A Jim of All Trades

Posts Tagged ‘weight lifting

Duathlons, Triathlons, and Working Out

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It’s been over a year since I’ve posted anything about exercise and racing, so I thought I’d get on that.

First off, my days of “heavy” [for me] weight lifting are over. As I focus more and more on multi-sport/endurance activities, lifting heavy became a lot less relevant, and as I age I’m just not able to bounce back or make gains like I used to. I still really enjoy lifting and haven’t stopped, but I’ve tailored it more to supplement my racing goals and am no longer pursuing one rep maxes and personal bests. I’m also not sore all the time like I used to be.

Last year I did two sprint duathlons and two 5k’s.  I finished second overall in the first duathlon (out of only about 20 people) and fourth overall in the second duathlon (out of about 30 people).  Before you get too impressed, the level of competition in these events wasn’t that great and I was BLOWN AWAY by the winners, like a several minute difference. In the 5k’s, I placed 3rd in my age group in the first one (guessing 20 something out of a couple hundred entrants)  and the second one I did for fun with a some family members and wasn’t really competing. The result in the first 5k was really surprising, my time truly wasn’t that good but my whole age group did poorly, so I still placed.

I really like doing these races and am going to continue. As I’ve said before, 5k’s have lost their appeal for me and I don’t plan on them, but I still will if it’s convenient or if I’m doing it with someone else for fun.

My plans for this year are a little different than what I had intended. I didn’t really have much interest in triathlons (did one 6 years ago and thought it would be my one and only), but the duathlon I normally do in April has been cancelled (due to dropping interest) and only the option of a triathlon is available. So, I’m going to try my hand at triathlons again this year. The number of competitors and level of competition is much greater in the tri than in the duathlon, and it will be surprising if I’m able to win anything. Looking at previous years’ results, I’ll probably finish middle of the pack. Oh well. I am training very seriously for it though and am going to take a swimming lesson or two to improve. I’m just going to try to do the best I can and have fun with it.

I found a very short triathlon that’s early in the summer in Virginia, close to where some family lives, and I’m planning on doing that one too. Not that I need a reason to visit them, but it’ll give me an excuse to go down and enjoy myself. It’ll also be neat having some more people along to cheer me on. Well, hopefully they cheer, it would stink if they booed!

Aside from that, there is another local event in the summer where you have the option of doing a triathlon or duathlon, and there’s another duathlon in Maryland I’m somewhat interested in, so I might end up doing one of those. Otherwise I might do a 5k or something if it seems like it’ll be fun.

For training, I actually bought a book and am following a structured plan. I always used to make up my own routines but I want to do better this year, so figured a book would be a good idea. The book is  “Training Plans for Multisport Athletes: Your Essential Guide to Triathlon, Duathlon, Xterra, Ironman & Endurance Racing” by Gale Bernhardt. I decided on it last year since it was one of the few books I found that had plans specifically for duathlons. It has more content about triathlons, which I’m thankful for now that I’m going to do some, but had I known I was going to be training for tris I might have gotten something different. It seems good though and I’m happy with it, though sometimes wonder if I’m training enough. I guess time will tell and the races will show how well it worked, I’m committed to following it until then.

For workouts, I’m running, biking, and swimming two to three times a week each. I lift two to three times a week as well. I’ve been doing plans from the book since mid last year and have noticed improvements in my overall endurance, but not much so far for speed. The plans seem to build up to that though, and last year I changed plans a couple times just trying things out when I wasn’t specifically training for something, so I’ll give it time now that I’m set for the triathlon. I also got a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor and have been training based off of heart rate; it’s pretty cool and I wish I would have gotten one sooner, I get a lot more out of my runs and biking this way.

Well, that about covers it. I don’t think I’ll be posting as much about fitness, but I’ll update on progress and race results at a minimum.

Thanks for reading and happy training!

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Written by Jim

January 16, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Working Out Recently (Part 2 – Lifting)

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Though I’ve spent a lot of time running, biking and training for races recently, I’ve still been weight lifting routinely too. I really enjoy lifting; I’ve been doing it for a long time and can’t imagine stopping any time soon, but over the past year or so my approach and goals for lifting have been changing. I don’t lift to supplement my racing goals, but I don’t really lift for power or for gaining mass like I used to, either.

So why am I lifting then? Well, I guess, just because I enjoy it and don’t want to stop. It no doubt does help me stay healthy and I don’t think it really hinders my running or biking because I’m not an overly big guy. If I lost some mass I’d definitely be lighter on my feet/wheels, but my can’t imagine it making that big of a difference considering I improving in the races I do. If I plateau in that training, maybe then I’d consider scaling the lifting back significantly, but until then I’m going to continue.

Anyway, last year after I finished up the 5-3-1 lifting program I came to the realization that the I’m never going to be a power lifter. I have trouble putting on size and gaining much strength, and lifting like that really took a toll on my body. I have a bad knee that was always sore, my back was always tight, and my legs were too stiff to be able to run and bike enjoyably. So I made the decision to stop lifting hard like that. Truth be told, I haven’t lifted my legs since I finished that program last August. I don’t regret that decision at all; it’s great not being sore and stiff all the time and my running and biking is going well. Guess it comes down to priorities.

But like I said, I still am lifting regularly, just differently than before.

For the past several months I’ve been lifting four times a week. I mostly focus on a single muscle group per workout, and I’ve been super-setting the same muscle group. It really makes for a tough workout, while keeping the time in the gym to a minimum. To give some examples, on my chest day I’ll do a set of explosive push ups (thrust yourself up so your hands come off the floor) followed immediately by a set of bench pressing. I’ll then wait about two minutes before repeating. I’ll usually do a total of four super-sets before moving to different exercises. Then I might incline press with dumbbells followed immediately by incline press with a bar, then rest and repeat. You can do three or four groups of exercises like this, doing three or four super-sets for each, and leave the gym feeling pumped and like you really accomplished something in only about 45 minutes.

To me it’s a really challenging and rewarding workout. My strength gains have been pretty minimal working out like this, but my muscular endurance has improved and I’ve noticed slightly better size and definition in some areas. I usually try to super-set different types of exercises so I’m not working the muscle out the exact same way between both. Like doing push ups and benching, or when doing my biceps I might do an isolation lift followed by a compound lift (curls for the first set, then reverse grip pull ups for the second). You’ll always be fatigued in the second set of the super-set, having already worked the muscle out pretty hard, so you need to use a weight lower than what you’d normally do. I’ve been trying to keep my rep ranges between six and eight, maybe up to ten depending on the exercise. I don’t lift to failure but do use weights that I struggle with on the last couple reps.

My weekly schedule usually looks like this:

Monday: Chest
Tuesday: Biceps
Wednesday: Has been an off day where I did extra cardio, but I’m going to start doing some leg lifts again
Thursday: Triceps
Friday: Shoulders and Back – this is the only day where I do two muscle groups in the same workout. I still do super-sets but do them “traditionally,” doing my shoulders first then my back.

I mix in ab work one or two days as well.

This schedule has been working well for me and I’m going to keep with it for a while. I’m also going to start doing some light leg lifts once a week through the rest of the year. It shouldn’t hurt anything and slightly stronger legs might help my racing a little next year. I don’t plan on doing super-sets or anything crazy for my legs, I’ll probably just do two or three different exercises, three sets each. After the New Year I’ll stop lifting them again as I focus on training for an April race.

If you’re looking for a way to mix up your workout routine I’d recommend giving this a shot. It’s challenging if you’re not used to super-sets, but you’ll leave the gym knowing you worked out.

Thanks for reading and happy lifting!

Written by Jim

October 6, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 Lifting Program – Follow Up

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Back in February I wrote about my first months doing Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 weight lifting program. To provide a very brief explanation, it is a power lifting program that focuses on four lifts: shoulder press, bench press, deadlift and squat. The program outlines a repeating four week schedule where during the first three weeks you lift progressively heavier weights until you’re just about to your limit lifting close to a calculated training max, the fourth week you lift lightly to “deload” (recoup), then you start all over again. You can read much more about it in my previous post or on the official website.

I said I’d follow up after I had done it some more and I’m finally getting around to it. I continued with the program until about three weeks ago, which amounts to eight months from when I started in December and five months from when I last checked in.

Overall I like the program and would still recommend it. I did get burnt out on it after doing it so long, but I think that’s only natural.

First of all, I didn’t see any more real gains with my upper body lifts. This is NOT the program’s fault. I tore one of my pecs a few years ago and since have been stuck with pressing movements; there simply isn’t any more growth to be had, so no weight lifting program can be judged by my pressing abilities.

Leg strength, though, is a different story. The program recommends doing legs twice per week, squatting on one day, deadlifting on another. I decided to do them on the same day though, deadlifting first, then squatting. I explained this in the previous post, but basically deadlifting is more fun to me and was my priority. In the first three months of the program I had good results. Previously I had been stuck on a bit of a plateau and after finishing those three months I maxed out and got a new personal record.

I hesitate to talk about actual numbers because I don’t know how it will be perceived, but will share my deadlifting stats here to put some figures behind my story. – PLEASE NOTE – Don’t take this the wrong way … 1) don’t be impressed, I’m not strong compared to other lifters; YouTube searches will yield many examples of smaller guys than me picking up heavier weights, and 2) don’t think I’m trying to show off, I’m well aware of how my strength stacks up against others and know I’m comparatively weak in the weight lifting world (see #1).

Okay, with that out of the way…

I’m six feet tall. When I started the program last year, my deadlifting max was 455 lbs.  Body weight would have been right around 170. When I maxed out again in February, I cleanly got 470 lbs. Body weight then was about 175, give or take a pound or two. So that’s a 15 pound improvement in three months; I can live with that.

Current body weight is 177.

I continued to follow the program over the past five months and things went well. Roughly half way through I did start to have problems getting the weights the program prescribes, so I had to recalculate and start fresh. This is perfectly normal and how it’s meant to work; the program breaks down how much weight you should lift each day for the primary exercises, but when the amounts become too much, you simply reassess based on your new/current strength.

Things went well but I was getting burnt out and decided July would be my last time through, and that I would max out at the end, then move to something else. I’ve always wanted to deadlift 500 pounds and was hopeful that I’d finally be able to get it.

The week before I was going to max out I managed to get 460 lbs for three repetitions. Jim Wendler’s rep calculator (a formula used to estimate your one rep maximum based on the number of reps you can lift a lesser weight) shows that lifting 460 three times is about the same as lifting 500 once, so I figured I was right at my goal and planned on trying for it the next week.

When the next week came I warmed up and worked up in weight properly. I got 450 with relative ease. My next attempt was going to be 480, then I’d try for 500.

I put 480 on the bar, lifted, got it about two inches off the ground, then had to put it back down. I just could NOT get that weight up. I rested for a few minutes and tried again, that time I couldn’t even get it off the ground. Talk about being mad and disappointed. There is absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be able to lift that. I’m confident in my preparation; I actually treated it like a weight lifting meet as I prepared: eating right, not going to the gym for anything else in the week prior to maxing, cutting out cardio for a couple weeks prior to conserve energy… I just bombed it.

The only explanation I can really think of is that I psyched myself out… it was all mental. I had never tried for 480 before and think I doubted myself when it came time to get it. This wouldn’t be a first time occurrence for me in the weight room; I can definitely lack confidence and have failed in other lifts before for no other reason than psyching myself out.

I initially thought about trying again the next week but decided not to. I came to terms with it a bit more and thought my body needed a break by that point. There’s really little point in it, too. I love setting and getting goals, but do I really need to pick up 500 lbs? No. Getting 460 three times is enough for now and I can always try this or another program again later if I get the bug to go for more weight. So no, I’m not quitting forever, just doing different things for a bit before I’m motivated to try for heavy weight again.

Anyway, this turned into more of a story about me than the program itself. Sorry. The program does stress reps and talks about moving away from maxing out. There’s something behind that, too. So what if you don’t get a one rep max, if you’re able to pick up a heavy weight for more repetitions than you ever could before, that’s still success. That’s sort of the case for me… when I started the most I had ever done was 455 once and just a few weeks ago I did 460 three times, that’s obviously an improvement.

So overall I still think this is a good program and would recommend it. Personal limitations and failure at the end aside, I observed continual strength gains throughout the course of the program, slow and steady. And to be clear, the program doesn’t call for any maxing out, so you have to enter into it accepting that you’ll be measuring yourself by reping out, not maxing, unless you do like I did and max out from time to time to measure yourself.

If anyone has any questions about it, feel free to ask.
Thanks for reading and happy lifting!

Written by Jim

August 4, 2013 at 8:38 am

Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 Program for Strength Training

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In December of last year, being a little bored from doing similar types of workouts, I decided to try a new lifting regimen. Despite some small changes and adjustments here or there, I was just burnt out from doing basically the same thing for a while. I’m sure many can relate to that feeling.

So I decided to work more on strength training rather than physical changes, which had been my focus for the past year. Up until the last couple years all I cared about was powerlifting, but I got away from it due to an injury that prevents me from doing heavy pressing movements any more (mainly bench pressing). That took a lot of fun out of lifting for me. Due to the ennui explained above, and simply missing powerlifting, I decided to get back to my roots.

A friend suggested checking out Jim Wendler’s“5-3-1 program.” I read it, decided to do it and have been following it for the past three months. I figured I have enough experience with it now that I could share my impressions and results.

THE PROGRAM:
The whole thing is online – www.jimwendler.com – so do some clicking around on your own for full details. I plan to summarize it at a high level and give my impressions, but this will still likely be long.

In a nutshell, it’s a powerlifting workout with the overall goal of increasing strength. It recommends lifting four days a week, dedicating each day to one of four main lifts: Shoulder Press, Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift. The program outlines a repeating four week schedule with instructions for what to do for each of the weeks, then how to adjust and repeat.

At the onset you figure out your “training max” (not your actual max but a slightly lower number for the purpose of training) and you gradually work up closer and closer to it in each of the lifts during the weeks, then adjust the weights and start over. Each set and each week you use slightly more weight than you did in the last. The number of repetitions decrease as weight goes up, but the last set for each of the primary exercises is an all-out set of as many reps as you can do, which is both fun and a lot of work. You keep working up like this until the third week when you’re on the last set using an amount that is very close to your training max for as many reps as you can manage. Again, it’s hard work. Week four is a “deload” week where you lift lightly to allow your body to recoup before starting over.

The amounts that you’re to lift are determined as percentages of the training max and the program breaks down exactly how much weight to use for each set. I’ve seen many programs that work off of percentages of maxes and I think this is the most effective one I’ve tried. After you complete four weeks you go back to week one again, raise the training max a bit, and start over. If you ever can’t do the designated number of reps, the program explains how to adjust and start again. By constantly working on increasing percentages/amounts, in theory you’ll gradually and consistently get stronger.

It does not tell you exactly what to do for assistance exercises, but does provide a number of different philosophies to choose from and he goes over and explains how to do his favorite exercises that he thinks are the most beneficial. I view this as another plus; you’re able to craft your workout depending on how much time you have, your preferences and abilities. For a beginner who might not know how to start there are examples to choose from and enough information to make informed decisions for assistance work. There are also some notes on conditioning (cardio), warming up, and diet.

I’m not going to go into any more detail, but do check out the website if you’re interested. I fear my explanation might be confusing, but it really is simple and straight forward.

MY RESULTS & IMPRESSIONS:

I can happily say that I got stronger in each of the lifts.

Even with shoulder press and benching, which are greatly hampered from the accident/injury a few years ago, I was able to rep out a time or two more than I could with the same weight at the beginning of the program. It was a very small gain, but I had been STUCK for longer than I can remember, so any gain is still a victory.

I had been stuck at a plateau with deadlifting for a while as well, but actually set a new PR when I maxed out last week, so it felt great to make some good progress.

Throughout the program I have yet to fail getting the number of reps I’m supposed to, so I haven’t had to adjust anything yet. According to the author this is fairly common; one could do it months on end without needing to adjust anything.

I like the freedom of choosing assistance exercises, though think I’m doing more than he recommends. I’m not concerned; I do not feel like I’m over training and I do make minor adjustments each month when starting over to keep things fresh.

I’ve also ignored all of his recommendations for conditioning. I like running, biking, playing basketball and the like, and continue to do so. It could be having a negative effect on my lifting, but I’ve still been making gains and am enjoying myself, so again, I’m not concerned.

The program recommends lifting four days a week, but I have only done three days per week. Instead of deadlifting and squatting on separate days I do them on the same day, deadlifting first then squatting. I don’t enjoy squatting as much as I do deadlifting, and I find I’m too sore for a couple days after heavy leg lifting to get good runs in, so I’m satisfied doing them together and freeing up cardio time. I’m sure my squat is not as good as it could be because of this, but I don’t mind. I’ve still seen improvements in both exercises and deadlifting is my priority.

A few negatives:
Some of the language used in the workout write up is PG-13. Nothing overly vulgar or offensive, just some mild swearing and slightly off color jokes. I wasn’t put off by it and questioned bringing it up here, but in case you’re sensitive to that type of thing it bears mentioning before you read. If you’ve spent any time in a weight room before I’m willing to bet you’ve heard worse.

I’m not crazy about are the deload week and the amount of assistance work recommended. For the deload week, it just doesn’t feel right going so light once every four weeks. That’s more often than I’ve ever done in any other program. BUT, I’ve been following it and it’s been working, so maybe I shouldn’t complain. Regarding assistance exercises, the program recommends (in my mind) a low amount. Depending on what you’re used to, the program as written might leave you wanting more. You’re free to adjust for your own needs though, so it isn’t a major concern.

SUMMARY/CONCLUSION:

Overall, I think this is a good program and recommend it. I don’t think it’s perfect, but all you really have to follow to the T is using the training max and following the percentages for the main lifts. Otherwise you can tailor it for your needs. I guess that in and of itself makes it about as good as one can hope for.

Jim Wendler doesn’t make any big claims about adding 50 pounds to your bench in only 6 weeks or other great physical transformations, which is a good thing. He is clear that the intent is for small continual increases over time. That isn’t as flashy as the big claims you’ll find littered on the covers of muscle magazines, but how often do those really work? If you’re consistently adding to your max, even just a little, isn’t that what you want – continuous positive results?

The workout itself is written in a very straight forward, easy to understand manner, but it isn’t overly “professional” (mentioned above). He doesn’t come off as an author, but he does a good job of explaining things and it’s easy to understand.

Finally, a plus of the program, to me, is that working out less has actually made me more excited about lifting. For quite some time I’ve lifted five or six days a week. I’ve found that now on off days I anticipate my time in the gym more. I don’t like sitting at home… lifting is fun! So I’ve found that I’m more excited to get in and lift and I think the quality of my workouts has increased because of it. This is obviously just a personal thing but it’s worth mentioning, maybe someone will relate.

I plan on doing this for a few more months and time will tell if it continues to be as effective. I’m optimistic. I’ll check in with my results after a while.

Thanks for reading and happy lifting!

Written by Jim

February 16, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Creatine

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I’ve taken creatine off and on many times over the past 10 or so years, and having recently just finished a cycle I thought I’d post some thoughts about it. There is A LOT if information about creatine online, so I’m not going to get into great detail, I simply mean to speak from my experience and offer some personal thoughts.

If you don’t know what it is, here is a definition taken from the website greatist.com: “Creatine is a natural compound produced by the kidneys, pancreas, and liver that plays an important role in releasing energy when the body moves quickly or powerfully. Used as a supplement, creatine supposedly boosts muscular performance.” (Check out the link for more info.) So, athletes and weight lifters take creatine as a supplement to improve strength, increase stamina and energy levels while training, to in the end get bigger, faster, stronger, etc.

I’ve taken it many times since my early twenties, and for extended stretches. After having not taken it for a couple of years, I decided to use it again recently to see if I could give my workouts a bit of a kick in the pants. So for the months of October and November I took a serving of creatine daily. I use Met-Rx Creatine Blast (I have no affiliation or experience with the site I linked to, just using it as an example.) Creatine Blast is relatively cheap, which was a major factor in why I chose it, but for less than $20 locally or online it provides a good creatine blend and I was happy with it.

So, does it work? Yes, I think it does, but I’m really not sure how much so. When I was taking it most recently, I noticed increased energy levels and had good productive workouts, but maybe only slightly more so than when I’m not taking it. I had a lot of energy in the gym, kept making progress, all that good stuff, but the thing is, after I stopped taking it and for the entire following month, I’ve kept having good productive workouts, I’ve kept making gains, and nothing has dipped.

The biggest difference I notice is my energy level. After taking a dose and going in the gym it was like I drank a full pot of coffee; I was pretty wired. So much so in fact that I had to stop drinking coffee over those two months. I’m a big coffee drinker normally, but when drinking some later in the morning, two hours or more after I had creatine, I would still get all jittery and wound up. Too much so, I had to cut out coffee. So that is proof enough that it gets you going. But here is the counter point: After I stopped taking it, I started drinking coffee again before going into the gym in the morning. Just a small mug; I’ve always drank coffee before my morning workouts, it helps me wake up and get going. I feel like I’m not quite as awake when I arrive at the gym as I was with creatine, but I still have excellent workouts and I’ve still seen improvements.

It really isn’t an overly scientific evaluation, but from this experience I’m not really sure creatine is worth taking. If you go in the gym and bust your butt working as hard as you can, you’re going to have gains regardless of what supplements you’re taking (assuming you’re getting enough rest, eating right, and working out right). Creatine might have helped me squeeze out one more rep than I realized in some exercises, but considering my overall progress from before, during, and after taking it hasn’t really changed, I’m not sure any real difference was made. I openly admit I felt more energetic and psyched while I was taking it, but again, that didn’t seem to make much of a difference overall. Looking back, I honestly can’t remember completely how much it helped me when I was younger, but I think it was about the same as my most recent experience: there wasn’t a huge difference.

So, would I recommend it? – Uh, maybe? I think it does what it is intended to, but not to the level advertised. Don’t take it and think that weights will magically be as light as a feather and you’ll get jacked over night; you still need to put in the work, it just might help you a little. There is a mental aspect to it too (placebo effect, maybe?). Knowing that you’re on it might be enough to trick yourself into pushing a little harder, and if that is the case, maybe it’s worth spending $20 to $30 bucks a month on it. I personally don’t think so, but I’ve talked to guys who have said it is. To each his own. And different things work for different people. Just like how foods, other supplements and/or medicines might affect a friend differently than you, creatine is the same. Just because I didn’t notice a huge difference doesn’t mean you won’t.

Also, please keep in mind I am not an elite athlete or expert. Seek info from nutritionists, professional lifters, athletes and body builders, and info from reviewers online, magazines, etc. to make your own opinion before trying it.

Choices: There are a ton of different products out there. Like I said, the kind I took last is relatively cheap, but I think it’s good quality. I’ve taken much more expensive ones and even some cheaper ones. Compared to the most expensive ones I’ve taken, I feel that Creatine Blast is just as good so I’m not convinced you need to take anything more expensive. One thing I will say though is take a blend if you’re going to take it. I’ve taken just straight creatine monohydrate before and noticed less of a difference compared to any blend, so I think a blend really is worth getting.

Cons: I should also mention that there are some supposed cons, but I haven’t had personal experience with them or known people who have. From the reading I’ve done and my personal experience it seems to be perfectly safe if taken as directed, and even if not.  I took it for nearly a year straight without stopping or cycling before and noticed no negative effects. I have friends who have done the same with no problems. I don’t necessarily recommend that, I’m just saying. I have heard a lot about it being hard on the kidneys and that you need to take in more water with it for the sake of hydration.  However some sources (like the one I linked to above) suggest that there isn’t really even any risk. Please do your own research and form your own opinion. I’ve always just taken plenty of water while I was using creatine and never noticed any negative side effects, aside from having to pee a lot. Here is a list of cons from livestrong.com though for the sake of being balanced. I personally haven’t experienced any of these, aside from a bit of weight gain, but that’s just me. Please do consider them and do your own research before deciding to start creatine if you’re considering it.

I hope this is at least somewhat helpful to anyone who might stumble upon it and make it through the whole thing.
Happy lifting.
And Merry Christmas!

Written by Jim

December 23, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Working Out: 3 days on, 1 day off

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After finishing my weight gaining experiment in April I was looking for something new to try for working out. I had previously read about doing a schedule where you always had the same amount of rest between each workout despite what day of the week it was, instead of doing a typical structured schedule where you always do the same exercises on the same day, week in and week out.  The idea of consistent rest always made sense to me, though I never tried it. Being a little burnt out on the same old types of routines I decided to give it a go and searched around for some workouts to get some ideas.

Through my searches I came across Hugo Rivera on About.com. There is a lot of info about bodybuilding and weight lifting on About.com and I believe Hugo is the main contributor for the site, or at least the blog I linked to. Now, I’m not saying most of it is great info, or that most is bad, I honestly haven’t looked through all of it and wouldn’t be qualified to make that judgement anyway, but if you’re looking for a resource I think it is worth checking out. Hugo Rivera also has his own website, though I haven’t explored it much at all. And don’t be scared off by the “bodybuilding” references, it’s not all geared for meat heads and there is some good information about supplements, diet, rest, and general fitness if you look around on About.com. No, I’m not getting paid to say this. Hugo does focus on bodybuilding, but it doesn’t read like a muscle magazine and he says that the term bodybuilding can mean different things to different people, which I agree with; it’s not just about getting huge. (if you were to meet/see me in person, “bodybuilder” most likely wouldn’t cross your mind as you formed your first impression…)

Anyway, back to the topic. Hugo talks about the “three on, one off” type of workout structure, seems to favor it, and has some sample workout splits available. I couldn’t find a specific link devoted to this but know I’ve seen him recommend it on some of his YouTube videos, and found it here on an arms exercise article. Of the different examples given, I chose to use the following:

Bodybuilding Training Split #2:
Day 1: Chest, Back, Abs
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Start Over

So, for the past three months this is what I’ve been doing. And I LOVE it! This is possibly my favorite workout split of all I’ve ever done. It feels like the perfect amount of time for recovery after a workout before you’re at it again.

I’ve also been doing something that I haven’t done in a while: supersets — doing one set of lifts, followed immediately by another with no rest in between, then resting for a minute before doing the cycle again. I had used supersets quite a bit before when I was younger but got away from them, for whatever reason. I’m loving them now, it feels like the most efficient use of my time in the gym, and what a workout. I leave whooped, which is a good thing. The purpose of this post isn’t to get into the nitty-gritty of exactly what I’m doing, so I’m going to cut myself off here. Whether doing supersets or not, one can still use this type of three on, one off split, and I’ve (re-)found them to be a good way to workout.

There are some drawbacks though. The biggest is, it’s a lot of working out. Six days lifting in the gym each week. Add in the cardiovascular exercise I do, and it typically makes for eight or nine workouts a week. If I had children or a more demanding job it would be very difficult to keep up. Another challenge is that the days of the week can get in the way of your workouts. You might have weekend plans or just not feel like going into the gym on a Sunday, so that can be tough. If you don’t go it defeats the purpose of doing this type of split, so sometimes you just have to grin and bear it. The last thing that bothers me is how recovering can affect other things you want to do, mainly with my legs. After a good leg workout I walk around all stiff like a robot for about two days. On the third day I’m feeling pretty normal, and then I lift again the next day and am back to walking stiff… It’s a never-ending cycle and can make it hard to comfortably fit running in, basketball, or other activities that could also interfere with recouping. Just something to keep in mind and try to plan around.

The pros far out weigh the cons though, for me anyway. I haven’t actually measured myself to see if my muscles have gotten bigger, but I am feeling fitter, think I can notice some physical changes, and I’ve actually gotten a few unsolicited compliments recently. I’m sure it’s a combination of my total activity level, effort in the gym, diet, and the supersets, but the workout schedule cannot be overlooked, I really think it’s made a difference for me.

So, to anyone who might be a little burnt out on typical workout routines and might want to try something a little different, this type of schedule could be worth checking out. If interested, there’s a lot of info available from Hugo about setting up a workout, or elsewhere online from reputable sources.

Written by Jim

July 26, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Gaining Weight – Part 3 of 3

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Last week I finally finished the six month lifting program I was doing in conjunction with a revamped diet in an effort to put on some weight. I did an official weigh-in the day after finishing and …drum roll… I gained a total of eight pounds.

My feelings on this: meh. I’m not disappointed, but am not overly happy either. Just meh.

My first concern was that most of the weight gain was fat and unfortunately I can’t confirm how much fat I gained. I completely forgot about checking my body fat percentage before starting six months ago. I did check it the day after finishing the program though, and my body fat percentage was surprising low. Like, as low as it’s ever been in my adult life since I began checking it. So that probably takes care of that concern.

Truthfully, I don’t know how to judge my gains. Is eight pounds in six months good, or not really? I’m definitely a hard gainer and at my age I think it might be getting harder to put on muscle, but eight pounds over six months still seems low. I was hoping for more.

Anyway, it was a neat little experiment. I’ve done a wide variety of different workouts since I first began lifting and have gone to great measures tracking my progress building strength, but never have paid this much attention to physical changes before. (To note, I did actually take some measurements before and after to document any physical changes, but I’m not going to get into that on here.) If I have a weak link in my training, I’m pretty sure it’s my diet. Though I’m paying more attention to it, it’s nowhere near the amount of effort true lifters and body builders put into planning out what they eat. I simply don’t have the motivation or interest to get to that level. I think I’ll continue to eat how I am now, and I think I already take my working out pretty seriously, so if I can keep making gains over time I should be satisfied with that.

The Work Out:
I don’t think I’ve really spoken about it on here… it was called “Max OT” and I had found it online when searching for ideas last year. It subscribes to using high weights for low reps for training. That’s sort of what drew me too it; through my personal experience I’ve always done better at gaining strength under similar programs. It was created by a natural body builder (forget his name) and seemed more legit than some things I come across, so I gave it a go.

Having completed it though, I can’t say I’d do it again. I didn’t like the low number of sets that you typically do. The amount of work done was by design and while I understand not wanting to over train, at times I wondered if I was training enough. Overall I felt like I had good workouts most of the time, it’s just weird only doing a few sets spread out over a number of different exercises. I don’t fault the program for any shortcomings I had in making gains; just heading out of it, I feel sort of lack luster about how it was structured.

In the end, I think this just reenforced something I’ve believed for a while: There’s no absolute right way of lifting for all different kinds of people. There most certainly are things you absolutely should not do, and things that are better to do than others, but there’s no one fit-all-solution for everyone.

For example, the guy who created this program was a really big, ripped competing body builder who swore by doing a lot of weight for few reps; it’s what worked for him. You hardly ever did more than six reps in any of his exercises, and you’d usually only do two or three sets per exercise. But, there are just as many really ripped, big body builders who swear by doing more sets and more reps. Take Hugo Rivera for example; I’ve been looking at some of his workouts recently and don’t think I’ve ever seen him recommend anything less than six reps per set, and usually he’s doing more, though still keeping the total workout time down.

To me, it just goes to show that there are different ways of accomplishing the same goal and the same thing won’t work for everyone. This might seem like common sense, but take a glance at the covers of fitness magazines sometime, or search around online for workout ideas. You’ll see a lot of “guaranteed results” and strong wording about the massive gains you’re sure to make, or the amount of weight you’ll lose. I could really get off topic going into this, hopefully you get my point.

Closing Up:
Next week I’m going to dive into another lifting program, and though I’ll take it seriously as always, I’m not going to the same level of detail in tracking body changes as I just did. I don’t think I’ll be doing any posts related to it or my progress, either. I just wanted to do this series to track my progress, and maybe someone will stumble upon this and find something that’s helpful, but I might even decide to remove the posts after a bit now that I’m done with it; we’ll see.

Written by Jim

April 3, 2012 at 7:00 pm