I just completed the Chest section under the Exercises page of this blog. If you are looking for some ways to build your chest muscles, these 3 exercises will do the trick. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman these fundamental exercises work all areas of your chest and will make you bigger and stronger. All the exercises I write about are described in a summary form, provide step by step instructions, and provide graphic that helps you visualize how to do the exercise. So what are you waiting for check out the Chest section. In the coming weeks I will elaborate on my favorite strength training exercises for triceps, biceps, shoulders, back, legs, and abdominal’s.
Month: January 2014
Follow-up #1 on What am I eating?
Sure it took me a few days to start interjecting some vegetables into my diet, as old habits die-hard. So last night after I worked out I decided not to eat a pizza, but instead had a few ounces of tuna fish (no bread), and about 8 ounces of frozen cut leaf spinach cooked of course. Strangely enough I felt better than usual, more energy and not as bloated as when I consumed the better part of a pizza myself, or as in my dinner the day before of 4 hot dogs and baked beans. I like spinach and have made some assumptions about it being a pretty decent vegetable to consume, but a bit of research was in order. Pulling out my handy HTC One Android phone I checked my Nutrition Data app and it says that 100 grams of spinach has the following nutritional makeup:
- Calories 34
- Total Fat 0.9g
- Saturated Fat 0.0 g
- Total Carbs 4.8g
- Fiber 3.7g
- Sugars 0.5g
- Protein 4.0g
So without getting to technical I learned that frozen cut leaf spinach is low in fat, high in fiber, and contains a surprisingly high amount of protein. Figuring I must have consumed at least 8 ounces I converted this to grams which means I consumed about 250 of them. So the spinach I ate contained about 85 calories, 9.25 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of protein. So next time you go shopping pick out some high fiber, low-calorie, high protein spinach to go along with the rest of your meal. Maybe Popeye knew what he was doing. Next we will analyze another of my favorite vegetables the Lima Bean, now that should be nothing short of fascinating.
What am I eating?
You workout every day, doing strength training, cardio, yoga, pilates, you are reading motivational works, you take all the right supplements, spend time meditating, and still you feel like crap. Maybe just maybe your diet needs some analysis. This is exactly what I’ve been asking myself lately and I’m sure most of you are saying Joe come on your diet is at least 50% of the equation and you didn’t know that. Well I think I realized that what I was consuming was not optimal, and in my own warped way I thought if I took the right vitamins and supplements it would fill in all the gaps and I would feel great. Seriously there are days where I don’t consume a single vegetable or fruit, and I’m not sure that slice of tomato or pickle on my hamburger or that bag of fries counts. Maybe that pepperoni pizza with a bit of tomato sauce and mushrooms counts as my daily allowance for vegetables; who am I kidding?
Sure I throw in an occasional salad in every week, but that can’t overcome the other 6 days of the week where vegetables and fruits have been omitted from my diet. Just last week I was at a Mediterranean restaurant and ordered the vegetarian feast, basically a buffet filled with various salads, bean dishes, humus, bread, pastas, etc. and after consuming a large plate of this good stuff I thought I was going to explode. I’m not sure if my body was revolting against the foreign substances, but for the next 6 hours the gas was trying to escape from all orifices. And while I try to limit sugar and simple carbs from my diet as much as possible I am in need of a diet overhaul. So I am on a quest of start this diet overhaul and I mean now. So I plan on putting together some future posts on how I have overhauled my diet, and what it does to my energy levels and overall well being. I am open to any suggestions you may have.
Cool fitness apps for your phone
Without sounding like I’m plugging anyone’s products here, I just wanted to mention a few different fitness apps I used on my Android phone. I used to haul my laptop upstairs to my workout room and log my reps and weights used for my strength training routine into a Google spreadsheet. While this worked rather well it had me hauling the laptop up and down the stairs, and sometimes other folks in family were using the computer so it wasn’t all that convenient at times. I did a little research at the Play Store (Google’s equivalent to Apple’s app store), and found an easy to use tool called Redy Gym Log. The Redy Gym Log came pre-loaded with most of the popular strength training exercises, and you can add your own very easily. I then created my 4 day split routine, and we were off to the races. So now I just grab my phone and go upstairs do my workout and record it.
If you read an earlier post you know I like to walk, and since I take my phone with me it made sense to see if they had a pedometer application that would give me a pretty good idea of how far and fast I was walking. I found the Runtastic Pedometer Pro (a couple of dollars to upgrade), and it has been great. So now I’m tracking my strength training with Redy Gym Log and my walking with Runtastic Pedometer Pro. Well since I also try to exercise first thing in the morning and had incorporated some squats into the routine, I noticed that Runtastic had an app for that too. I downloaded Runtastic Squats, upgraded it (again another couple of dollars), and now I use Squats Pro and do squats 3 days a week in the morning. There are other great fitness apps you can get for your Android or Apple phones, but these are 3 that I use every week and have been very pleased with.
I guess the revelation if there is one here is that you don’t need to haul around a laptop, notebook, or tablet PC; just grab your phone and get moving. These apps provide a history of your workouts, making it easy for you to set new goals, and in the case of the Runtastic Squat Pro it actually creates the next workout for you and generates reminders. All good stuff, but I’m not typing in the post from my phone, I just don’t have the patience for that yet. So don’t pitch your laptop/notebook just yet.
The links for Runtastic and Redy Gym are as follows:
I would love to know what fitness apps you are using on your phone?
How many days a week should you do strength training?
So how many days a week should you do strength training? I think to answer this question you need to consider what type of strength training you are doing and several other factors. I’m defining strength training as resistance training, like lifting weights or some other form of resistance that stresses a muscle or muscle group with some number of repetitions. A typical set could have anywhere from 4 to 30 repetitions. There are different types of strength training routines and depending on the one you are using it will have impact how many days a week you should workout.
Types of strength training programs
Whole Body Routine: if you are using a whole body or total body routine you are attempting to work all the muscle groups of your body in one workout. These routines typically take much longer to execute because you are doing many different exercises to work all the muscle groups.
Split Routine: a split routine is where you divide the muscle groups (body) focusing on a specific group of muscles on any one day. One of the characteristics of a split routine is that they are typically much shorter in duration taking sometimes just 20 minutes compared to a whole body routine that make take an hour or more. An example of this might be a 4 day split like the one I do:
- Day 1 – Chest & Triceps
- Day 2 – Biceps, Forearms, and Shoulders
- Day 3 – Legs
- Day 4 – Back
Another factor to consider is what type of training are you doing. You may be too young to remember this but Mike Mentzer (picture above) who was a professional bodybuilder back in the 70’s. He came up with the philosophy of High Intensity Training or Heavy Duty which advocated training a muscle to failure with very heavy weights and lower repetitions. This form of training exacts a huge toll on your muscles and ability to recover between training sessions, so much that Mr. Mentzer advocated training a muscle group just once a week. That’s fine, but what about the majority of us who don’t lift extremely heavy weights and do sets to failure? Well our intensity would be lower and we would be putting less stress on our bodies. So one can assume that intensity and amount of resistance will affect our ability to recover.
Aside from the type of routine used and the intensity/load factor it is fair to assume that your ability to recover plays a role in how many training days you should engage in each week. Age can be a factor in your ability to recover, when you are younger you will probably recover quicker than as you age, simply due to higher levels of hormones coursing through your body. Another factor may be the supplements you are taking or not taking can have a big effect on recovery ability.
There is certainly a lot of variability in determining the optimal number of days a week to perform strength training, but with that said I think there are some reasonable guidelines that should be taken into consideration.
- Your ability to recover is a big factor. You should give yourself at least a couple of days rest after working a muscle group. If you continue to put a muscle group under stress without allowing time for it to repair you are in effect wasting your time.
- Choose supplements like Glutamine, Branched Chained Amino Acids (BCAA), Whey Protein, and Creatine to help your body recover by consuming them right after working out.
- If you are performing very high intensity workouts as mentioned above then give yourself additional time to recover, conversely if you are doing lower intensity workouts you may not need as much time before your next workout.
- If you are performing Whole Body strength training workouts maybe once or twice a week is all you need. In fact you might just want to look at it as performing a Whole Body workout once every 5 to 7 days, instead of how many times per week.
- Make sure even if you are doing a 4 or 5 day split that you build in a rest day upon completion of the final day in the split training program. Remember even in a split routine you will work muscles that have already been worked for instance if you work your back you might also be working your triceps and shoulders.
- If you are still sore even after taking a rest day, consider taking another day to allow your muscles to completely heal and rebuild themselves before putting them under stress again.
As already mentioned I do a 4 day split strength training routine, and with a fairly normal life I find I end up getting all the workouts completed in about a week. I typically take a rest day after “Day 4 – Back” because it stresses my triceps and shoulders, which again get worked on “Day 1 – Chest & Triceps”. My recommendation is you must find the happy medium between working out too frequently and not enough. Your body needs time to rest, but too much time between workouts and you can lose strength. So give yourself enough time for the muscles to recover and grow, but not so much time that you aren’t moving forward and gaining strength.
I would love to hear your comments and your approach to strength training.
The Joy’s of Walking
As I used to be a runner this post is not about advocating walking over running. I used to love to run and while most of my miles are now acquired walking I still miss the feeling I had when I was done running. Yes the key statement is I used to be a runner, and now I’m perfectly happy walking 3 miles instead of running. Maybe it is age, maybe it is just bad knees and a bad back, but running takes a toll on my body. The problem is there is no substitute for getting outside in the fresh air and enjoying the weather good or bad. For all you hard-core runners who think walking is not much of a workout, I can totally understand, but let me at least state some of the benefits:
- If you walk long enough you can get a pretty decent workout
- Because you are not killing yourself you can take time to think while you are taking your walk
- It takes the average person about an hour to walk 3 miles, so you get to enjoy the outdoors and get some fresh air
- It strengthens your legs and back
- You typically don’t experience any soreness or pain
- It burns calories commensurate with distance and pace
- And while you don’t get a big release of endorphin’s like running provides, you do feel better both during and after the walk
I’m sure I could come up with a few other reasons why walking is a good thing, but this should suffice for most of us. While I decided that about a year ago running wasn’t a good option for me anymore, I found that walking provided some of the same benefits and a few unique ones. Oh and by the way running shoes are also great for walking.
Now go get your walk on.