chat with a fitness newbie
I had a conversation with a friend about fitness. I've pasted the conversation below, changing names for privacy. This is an extension of my blog post that I wrote about fitness.
Friend: how often do you go to the gym? i don't know if i'm overdoing it or underdoing it. i try to go about four days a week and get in about 25-30 minutes each time
me: you don't need to do any more than that.
if you're making good use of your time there, that's PLENTY.
"good use" depends on your objectives, but in general, either high weight, or high intensity.
me: are you doing cardio for heart-health and endurance, or weights for strength?
Friend: trying to do that might result in too many dropped weights on my toes
i've been concentrating almost exclusively on weights so far to bulk up a bit
me: ok, good. you don't need to do cardio at this point.
Friend: should i start mixing it up more?
me: stick to compound exercises - exercises that use a major muscle group (chest, back, legs, shoulders) compounded with a minor muscle group (arms).
For example, chest press uses chest+triceps. Back exercises use back+biceps. Squats and deadlifts use ALL of your legs.
The core compound exercises are: Chest press, shoulder press, chinup/pullup, squat, and deadlift.
Doing those, with dumbbells or barbells (skip the machines, they're fairly useless) will give you good results.
me: And eat protein - 1 gram per pound of body weight on workout days is ideal, but hard to achieve, so aim for 75% of that and you'll be ok.
Friend: what do you think of push ups and lunges?
me: Doing pullups and chinups, even with weight assist (because at first you may be too weak to do them) works your biceps AND back simultaniously.
body weight exercises are great exercises to do at home. dont' waste your time on them at the gym - use the gym for weights.
at home, or when travelling, do body weight exercises:
but again using compound muscle groups:
pushups are probably the best exercise you can do. do 100 of them.
lunges, and body weight squats, are wonderful.
single-leg deadlift is great.
if you can install a chin-up bar at home (there are popular models that don't require drilling, and fit in yoru bathroom doorway), that's a great exercise too.
Friend: haha, it's like there's a whole other world i know nothing about. i need to look half of these terms up
me: When you go to the gym and you see 50 machines, ignore them. stick to the basics, compound exercises... they're far more efficient.
(more bang for your buck, where buck = minutes in the gym)
Friend: good to get another opinion along those lines. i have also heard that most machines are basically useless.
me: also, at your body metabolism (fast) and general health, cardio just isn't needed right now. when yuo're 45, different story. it also works against you in terms of bulking up a bit.
so please don't do cardio.
Friend: ok, i won't
me: Pro tip:
Friend: thank god i have permission. cardio bores the hell out of me
me: Come up with 2 routines, an A and a B routine. Each routine will have 3-4 exercises. Go to the gym 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes each time, and each time you go do an A, then a B routine, and continue alternating.
Sample A: Squat, Chest Press, Shoulder Press, Chin-Up
Sample B: Squat, Deadlift, Row, Chin-Up
for each of those compound exercises, do 5 sets of 5 reps.
increase weight each set, such that at your 5th set you are failing.
Friend: ok, so the routines don't need to be like targeted to just upper body or lower body or something like that?
me: if you do that, and eat protein, you'll be buff.
No, they don't. Your legs are strong muscles and need to be exercised each time.
(squats, lunges, etc.)
they don't require recovery time.
but feel free to mix things up if you're sore.
or bored of an exercise
Friend: haha, alright
me: Keep track of how much weight you're using, so that each week you can try to push yourself a bit.
but always listen to your body.
(to avoid injury)
Friend: so when you do squats, do you use a barbell? i've seen videos of people doing that and it kinda scares me a little to put a lot of weight on my spine like that
start off with body weight squats.
you should be able to do that.
me: then at some point just add the barbell. the barbell is 45 pounds, and you should be fully capable of doing squats with that.
put the barbell behind your neck on the fatty part of your neck/shoulders (I realize you probably dont' have that)
use a towel/pad for buffer.
and just do the bar.
when you're comfortable, add 5 pounds, and so on.
me: your spine should be fine as long as you're not adding more weight than you're capable of.
Friend: i should probably make sure i have a spotter the first time i do this right?
*use a barbell i mean
me: probably a good idea the first tim
good form is important - with ALL of the exercises i mentioned, use 90 degree angles.
your joints should go from fully extended to 90 degrees, and no more.
for example, with a squat, instead of your ass hitting the ground, you want your knees to bend to 90 degrees (like you're sitting)
with a chest press, the bar comes down until your elbow makes a 90 degree angle - no more.
me: if you go beyond 90 degrees, you're no longer using the big muscles, you're using muscles you don't want to be using for that exercise, and you risk injury
Friend: good to know
me: all exercises except chinups apply this 90 degree rule.
(the exception is body weight exercises)
Friend: haha, that would be a funny looking chin up
me: with body weight exercises, you can go all the way. for squats, your ass can go all the way down. for pushups, your chest can go down to the floor, etc.
there's no risk of injury
Friend: except to my pride when i realize i am giving out after only 30 pushups
me: that's fine, write that down on your spreadsheet
and tomorrow do 31.
Friend: ooh, yeah, keeping track. i should do that
i met this guy who works for fitocracy in new orleans. do you know about it?
me: yes, I use it extensively
i love the points element of it
i'm addicted to points.
btw, everything I've told you, is largely from the founder of fitocracy.
Friend: me too
they only have an iphone app
me: android is about to be released.
me: bookmark that article - it's from the fitocracy founder, and basically reiterates everything I just told you
worth a read sometime
I do not beleive in his fasting approach though - skipping breakfast.
you don't need to lose weight - you need to gain it
so ignore that part.