While most days we’re our own worst critics, some degree of self-improvement in the physical realm of our time on this planet can be achieved through a moderate amount of consistent, intense training each week. If you’re a busy man cornered by work and family obligations but still want to make a good first impression, these tips will improve your playing field. They will also give you the upper hand in a number of areas in your life.
This article describes a multi-faceted fitness plan. Consistency and intensity are key concepts that will be emphasized here and will save you a lot of time in the gym. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before starting this or any other exercise program.
Ingredient #1: Warm Up
It’s important for each weight training session to begin with a proper warm up. Use of aerobic exercise videos is an excellent way to prepare your body for injury prevention and to open up all of the pathways necessary for energy production. These tools will also help you stay focused as you get fired up for the main event. One of my favorites is the abdominal workout of the Insanity series published by the people at Beachbody (Beachbody, 2009). It is about sixteen minutes long and gets results in the mid-section rather quickly. If you choose to jog or power walk as part of your warm up routine, be sure to stretch for five to ten minutes beforehand. The aerobic warm up routine you choose should be intense, be fifteen to twenty minutes in duration, and precede your use of weights at least three to four times weekly.
Ingredient #2: Supplements
Nutritional supplements are also a key factor to include if you want real success with weight training. The literature supports the pre-workout use of creatine monohydrate to improve muscle strength and improve recovery rates during workouts (http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/creatine.html). These products are significant contributors in the performance of additional repetitions and will help you achieve the results you want.
A good multi-vitamin is also a must to any good nutritional program and will support the processes necessary to getting and keeping fit. For men over forty, natural testosterone boosters such as tribulus terrestris (http://dbrawlmuscle.wordpress.com/tribulus/) and epimedium sagittatum (http://herbal-powers.com/hornygoatweed.html) should also be considered. (Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before starting these supplements.)
Ingredient #3: Nutrition
A few additional words on nutrition are appropriate here because our bodies require the right fuel to sustain the type of activity we’re describing. While low carbohydrate diets are not tolerated well by everyone, a controlled carbohydrate plan is an excellent approach to fueling this workout style. If you are consistently and intensely applying the principles outlined here, your metabolism should survive nicely on forty to fifty grams of carbohydrate daily. [Keep in mind that the Atkins low carbohydrate plan (Atkins, 2002) starts beginners out at twenty grams of carbohydrate daily.]
If you are not getting the results you want with the techniques described, start dropping down five grams per day for a week at a time. Be patient but continue the consistency and intensity approach outlined here. While you should always consult with your healthcare provider before starting a new diet or exercise program, my practice has seen thousands of people with disease processes that could have been averted or attenuated with the implementation of a conditioning and low carbohydrate strategy. If you find that you’re not tolerating this dietary approach well, start by cutting out breads, desserts, and sodas to get you closer to your fitness goals.
Ingredient #5: Get a Spotter
The importance of partnering with a like-minded individual who can provide the encouragement and support necessary to achieve muscle burnout during weight training should be clearly understood. This type of workout buddy is called a spotter and should be equally motivated in achieving similar goals as you.
A good spotter will be properly positioned, both physically and psychologically, to assist you with the last two or three repetitions of a particular set and will be illustrated shortly. This person is someone with whom you will develop a certain closeness, camaraderie, and accountability and will also play an important role in achieving consistency as you’re held accountable for showing up for workouts on time! Set a goal of meeting three to four times each week and hold each other to that regimen. Ask around. You will be pleasantly surprised at who may accept your invitation.
Ingredient #6: Muscle Burnout
The expression “muscle burnout” can now be emphasized. Please bear in mind this does not imply muscle injury. Nor does it refer to an obstacle that should halt your progress. It combines the principles of continuous tension and forced repetitions. The general notion of continuous tension, formally introduced to the world of resistance training by Joe Weider, refers to the constant resistance on a given muscle throughout an entire repetition of an exercise and is key to success when building and toning muscle groups. (http://www.muscleandfitness.com/training/other/weider-principles)
It is based on the need to control both the positive and negative components of a repetition so as to deliver constant tension throughout the entire range of motion.
The bench press exercise, which has its claim to fame for building and toning chest muscles, offers a good opportunity for illustrating the various components of a repetition. Understanding these particulars is necessary to achieving continuous tension on the muscle group you are working so you can end up with the look you want.
The main event of this entire series is, no doubt, the execution of the forced repetition, which will be further referenced as forced rep. Forced reps are crucial to body transformation and engender the previously described ingredients within your successful workout as well as a mind-body connection you can ultimately use in all areas of your life.
Picture yourself on your back on the bench press with a safe amount of weight loaded on each side of the Olympic bar. A “safe amount” is determined as that amount of weight with which you could perform three to ten repetitions on your own.
You feel the creatine pump and the heat of your warm-up coursing through your well-dilated arteries and veins. You’re well nourished and well hydrated. You’ve done a few warm-up sets. (These are all imperative to achieving optimal results and avoiding injury.) You’re feeling good. You go into the next set with your hands on the bar at shoulder width. Your spotter is above you, standing at the head of the bench, with his or her hands closer in to the center of the bar. A huge psychological pump occurs just having your buddy touch the bar.
On the count of three, you have lift off and then a slow lowering of the bar to your chest (this is the “negative” part of the repetition and should be done slowly). Effort is now applied to push the bar back up into starting position (the “positive” part of the movement). Squeeze your chest tightly at the top of the repetition and begin to lower the bar again, slowly. Your spotter is right there and is prepared to assist you in getting the bar back up to the top of the repetition. Lower it slowly back down to your chest. Your spotter, who’s now your best friend, is assisting more with the raising of the bar.
You repeat this sequence fervently until you cannot safely lift the bar alone. More squeezing and another lowering of the bar. Your spotter, who is now responsible for your life, commands you to do one more repetition, a true forced rep, before you retire the bar to its resting place. The two of you will decide when you’ve experienced this burn and you likely will experience euphoria at this point.
You will want to be sure to vary the muscle groups with which you use this technique from week to week. Experiment with the different large muscle groups such as chest and thighs and give each plenty of time to recover before working them again. Your body will need nourishment, sleep, and a chance to respond to this high level of stress.
While continuous tension and forced reps are best applied to the larger muscle groups, they can also be used with the smaller groups as you mature in your workout regimen. Remember, the use of consistency and intensity is the key to success. Get started this week and change your life.
Atkins, R. (2002). Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Creatine Monohydrate Guide. (2012). Bodybuilding.com. Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/creatine.html.
Five Coolest Benefits of Tribulus Terrestris. (2012). DBrawl Muscle Tribulus Team. Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://dbrawlmuscle.wordpress.com/tribulus/.
Horny Goat Weed (Herbal Powers). (2011). Herbal Powers: Nature’s Best Remedies. Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://herbal-powers.com/hornygoatweed.html.