Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Opportunities On The Road - Back at L.A. Fitness - Dallas, Texas

Maybe I've just worked out in a gym too long, but L.A. Fitness doesn't work for me.

Too antiseptic; no soul; no one in there this morning even remotely hard-core.

It is what it says it is -- a "fitness" club.

Machines all in nice rows by body part; carpeted; and no one grunting or groaning.  In fact, I didn't see anyone even speaking to each other.  Felt, well, lonely.

Very regimented.

Which means it is probably right for most people; I have no problems with anyone's choice of workout experiences.

But we like something a bit more raw; actually a lot more raw.

We did back today - 20 sets, plus abdominals and 30 minutes on the Precor.

Nothing wrong with the workout; but the atmosphere was just not motivating.   We're also without our NO supplement ("White Flood") and that makes a difference in energy levels, too.

An FYI on cool equipment -- I like the Nautilus Mid-Row machine - good range of motion and it keeps you strict.

Tomorrow is legs and we're going to try something new -- so stay tuned.

Train hard; diet harder.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Opportunities On The Road - Chest at Gold's Gym - St. Louis, Missouri

Back to Gold's Gym in Fenton, Missouri this rainy morning.

This is what I call a "full-service" gym -- everything from a pool to a basketball court, huge classrooms to a cardio-cinema.  For some, that's great.  For me, it would be a waste of money.  I come to the gym, any gym, for the weights and the cardio equipment, nothing else.

But, on a day rate, you get it all, or as much of it as you want.  I do object to $16 a day but when we came in this morning, Kelly asked if the pass was for "a day" or "24 hours."  The guy said, "I guess 24 hours."  We were there 23 hours after we entered the last time and so saved $32.  Try it.

Today we're back at the top of the order -- 18 sets of chest followed by 6 sets of calves and 30 minutes on a Cybex trainer for cardio/calorie burning.  And, on the road, calorie burning is important because it is hard to stay as strict as you can be at home.  At least that is true for me.

No new, latest-greatest machines to report today.  Chest is pretty much heavy pressing and fly routines.  I do like the Hammer Strength Incline plate-loaded machine, but we have one of those in my home gym and you probably do, too - good for the upper chest.

Before I forget, however, there is one machine I failed to mention in the last blog that is the best of the best for biceps -- it is the LifeFitness seated bicep pin-loaded machine.  Produces a pump like no other.  I've seen Jay Cutler use it in his videos and now I know why.  If you get a chance, use it!

Something else I like about this gym is the floor- a solid rubber surface.  Good because you don't have to be ginger with the weights.  Wish all gyms had great flooring . . .

We leave St. Louis this afternoon and will be working out in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas area for the next four days.  I'll keep you apprised.

Train hard; diet harder.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Working Out -- On The Road - Making The Most of Opportunities - Shoulders at Gold's Gym - St. Louis, Missouri

Most people who are serious about training tell me they like their "home gym," that being on the road sets them back. 

I understand the thought, but here's another take on it . . . one that looks at new gyms as opportunities for new gains.  Here's how . . .

Today, Kelly and I worked out at Gold's Gym, Fenton, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

What we found as at least a dozen new opportunities in the form of equipment that we don't have at our home gym.  It took some "testing" to separate the wheat from the chaffe (and there is plenty of chaffe when it comes to equipment), but we found a couple of killer machines today that smoked our shoulders, including:

1.  LifeFitness Side Delt Machine.  This one totally isolates the side deltoids.  No matter how strict I try to be using dumbbell lateral raises, I can't isolate like this machine does.  Tomorrow my delts will be toast -- the goal.

2.  Hammer Strength Seated Trap Machine.  I generally do traps with 80 or 90 pounds dumbbells and they work fine.  One problem -- 90 pound dumbbells are dangerous, pure and simple.  You can get injured pulling them out of the rack or putting them back in, not to mention the risk of your hands giving out and dropping one, God forbid.  (By way of example, Kelly almost broke a finger a few weeks ago slamming a couple of heavy dumbbells back into the rack.)  This machine (plate-loaded) gives you full range of motion while seated, taking a lot of strain off the lower back and if you drop the weight, no problem.

Of course, there are the downsides -- this gym had no "vibe" that I could feel.  Just a bunch of strangers (to us and apparently to each other) doing their own things.  I didn't see anyone encouraging anyone else, except me pushing Kelly and Kelly pushing me.  At our home gym there is always banter, encouragement and teasing. 

So, what to do?  Look at the advantages, not the disadvantages.  Anytime you work out in a new gym, you're going to have opportunities with new equipment -- test it, use it, take advantage of it.  If you don't have your workout partner with you, and you can afford it, grab the most fit looking personal trainer and tell him/her to "rip me to shreds." 

The next several blogs will highlight these opportunities because in the next week we'll be working out at four or five more gyms -- from a small key-entry gym to the mother of all hard-core gyms, MetroFlex in Texas, the place Ronnie Coleman trained as he was winning a record 8 Mr. Olympia titles. 

After that, we'll go back home and be in the "home gym," Fitness International, after which we'll be going to Las Vegas to attend Mr. Olympia in late-September when we'll have the opportunity of working out in at least three more new gyms, including the Gold's that is home of Jay Cutler.  Should be cool. 

Now, one more unrelated observation . . . if you want to make money in the long-term in the USA, invest in companies that treat heart disease and diabetes.  I have never seen so many fat -- really fat -- people and they seem to be getting noticeably fatter.  It's sad.  They don't know what they are missing and how easy it is to get in shape and stay there.

So, I'll keep preaching and, to that end, we'll will be giving two nutrition seminars during September, the curricula of which I'll post here in future blogs.  Listen up, corporate America.  These are programs your employees (the ones you're insuring against disease, most of which is caused by poor diet) should hear.

So, take care.  Train hard.  And, diet harder!

All the best,


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Good Pain vs. Bad Pain (Continued)

Some interesting comments on the last post regarding the difference between "good pain" and "bad pain," but none more interesting that that of Jim Starr, gym owner and chiropractor extraordinaire who had this to add . . .

Good pain is experienced as a short term burning sensation that  lasts usually a few seconds and up to 3 minutes depending on each persons particular recovery time.  Good pain may experience a stiffness and soreness following an exercise routine and can last up to 36 hours after exercise. 

This pain is the result of A) micro tearing of muscle fibers which is necessary for muscle growth and /or  B) the accumulation of lactic acid (the by-product of muscle energy) which is stored in the belly of the muscle until our body can rid itself of this waste product.  

Good pain should the only be felt in the MUSCLE or MUSCLES being exercised and never, ever in other locations such as antagonistic muscles or worse.... the surrounding JOINTS.  

Clinically, there are three stages of any condition that separates an injury from good pain. 

First is called "ACUTE" pain which is usually sharp pain that creates immediate cessation of the movement that caused it. The body has only instinctive reactions to this pain and will do almost anything to protect us from ouselves. This pain lasts anywhere from minutes to up to 72 hours. 

"SUB-ACUTE" pain is a condition where the pain experienced in the acute stage either increase in intensity or remains at current levels but can last up to 6 weeks. Often this is the worst of the conditions because our bodies adaptability screens the pain levels and we continue to perforn activities which create a vicious cycle of re-injury and no heal time.  Many times we medicate ourselves in this stage and trick ourselves into believing that we are improving and we can continue on with our workout.  This is the stage where you will hear yourself saying "of course it hurts but that is just the price of working out" or  "I ain´t no sissy...I can handle a LITTLE PAIN!"  

The third stage is "CHRONIC" pain. This, too, is tricky because either you never humbled yourself enough to see a physician and find out what and why your hurt or your simply have learned "to live with it."  This stage begins after 6 weeks of consistent pain and can last for years if gone untreated or at least un-CONFRONTED!   

We are stubborn beings, that is for sure. We are egotistical and cannot bear the thought that we are not INVINCIBLE. The pain of missing a few workouts and listening to your body is sometimes greater than the pain you are experiencing physically. This is a dangerous stage thats sets up degenerative changes in your body, especially your joints, and can lead to either disabling situations, permanent medicating, joint replacement or any combination of the above.

Workouts should be fun and beneficial...or else they should not be done. While the benefits of exercise... mentally, emotionally and physically are innumerable, there are life lessons to be learned all during the process of workouts, too. Controlling our ego, stabilizing our stubbornness, and learning to dance with our body instead of forcing it to do things that nature sometimes is telling us not to do - those are the keys.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pain: Good or Bad?

Pain -- is it good or is it bad?  When it comes to the gym, it's both and neither.

There are two kinds of pain people feel during and after intense resistance training:

1.  Muscle fatigue and micro-tears of the muscles -- this is 'good pain.'  This is what causes hypertrophy -- bigger muscles.

2.  Connective tissue pain -- this is 'bad pain.'  This is the feel of tendons and other connective tissue being pulled to the point of injury.  And those of us who have experienced this pain know like love it is not necessarily forever, but it can feel like it.  

I watch people workout and can almost tell you to the person who is going to get hurt -- as in 'bad hurt' -- as in the kind of hurt that puts them out of commission for a while or forever.

Here are the three categories of people who are hurt or about to get that way:

1.  The Testosterone boys.  These are the young guys who come in together, all worked up, do no stretching, warmup exercises, and try to handle weight way above their physical capacity in order to impress their buddies.  Instead they leave hurt and I rarely see them again.

2.  Look What I Can Lift guys.  Mostly guys, but some girls, too, and here's the problem -- they are more interested in how much weight they can handle rather than their look and overall physical condition.  They are powerlifters or wanna-be powerlifters.  They almost always go down to injury.

3.  To Hell With The Form folks.  These people never learned to lift right -- don't know what range of motion means, what the squeeze is, how many sets or reps are ideal, and mostly how to perform a repetition with heavy weight in a way that minimizes risk of injury.  They need a trainer before they hurt themselves.  Unfortunately, most of them hurt themselves and then decide they need a trainer.

There is a fine line between not putting 100% into your workouts and getting poor results and putting too much into the workout and ending up injured.

After spending a lot of time in the gym, you get better.  You know the difference between 'good pain' and 'bad pain.'  Better than having to learn the difference by trial and error is to avoid being in one of the three categories I discussed above.

Train hard; diet harder!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Dieting Rules You Should Never Violate

So, you want to lose weight? Or better said, you want to lose fat . . .

More people fail on diets than ever succeed and there are many reasons, most of which go to a lack of real commitment.

Other reasons for failure fall into what I'll call the technical category -- good intentions but a failure in execution.

Under this heading there are three rules that should NEVER be violated if you're serious about losing fat . . .

1. DON'T EAT OUT. The universal truth in dieting is understanding energy balance, meaning calories coming in must be less than calories being burned. If you take the calories used by your your basal metabolic rate and add your exercise calories each day and then subtract the calories you want to take out of your diet each day, you will get to the number of calories you can eat each day.

But you can only get to that number if you can count those calories. And that is where restaurant eating doesn't work. You don't know the quantity (weight) of the food you are being served. You don't know what went into the food. You don't know how much oil and fat was used in cooking the food. Don't argue. You don't know. And because you don't know, you don't know the calories you've consumed and if you can't count them, you can't be accountable for them and if you're not accountable you will NOT lose weight. Exception -- If you just have to eat out in order to have a happy life, limit it to once per week, one dish at one meal that you don't count. Consider that your one "cheat meal" each week.

2. STOP DRINKING ALCOHOL. That's right. Alcohol = empty calories. More importantly, your body stops burning fat when it is metabolizing alcohol. I didn't make the rule so don't blame the messenger. That's the way it works. I have found that even when I stay inside my calorie range, if any of those calories are made up of alcohol, I will not lose weight. My metabolism is shut down long enough to allow the body to retain fat. So, when I'm dieting, when I want to lose fat, I stop drinking altogether. Exception: If I do a cheat meal, instead of a dessert I might have a glass of wine as my "treat" that week.

3. EXERCISE EVERY DAY. Every day. Every day. Every single day. The key to losing fat is keeping the metabolism revved. That means at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day -- that's minimum. We get 5 days a week with the weights - 1 1/2 hours a session, plus 6-7 days a week of cardio (30 minutes per session.) You don't have to jump off the deep end like that unless you want to, but I can tell you as a matter of certainty that if you don't exercise daily, the weight, if it comes off at all, will come off much more slowly. Why? You let your metabolism slow down. Exception: There are no exceptions to this rule. Exercise every day.

Train hard; diet harder!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Maximizing Muscle; Minimizing Fat - Up and Down The Scale

170.0 today - at a 500 calorie deficit per day, I'm cutting down as planned.

After hitting 163, I decided several months ago to add some muscle. That means putting excess calories into the diet. It would be nice to be able to pack on muscle while calorie neutral or even deficient. This is the myth of losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time -- emphasis on the word "myth."

Reality is that if you want to add muscle, you have to be willing to add a little fat at the same time. Conversely, when you lose fat you'll lose a little muscle at the same time. The goal is to add as much muscle as possible on the way up and lose as little muscle as possible on the way down.

How can you do it?

On the way up, it is important to go slow. In the old days, bodybuilders would just eat anything and everything during their bulking phases. They'd put on a lot of muscle and a lot of fat. Now, there is a more scientific, healthy and effective way of doing it all while not having to have two sets of clothes. It is called "lean bulk" and it means adding calories slowly over a period of time, e.g., 2-3 months, and working out heavy and reducing the amount of cardio. In this way, you'll add whatever muscle your body is capable of adding while minimizing the amount of fat it adds at the same time. I added 500 calories a day over my BMR + exercise calories which added about a pound a week.

On the way down, it is also important to go slow. Trying to take it off 2 or 3 pounds a week only insures you will take off most of the muscle you've added during your bulking phase. Rather, I've stripped the 500 I added during the bulking phase and another 500 calories on top of that from my BMR + exercise. That equates to about a pound a week. I've lightened up on the weight and added reps and sets, and added more cardio (now 7 days a week). I have dropped from 173.8 to 170 in 2 weeks, a little more than I had anticipated but it will probably slow a little from here as the percentage of body fat drops.

The goal is to take as much fat off and as little muscle off as I move down the scale to about 165-166, and then take a body fat measurement and figure out how much muscle I added during the lean bulk phase. The acid test, however, is the look, and that is why I take a few photos as I drop (or add) each pound. By doing this you can compare your development over a period of time, e.g., 3 months, 6 months, a year. You'll be surprised at what you can do.

I'll keep you apprised over the next few weeks. Hope all is going well.

Train hard; diet harder.