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Can You Give Me Some Workout Advice?
I have just read a hand full of articles on Bodybuilding.com and I have to say that I was impressed by your candor and brutal honesty. I would like to think that I know quite a bit about the human body and how it works but I enjoy learning new things and I feel I have from your articles.
While I was in the service I found that I prefer to work out in the early morning after I first wake up. Now that I am fat and out of shape and my days and nights are flip-flopped, is there a benefit to working out when I first wake up or does it really matter? Also, I used to lift for mass. I was not concerned about reducing my body fat so I always lifted as heavy as I could for 6-8 reps. Well now that I am concerned about losing fat and STILL maintaining some muscle mass I have to decrease weight while increasing reps and sets. I have a hard time doing this. I am used to feeling like Dorian Yates after lifting heavy (muscles full of blood), but when I lift light I leave the gym and don't feel the same. AM I DOING SOMETHING WRONG?
My typical workout now consists of 30 min cardio on the Stairmaster @ about 60-70% of MHR and lifting about 2 body parts and then abs and swimming for at least 500 meters. Now I have to be honest I just about had a heart attack! I felt worn out and I know I burned alot of calories. Am I on the right track?
Since so many people are asking me about how to achieve great results with their training I want to quote world-renown strength coach, Charles Staley, as many of his thoughts are relevant in one's approach to training. Take a minute to read them over and I will more thoroughly answer your question. Look for my responses with the "".
"Don't always look for new or unique ways of doing things. Most of the best methods and techniques are already well-known."
Many experts will say that if you want to lose bodyfat or gain muscle then you must do more repetitions and take shorter rest intervals. The thing is everyone is different and your response to training is very individual. If you feel you get better results going a little heavier then I would use that method more often.
"Don't seek fatigue in your workout - instead, manage it."
Most people don't think they have a good workout unless they are completely wiped out. This is an incorrect paradigm. If you are leaving the gym night in and night out like a truck just hit you I would seriously reevaluate your training. Excessive fatigue is not a good thing. You should measure your success in the gym by how close you are getting to your goals and not how tired you feel.
"Train for function and your appearance will improve as well. The reverse isn't always true, however."
This is my absolute FAVORITE saying. I am thinking of making it my mantra. Too many natural trainees try to train like bodybuilders with millions of sets of isolation movements. The truth is your workout should last no longer than 60 minutes and sometime 40-45 is even better. During this time the majority of your training should be spent using compound movements emphasizing the biggest muscle groups, i.e. upper back, chest, legs, and the trunk. Isolation exercises should be left for the end of the workout if extra work is necessary. However, also remember the fatigue comments. There is no way you can tell me if you can do pull-ups well or squat well you are not going to be bigger and many times leaner.
"Find a smart and motivated training partner."
It is hard to always push yourself, especially in the beginning. Finding someone who is as dedicated or more can be especially helpful.
"Schedule exact times for all workouts."
I hate the excuse that people don't have time. Even the busiest person can make time if they schedule their training just as they would a meeting. This method also helps people avoid the "I'll do it later in the day" saying. Usually putting it off till later means doing it never.
"Keep a food and training log, and learn from it!"
You can't improve until you know what you are doing right and wrong. Nutrition and training journals give you feedback upon what is working and what is not.
"Don't train in pain. Pain is your body's way of telling you that something's wrong. Listen and act upon these messages!"
Just do this, nothing else said!
"Frame goals around behaviors rather than outcomes."
There is a famous saying that stress is the result of actions not reflecting values. Instead of just saying "I want to lose bodyfat" look at your lifestyle and maybe say, "I am not going to eat McDonald's anymore."
"Continue doing what works. (Many times we tend to discontinue doing things which have worked in the past.)"
Again journals let us know what is working and when they stop working.
"Identify and fortify weak links. This could refer to habit patterns, muscle groups, motor qualities, etc."
This is hard to do on your own, but at least start with behaviors. Also implement things you do not like to do or are not good at. We usually avoid those things because they are the most difficult, but they also may be what we need most.
"In most things, the truth tends to be in the middle (rather than the extremes.)"
Oh, how very true.
"In resistance training, we tend to focus too much on what to lift and not enough on how or why."
This can be an article within itself. Everything you do in the gym should have rhyme and reason not just because you are trying to fill in extra time.
"Do more work in the same amount of time (workout to workout) and muscle will grow."
This is the principle of increasing workout density. Sometimes simply decreasing your rest intervals over the course of time is enough to give your program a much needed change.
"There's no best way. All techniques, methods, paradigms, exercises, devices, etc., have benefits and drawbacks. If your training lacks variety and diversity, you'll accumulate the drawbacks and habituate to the benefits."
Amen Coach Staley.
"We're all capable of much more than we think. I recently saw a photo of a powerlifter squatting something like 600 pounds on a prosthetic leg. I remembered thinking, "Man, what's my excuse?!""
Our bodies are not as fragile as many people make them out to be. Set goals that are meaningful, determine a plan and map it out in your schedule, give yourself a time frame for short and long-term goals so you have things to look forward to for increased motivation, and speak to your family so that they know what you are trying to accomplish and that they can give you the necessary support to make those goals happen. The only way you know if something is working is if it is bringing you closer to your goals. The "pump", "burn", and other bodybuilding lingo is garbage. Follow the steps that I have recommended and then you will easily know if what you are following is "right." Write me back if you find yourself having problems and not coming closer to the goals that you have set.