Thursday, February 13, 2014

Keeping Track Makes A Big Difference

In an earlier post, I encouraged people to get themselves a Fitbit.  Having just received my weekly progress report via email, I can see that wearing a pedometer can bring about very positive results.

For example, in 2007, Stanford researchers took the bird's-eye view, gathered up 26 different studies and summarized the results in a paper published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Their synopsis showed that, at least in studies, pedometer users walk more than 2,000 additional steps each day than nonusers, and their overall physical activity levels
increase by 27%.

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In my case, I just had my best week ever: 108,000 steps, 51 miles (80 km), and 25,000 calories burned over just one week.  In addition, I went to the gym for workout with weights three times.

I really feel that I am on track to lose the fat that I have accumulated over the years.  The challenge is to keep up this level of effort.  Certainly, receiving a weekly progress report lets me know how I am doing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Push, Pull, Squat

I spend quite a bit of time reading articles on health and fitness.  From time to time, I run across something that strikes me to be such a great idea or suggestion that it makes its way into my exercise regime.

With all the contradictory information out there, I particularly care for something that simplifies what can otherwise be complicated into the basic fundamentals.

When it comes to resistance training, the notion of building your workout around three types of exercises: a push, a pull, and a squat is an extremely simple idea that is extremely effective.

Regardless if you are doing a body weight routine, using a suspension training device like a TRX, or working out with bar, dumb, and/or kettle bells, making sure that you include one exercise of each type cannot lead you wrong.

Just look at the hugely successful programs, Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe and the 5-3-1 program by Jim Wendler.  Both programs break things down to the basics, a bench press (push), a dead lift (pull), and a back squat (squat).

Over the last two years, I have followed both programs and I definitely got stronger and gained muscle mass.  Unfortunately, I also became fatter, which was largely a result of my diet, so I decided that it was time to go on a fat loss program.

I decided to purchase, Eric Cressey's, High Performance Handbook, and followed the fat loss program.  In about 12 weeks, I lost 28 pounds.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about the High Performance workouts is that there is a lot of variation of these three basic exercises.  As I discovered, there are many pushes, pulls, and squats to choose from.  Over the four stages of the program, Cressey varies the exercises, thereby increasing a lifter's weight training repertoire.  Moreover, he includes and extensive video library of the various exercises that instructs the viewer upon how to use the proper technique when performing each exercise.  It's almost like having a personal trainer there to coach you.

As a result, I have now started a new workout regime in which I vary the three main exercises over the course of three workouts per week.  For example, on Monday, I did 3x5 reps of a close grip bench press, a Sumo dead lift, and a back squat.  Today, I will do 3x5 reps of wide grip pull up and an overhead squat, and 3x8 reps of a landmine press.  Before the workout, I do about 10-15 minutes of dynamic stretching and afterwards, I finish with about 10-15 minutes on the rowing machine, interspersed with 4x 30 second sprints.

Not very complicated.  Warm up, do some pushes, pulls and, squats and end with a finisher that gets the heart rate up.

Now, I am on the lookout for new exercises that I can integrate into my routine while hanging onto the tried and true exercises that I know that I can count on.  As well, I know can add even more variety by simply varying whether the exercises are unilateral or bilateral, for example, choosing to a bench press with two dumbbells instead of a single barbell.

Not only am I excited by creating my own personal program as I go, I also think that I am in the process of reducing my risk of injury that arises when you do the same exercise and continue to increase the load.  Eventually, something has to give.  In my case, it was my rotator cuff from doing too many push presses.

But now, having picked up some pre-hab shoulder and thoracic movements from Cressey's program, I am pain free and looking forward to do a much wider range of exercises that are waiting for me to discover.