I did a quick write-up for my team mates to jump-start our Spartan training.  See previous post on the Spartan Race for context.

This is far from complete, and is just some basic principles.  As I’ve mentioned, each of our 5-person team is coming with completely different strengths and weaknesses so this is just to get us all on the same baseline.  What I personally am doing is slightly different.  I’ll share that at the end.

General Principles

- work up each week (longer or more intense, etc.); each week should be harder than the previous [we had 8 weeks at the time I wrote this]

- use varied training methods

- keep an eye on recovery:  you don’t want to be so sore that you miss workouts but you don’t want to undertrain either

- deload (reduce training 4-5 days before the event)

- stretch daily; this is important for recovery; my advice is mostly active stretching, but static stretching is fine too as long as it is AFTER exercise; foam rolling is amazing

- eat smart (don’t try to diet during this, but don’t eat junk; eat lots of good, real food to help your body recover)

- sleep well for recovery

Types of Training We’ll Cover

- endurance running (long distance)

- core training (stability, strength, endurance)

- load training (carrying)

- strength training

My Recommendations For the First 2 Weeks

These are the things I think should be a minimum.

1)      TRI once a week.  [For you WFN readers, I don't have time to explain the game of TRI but think of it as Rugby with 3 teams.]  If we miss a week, you need to spend at least 30 minutes doing similar training (sprinting with change of direction, add in throwing).

2)      2 runs a week.  One shorter one longer.  Goal will be to get your longer runs up to 8 to 10 miles by early July.  Depending on your current capacity, this could be a big leap so let’s talk if you can’t already do at least 4 mile runs.  Try to do a lot of your running on trails.

For your shorter run, I suggest the type of training you see in the spartanraceblog.  Something like this: (more…)

Continue reading about Spartan Training Plan – Draft

Article by Leo Babauta of zenhabits

If you’re like me, you can eat healthy much of the time, exercise a lot, and still find your fat-burning efforts at a plateau.

It seems easier to lose the first 30 pounds than the last bit of fat around your middle.

And if you’re like me, you want to get lean — for reasons that may vary from improved physical performance to better health to better looks. It’s not always easy to get rid of that stubborn belly fat — or any fat, for that matter, as you can’t “spot reduce” just your belly fat.

So I’ve created a list of things you can do to break through that plateau, if you’ve been exercising and eating fairly healthy for awhile but have seen your progress slow considerably. That’s the situation I found myself in recently, and these are the techniques I’ve been using to pretty good success.

Who Should Use These Tips

Again, this post is aimed at those who have been exercising regularly for at least a few months and who already eat fairly healthy. It’s for those who want to break through a plateau and speed up their fat-burning, lean-making progress. It’s for those who are looking for leanness and not hugeness.

If that’s you, read on.

If you don’t exercise regularly, I highly recommend you start right away (assuming you don’t have major health problems) and that you start out slowly. These tips aren’t for you.

If you regularly eat junk food — that’s sugary foods, fried foods, fast foods, fatty foods, processed foods, or refined carbs — this isn’t the place to start. Better to start with the basics — learning to slowly wean yourself from these junk foods and start eating mostly whole foods instead. I’m not saying you can never have sweets or french fries, but you should cut back on them and only have them in moderation. Start here: get healthy and fit by eating healthy.

If you are looking to build massive amounts of muscle, this post isn’t for you. To do that, the prescription is pretty simple: 1) do compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, standing military press, standing barbell row, power clean, pullup, etc.; 2) lift heavy and continue to progress; 3) eat a LOT, including lots of protein. I recommend lifting 3 times a week, full body routine, unless you’re a serious bodybuilder (in which case, you know better than I do how to reach your goals).

But if you’re looking to get lean, as I said, these tips will help take you from your foundation of healthy eating and regular exercise to your goal of losing that last bit of stubborn fat.

How to Rev Up Your Fat Burning

You don’t have to do all of the following tips — pick ones that will work best for you and give them a try. If they don’t do much after a few weeks, try some of the other tips:

  1. Lean Your Diet. I typically eat pretty healthy. As a vegetarian, I stick with lots of veggies, fruits, lean protein, nuts, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and good fats. For the most part. But I also allow myself some indulgences, including veggie pizza, some sweets, and other treats. And while I think that’s a good lifestyle to have, sometimes you have to get a little strict with yourself for a little while to achieve your goals. So right now I’m on a self-created diet with only one menu plan — I eat the same things every day. I have a set breakfast, set lunch, set dinner, and set snacks. I’ve taken the choice out of eating, and for me that’s been working. That might not work for everyone. The key is to cut out the junk food and other treats (except for maybe 1-2 cheat meals a week). Cut back on grains for a little while and focus more on lean protein, veggies, fruits and good fats. With a diet like this, you’ll get lean faster.
  2. Intervals. If you do cardio exercise such as running, cycling, rowing, or what have you … rev it up with higher-intensity intervals. This means going at a little under full speed for a short interval, and then going slow for another short interval. There are tons of great interval workouts, but one of my favorites recently are Tabata Intervals — basically 20 seconds of intense exercise, then 10 seconds of rest … and repeat those intervals 8 times. That’s a total of four minutes — a great workout in a short amount of time. I suggest easing into interval training if you haven’t done much of it before — just pick up the pace for a minute, then go slower for another minute. Don’t overdo it at first. Also realize that if you do intense intevals, you will probably have to cut back on the duration of the exercise.
  3. Metcon Workouts. These are usually workouts that combine strength training with cardio at high intensities. Generally they’re about 20 minutes (give or take 10 minutes), and they use a combination of exercises with no rest in between. Crossfit is the ultimate expression of this philosophy — typical workouts include doing four rounds of 400-meter sprints and 50 squats (as fast as you can) … or 100 pullups, 100 pushups, 100 situps, 100 squats (as fast as you can). See Crossfit’s “Workouts of the Day” for more examples.
  4. Hills. If you normally run, add some challenge to your runs with hills. Hills are like strength training for runners. They add intensity and are a great way to rev up the fat burning. I suggest easing into hill running if you’re not used to it. Start by running a slightly hilly course — gentle, rolling hills. Then run a course with hills that are a bit tougher. Then, when you’re good and strong (after a few weeks), do some hill repeats up a challenging hill — run hard up the hill, then go easy down the hill, for 5-7 repeats. You’ll curse my name when you’re done.
  5. Heavy Weights. If you normally do strength training, but only do bodyweight exercises (which are great) or do high reps with lighter or medium weights, try increasing the intensity. Do this gradually, of course, as you don’t want to overdo it at first. Shoot for 3 sets of 5 reps with a heavier weight, for each exercise you do. This will help you to build more muscle and increase your metabolism.
  6. Compound Lifts. Combine the above tip of lifting heavier weights with this tip — only do compound lifts. That means no isolation lifts, where you’re only working one muscle group at a time. Be sure that each lift uses two or more joints. Bicep curls are an example of an isolation lift — only the elbow joint is involved. Examples of compound lifts include the bench press (shoulder and elbow joints involved), the pullup (again, shoulder and elbow), squat (knees and hips and back). With compound lifts, you are working more muscles at once, and as a result you’re going to build more muscle overall. Compound lifts are also more functional — they mimick real-world motions. No one lifts anything like they do in a bicep curl, but we squat every day (think of picking something up off the floor, or sitting down and then getting up).
  7. Extra Activities. If you’re doing all of the above tips, you’re on a great track to get lean. But if you’ve stepped up the intensity and are eating super lean for a month or so and want to take it to the next level, then add some extra activities to your schedule several times a week. These could include anything where you get active for at least 30 minutes: playing sports, going on a hike, doing some yardwork, doing some intense house cleaning (no, the Roomba doesn’t count), going swimming, etc. Just get active, in addition to your regular workouts. This extra activity will help you burn those extra calories and help break through your plateau.

Continue reading about 7 Fail-proof Ways to Rev Up Your Fat Burning and Get Lean

Dynamite

Which type of exercise is better? Basic or Isolation?

That all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to build strength or size, or are you trying to refine the musculature that you already have?

Basic exercises, also referred to as compound movements, are the exercises that work several groups of muscle together with a single movement. The best example of a basic movement is the squat.

Each time you squat down and then press your body back up, you are working muscles in your quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, lower back, and other back muscles. Many muscles throughout the body are also actively involved in stabilization during this lift.

Isolation exercises are the movements that stress only one muscle group at a time. An example of an isolation exercise is biceps curls. With each repetition you do, the weight is moved almost completely by your biceps muscles.

Building the Right Foundation

If you are trying to build a base of strength or muscle size, basic exercises are key to your success, and for most people out there, basic exercises should compose a majority of their workouts.

This is because basic movements will give you the best gains for the amount of effort you put in. It’s true that working more muscles with a single workout is clearly more time efficient than working each muscle separately, but there’s more to it than that. (more…)

Continue reading about Basic Vs. Isolation Exercises, Chisels or Dynamite?

Dynamite

Which type of exercise is better? Basic or Isolation?

That all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to build strength or size, or are you trying to refine the musculature that you already have?

Basic exercises, also referred to as compound movements, are the exercises that work several groups of muscle together with a single movement. The best example of a basic movement is the squat.

Each time you squat down and then press your body back up, you are working muscles in your quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, lower back, and other back muscles. Many muscles throughout the body are also actively involved in stabilization during this lift.

Isolation exercises are the movements that stress only one muscle group at a time. An example of an isolation exercise is cable chest flyes. With each repetition you do, the weight is moved almost completely by your chest muscles.

Building the Right Foundation

If you are trying to build a base of strength or muscle size, basic exercises are key to your success, and for most people out there, basic exercises should compose a majority of their workouts.

This is because basic movements will give you the best gains for the amount of effort you put in. It’s true that working more muscles with a single workout is clearly more time efficient than working each muscle separately, but there’s more to it than that. (more…)

Continue reading about Basic Vs. Isolation Exercises, Chisels or Dynamite?

Bench Press Bridging

[repost from Jason]

I could hardly believe what I was reading.

I sat in absolute bewilderment as I read an article in a recent muscle magazine. It explained in detail why you should lift your hips as high as possible off the bench (called bridging) when you bench press.

Was the author seriously recommending this type of thing to people who are trying to improve their workouts? I could hardly believe that any widely distributed magazine would publish this sort of “advice”.

Of course, I don’t think that the muscle magazines are very good reading for most people out there. They focus on what the pros are doing for their workouts instead of telling the readers what will help them the most. I’ll drop by once a month or so and read them just to see what’s out there (and only because I blog about this).

But there it was, right in the magazine. The author was praising the advantages of arching your back as high as possible and shooting your hips into the air on the bench press.

His argument was that arching your back and lifting the hips gives you more power for your bench. More power lets you lift heavier weights, and lifting heavier weights means you’re building strength and muscle.

So how could that be wrong? (more…)

Continue reading about You Gotta Be Kidding Me- Bridging on the Bench Press (repost)

Water Muscles

[repost]

Most people do not realize how powerful water is in the healing process.

No, this is not an article about spa therapy, holistic medicine, or anything like that. This is about using simple methods to build muscle and strength as well as maintaining your overall health.

Your body might be 60% water overall, but your muscles are actually 70-75% water. Each time you work these muscles as you lift weights, small tears and rips form in the fibrous muscle tissues. Your muscles grow when these small tears are repaired. Guess what happens if your muscles aren’t able to heal:

Nothing.

Nothing happens at all. That means no growth, no toning, no strength increases… nothing.

Here’s a quick breakdown of why you need water to heal and how to harness its power to help your muscles after a workout.

Got Water?

Not getting enough water has serious side effects. Even a 1 percent change in your body’s water levels can seriously impair your exercise performance. Even worse, your ability to recover goes down the toilet… and the toilet it goes down is one of those water-saving dry flush things that doesn’t quite get the job done.

Some other reasons you need extra water when you lift weights: (more…)

Continue reading about How to Harness the Healing Power of Water for Muscle Health

Weighted DipsThe bench press is one of the best exercises we have for training the chest muscles and triceps. We use the bench press because we can easily add weight to the bar or grab a heavier dumbbell for increased resistance. Probably the biggest drawback to the bench press, however, is that only your arms are moving.

Technically (and I hate getting too technical), pushups are a better movement in terms of total body mass trained. But you already know that trying to increase the resistance on pushups can be a real pain. And let’s be honest, even if pushups are better than nothing when you’re out of town, doing a few sets of 30 pushups won’t have the same mass-building effect as heavy benches will.

The dip

The weighted dip is an excellent movement because it allows for the training of the chest and triceps together in a way that uses a greater mass of muscle from more muscle groups. You’ll notice that you should be able to dip more weight than you are able to bench press for a given number of reps. That should indicate that more muscles are working together to move your body through the full range of motion.

Dips place greatest stress on your “lower chest” and triceps. When I say “lower chest” I’m not referring to the mythical lower pectoral muscle that doesn’t exist, but rather meaning that the upper chest is less involved in this movement for some pretty obvious reasons if you think about how the exercise is performed.

Also, don’t confuse the dips as being a variation of the decline press. The decline press has a decreased range of motion when compared to dips, and dips are generally a superior exercise when compared to the decline press.

When it compares to the bench press, however, dips can really make a great addition chest/triceps routine, and they make a decent replacement for the bench press if you’re not able to bench press for whatever reason.

Proper execution

The first thing you’ll probably notice when you come up to a dipping station is that the grip bars are not parallel to each other, but increase in distance the farther away they are from the base. This is so that you can choose a grip width that suits you best.

  • Grip width: In general, a wider grip will place somewhat more emphasis on your chest muscles. A narrower grip will hit your triceps somewhat more.
  • Leaning: You can adjust your form slightly depending on how much you bend your knees. Bending your knees more places the weight of your feet further behind your body and requires you to lean forward to compensate. Leaning forward involves the chest muscles in the movement more. On the flip side, keeping your legs straight below you and keeping your body more upright will use less chest muscle and involve the triceps more.
  • Recommended form: The form that I recommend the most is to take a grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder width (don’t go too crazy here) with the knees bent. This forward lean involves the larger chest muscles and allows you to get more reps with a heavier weight. Working more muscles overall means building more muscles overall.

Range of motion: All the way. Go down as far down as you can comfortably and safely go. Increasing the range of motion on your dips will increase the amount of muscles fibers that are recruited to complete the movement. Your chest muscles are more heavily involved in the bottom portion of the movement, and so are your shoulders to a certain extent.

So, in this way, doing full dips is important for the same reason that doing full squats is important. They simply work more muscles mass. And as you know by now, working more muscle mass means building more muscle mass (yes, I’m repeating myself on purpose here).

Adding weight

Ok, so we already established earlier that pushups are technically a great movement but that they don’t always get the job done for us because it’s tough to add weight. Well, that’s the nice thing about dips… adding weight is easy with the right equipment.

A special weight belt with a chain that attaches in front is all that is needed. You can buy your own and some gyms will have one available. Simply use the chain to secure a weight plate or a dumbbell in front you and proceed to do your dips as usual. Apply the same principles of resistance progression just as you would to any other exercise by adding weight to your dips once you’re able to do full sets at body weight.

Also, be careful when setting up the weight in front of you. The weight belt sits on your hips and the chain runs downward in front of you, and it comes close to a very sensitive area for guys. I’d hate to hear about any of you getting something important caught in the chains, if you know what I mean…

Continue reading about Weighted Dips for the Pecs and Triceps

Trash Workout

Image credit: wok

I did my first article of shame in late November of last year. Well, I’ve been back to the magazine rack, and I’ve got another wonderfully educational article to share with you.

Today’s article of shame comes from Maximum Fitness For Men. The tag line on the cover of this magazine reads, “No B.S. Just Results”.

Honestly, this is the best quote ever:

Is dropping 5,000 calories in one day possible? Yes, it is. All you have to do is be smart. It doesn’t involve killing yourself twice a day or splitting hairs either. You’re 19 steps away from becoming a new man.

Wow, I can really cut 5,000 calories and it won’t split my hairs? Really though, I’ve only seen women worry about the ends of their hair splitting. Maybe this article accidentally got put here instead of in Maximum Fitness for Women. I don’t know…

Cut 5,000 Calories in one day!!! And Get Super Duper Frickin Ripped!!

OK, this article was pretty much screwed right from the beginning in my mind. The first red flag that went up was that you could cut out 5,000 calories and that it would somehow be a good thing. Let’s do a little math first.

Former bodybuilder and fat-loss expert Tom Venuto’s Quick Method of calculating calories shows us that you need to eat about 18-19 calories for every pound of body weight if you’re trying to get heavier (build muscle). Also, the average male needs about 2,700 to 2,900 calories per day (that’s average- some are much more, some are much less).

So let’s give the article the benefit of the doubt and say that the guy who is eating 5,000 calories in a day is trying to build muscle and needs 18-19 calories per day. If he’s trying to build muscle, he wouldn’t be cutting calories in the first place, but these numbers are more conservative, so we’ll use them.

5,000 calories / 19 calories needed per pound = 263 pounds.

So, the simple method says that 5,000 calories per day is appropriate for a man (or woman) weighing 263 pounds who is trying to get bigger. Never mind the fact that cutting out all 5,000 calories pretty much means he’s eating nothing for a day… I hope none of the smaller teenagers read this…

All you have to do is be smart

Here are a few of their awesome tips on how to be smart:

  • 47 minutes of light office work: They say you’ll spend 100 calories doing this, because if you didn’t read the magazine, you wouldn’t have moved at all and would have wasted the chance to burn that extra 100 with light work!
  • 35 minutes of self-grooming: This needs to be written in a magazine because you wouldn’t spend enough time doing your hair if they didn’t mention it. 100 calories.
  • 1 hour of passionate kissing: I like this one. But you will either rip a tongue muscle or move far beyond kissing before an hour is up. 180 calories.
  • 1 hour fixing your car: Just like we always say: if ain’t broken, fix it anyways. 343 calories.
  • 1 hour of playing cards: Mega fat burner, right here. No joke. 140 calories.
  • 50 minutes of handwriting a letter to a friend: Again, writing notes to your best friend forever probably got placed in the wrong magazine. This one belongs in Pink Dumbbell Magazine. 100 calories.
  • 30 minutes in the gym, 30 mintues jogging: These were put at the very end of the list. First try the make-out marathon, the half-hour of doing your hair, or writing a note to your best friend forever. If those don’t work, then give the gym a shot. 632 calories.

Oh, by the way, actually doing all of their listed activities for the recommended times would require over 8 hours a day. I hope you can fit it in.

Continue reading about Article of Shame- Cut 5,000 Calories in A Single Day!