Guest Author: Cameron Stache. Cameron is a veteran fit coach for The Rush Fitness Complex in North Carolina. He has experience in multiple types of training, fitness sales, and even trained managers for the company. He is a certified Nutrition Coach through Dotfit and has trained people ranging from teenagers to seniors with goals as varying as weight loss, muscle growth, performance gains, or even preparation for military enlistment.
About two weeks ago I was walking to my vehicle in the parking lot of work and ran into a member of our gym. He started talking to me about how he saw trainers using BOSUs (“The half-moon blow up thingy” as he called it) and other different things like medicine balls and such that weren’t “effective” at training. And that everything needed to be done in a “power stance” or it wasn’t doing any good. I’ll be the first to admit, there are MANY times where this equipment is used by some co-workers, and honestly, myself in the past now that I think about it, in ways that really are more inefficient than not using it. However, the real point is that he has a common thought process of most old-school (and many new-school) lifters. In fact, many readers of WFN articles would be in this “old school, over 40” bracket. Bottom line: the training they were doing wasn’t the same that he was doing. He saw “different” (which makes sense, because many people have different goals and focuses of training) and interpreted that as “wrong.” This is extremely common in this field, even among professionals, because it’s so rapidly evolving. Even the entire principle of how a muscle works is still only theory. What he was witnessing was Core Training.
Core Training (a.k.a. “Balance Training” for its style of exercises) has been (more…)
I started writing this article 2 weeks ago, and it is now two days before my Spartan Beast race. See my initial Spartan training plan but that quickly morphed into additional endurance sessions – but still no days off. Hence, this article.
I’ve always been skeptical about the concept of overtraining.
I get questions all the time, usually from newer lifters, who are worried about “overtraining”. In almost every case, they are nowhere near the “overtraining” point.
Sure, I know people can push too hard too fast (like I did last year; see http://worldfitnessnetwork.com/can-you-spot-the-mistake/ and also note the update at the end of the article). That’s called “overreaching”. You’ll see this in newbies who do body-part splits with insane volume for the first week but then are too sore the following week. Some even then give up and go back to sitting on the couch. But that’s not overtraining.
The term “overtraining” is usually applied differently. Overtraining is characterized by (in no particular order)
- Long Term – Overtraining isn’t about what you do in a certain workout, no matter how off-the-hook intense or stupid. Overtraining is about what is happening over many weeks.
- Not Beginner Affect – In my experience, it’s very, very hard for a beginner to overtrain. Beginners often overdo things, like lifting too much too soon. Or using crappy form. Or the classic of starting out all intensely, then missing workouts because they are “too sore”. That’s not overtraining. Overtraining is much more likely in intermediate or advanced lifters.
- Systemic Regression in Your Lifts – I’m not talking about one week not being able to lift as much as the previous week. That’s normal and happens from time to time (especially if you start a new routine using higher weight than you should). I’m talking about over the period of several weeks, all – or almost all – of your lifts are getting weaker.
- Constant Joint Pain – You are always in pain, including joint pain and pain in places you’ve never really had pain before.
- Persistent Muscle Soreness – Similar to previous, but this is in your muscles.
- Strong Desire To Skip Workouts – I always look forward to lifting. Always. But not always psyched for my runs. However, in an overtrained state, you really loathe the idea of exercising. And even dire-hard lovers of lifting/running start to hesitate.
- Decreased Motivation – Even outside the gym, you are unmotivated. Could lead to depression, irritability.
- Susceptibility to Injury – The combination of chronic pain leads to compensation. Also, your mental focus is off, so you might not tighten your core during your squats. Etc. Injury is just around the corner.
- Inability to Complete Workouts – If you are finding that you can only get half way through workouts that you have previously been doing in full, then that’s a warning sign.
- Other Biological Changes – for example, resting heart rate increasing, disordered sleep, lack of appetitie, elevated cortisol (for a full list see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overtraining)
Not just lifters – happens to runners too. Any regular activity where you are pushing yourself daily (or almost daily). And this isn’t just about “recovery time” though that plays a part.
So what causes overtraining and how do you prevent it?
If you’ve ever been to a commercial gym for a month or longer, you know how it feels to share a gym with other people. A commercial gym is a lot like a community – we all have to share and learn to get along.
If you’re one of those people who has a nice setup in your own home gym, then go ahead and feel free to pass gas wherever you want to, and do whatever you want with your own equipment. For the rest of us who have to share a gym, there are a few unspoken rules.
Here they are:
1. Don’t forget to wipe when you’re done: You might not have heard this one for a very long time. But if you’re one of those guys that sweats profusely all over everything you touch, give it a little wipe with a towel when you’re done. There’s nothing wrong with getting sweaty during a good workout, but let’s keep it clean.
2. Don’t hog the bench: You might think nobody wants to use the bench, but just make it a good habit to put your keys or your sweater in a good place. You don’t need to take up an entire bench for 10 minutes just so you can put your water bottle on it. People will think you are saving the bench and actually need it for something when you don’t.
3. Don’t leave the weights out: Put the weights back where they belong when you’re done… I’m guilty of this one too. It’s easy to assume that the next person will want to use at least some of the weight that you leave on the bar, but that’s not always the case. Putting the weights back lets others know you’re done.
4. Don’t do bicep curls in the squat rack: The squat rack and the power rack weren’t made for bicep curls. They were made for exercises that require a rack, and you should only use them for exercises that require a rack. If you’re going to do bicep curls, you can do them anywhere. Don’t hold up someone who actually needs the rack for a squat workout.
5. Don’t stare: If she’s purposely flaunting it, you have a free pass, but don’t stare at people who get red in the face, make a little noise, or grit their teeth during a tough workout.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for a spotter: Most people will be really cool about this and won’t hesitate to give you spot when you need it. Ask someone for a quick hand instead of putting yourself in a dangerous position.
7. Don’t be a jerk when someone asks you for a spot: I’ve only seen this once or twice in all the time I’ve spent in the gym. Help out other people and make the gym a great place to workout.
8. Don’t take what you don’t need: It’s annoying when you need a certain weight for a dumbbell on your next set and somebody else has 10 dumbbells lying around his bench and won’t share. Take what you need and put it back when you’re done.
9. Don’t get stingy: If you’re resting and someone else needs a piece of equipment, let them “work in”. If someone’s using something you need to use, ask them if you can work in and do a quick set while they rest. Be cool about it.
10. Don’t rack it wrong: We all hate it when we need a 5 pound plate from the rack but there’s a 45 pound on the same rack that’s blocking the 5’s. It only take a moment to put the weight on the right rack.
11. Don’t laugh: Encourage that little guy that’s struggling to bench 95 pounds. We all have to start somewhere.
I’m sure that there are some unspoken rules that I’ve left out. If there are any that need to be added, you can make them known in the comments section below.
Are you planning to get in shape, but haven’t quite started yet?
If so, I have an assignment for you. Go into your room and take all your clothes off. That’s right, strip down to nothing but your briefs, your boxers, your lingerie, whatever you are wearing underneath.
Go and do it right now! This is your last chance to officially say goodbye to the old you, and you will want a picture as a keepsake. Call it a going away present… You will thank me for this later.
Go ahead and let it all hang out. Take one last look in the mirror at the old you. Soon this person will be gone, and a newer, better version will take its place. The old you is now obsolete. (more…)
I saw something interesting the other day at the gym.
I saw an average-sized guy in his mid 20’s who was obviously trying to build up some muscle. He looked like he had some padding (weight) on him, but he didn’t look too out of shape. The thing that caught my eye is what I saw him doing.
He was using the cables to do cable crossover flyes. I watched as his arms wildly flapped up and down in an uneven way. His upper body lurched forward and downward with each rep as he strained to move the weight at all costs. I watched him move on to other exercises and perform them with a similar style.
Who knows, maybe he really didn’t know how to lift weights. But then again, like a lot of other people out there, maybe he was just too embarrassed to lift the proper amount of weight for his strength level.
If his goal was to avoid looking silly in the gym, he certainly didn’t achieve it. Honestly, I thought he looked a lot more like a monkey trying to figure out how to fly than someone who’s serious about getting in shape. (more…)
Image Credit: Petranek
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the more rest you take between sets, the more weight you’ll be able to lift when you do come back. This doesn’t mean that you should always take more rest between your sets… the right amount of rest for you will depend on your goals somewhat.
First off, let’s give little explanation on why you might choose longer or shorter rest periods between each workout. There are 3 different primary energy systems that your body uses to produce ATP, which is the primary fuel your muscles use for exercise.
These definitions come straight from this article on Wikipedia:
ATP-PC System (Phosphogen System) – This system is used only for very short durations of up to 10 seconds. The ATP-PC system neither uses oxygen nor produces lactic acid and is thus said to be alactic anaerobic. This is the primary system behind very short, powerful movements like a golf swing or a 100m sprint. Translation: Best for short bursts of intense lifts, like in power lifting or strength training.
Anaerobic System (Lactic Acid System) – Predominates in supplying energy for exercises lasting less than 2 min. Also known as the Gylcolytic System. An example of an activity of the intensity and duration that this system works under would be a 400m sprint. This is what you’ll partially use for bodybuilding and creating muscle mass, size.
Aerobic System – This is the long duration energy system. By 5 min of exercise the O2 system is clearly the dominant system. In a 1km run, this system is already providing approximately half the energy; in a marathon run it provides 98% or more. You use this when doing aerobic activity, so this system doesn’t really apply to our discussion here.
Now that you have a good idea what these three systems are used for, we can have a discussion about how much rest works best for each goal.
3-5 Minutes Rest: This is useful for trainees who are trying to improve their explosive activities of a short duration. That means that longer rest periods are generally better for people who are training for strength and power and should be used together with lower reps (3-5 reps).
This is because your body requires approximately 3 minutes for it to restore the phosphagen (Creatine Phosphate/ATP) stores for your next set. Once the ATP-PC energy system has been able to replenish the energy stores in your muscles, you’ll be to lift a heavier weight for more reps. So, you should rest longer to get the energy to go heavy.
45-60 Seconds: Taking a shorter rest works better for hypertrophy and building overall muscle mass. The point here is not to lift the most weight you can possibly lift. Your purpose is to keep the stress on your muscles and work them again before they have the chance to fully recover.
This gives your muscles intensity over a longer period of time and allows you to keep your muscle “pump” between sets. This is best for the 8-12 rep ranges used by bodybuilders, and is optimal for increasing muscular mass and hypertrophy.
What about the time in between?
You don’t necessarily have to stay exactly within these rep ranges for building muscle mass or strength. There’s no switch that suddenly gets flipped at 3 minutes where your body suddenly begins to use a different energy system. Your muscles recover gradually while you rest, and each energy system works together and has some overlap.
And as always, this is a highly individual thing. Some people swear by using 60-90 seconds rest while bodybuilding, which can be fine for some people. Each person is a little different, and just as one person can run faster than another, one person can also recover faster than another.
Your recovery time will be influenced by a number of factors:
- The intensity of the set
- How much sleep & rest you’ve had
- Your nutrition
- Your Age
- Any injuries you might have
- The temperature of the room
- If you have a cold or other minor illness
- How intense your day job is
You get the idea. I’m trying to show you that there are so many factors that go into this and that every person’s situation is slightly different. Start with the guides given up above, and adjust them over time as you get to know your body and its needs.
Anybody new to the gym knows how difficult it can be to make sense of all of the machines and equipment that fill the workout room. Instead of trying to analyze each of the different machines in the gym, get to know the free weights first. The free weights will give you the greatest returns for the effort you put in.
Barbells are probably the most basic instrument for lifting free weights. They can come in many sizes, but the most standard is called the Olympic barbell (the top bar in the picture above).
The Olympic barbell weighs either 45 pounds or 20 kilograms (44.5 lbs) depending on which part of the world you live in. It’s usually used for the heavier exercises such as squats, bench presses, deadlifts, shoulder presses, etc.
The smaller straight bar shown just below the Olympic bar is great for many upper body exercises where having the weight closer to your body is beneficial. For example, if you were doing standing bicep curls, you may find that having the weights closer to their center of gravity (and closer to you) makes them easier to control. (more…)
For Newbies Only:
We will continue our series of Weight Lifting 101 posts here by introducing some new terms that you will have to become familiar with if you are going to succeed in changing the way you look. As you may have already guessed, working out with free weights is a little bit more complicated than doing steady cardio. It’s not as easy as just hopping on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
Since weight lifting is a form of anaerobic exercise, your muscles will not be able to maintain such a high level of intensity for long periods of time. Instead, you will break your exercises into a series of sets that comprise a certain number of repetitions. Let me explain what this means by defining the terms you’ll need to know. (more…)