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SMART Fitness

Coaching people to EAT SMARTER and MOVE SMARTER so they can develop the habits necessary to achieve their HEALTH and FITNESS goals and keep them for LIFE

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Strength training

Recovery

Ask any professional athlete about recovery, and they will tell you it is critical to both their performance and their continued improvement in the areas of strength and conditioning. That being said, most amateur fitness enthusiasts and weekend warriors don’t pay nearly enough attention to this critical element. Whether your goal is overall health improvement, running a marathon, or competing in the next USMC Mud Run, recovery is just as important as your workout and your nutrition.

There are two aspects to recovery…

  • Rest
  • Nutrition

Continue reading “Recovery”

Summer Fitness Challenge

For those who have been reading the fat loss series that started with Small Changes…, here is a challenge for you to start adding some  strength training to your week. It’s a simple way of adding push-ups, pull-ups, and core work to your day. Try to do this 4-6 days per week. You will progress to higher reps each week as I will describe later.

Here’s how it works:

Sometime during your day, using as many sets as you need, do 30 push-ups (at whatever progression you are able), 5 pull-ups (also at whatever progression you are able), and 2 minutes of core work (these are exercises that work your abdominal region and lower back). Continue reading “Summer Fitness Challenge”

12 Small Changes to a Healthier Body

This is part 3 in a series of posts that started with Small Changes. Several of you have asked me nicely to “get on with it”, which tells me there are at least a few of you ready to put it all together and start seeing some real results. Love your passion!!

So here are the changes you need to make to THE WAY YOU EAT AND THE WAY YOU MOVE to reach your goals: Continue reading “12 Small Changes to a Healthier Body”

Body Change Part 2 (Fitness)

If you haven’t read Part 1 for the backstory, go here to read that. I don’t want to bore anyone with that again.

I do want to go on record with one statement that may sting a little. In all of the research I did for this, one thing shocked me more than any other:

WHAT YOU PUT INTO YOUR BODY is significantly more important to your body’s ability to LOSE FAT than any exercise program.

In other words, you could have the most cutting edge exercise technology money can buy, or the best personal trainer on the planet, but if you still put CRAP into your body, you’ll never lose the fat. PERIOD.

Let’s move on. As I mentioned in Part 1, I only had two days per week available to workout outside my home. This is a restriction I placed on myself so my family is minimally affected by my chosen exercise program. As much as I love fitness and exercise, as a husband and dad, my family is MORE important.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Strength train TWO days per week: Monday and Friday work best for me, but you need 48-72 hours between workouts for recovery.
  • Whole body workouts each day to start. Work largest body part to smallest with some variety allowed. Legs, back or chest, shoulders, triceps or biceps, core (abs/lower back). (Note: If you think you will run out of steam before you get to your core, do that first. Core is critical!!). After about 12 weeks move to one workout per week per bodypart (split the body into two parts and do one workout on Monday and one on Friday. For example: Trunk (chest, back, shoulders, abs) — Monday; Extremities (Legs, biceps, triceps, forearms, abs)–Friday.) Notice I said abs each workout.)
  • Workout ONE: High reps/low to moderate weight.
    • Rep range: 15-20 with strict form. (If form begins to be affected, stop and reduce weight. If you get to 20 reps and little effort was required, increase the weight next set)
    • 2-3 sets per exercise. One exercise per body part. Rarely the same exact exercise two workouts in a row. Mix it up so the body never gets a chance to adapt. (Example: Incline barbell one workout, incline dumbbells with a slightly different bench angle the next one.)
    • Minimize the rest between sets. 30 secs or so. Circuit training is ideal, where you go from one exercise to another. Then go back through a second time (maybe even a third, depending on how many exercises you’ve selected.).
  • Workout TWO: Low reps/Moderate to higher weight.
    • Warm-up: it is CRITICAL that you warm up properly BEFORE you start with heavy weights. If necessary do two sets to warm-up (6-8 reps), gradually increasing the weight, before your final HEAVY set.
    • Rep range: 5-8 with strict form. (I can’t stress enough how important form is to injury prevention AND strength gains!). You want to come pretty close to failure here, so make sure to have a spotter.
    • Rep speed: lots of variation can be added here, but NEVER bounce or use momentum to THROW the weight up. That’s the quickest way to get an injury that will stop your fat loss plan in its tracks!!
      • 2 sec negative/1 sec positive
      • 4 sec negative/1-2 sec positive
      • and everything in between. Lately I’ve been trying SUPER SLOW reps (10 sec positive/10 sec negative with one set and one exercise per body part). My friend Scott Means bought me the book, Body by Science by Doug McGuff M.D. and John R. Little which describes this method in detail.
    • 2-3 sets per exercise. One exercise per body part. Rarely the same exact exercise two workouts in a row. Mix it up so the body never gets a chance to adapt.
    • Rest between sets should still be pretty short: 60-90 secs is a good range.
  • Sprints: once a week I find a place to do some sprinting. My standard sprint workout is at the local high school track. I do a warm-up of 6 x 50 meter runs (about 70% effort–more than a jog, but not an all out sprint). I walk between each until my breathing returns to normal. Then I do 6 x 50 m sprints starting at around 90% effort, gradually increasing intensity to a full out 100% on the last two sprints. I got this concept from Mark Sisson’s Primal Fitness eBook. The book is free if you subscribe to his blog, which is excellent also!!
  • Record everything. I created a workout log to record date, exercises, sets, reps, and weight. If you would like it, let me know using the comments.
  • Exercise variety: I am big on changing things up. I use free weights (both barbells and dumbbells), machines, kettlebells, bodyweight exercises, and something called a TRX Suspension Trainer. This also has the added benefit of boredom prevention.
  • Accountability: If possible, get a workout partner. Just knowing my partner is waiting for me makes it virtually impossible to skip a workout. If a physical partner isn’t possible, then get a virtual one. Team up with a friend on Facebook or Twitter or wherever, and keep each other accountable for getting workouts in. Making it a little competitive might motivate you. For example, whoever gets to their goal pant size or dress size gets a steak dinner!!

I know that’s a lot to take in, but combine these guidelines with the nutrition plan explained in part 1, and you will have a working fat loss plan as well as a lifestyle for health and fitness to carry you for a very long time.

I would love to hear some feedback. If you agree or disagree with anything I’ve written here, let me know. Or, better yet, if you implement this plan, let me know what kind of results YOU achieved using it!!

Now let’s go workout!!

References not already mentioned above:

Body Change Part 1 (Nutrition)

During the 2011 holiday season I got to an all time high in weight. 182 lbs! My wife wanted to get me some new pants as part of my Christmas. As I was trying on new pants at a local store, I realized I would need a size 34 waist. That was NOT going to happen!! So I walked out of that store with a mission:

I was going to do whatever was necessary to  either continue to fit in my 33’s, or better yet, get to 32’s again!!

It wasn’t so much the weight I was concerned about; it was the inches around my waist.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am an avid reader. So naturally, I started reading everything I could get my hands on about fat loss: types of workouts, and how I could change the way I eat without starving myself to lose this bodyfat.

My key limitations were:

  1. I only had two days a week for strength training outside the home. I could do some home-based stuff here and there, but I do much better without distractions.
  2. My work schedule would make it very difficult to eat more than the standard 3 meals a day. I do alot of driving, and I knew  packing meals in a cooler every day would eventually cause me to give up.

Here’s what I came up with for the nutrition piece of the equation. See notes at bottom for the references I used.

  • Increase protein intake. When I evaluated my caloric intake I discovered it was completely out of whack. Everything I read pointed to increasing the amount of protein in my diet.  At first I used whey protein to supplement, then I had to switch to egg protein powder because of a recently discovered lactose intolerance.
  • Decrease carbohydrate intake. Once again, virtually everything I read said to eliminate processed carbs, anything white (rice, pasta, potatoes, bread), and most of all, SUGAR. So I have learned to love vegetables again.
  • Increase good fats. I also discovered I wasn’t getting nearly enough good fats. The best sources for me were extra virgin olive oil, avocados (guacamole!!), and nuts.
  • Drink water. I carry a 24 oz Tervis Tumbler with me on the road filled with ice water. I eliminated all drink options except water, beer (with/after supper), and milk (and once I found out the hard way that I was lactose intolerant, I switched to Rice Milk for mixing my protein shakes in the morning)

Here’s how it looks:

  • 5:30 am: One scoop of 100% egg protein powder, 5 gram scoop of Creatine Monohydrate, and one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in 10 ounces of rice milk. (if you aren’t lactose intolerant, use whey protein and skim milk). I also put a tablespoon of organic chia seeds in 4 ounces of grapefruit juice for Omega 3’s and fiber (in a separate cup of course).
  • Mid morning snack: 1 organic banana (organic bananas are only a few cents more, but they last longer and taste better)
  • Lunch (11:30-12): Lean meat (beef, pork, fish, or chicken), green vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc.), and if available, a sweet potato with ground cinnamon only (NO butter, NO sugar). And water with several lemons to drink (the lemons help with the digestion process). And NO BREAD. 
  • Supper (5:30-6:00 pm): Same as lunch, but without the sweet potato. And instead of water, I’ll have a beer (this is against most of the things I read, but there are just some things we have to enjoy and this is mine. I’ll post sometime on my love of good beer!)
  • If I get hungry in the evening, I eat some almonds.
  • Here’s the final key: One day per week I ate whatever I wanted. Pizza, lasagna, ice cream, etc. I didn’t totally lose my mind, but during the 6 days of eating right, I knew I had a day I could eat what I wanted.

Pretty simple actually, and I NEVER starved myself–not even once. And I can finally see my abs again when I look in the mirror!

It worked for me. It may just work for you. This is not a male specific eating plan, but there are some aspects that I incorporated that have male-specific reasons (aka testosterone). For you guys that read this, feel free to hit me up in the comments with any questions.

Part 2 covers the fitness side of the equation. Thanks for reading!

References:

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