Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Educate Yourself

Sometimes the other people I see in the gym confuse me. Take the people on the treadmill last night. At one point during my met-con circuit I couldn't get a treadmill because no less than 14 people were using them to walk less than 3 mph (Yea I might have checked...). My own personal frustrations aside, sometimes I just want to ask these people, what exactly do you think you're accomplishing right now?

Okay, I will say that I admire them for getting up and doing something. Really. Any type of movement is better than sitting on the couch and everyone who recognizes that and does something about it deserves some respect. That being said, if you've already gone through the effort to take the biggest and often hardest step, why not make sure you're going to get the most out of it?

I understand. With all the websites and blogs and gym floor heroes out there spewing their bro science and questionable principles it's hard to to know what's right. Well. I'm here to help. (just ignore that I'm theoretically one of those blogs I just mentioned. It's fine.) A lot of people who don't really know what they're doing at the gym but think they do fall into one of these two categories.

On one end of the spectrum we have the gym goers who do the same thing every time they're there. It doesn't really matter what magazine gave them the workout or what website they pulled their information from, if you're doing it the same way every day you're doing it wrong.

On the other end of the spectrum we have the functional fitness nut jobs who seem to think it's necessary to stand on a Bosu while juggling kettlebells and hopping up and down on one leg. Seriously brah, I don't know what you read in Muscle & Fiction this week, but you've been eye-banging yourself in the mirror for the last half-hour so how do you not know you look ridiculous?

Think of it like this. You've got four bottles of wine (or tequila, or whiskey, whatever). Each one of them is individually extremely flavorful and quite potent. You should enjoy them individually to get the most out of each one. This "functional training" nonsense where you're mixing five exercises while hanging upside down from a rubber band and singing the rocky theme song under your breath is the metaphorical equivalent of taking all of those bottles, mixing them together and then watering them down. Sounds kind of silly and wasteful right? Well it is.

If you are doing the right movements you do not need to combine them to feel like you're exerting yourself. The intensity at which you are doing the individual movements should be enough to stress the targeted parts of your physiology in and of themselves. If they aren't, it is because you are doing the wrong exercises or using the wrong intensity. It really is that simple.

I workout 4-5 days a week on average but I never spend more than an hour in the gym unless I'm moving really slowly or I have some serious extra aggression I need to work off. Most of my workouts consist of 5 exercises or fewer. The things I do are not complicated. I squat, deadlift, clean, press, jump, run, twist and pull. That's...pretty much it. Every exercise I do can basically be fit into one of those categories...except maybe bear crawls. I f*cking love bear crawls.

I'm going to try as concisely as possible to give you an easy template for creating a resistance based workout. I'll address aerobic/cardiovascular conditioning in a later post.

Disclaimer: It is VERY important to note that before beginning any type of resistance training or exercise program you should be cleared by your doctor. Also, the guidelines I'm about to outline are specifically referring to a population of otherwise healthy individuals with no pre-existing history of injuries/medical conditions that would prevent or hinder their ability to exercise.

Here it goes:
Presses: Any exercise where you are taking a weight and pushing it away from your body such as:
Chest Press (and any variation thereof, barbell, dumbell, cable, resistance band, push ups, whatever)
Shoulder Press (and variations)
Tricep Press (and variations)

Pulls: Any exercise where you are taking a weight/form of resistance and pulling it towards your body:
Pulldowns (and variations)
Rows (and variations)
Pull ups/chin ups (and variations)
Curls (and variations)

Squats: Any exercise where you are flexing your knee and hip simultaneously and then extending them (incredibly basic definition forgive the ambiguity)
Back squat
Front Squat
Overhead Squat
Dumbell Squat
Single Leg Squats and variations

Deadlift: Any exercise that predominantly focuses on hip extension as the prime mover. Deadlifts and Squats are very similar yet significantly different...I'll do a post on their differences later because it requires more time/space than I can give it at the moment.
Barbell Deadlift
Straight leg Deadlift (or Romanian Deadlift depending on your preference for nomenclature)

Twist: any exercise that uses the muscles of your trunk/core to produce or (this is SUPER IMPORTANT) resist rotation.
Chops/Chop Lifts (and variations)
Rotations (i.e. on a cable, with a band)

Next, figure out how many days a week you want to do resistive work. Let's say 3, because if you are a beginner you'll probably get the best results with a 3x per week full body split. All you have to do is pick 1 exercise from each category. Ready, set...go. For example

Press: Bench Press 4x8
Pull: Pull Ups 4x8
Squat: Barbell Front Squat 4x8
Deadlift: Barbell Deadlift 5x5
Twist: Cable Rotations 3x15 ea. side

Now lather, rinse, repeat for days 2 and 3, taking one day off in between. See how simple that is?

Oh, so you want to lift 4 days a week you say? Ok then.

Instead of doing one from each category decide how you want to split it up. The most common way is upper/lower which would look something like this:

Days 1&3:
Upper Body
Pick 2 presses and 3 pulls and alternate them
i.e. for day 1
Bent Over Row 3x8
Barbell Bench Press 3x8
Parallel Grip Chin Up 3x8
Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press 3x8
Cable Lat Pulldown 3x8
repeat for day 2 with diff exercises

Days 2&4
pick 1 two leg squat variation and one single legged (or a lunge if you're feeling randy) and the same for deadlifts.
i.e. day 1
Back Squat 3x10
Single Leg Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 3x10
Alternating Lunges w/ Dumbbells 3x10 ea leg
Barbell Deadlift 3x10

You could then go further with the variety by doing days 1&2 with heavy weight and low reps and 3&4 with light weight and higher reps. You could also theoretically do day 1&3 pushing (squats/presses) and day 2&4 pulling (Pulls and Deadlifts). Because why the eff not. Get creative with it. That's the whole point. But be reasonable. No juggling, and only sing the Rocky theme song before or after exercises.

The rep schemes I threw in here are fairly random because these programs are not designed with any real degree of specificity because I don't know you people and I don't know what your goals are. The point is to demonstrate the simplicity of coming up with an straightforward workout that is different every time you go in. Also, it is worth mentioning that some people might take issue with the order of exercises I listed. In general you should do your heaviest, most neuromuscular-ly taxing work at the beginning of your workouts (Think deadlifts, squats, or heavy anything). But again, I'm not really addressing that here.

Also, special note to my Crossfitters - Yea. I know guys. We'll get there. Don't worry. Just go talk about your Fran times and how crazy your last WOD was. I'll catch up with you in a bit.

I'm happy to answer any and all questions I can get to. You know where to leave 'em.


Todays Workout - Rest Day

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