How To Build Your Own Workout (With a Little Help From Men’s Fitness…)

30 05 2012

The #1 question I’ve been asked by beginning is “How do I start a workout routine?”  Luckily, it’s really not any sort of rocket science.  You don’t need phenomenal genetics or a high-tech gym to be in shape!

A great place to build your own workout is with this article from “Men’s Fitness.”  Basically, the idea is to create a routine that:

  1. Is goal-oriented
  2. Doesn’t stick you in a gym for more time than necessary (efficiency is key)
  3. Is built around a main lift, with secondary lifts to complement

I went into a little bit of detail about the “Big Three” earlier today with the deadlifts.  That would be considered a main lift.  If you’re working back and biceps (an all-pulling exercise day), you’d start with the deadlift, then go into your secondary lifts (i.e. lat pulldowns, bicep curls) that complement it.

A push press is a “main lift,” since it involves more than just your shoulders.

With your goal in mind (weight loss, muscle building), you basically determine how many repetitions and sets you’re going to do for each lift (and how much weight you’re going to use).  If your goal is fat loss, you’re going to go high repetition (12-15 range) at a lighter weight.  If it’s muscle building, you’re going to go low repetition (4-6 range) and higher weight.  Remember, though: no matter what your goal is, you aren’t going to get anywhere with poor form!

Now, we all don’t have hours to spend at the gym like professional athletes or fitness models.  I personally have only an hour, hour and a half tops, to get my work in daily.  That means no jerking around!  There’s no reason to do ten different exercises for your chest.  At a certain point, the muscles will be fatigued and won’t be able to take the beating and recovery will be brutal.  Keep it to three or four exercises per muscle group.

Another great resource that I’ve recommended to GymGeeks is Bodybuilding.com, where they have a “Find A Plan” option that makes it simple for you.  They have a great database of exercises (all with video instructions), so you can go into the gym more informed next time!

(Also remember, GymGeeks.  A healthy lifestyle is 20% gym, 80% nutrition.  You can bench press a Hyundai, but if you’re eating like it’s your last meal EVERY meal, you’re not going to see results.)

Now get your butt back in the gym! No excuses, no surrender!





Core Stabilizing (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Deadlifts)

30 05 2012

I figured an homage to a classic movie in the title will soften the blow…

As I mentioned last week when talking about how to boost your vertical jump, there are three exercises I consider the “Big Three” (very much like a certain NBA franchise in South Beach).  The first one, the squat, is great for building lower body strength since it incorporates pretty much every muscle fiber in your legs.

Today we’re going to talk about my LEAST favorite exercise of all time: the deadlift.  This is the brussel sprouts of a workout routine.  The reason I call it that is because while I hate doing it, it’s arguably one of the greatest exercises to help stabilize your core muscles (such as your abs…see how the primer set you up for this?)

Here is a video demonstrating how to properly perform a deadlift (courtesy of HanleyStrength.com)


Yeah this is a lot of information to process, so I’ll summarize it as best as I can for beginners:

  • The idea is to utilize the muscles in your lower back.  Think of your arms and grip as hooks, as opposed to part of lifting the weight.
  • In terms of positioning, the best comparison I can make is to a catcher’s stance before a pitch is thrown.  This means that your shoulders are parallel your knees (not in front), your back is straight and you’re looking directly ahead (or even a little higher, if it helps you to keep everything aligned).  The idea is to not arch your back.
  • Do NOT lock in your knees at the end of the lift.  The idea is to have constant tension throughout the movement.  Just like the way you can hurt joints in your elbows locking out a bench press rep too hard, the same can happen to knee caps if you’re using enough weight on the barbell.  Notice the slight bend in the example photo below:

Perfect Form. Notice no arch in the back!

Getting back to how this helps your core…the deadlift is not what one would consider a “glamour exercise.”  What I mean by that is the gains and development aren’t going to be as glamorous looking in a mirror as, say, barbell curls or the bench press.  However, if you’re serious about sculpting that mid-section,  you need to cover both the abs AND your lower back.  The focus should be a stronger core.  The six-pack will come if you perform the deadlift properly.  Think of it like rowing and bench presses: the push/pull evens out your body.  If only work one side, you’re going to be physically imbalanced.

Since I hate this move, I always put it at the beginning of my back workout (while I’m still on auto-pilot at 5:00 in the morning).  In fact, I suggest putting each of the “Big Three” at the top of your routine, since not only do they suck to do, but they also wake up all the other secondary muscles you’ll be working later on in your routine.

Enjoy!





Your “Workout Wednesday” Briefing

23 05 2012

Happy Hump Day, GymGeeks!

Hopefully everyone is super energize and ready for the downward slope into a long Memorial Day weekend.  I just wanted to share something this morning that’s not necessarily a Gym Pet Peeve, but more of an observation I’ve made over the past month that I’ve spent at my new gym.

Now,  I’m all about having a routine.  For me, it’s up at 4:00 AM, at the gym by 5, at the office from 7:30 until 4:30, lather, rinse and repeat.  On an even more micro level, my gym routine is stretch, light cardio, lift and then a cool down stretch.  I leave some ambiguity by saying lift because I let that be dictated by what my goal is.  Right now, it’s strength, so my lifts revolve around the “Big 3″: bench press, squats, and deadlifts.  We’ll get into why those are the most important lifts for size and strength a little bit later today.

The reason I bring up goals is because I always see people doing the same thing every day.  For example,  there’s a couple who always do ab routines and light cardio.  I’m not one to ever dog or be a jerk about someone working out (in fact, I respect every single person who shows up for wanting to get into better shape).  The only conclusion I can come to is that they don’t have a specific goal in mind.

If it’s weight loss, sure cardio will help, but doing crunches every day is not going to help.  In fact, it’ll be counterproductive since your body will adjust much quicker and get you to that plateau effect in no time.  At that point,  all you’ll be doing is mimicking a hamster on a wheel.

I guess the bit of advice I’m trying to get at today is have a specific goal in mind when you want to make a change to your lifestyle.  Today’s posts are going to be for those who want sports-specific exercises in their routine (mainly because I’m in the mood after a Miami Heat bashing of the Pacers last night).  For some, that’s a goal that they want to attain.  I remember a time where I wanted to be built like Ben Roethlisberger, until I realized I’m not 6’4” and 245 lbs.  and probably never would be, but I could at least focus on the agility and burst of speed elements of an NFL player.

Boy am I glad he plays for the Heat…

With that being said, what goals do you set for yourself in the gym?  Do you want to be able to dunk like LeBron?  Do you want to look like Ryan Reynolds (or Jessical Biel, for my female GymGeeks) in “Blade Trinity?” Hell, do you want to just look good for the opposite gender?  These are all things that are worth striving for.  The key is to have a goal, research the hell out of it and follow through!

Now let’s go kick some ass today!

Jonathan








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