not. The National Federation of Professional Trainers, (NFPT), suggests working all three muscle fiber types in a single workout. Holistic training was the work out prescription for me.

The trick to working each muscle fiber within the same workout is to exhaust one muscle fiber before moving along to the next one. One must start with the biggest muscle fiber and work your way down the ladder. If muscle fibers are worked in the reverse order it would be easy to exhaust your red slow twitch muscle fibers recruiting your red fast twitch muscle fibers to take over the load. This is exactly what you must avoid.

So, let’s use a chest press as our example workout. Perform two warm up sets using a weight approximately 60% of the weight you plan on using for your heavy set. I perform 10-12 repetitions using slow and deliberate form. After your warm up, load up the bar to a weight you will be able to move 4-6 times before exhaustion. Always use a workout partner as a spotter to ensure your safety. Perform the first set to exhaustion. If you were able to do more than 6 reps, add weight to the bar, couldn’t do 4 reps, remove weight from the bar. This is an absolutely critical component of this work out. Now, rest three minutes and perform the set one more time.

During your next 3-minute rest, remove enough weight from the bar so you’ll be able to perform 12-15 reps for your next two sets. Remember, always take a three-minute rest to flush out your muscles making certain to drink water. Now that you have successfully exhausted your white fast twitch muscle fibers it is only your red fast twitch which can be recruited to move the new, lighter weight. Complete two sets here, lighten the bar one final time to a weight that you’ll be able to complete two final sets at 20-25 reps. The last set sounds easy but you’ll find these last two sets are the hardest. Your muscles will be filled with lactic acid which will not be allowed to be flushed out of your muscles until you put the weight down. You will feel a burn like you haven’t felt in years!

I work 5 different muscle groups for each work out. I am able to perform all repetitions as described in just 75 minutes. Stay focused and the time flies.

Day 1 and day 3 I work this exact set as described. Day 1 is chest and shoulders, Day 3 is back and legs. On days 5 and 6 I work the same muscle groups but instead of the holistic work out as described above I work my red slow twitch muscle fibers exclusively as weight loss is my primary goal. 5 sets of each muscle group done in reps of 20-25 is a fun and demanding workout. Obviously, diet plays a role in order to achieve desired results but we will discuss that in a future blog.

After years of running and performing long distance athletics I have finally achieved the physique I had always hoped for. My current body fat percentage is at 9 percent, pretty good for a 57-year-old!

Lose The Weight, Gain The Muscle Part II

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In previous blogs, I discussed glucose as your bodies preferred source of fuel, or energy for daily activity. You now know our bodies convert ingested carbohydrates into glucose, or blood sugar. Ingest too many carbohydrates and excess glucose will eventually get stored as triglycerides in your adipose fat tissue resulting in unwanted body fat.

You also know your body protects its fat stores for future energy needs against a potential starvation event. Your body will cannibalize its own muscle to use as energy before utilizing its precious energy stores which reside in your adipose fat tissue cells. You MUST use your muscles so your body will bypass this cannibalizing process and use its fat stores for it’s go to energy source.

“Resistance training”, or using your muscles does not require lifting weights. No intimidating gym visits needed here. In fact, no weights are required at all. Let’s talk about using our own body weight as the weight needed to obtain a leaner and healthier you.

In his book, “The Primal Blueprint,” Mark Sission talks about, what he calls, “Primal Essential Movements”. He recommends four body weight exercises which work all the major muscles in your body and promote functional fitness for daily life activities. At the same time, you will be teaching your body to convert and utilize its fat stores for its energy needs leading to a leaner and healthier you.

So, what are these four body resistance exercises? Push-ups, squats, planks, and pull-ups. Haven’t done these exercises since your high school or college days? Don’t worry, we can alter each exercise to suit your current physical ability and you’ll find that they are easier to do than you may think.

Let’s start with push-ups. We all think a push up is done from a starting position on the floor making them very difficult to do. Let’s go to the stairs. Facing a set of stairs, place your toes close to the bottom stair while placing your hands on the fourth stair from the bottom. Now do a push up. You’ll find these easier to do as you have transferred most of your weight to your feet relieving your shoulders from doing most of the work. Start with 5 sets of a quantity you can maintain for each of the 5 sets. Work your way up to doing 12-15 repetitions for each of the 5 sets taking a three-minute rest in between sets. Has your heart rate increased? If you answered yes, that’s great. Increase in your heart rate is important. Don’t let your heart rate elevate too much, you want to be able to hold a normal conversation while your heart rate is slightly elevated. Now, once you are able to perform 5 sets, move down one stair eventually working your way to placing your hands on the floor. Are you able to perform 5 sets of 12-15 repetitions while flat on the floor? Turn around and place your feet on the first stair from the floor and challenge yourself. Work your way up the stairs placing your feet higher. It is important that you are able to complete all 5 sets but they must be challenging. Remember, we are teaching our body it needs its muscles so it will not eat away at our muscles for its energy needs. Challenge yourself.

Planks. Lay on the ground, elbows on the ground shoulder width apart hands extended out in front of you, palms flat on the floor. Legs behind you spaced comfortably apart, toes pointed down. Now, raise up on your toes and elbows in a stiff body position. Work your way to being able to hold this position for 30 seconds. Take a 3-minute break in between sets and work our way up to 5 sets at 30 seconds each set. Once you have been able to perform 5 sets at 30 seconds, work your way up to 45 seconds, then 1 minute. Your goal is to master the plank for 2 minutes. You will feel your core tighten up, your back and glutes will be challenged working your large muscle groups. Are you sweating? Good!

Squats. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, extend your arms straight in front of you, palms facing down. Hold this position while lowering your butt as low as you can go. Try to get your thighs parallel with the ground before standing back up. It’s ok to put a chair or a stool behind you until you become comfortable with the movement and gain confidence in your ability. Work your way up to 5 sets of 25 repetitions. You’ll feel a burn in your quads which is exactly what you want.

Pull-ups. Pull ups require the most strength of these four exercises but don’t worry, there are ways around everything. Search “resistance bands” on the internet and purchase a set. The kind with integrated handles work best. Loop over a hook or an overhead beam in your basement. From a seated position pull the bands toward you in a fashion that mimics a pull up. Increase tension as you gain strength. Assisted pull ups are easy too by hooking your foot in a resistance band on one end and looped around a traditional pull up bar on the other end. The assistance the band provides is greater than you may think making you look like a pro at performing this exercise. Pull ups work several muscle groups including your lats, biceps, abs and core.  

Alternate these four exercises every other day doing push-ups and squats on day 1, 3, and 5, pull-ups and planks on days 2,4, and 6. Challenge yourself, over time increase the amount of reps within each set as you gain strength and confidence.

In my next blog I will discuss the three different muscle fiber types and the benefits to working each individual one. Whether you are looking to increase muscle strength, muscle endurance, or increase lean muscle weight, we will determine the work out resistance training regimen to suit your goal.

So go get started. In a very short period of time you will be impressed how quickly you will be able to see results. But remember, “If you want it, you’ve got to go get it.”

Why Resistance Training is Critical to Weight Loss

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If you read my previous post you should have a better understanding how our bodies convert ingested carbohydrates into glucose which you now know glucose is our bodies preferred source of energy. Too many ingested carbohydrates, which exceed our current energy needs, eventually convert into triglycerides which reside inside our adipose fat tissue cells and are saved for future energy needs.

So, based on what we now know, conventional wisdom would suggest if one stops eating, one’s body would use the over abundant triglycerides stored in our bodies adipose fat tissue cells for its energy needs, right? Wrong! Believe it or not, before your body resorts to using all that available energy found around your midsection or in your thighs, your body will actually eat away its own muscle, or cannibalize itself before tapping into those stored triglycerides. Our bodies will literally eat themselves away until there is little muscle left to perform nothing but our most basic functions such as walking, sitting, and breathing. Diet, and don’t use your muscles, you’ll lose them. Think of a sailor lost at sea in his tiny life raft with no food for weeks before being found.  After weeks of surviving on little to no rations, he is rescued, his arms and legs are the size of toothpicks as his body used its own muscle as a fuel source before it used the very stored energy, (found inside our adipose fat tissue cells), we all so desperately want to lose. So, when we “diet”, or starve ourselves, we are actually training our bodies to store more energy in the form of “fat”, for future energy needs, which is contrary to our goal.

So…how do we lose weight and maintain, or gain, our lean muscle mass?,…USE THEM! You need to teach your body that it needs muscle to survive. Once your body recognizes you are dependent upon muscle function it will bypass your muscles as an energy source and will then begin to utilize those triglycerides, stored in its adipose fat tissue cells, as its new energy source. Make sense???

Weight training, or resistance training, is a key component to successfully shedding unwanted pounds. By doing so we trick our bodies into bypassing our muscle stores for energy and to go directly to our triglycerides stored in our adipose fat tissue cells for its energy needs. No gym needed here. You can easily do this at home and save yourself the time and expense to join a gym. I’ll even give you an option and show you how you can do this by spending little to no money on expensive home gym equipment.

Read my next blog on how to create a workout regimen you can easily conduct at home or on the road while you’re away from home, even from the confines of your hotel room. And remember…”If you want it you’ve got to go get it!”