Tag Archive: muscle

How to Lift Weights

For building Muscle Mass:

When you’re trying to build muscle mass, you have to find ways to stabilize your body so that you’re only working a select set of muscles at once.  You can think of this in a bench press exercise where your legs and core are minimally involved because they’re resting on a bench.  Your pushing muscles are the only muscles being stressed to a great extent.

This is the type of exercise you have to do if you want to gain muscle mass.  You have to use exercises where specific muscles are targeted.  Full-body exercises just don’t work as well for muscle growth. Continue reading

Lifting weights is a source of empowerment.
Photo credit to Larry Lyday.

Weight lifting is NOT just to look good!

That’s one of the biggest myths that float around the American health and fitness scene.  I’ve even heard trainers say it.

Weight lifting is far more about creating long-term enjoyment of life.  It’s a major player in preventing diseases like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and osteoporosis.  It’s also a massive factor in how long you will be able to maintain your independence as you age.

Lastly, yes.  A strong physique is an attractive physique.  It’s a huge plus, but it’s not the main reason you should be lifting weights.  Your health and fitness are the main reasons you should be lifting. Continue reading

Photo Credit
She can squat 240 and deadlift 330. Does she look bulky?

A while ago, I wrote Can You Be Skinny AND Fat?.  The article shows why weight loss without exercise only makes you fatter in the long-term.  It’s a difficult reality to come to grips with, but it is absolutely true.

Since it’s rather idiotic to point at something that’s wrong but never propose a solution, this is the beginning of the solution.  This article shows the better way.  It shows what can happen with intelligent fat loss.  Because, if you think about it, that’s what everyone wants.

We typically admire physiques that have at least some level of muscle.  We just don’t like the fat.  A figure model’s glutes don’t come from only calorie restriction.  They come from building up her glute muscles and then eating to lose the fat on top of the muscle.  That’s what the curve is.  Without the strong muscle underneath, there is no shapely curve.  There would only be a flat line between her lower back and legs. Continue reading

Well, if you haven’t heard about this yet you can read about it here.  Essentially, it’s about brides-to-be who choose to lose weight by having 800 calories a day dripped into their stomach through a feeding tube that has been pushed down their nose.  I still can’t believe that the sentence I just wrote is fact. Continue reading

To add to my neck troubles, I woke up with allergies.  So, I had a headache and some level of fatigue along with the neck problems.  Great.

I thought about it and realized that working out for high reps on legs wouldn’t make my neck, headache, or fatigue any worse.  So, I went and pumped out the session.  It wasn’t all that fun, but it was necessary.  Also, I haven’t done higher reps for quite a while.  As a result, these numbers were pretty terrible.  Ha ha.  But it’s all good in the neighborhood.  At least it will be easy to progress from these. Continue reading

I worked out today, and it felt great.  However, it’s hard for me to celebrate because Lisa tested my body fat yesterday, and we found out that I lost two pounds of muscle mass.  I lost two pounds of muscle the previous month, too.  So, I’m four pounds of muscle less than I was two months ago.  Great.  Everything I preach about health and fitness involves gaining muscle mass, but I’m here losing it. Continue reading

I chose the title because I’ve heard people called “skinny fat” before.  When someone is called “skinny fat”, it means they don’t have any muscle tone even though they weigh less than most people on the scale.  Frankly, I’ve thought that the concept was pretty abrasive, and I haven’t used it to describe anyone.  But at the same time, it fairly accurately describes a lot of people who don’t weigh very much but still don’t look very healthy.

The cause of being “skinny fat” is focusing on total weight loss.  Because of this, people will restrict their food as much as they can to lose total weight.  The problem is that when they do this, they lose both muscle and fat.  This doesn’t sound horrible until you think more about it.







Three main factors:

1.  A pound of muscle burns 35 to 50 calories per day (even at rest).

2.  Weight loss from restricting calories without exercising can result in up to half of that weight loss being muscle loss.

3.  Once you stop restricting your calories, your body is extremely likely to go back to its original weight.

What does that look like in real life?  Let’s take an example of a statistically average American woman who decides to lose weight by cutting a lot of calories without exercising. Continue reading

Get Abs By Not Working Abs?

Marianne Kane from http://www.myomytv.com/

It seems like each time I walk into the gym, I see people doing ab exercises.  Situps, crunches, hanging leg raises, etc.  Obviously, a good set of abdominal muscles is extremely important to our self-image since that’s what all of the fitness magazine models have.  We all seem to want to look like Marianne Kane or Greg Plitt, but how do we do that?  And why don’t our ten sets of crunches seem to be working?  It makes sense that if you want a more defined arm, you work out arms.  So, if you want a six pack, you should do a lot of ab exercises, right?

Well, the interesting thing is that working out abs directly without making the rest of the body a greater focus is counter-productive to actually getting abs.  The idea that working out a specific body part results in losing fat on that specific body part is physiologically impossible.  The body loses and gains fat as an entire body system.  Fat is simply energy storage, and your body has evenly distributed out its energy storage reserves.  You can do thousands of sit ups, but you won’t lose any more fat there than on your hips, thighs, and buttocks. Continue reading

"Foam Rolling" with a PVC Pipe

Those of us who have tried foam rolling know that there’s a certain love-hate relationship that goes with it.  It’s painful because it’s massaging the muscle and fascia, but at the same time that massage is going to help you feel better.

Anyway, for a couple days I had felt some sharp pain in the lower, front part of my knee.  It finally came to a head when I was doing some plyometric single-arm push-ups (with hands on something elevated.  I’m not quite to the floor yet).  Regardless, the force from catching myself was somehow hitting my knees as well, and it was enough that I had to call it quits on the push ups.  Since I’m not too fond of quitting any exercise early, I started thinking about ways to hopefully lessen my knee pain. Continue reading

I know women have goals of getting fit and toned and then turn to the women’s fitness magazines with this month’s “Get In Shape” plan.  And not that these plans are totally worthless, the moves may be great, but most plans tend to start like this:  What you need is a mat, a pair of 3-5 pound dumbbells…. How in the world do they expect you to get toned and strong if you are lifting with a total of 6-10 pounds.  Most babies are born 6 pounds and then if you factor in carrying a car seat, that is way more than 10 pounds.  Do they expect muscles to magically appear?

I do agree that everyone has to start somewhere and progression is key, but I also think that most women are a lot stronger than they think and have the potential of being a lot stronger than they expect. If starting out with all body weight exercises is hard for you, then start there and that does cause muscle to grow, but only so much.  So, what happens when that gets easy? You add more repetitions. Then what happens when that gets too easy? You add more weight.  My professor always used to tell us, “behind every shapely curve in a woman’s body, there is muscle.”  These “shapely curves” he was talking about are the “toned look” most girls are wanting.  So to get toned, women must build muscle.

How do we build muscle mass?  There is a concept in weight training called the SAID principle.  SAID stands for “specific adaptation to imposed demands”.  Translation: Your muscle adapts only to what you put it through.  If you only train your arms to lift 2 pound dumbbells, then your arms are only going to be able to lift 2 lbs or maybe a tiny bit more.  If training with 2 pound dumbbells is honestly hard for you, there is no shame in that.  Everyone has to start somewhere.

The point is, if you do a ton of reps then you are training for endurance.  If you are an endurance athlete, then this training might be for you.  The same principle is why sprinters train the way they do.  They do short bursts of power because that’s what they have to do in a race.  If you are a mom who carries a baby around, then you want to train your muscles for that activity.  If the goal is to build muscle mass and to get toned, then you must challenge the muscles in that way.  The other goal that every woman should have is to move smoother and more functionally.  This takes our focus off of machine only training to doing more day to day movements to make our bodies move more efficiently and will make everyday activities easier.  Eventually picking up groceries out of the trunk and up the stairs will become easier.  Running and walking will be less tiring because you will be training your muscles to work together as they do in everyday life.  Then, adding the extra weight will help you gain the muscle mass to look and feel great.

To build muscle mass, choose a weight or body weight exercise that you can do the exercise for 8-12 repetitions.  This means to choose a weight where you can barely eek out the 12th repetition.  I would suggest doing a weight lifting program that lifts 3 times a week, with a day in between and doing one exercise for each body part.  Start with doing one set for each exercise and as you get into better shape, then add sets for each exercise.  If a woman is still in the bone building years, then doing a few sets of 4-6 repetitions is highly beneficial for building bone mass.  This means she’ll be lifting heavier weights than she did when she was doing 8-12 repetitions.  


Monday, Wednesday, Friday

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Anterior reaches
  • Bent over rows
  • Cable (or band) standing rows
  • Recline pulls
  • Cable (or band) chest presses
  • Push ups (these can be on the floor or on the wall)
  • Shoulder presses

Just do one set each of 8-12 repetitions in the beginning and add weight when you can do 13 or more in a set.

Principles for Application of This Book

Although everything presented in this book applies regardless of what your health or fitness goal is, there are going to be a few modifications due to your current health and fitness level and your priorities.  Your application of this information is going to be different if your main goal is to be able to walk up stairs without difficulty rather than wanting to gain twenty pounds.

The following is a simple algorithm for determining what you need to pursue and how to do it.

Step 1: Determine Where You Are

Now that you’ve decided to start a fitness program, you must understand what health level you are currently at.  This is determined by things like your age, your cholesterol levels, your blood pressure, your blood sugar levels, your level of current activity, whether you smoke or not, your weight, and your family’s history of disease.

Before beginning an exercise program, you need to get clearance from a doctor.  Even if you think you’re healthy, there is always a chance that there is an underlying problem that you don’t know about.  The “American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine’s Health/Fitness Facility Pre-Participation Screening Questionnaire” is a good guideline.
The number one rule of health and fitness is to use your head.  If you’re going to take a risk by starting exercise without knowing your beginning health status, you’re literally putting your life in jeopardy.  Your chances of dying of a heart attack are much greater while exercising.  Although regular exercise will later decrease your chance of having a heart attack, you must be intelligent about progressing at a relatively slow rate in order to accomplish your primary goal: be healthy.  If you push too fast or even push at all with high blood pressure, there’s a chance your heart could rupture, and you could bleed to death.  I really don’t say this to scare you.  I simply say this because getting checked by a doctor is absolutely essential if you are unsure at all about your health.  It’s slightly inconvenient, but it may save your life.

Step 2: Determine Where You Want To Be

Regardless of your goal, we will always want to increase your motor control, probably increase your muscle mass, and probably decrease your fat mass.  However, you have to decide which of these three objectives is the most important to you at this time.

What’s your main motivation for choosing this fitness program?  If it’s to lose weight, you probably need to focus on increasing your muscle mass and decreasing your fat mass.  If you’re elderly or just coming out of physical therapy and want to be able to do activities of daily life again, you’ll need to work on motor control and increase your muscle mass.

Essentially, if you need to focus on activities of daily life, then we need to hone in on the types of exercises for activities of daily life.  We won’t neglect gaining muscle mass and potentially losing fat mass, but it’s not the focus.  We’ll probably keep your eating about the same.

If you need to lose weight, then we’ll focus on resistance exercise to build muscle mass in order to increase your metabolism.  On top of that, we’ll also focus on an appropriate level of cardiovascular training.  Exercises for activities of daily life will still be included, but they are not the main issue.  Rather than eating less, you will focus on eating more fruits and veggies.  These foods will help you still be able to eat the same amount, but they since they are low in calories and rich in fiber, they will make you feel full and lose fat.

If you need to gain weight, then we’ll focus on exercise to build muscle mass.  We’ll do enough cardiovascular training to keep your heart healthy, but it will be at the minimum we can get by with.  Exercises for activities of daily life will still be included, but they will not be the focus.  Lastly, you will eat more in order to provide the calories your body needs to create the extra muscle.  In order to do this, you’ll focus more on starchy vegetables and grains.  You need slightly more protein, but you won’t have much trouble getting it.

Step 3: Figure Out Your Short-term Goals

As far as getting there is concerned, you’ll have to take where you desire to be and break it down into smaller, step-wise goals. It is best to make goals for gaining or losing weight no more than two pounds per week.

Step 4: Develop a Plan for the Achievement of Your First Short-term Goal

Now, we’re into the meat of why this book was written.  First, we’ll go over direct application of nutrition.  Although each application is fairly simple, nutrition is probably the simplest.


Frankly, the application of nutrition information is as simple as following the five steps laid out earlier:
1. Plan Your Meals
2. Eat a Variety of Foods
3. Focus on carbohydrates (plant-based foods)
4. Limit Your Intake of Sugar and Fat
5. Don’t Worry About Protein

Now, the only things on top of that are

1. If you want to lose weight, then subtract about 250 to 500 calories out of your diet.
2. If you want to gain weight, then add about 250 to 500 calories into your diet.

Done.  That’s the essence of everything you need to know about how to apply today’s most current research in nutrition.  As long as you’re following these steps, you’re applying pretty much everything that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends.  Any further research on your part would be primarily to answer the questions of “Why should I eat this?” rather than “What should I eat?”.  Further inquiries should be started at http://www.eatright.org/

Resistance Training

Resistance training is any exercise that puts muscles under extra stress in order to make them adapt.  Also, since we have resistance training for muscle building and resistance training for activities of daily life, it is imperative to include both.

For the sake of simplicity and logic, we have broken down every exercise into pushing, pulling, or legs.  In addition, we have broken down every exercise into muscle building or activities of daily life.  In order to achieve optimal benefit for a beginner, the ACSM recommends training two or three days a week using 8 – 10 exercises with 8 – 12 repetitions and being sure to train the whole body at each session.

My take on that is if we are using 8 – 10 exercises, we should balance them evenly between legs, pushing, and pulling.  So, we’ll have three leg exercises, three pushing exercises, and three pulling exercises.  Also, I believe that for most people, a lack of muscle mass is a greater problem for their health than a lack of motor control.  This is because America’s population is two-thirds overweight and one-third obese.

Consequently, I believe it is most intelligent to focus on stabilized exercises for building muscle mass in order to increase people’s metabolisms.  With that in mind, it makes sense to dedicate two out of every three exercises for each muscle group to training for muscle mass.  So, if we take legs as an example, it makes sense to me to use two muscle-building exercises and one activities of daily-life exercise.  Such a creation would be something like this:

Exercise 1.  Muscle-building focus.  Squats.
Exercise 2.  Muscle-building focus.  Dumbbell Front Squats.
Exercise 3.  Activities of daily-life focus.  Anterior reaches.

And then, we’ll apply that model to pushing and pulling as well.  We’ll train the whole body at each session, use three exercises for each muscle-group (pushing, pulling, and legs), and of those three exercises, two will be muscle-building focused and one will be activities of daily-life focused.

However, there will be instances where people need to focus more on learning motor control than they need to focus on muscle-building.  A lot of these instances are elderly individuals, rehabilitation patients, and high-level athletes who already have all of the muscle mass they want.

Although the high-level athletes won’t fall under the category of “beginner”, so they would be training more days using more advanced methods, I still think the principle of focusing more on motor control will benefit them.  As far as the elderly and rehabilitation patients go, we would still use the same template of two or three days a week, 8 to 10 exercises, and one set of each with 8 to 12 repetitions.  However, this time we’ll make it more motor control/activities of daily life focused than muscle building focused.  So, two exercises out of each series of three will be focused on activities of daily life and one exercise will be focused on muscle building.  For example:

Exercise 1.  Muscle-building focus.  Squats (add weight once they have mastered their body weight).
Exercise 2.  Activities of daily-life focus.  Single-legged Squats (as much as they can. Even if that means just standing on one leg without any movement at the hip or knee).
Exercise 3.  Activities of daily-life focus.  Anterior reaches.

Cardiovascular Training

The application of cardio essentially boils down to three things.

1. Start out conservatively!  Err on the too easy side rather than the too hard side.  If you start at walking slowly for twenty minutes, that’s fine.

2. Increase your duration before you increase your intensity.  In order to progress as safely as possible, you should increase how long you walk before you increase how fast you walk/jog/run.

3. Focus on total fat burned rather than percentage of fat burned.  All of the talk about a “fat burning zone” is simply based on percentages.  So, yes.  Walking slowly does burn a higher percentage of fat than walking quickly does.  However, do you care about what those percentages are or do you just want to lose the most fat you can safely lose in a given amount of time?  If you want to lose the most fat you can, you need to work at a level that is relatively difficult for you.  This will also give you heart benefits as well in order to substantially decrease your risk of heart disease.

For the rest of “The Simplified Science of How to be Healthy” go here.

Goal-Setting for Health and Fitness

After a firm understanding of how to achieve health and fitness is attained, one must then progress to being able to translate that understanding into a plan of action by setting and achieving goals.  The following are a few goal-setting guidelines.

1. The goal must be specific and objective.

There is no way around this.  An ambiguous goal will always stay an ethereal concept that cannot be tangibly reached.  As a result, you can never truly tell if you have achieved it or not.  Your goal must be something that a hundred people can look at and all agree that it has been done.  This means that “get in better shape”, while admirable, is too vague to be of much use.  However, “lose three inches around my waist” is specific and objective.  Every person who sees that you wrote in your journal that your waist was 40 inches in January and now it’s 37 inches in April can see that you have actually lost three inches around your waist.

This also means that in order to understand if you have truly achieved your goal, you must be making some sort of record.  Measuring your waist and writing it down on your calendar/journal/computer will only take a few minutes.  Find a way to be sure that you know what you want to achieve and that you can measure how far you’ve come in an objective manner.

2. The goal must be realistic.

Unfortunately, marketers of many health products tell us that if we don’t lose twenty pounds in the first month, we’re doing something wrong.  The truth of the matter is that according to Mayo Clinic and the AND, a weight loss of one to two pounds a week is optimal.  This is because you have to burn 3,500 calories in order to burn a pound of fat.  That means that in order to lose one pound of fat a week, you have to somehow be burning 500 calories more per day than you eat.  So, if you do the math, that’s 1,000 calories per day if you want to lose two pounds of fat in a week.  If any weight is lost in excess of that, it’s likely to be carbohydrate stores in the body, water weight, or muscle mass.  Because of that, any attempt at weight loss should never exceed two pounds of fat loss per week. Continue reading


The basics of nutrition are simple.  Here are the five main principles according to Miami Dade College professor Tim Patton.  I’ve added my own commentary on each, though.

1. Plan Your Meals

This is primarily because a lot of our eating is done without thinking.  This action will bring meal-planning to its proper level of thought, and we will be able to truly understand just how much of what we are eating.

In addition to that, this is to make sure that we aren’t someone who has no breakfast, has a small lunch, and eats a big dinner.  Those people wreck their metabolism because they starve their body when they need energy and then they give their body a feast when they don’t need any energy.  It’s always best to operate under the principle of feeding your body in preparation for the activity you’re about to do.

So, since your breakfast gives your body the fuel for your morning activities and your carbohydrate reserves are likely to be low since you haven’t eaten all night, it’s rational to eat a fairly large breakfast.  Then, since your lunch gives your body the energy for all of your afternoon activities, it makes sense to eat a moderate lunch.  Lastly, since your dinner is only giving you energy for the last few hours of the day, and most people aren’t very active after dinner, it makes sense to eat a small dinner so that you aren’t giving your body a lot of extra fuel to store during your sleep.

2. Eat a variety of foods

On a personal note, I have tried just about every diet out there before I took my first college nutrition class.  After I took General Nutrition and Sports Nutrition, I finally understood that a lot of what I had done before was ridiculous. Continue reading

Lisa’s Cardio

Cardiovascular training is an essential part of any exercise program.  The choice to ignore it is an ignorant one that I have been largely guilty of.  In fact, after my high school sports were over, I largely ignored cardiovascular training because I simply don’t enjoy it.  Then, I met Lisa and it’s her favorite thing since sliced bread, so I did cardio with her.  Now I do it because I want to keep my heart and arteries healthy.

As you can tell, I’m not much of a cardio guy.  Because of that, I asked Lisa to guest-author this part.

Cardiovascular Training

Put simply, cardiovascular training is anything that trains your heart and lungs to perform optimally.  So, the result of it is a lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and better cholesterol levels.  Also, it seems to work well in decreasing insulin resistance and therefore decreasing your risk of diabetes. Continue reading