Archive for April, 2007

Sports and Weekends

Monday, April 30th, 2007

First, a quick rant about life and sports…

Does anyone else sometimes wonder what happened to the weekend? Somehow it is Monday and I am back at work, but I seem to have missed Saturday and Sunday. It’s almost like the weekend was a warm-up set for the week rather than a 60 second rest between work sets. What happened to the weekends where Saturday means watching a Boston Red Sox game, getting an extra workout in, spending some “free time” with the girlfriend, and eating pizza? Alas, with kids and a house comes great responsibility.

On a positive note, the Red Sox are dominating the Yankees this year, and the Patriots are set to run rampant over the entire NFL next football season. For those of you that don’t know, the Red Sox are officially 5-1 versus the Yankees this season, and are 15-7 on the season while the Yankees are dead last in the AL East at 8-13; yes they have a worse record than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. =)

Now, the Patriots are putting together an excellent off-season. They have picked up Dante Stallworth and Randy Moss, while retaining a tight defense, Tom Brady, and Laurence Maroney. I am not a fan of the release of Corey Dillon, but for some reason Belichick won’t listen to reason. My prediction is that the Pats are Super Bowl bound for 2007. Now we must wait 4 months to see how things unfold.

In conclusion, the weekend was not half-bad, but I would like to start to get in one extra workout on the weekends. Maybe a little strongman or functional training around the yard. Raking leaves and moving furniture into the new house just isn’t cutting it anymore. Anyone got a keg I can borrow?

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How Should I Eat?

Friday, April 27th, 2007

The first question you will ask yourself when you embark on a diet to either lose or gain weight is, “How should I eat?”. If you have ever asked that question, let me help to give you some guidance.

Diet is Responsible for 75% of Progress

Eating right is what fitness is all about. Did you ever think that daily trips to the fast food strip were good for you? Obviously they’re not. About 1-2% of the population has that natural metabolism that functions perfectly all of the time. They can eat whatever they want and still have a perfect physique. You know who I’m talking about out.

Unfortunately for you and me, we’re not those people. We have to make a strong conscience effort to eat correctly. Believe it or not, there are food companies out there trying to make a buck and they don’t care what they are feeding you.

It’s very tempting to just skip meals and head to the drive through because the food is so good, or you don’t have time to cook. Well, the majority of what we eat isn’t good for us.

Preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, and other nonsense plagues the food Americans eat. Food that costs 29 cents and takes less than a minute to make is not good for you, no matter how or where you make it.

To make matters worse, everything you find in the supermarket comes in a box loaded with so many preservatives we could bury you alive today and you’ll look the same 10 years from now when we dig you up. Here’s a list of 20 foods that you think are healthy, but really aren’t.

One of the better quotes that I have heard in my times goes a little something like this:

“If it grows, or eats food that grows, then you can eat it.”

Basically we want to stick to the all natural whole foods like unprocessed whole grains, vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat, and the like. Keep away from foods in boxes or bags.

Important Meals

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Don’t skip it.

Lunch is also important, and it provides an excellent opportunity to eat a small high-protein meal to sustain you until dinner.

Dinner should be small and compact, and light on the carbs.

Finally, don’t forget your 2-3 high protein snacks throughout the day, and drink water like it’s your job. Be sure to research how much fat to eat, so you can keep yourself full of healthy fats.

The Swole Principles of Exercise

Friday, April 27th, 2007

How do we maximize our time spent in the gym?

Exercise Selection

Compound free weight exercises are what I choose 9 out of 10 times. The reason for this is several-fold.

a) Free weights build strength in assistance or stabilizer muscles.
b) Free weights eliminate injuries that normally occur from repeated motion along one plane of resistance, such as that with machines or even cables.
c) Free weights burn more calories by stimulating a chain of muscles rather than a single isolated muscle.
d) Free weights = calluses. =)

We also want to reduce or eliminate muscular imbalances, so it is a good idea to use uni-lateral exercises (dumbbell or single leg presses) once in a while in order to determine if one side is stronger.

In order to make the most of our time in the gym, we want to get as much done as possible in the time that we have. Therefore we will be using the concept of Giant Sets nearly everyday. This means we will be pairing each larger exercise with a mechanically unrelated smaller exercise (think of pairing bench presses with calf raises, or deadlifts with cable flies).

Sets and Reps

High reps (25+) will give you endurance.
High-Medium reps (15-25) will give you some mass and some endurance.
Medium reps (10-15) will give you mass, although this is the ideal range for most women and will function more to tighten and tone than to build much mass.
A Project Swole service reminder:
WOMEN DO NOT GET BIG BY ACCIDENT
Low-Medium reps (6-10) will give you some mass and some strength.
Low reps (1-5) will give you strength.

I tend to promote 1-2 warm up sets and 2 work sets on small to medium exercises. I will recommend 2-3 warm up sets and 2-3 work sets on the biggest, hardest exercises.

Exercise Execution

Clearly we do not need to psych up for warm up sets, but for each subsequent work set, we intend to lift more weight or more reps. The initial goal will be to lift a certain weight a certain number of times before moving up in weight the next workout. Sometimes it helps to take a couple breaths and picture yourself completing the set successfully for the prescribed number of reps, before hoisting the first rep. Then it becomes all about breathing and the mind-muscle connection. There is also almost never a reason to drop any weight from 2-3 feet in the air all the way to the floor. If you do this you are as big of a dickhead as the guy that curls in the squat rack or power rack… or on the deadlifting platform.

Workout 1

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Tuesday 4/24

Diet: not paying too much attention to diet at this point. Basically eating higher carbs and higher proteins, lots of water and diet soda.

Supplements: sugar-free Monster energy drink pre-workout, 1 serving of gatorade during the workout, 1 serving of Biotest Surge post-workout.

5 minutes of warming up with dumbbells, barbells, and some light power cleans.

1a – Legal Wide-Grip Flat Barbell Bench Press – 135 x 15, 185 x 7, 205 x 6, 225 x 2.5
1b – Incline calf raises (per side) – 135 x 10, 135 x 10
2a – Standard Deadlifts – 135 x 7, 225 x 7, 315 x 7, 365 x 5, 405 x 3
2b – Ab Machine – 130 x 10, 130 x 10
3a – EZ Skull Crushers (per side) – 25 x 7, 35 x 7, (45 x 1.5 + Close Grip x 12)
3b – Weighted Decline Abs – 40 x 15, 60 x 8, 60 x 8
4a – Standing Military Press – 115 x 6, (135 x 2 + 115 x 3)
4b – Hammer Curls – 45 x 10, 50 x 8

Conclusion: I felt very weak and slow, but I’m not 50% off from my all-time highs. Most of my nagging injuries seem to have healed. So far so good.

The Project Swole Lifting Strategy

Friday, April 27th, 2007

The Basics

The first workout went pretty well. I’m starting off with the basics to make sure that I don’t end up injured in my first week back.

Pre-Game

Before each workout I like to go through a bit of preparation to get myself psyched up. I make sure to eat something with 20-40 grams of carbs and some protein within 45 minutes of my intended workout. Today it was some pretzels and a Pure Protein Deluxe Chocolate bar. Normally I would also drink either a cup of coffee or an energy drink. Today it was a sugar-free Monster energy drink. Very tasty, I prefer them to Red Bull. In due time, my energy drink will consist of a cup of coffee, a serving of NO-Xplode, and a scoop of XTend.

Warming Up

I always make sure to test each muscle with a bit of warm up tension. For 5 minutes I swing various weight plates around and perform some bar exercises with just the bar.

Time to Lift

The first exercise is always the biggest exercise of the day. I’ll complete a couple warm-up sets and then push ahead for 2-3 heavy work sets. I was weak and slow today, but that’s to be expected. My body felt healthy though, so I think I’m about to have a fairly successful Project Swole.

As I make it through each subsequent set I can remember why I used to do this in the first place. This is a game of mental preparation and physical limitations. I have seen regular men pick up pressure washers and washing machines that weigh 200, 300, 400 pounds, yet if they were to set foot in the gym they would not be able to deadlift much more than 135. Why?

You have to WANT it. In order to lift 400 lbs, you have to want to lift 400 lbs, or better yet 500 lbs. This is about not setting limits. This is about blowing your perceived limitations out of the water. It’s about setting goals and knowing that you will reach those goals after you’ve put in the required time and effort. Even on my first day back after a half-year of perpetual laziness, I still know what I want and I know what I have to do to get there. This is determination… THIS is Swole.

Cool it Down and Stretch it Out

Stretching can be turned into a workout within itself. I prefer to stretch each muscle for about 20-30 seconds, making sure that nothing is injured or overly tight. After about 5-10 minutes of stretching, especially my hamstrings, I hit the showers and hope to be able to relax in the coming hours.

I will publish my numbers from this workout in a subsequent post. Until then, don’t forget that you’ll never see a magazine or a blog post lifting any weight. If you want results the get in the gym and get started!

Introducing Project Swole

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

What is Project Swole?

Project Swole is a project I have decided to start to better myself on a physical and mental level. I call it a ‘project’ because it takes planning, design, testing, refining, execution, and maintenance. Being Swole merely refers to being swollen up with strength, size, vigor, endurance, performance, confidence… all the good things in life that make us successful at what we do. To be Swole, one needs to a goal, a plan, a determined attitude, a desire for success, and of course some training equipment.

Starting Training From Scratch

For the last 5 months of my life, I have been only semi-serious about exercising. In the last 4 weeks of my life, I have not exercised at all. This is my acknowledgement that I am walking a thin line between hardcore and middle-aged mediocrity. This is my statement that it is time to get back in shape for the summer, and break new plateaus of strength, size, and leanness.

Why Am I Qualified to Undertake This Effort?

The simple answer is that I used to be a personal trainer in my early 20’s. The information that I use, which you will learn here, comes from years of training myself, training others, and continued education in the form of reading books, magazines, and articles. I have weeded out all the bogus information that just does not work, and I am now able to create a training program for any individual, to meet nearly any goal given an adequate amount of time.

For Better or for Worse, I Am Not a Bodybuilder

I am a (moderately) young guy that enjoys lifting weights and martial arts. Strongman, powerlifting, and mixed martial arts competitions are fun to watch; bodybuilding shows, male or female, are totally lame but some people are into it for whatever reson. Will I compete in any of these things? Honestly, I don’t know. I have never been strong for my height and weight, I have never been very big except when I weighed 220 lbs, and I have been down to 8% bodyfat only once, back in my early 20’s. MMA is fun, but I’m just starting out and have no experience. We’ll see what happens.

What are my goals?

To be functionally strong, agile, and flexible; to be able to defend myself in a brawl; to be able to run for miles in the case of an emergency; to be able to climb nearly anything if necessary. Essentially I want to be prepared for any situation that might involve an extreme physical effort, or a fight or flight response. Oh, I also want to look good naked.

How Will I Reach My Goals?

I will reach my goals through the combination of a healthy high-protein diet, mauy thai kickboxing and MMA 3 times per week, additional functional training workouts 1-2 times per week, a healthy lifestyle including limited alcohol consumption and plenty of sleep, and some outside assistance including massage, good sex, and stress coping strategies. I will be persistent in my efforts to make each and every training session, except where scheduled time-off takes precedence for recovery purposes.

Supplements?

Yes, I will use supplements. I will use legal supplements such as Pure Protein and Trioplex protein bars, protein shakes, XTend amino acid powder, NO-Xplode, Biotest Hot Rox Extreme, Bone Boost, a multi-vitamin, melatonin for sleep, and 5-HTP for mood. I will not use any illegal supplements or steroids. During the course of Project Swole I will add in and remove any of the various supplements as my body starts to adapt to exercise or when I feel that my body is ready to grow. Protein bars, a multi-vitamin, and 5-HTP are my daily staples even when I am not lifting. Also, I am prescribed the blood thinner Coumadin, or Warfarin, for a blood coagulation problem that I was born with.

Let the Changes Begin

Today is my first workout on Project Swole. The goal today will be to gauge where my current strength is, and to get my body back into the motions. I want to see if I have any nagging injuries or strength imbalances, or if my cardiovascular system is shot. There will be no one rep maxes performed today. I shall post my results after the workout. Stay tuned…