How to CRUSH it, even when you have to RUSH it!

I’m sure that many of you (myself included) are finding that you are busier and busier these days. Many days it is hard enough to get the ever growing “to do” list knocked out let alone trying to find time to get a work out in. As a result I talk to a lot of people who tell me that they get their workouts in when they have time, but many days they find themselves skipping them with a promise that they will make it up some other time. (I like to call these types of promises – “calculated lies”) Although your workout may seem like an ideal candidate for the chopping block when trying to free up some time, this strategy might actually be creating more problems. A growing body of research is finding evidence that indicates that individuals are more productive and focused, and less stressed after exercise. I know it’s counter-intuitive to think that pushing your body to the limit in the gym can actually increase your energy, but let’s be honest… we’ve all experienced that “high” after a good workout at some point. This suggests that exercise could be the “magic pill” you need to accomplish more throughout the day and that is why I wanted to provide some pointers to make sure that you are as effective and efficient as possible in the gym when time is limited.

I think the best place to start this is to bust a common myth and prevent a mistake that I observe a number of people making…when time is limited people have a tendency to head straight to the cardio equipment. Although cardio makes you feel as if you got a great workout in and it is definitely convenient (No thinking involved, put on your ipod, set it, and go), it is far less effective than resistance training. If you recall from my previous blog post “Cardio or Resistance Training?“, resistance training can produce a calorie burn that is 3x’s higher than cardio. Now don’t get me wrong, cardio is a very important part of exercise, but when time is limited and you are trying to be as efficient as possible…head to the weights.

The best strategy to use is to work large muscles first followed by smaller muscles. Large muscles include: chest, back, and legs. Small muscles are: triceps, biceps, and shoulders. Before I continue any further, I want to point out that you should have made a couple of decisions before getting into the gym:

What is your fitness goal?

Are you trying to increase strength, add size/bulk (Hypertrophy), or increase endurance? Answering this question will help identify how many reps you should be doing and the weight that you should be using. In that same blog I mentioned earlier I talked about the different “Work Zones” and defined them as follows for each category:

Strength – 6 Rep Max; Hypertrophy- 8 Rep Max; Endurance- 12 Rep Max.

Basically this means that depending on your fitness goals, you should use a weight that allows you to “max out” or not be able to do one more rep beyond the defined work zone. Clearly this weight will change depending on the exercise. Also a special note for anyone who says, “I just want to tone my muscles not add bulk”… All 3 of these strategies tone the muscle, but don’t worry too much about getting “Bulky”. Without a serious commitment and some nutritional/supplemental help, I promise you won’t start looking like Arnold anytime soon (I’ll bust this myth further in a future blog post).

What is your training strategy?

Are you doing a “Full Body” workout or are you on a particular day of split rotation? A full body is exactly what it sounds like: a workout that hits all the major muscles of the body in one workout. This is typically what most “time crunched” individuals will find themselves doing. However, if you happen to be doing a split rotation where the muscle groups are divided (split) into a strategic pairing (Chest/Triceps, Back/Biceps, Legs/Shoulders) and worked out over the course of 2-3 days then you will want to pick the exercises below that best fit into that routine.

Sample workouts:

These are some suggested exercises that you can do with equipment that will be available in most fitness centers. There are other options and variations, if you would like additional suggestions please shoot me an email.

My good friend and Body Blocks’ client Gene fitting a chest workout into his busy schedule.

Large Muscles: These muscles burn the most calories.

  • Chest (6 Sets): Flat Bench Press (3 Sets); Incline Bench Press (3 Sets)
  • Back (6 Sets): Wide-grip Pull Down (3 Sets); Reverse Grip Pull Down (3 Sets)
  • Legs (6 Sets): Squat-feet shoulder width [wide] (3 Sets); Leg Press-feet hip width [narrow] (3 Sets)

Small Muscles:

  • Tricep (4 Sets): V-Bar Push Down (2 Sets); Reverse Grip Push Down (2 Sets)
  • Bicep (4 Sets): Preacher Curl (2 Sets); Standing Straight-Bar Curl (2 Sets)
  • Shoulder: Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise (2 Sets); Bent Over Lateral Raise (2 Sets)

These exercises can also be done using a superset(A large muscle exercise paired with a small muscle exercise) for further efficiency.

Clearly time will play a part in what you are able to accomplish, but if you have a plan and you’re focused you can accomplish a great workout in 30 minutes and get on with your day. For other good time efficient workouts please read my blog “Conventional Training vs. MC²” and stay tuned for my upcoming blog about the calorie scorching 360 MC workout that is quickly becoming popular at Body Blocks.

As always I look forward to your feedback and hope that this has helped convince you that playing hooky from your workouts is not a good idea. Get in, get it done, and reap the rewards. Remember excuses are nothing more that calculated lies that we tell to ourselves.

Stay healthy,

Bob


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You must eat to lose weight.

No that’s not a misprint in the title, today we tackle another common fitness myth that I have heard time and time again:  “If you want to lose weight you need to eat fewer calories than you burn off in a day”.  Sound familiar? Now, depending on your size and gender you’ve probably been given a calorie goal somewhere between 1200-1500 calories a day.

Although this “could” happen to be your goal, in reality you’re calorie goal should be based on your Basil Metabolic Rate (BMR) and your level of activity.  Your BMR is the number of calories your body burns at rest in a 24 hour period.  In other words, it’s the amount of fuel your body needs to continue sustaining life. So how do you obtain this magic number?  According to a formula provided in a 1990 study that appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Basil Metabolic Rate is equal to:

It’s that simple! (insert sarcasm here) 

Obviously the calculation is complicated and further studies have even included variables such as lean body mass and physiological elements.  The good news is there are tools out there that provide these measurements for you.  Although there seem to be some decent lower-cost, home products on the market, at Body Blocks we use a medical grade body composition analyzer called the InBody520.  This piece of equipment provides us with a number of measurements (including BMR) which allow us to understand the unique physiology of each of our clients.

InBody520

Now that we know how to get them, let’s look at what the numbers mean.

If you’re BMR is 1500 and you’re eating a recommended 1200 calories, you are not even providing your body enough fuel to make it through the day (and that’s if you were at rest all day).  Since most individuals have some level of activity throughout the day, walking, climbing stairs, talking, exercising, etc.  The true caloric deficit that they are experiencing is even greater than the 300 calories that is represented here.

If you think about your body as if it were a race car and that car required 11 quarts of oil to operate efficiently.  If you decided to put only 5 quarts in,  the car will still run, but at some point during the race it’s going to break down.  Additionally the car’s support systems would experience increased stress, overheating, and in some cases permanent damage as they are forced to work with insufficient resources.  Your body and it’s support systems respond in a very similar manner.

Unlike a race car, our bodies are able to interpret and adapt to changes in the environment.  This means that when the body recognizes a pattern of high caloric deficits, it interprets this as starvation and goes into survival mode.  At this point it starts managing fuel in an effort preserve energy, this means that it distributes the energy to essential life support systems while shutting down other systems and functions.  Clearly this is probably not the result that most people would be looking for from their diet.

The best way to manage your weight is to understand how your body works.  The first step is to learn your BMR.  Keep in mind that your BMR increases as you increase your lean muscle mass.  Put simply this means that the more lean muscle mass you add, the more you will NEED to eat for your body to operate efficiently.  It also means that you will have to monitor your BMR on a consistent basis to ensure that you are always eating at least what your body needs to survive.  Any attempts to lose weight should use strategies that reduce the extra calories that are consumed in addition to the BMR.  This means that many of you will have to actually eat more if you want to effectively lose weight.

I hope that this article helps clarify this common fitness myth and empowers you with the knowledge necessary to achieve your fitness goals.