August 2011

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Even before you start exercising, you can use plenty of tricks to eliminate visceral fat, improve your flab-burning metabolic process, and start losing weight fast.

And for more great ways to and lose weight and stay slim for good, pick up a copy of The Men’s Health Diet today! It combines the latest findings in exercise and nutrition with practical how-to advice that will transform your body into a fat-burning machine.

Don’t Diet!

The Men’s Health Diet isn’t about eating less, it’s about eating more—more nutrition-dense food, to crowd out the empty calories and keep you full all day. That’s important, because restricting food will kill your metabolism. It makes your body think, “I’m starving here!” And your body responds by slowing your metabolic rate in order to hold on to existing energy stores. What’s worse, if the food shortage (meaning your crash diet) continues, you’ll begin burning muscle tissue, which just gives your enemy, visceral fat, a greater advantage. Your metabolism drops even more, and fat goes on to claim even more territory.

Go to Bed Earlier

A study in Finland looked at sets of identical twins and discovered that of each set of siblings, the twin who slept less and was under more stress had more visceral fat.

Eat More Protein

Your body needs protein to maintain lean muscle. In a 2006 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease,” researchers argued that the present recommended daily allowance of protein, 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, was established using obsolete data and is woefully inadequate for an individual doing resistance training. Researchers now recommend an amount between 0.8 and 1 gram per pound of body weight. Add a serving, like 3 ounces of lean meat, 2 tablespoons of nuts, or 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt, to every meal and snack. Plus, research showed that protein can up post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35 percent.

Go Organic When You Can

Canadian researchers reported that dieters with the most organochlorines (pollutants from pesticides, which are stored in fat cells) experienced a greater than normal dip in metabolism as they lost weight, perhaps because the toxins interfere with the energy-burning process. In other words, pesticides make it harder to lose pounds. Other research hints that pesticides can trigger weight gain. Of course, it’s not always easy to find—or to afford—a whole bunch of organic produce. So you need to know when organic counts, and when it’s not that important. Organic onions, avocados, grapefruit? Not necessary. But choose organic when buying celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale or collard greens, cherries, potatoes, and imported grapes; they tend to have the highest levels of pesticides. A simple rule of thumb: If you can eat the skin, go organic.

Get Up, Stand Up

Whether you sit or stand at work may play as big a role in your health and your waistline as your fitness routine. In one study researchers discovered that inactivity (4 hours or more) causes a near shutdown in an enzyme that controls fat and cholesterol metabolism. To keep this enzyme active and increase your fat burning, break up long periods of downtime by standing up—for example, while talking on the phone.

Drink Cold Water

German researchers found that drinking 6 cups of cold water a day (that’s 48 ounces) can raise resting metabolism by about 50 calories daily—enough to shed 5 pounds in a year. The increase may come from the work it takes to heat the water to body temperature. Though the extra calories you burn drinking a single glass don’t amount to much, making it a habit can add up to pounds lost with essentially zero additional effort.

Eat the Heat

It turns out that capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their mouth-searing quality, can also fire up your metabolism. Eating about 1 tablespoon of chopped red or green chilies boosts your body’s production of heat and the activity of your sympathetic nervous system (responsible for our fight-or-flight response), according to a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology. The result: a temporary metabolism spike of about 23 percent. Stock up on chilies to add to meals, and keep a jar of red pepper flakes on hand for topping pizzas, pastas, and stir-fries.

Rev Up in the Morning

Eating breakfast jump-starts metabolism and keeps energy high all day. It’s no accident that those who skip this meal are 4 1/2 times as likely to be obese. And the heartier your first meal is, the better. In one study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, volunteers who got 22 to 55 percent of their total calories at breakfast gained only 1.7 pounds on average over 4 years. Those who ate zero to 11 percent of their calories in the morning gained nearly 3 pounds.

Drink Coffee or Tea

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, so your daily java jolt can rev your metabolism 5 to 8 percent—about 98 to 174 calories a day. A cup of brewed tea can raise your metabolism by 12 percent, according to one Japanese study. Researchers believe the antioxidant catechins in tea provide the boost.

Fight Fat with Fiber

Fiber can rev your fat burn by as much as 30 percent. Studies find that those who eat the most fiber gain the least weight over time. Aim for about 25 g a day—the amount in about three servings each of fruits and vegetables.

Eat Iron-Rich Foods

Iron is essential for carrying the oxygen your muscles need to burn fat. Unless you restock your store, you run the risk of low energy and a sagging metabolism. Shellfish, lean meats, beans, fortified cereals, and spinach are excellent sources. (But it’s not always a good idea to take a supplement. Too much iron has been linked to a greater risk of heart disease in men. Get this essential mineral in natural doses from real foods.)

Get More D

Vitamin D is essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue. Unfortunately, researchers estimate that a measly 20 percent of Americans take in enough through their diet. Get 90 percent of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon. Other good sources: tuna, fortified milk and cereals, and eggs.

Drink Milk

There’s some evidence that calcium deficiency may slow metabolism. Research shows that consuming calcium in dairy foods such as fat-free milk and low-fat yogurt may also reduce fat absorption from other foods.

Eat Watermelon

The amino acid arginine, abundant in watermelon, might promote weight loss, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition. Researchers supplemented the diets of obese mice with arginine over 3 months and found that it decreased body-fat gains by a whopping 64 percent. Adding this amino acid to the diet enhanced the oxidation of fat and glucose and increased lean muscle, which burns more calories than fat does. Snack on watermelon and other arginine sources, such as seafood, nuts, and seeds, year-round.

Stay Hydrated

All of your body’s chemical reactions, including your metabolism, depend on water. If you are dehydrated, you may be burning up to 2 percent fewer calories, according to researchers at the University of Utah who monitored the metabolic rates of 10 adults as they drank varying amounts of water per day. In the study, those who drank either eight or twelve 8-ounce glasses of water a day had higher metabolic rates than those who had four.

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by Darren Hardy

Why do you want to learn how to be a loser? you ask. We learn from both examples and warnings. This post provides you both.

It’s good to know how to be a loser so, 1) you could do the opposite and 2) you can check to be sure you aren’t doing those things yourself.

I remember Jim Rohn saying that it’s too bad failures don’t give seminars. He would say, “If you meet a guy who has messed up his life for forty years, you’ve just got to say, ‘John, if I bring my journal and promise to take good notes, would you spend a day with me? Tell me how a good-looking guy like you with a beautiful family, everything going for him messed up his life so bad. What did you do? What do you read? What do you eat? What type of people do you hang out with? What do you do with your free time? What TV programs, newspapers, and radio programs do you spend time with? Wouldn’t that information be valuable? Find out and then DON’T DO those things.” Great strategy.

Here’s some loser training tips to get you started:

Take it day by day. on’t bother with setting goals, making plans and preparing. Just wake up each morning and figure out what you want to do then.

Seek comfort.
Growth and progress requires work, stress and struggle. Forget it. Stay comfy instead.

Don’t believe in anything. It’s easier to be cynical. If you believe in something you’ll have to do something. It’s easier to point out what’s wrong with something. Then you’re off the hook.

Be heard. You have a voice—use it often. Be sure to tell your story, no matter who is talking and what the topic is.

Avoid failure. The best way to avoid pain, rejection and failure is to not try at all.

Sleep in. Hey, you don’t want to accomplish much anyway, you might as well sleep in. Let the early morning strivers clear out before waking.

Don’t let others mess you up. Just take care of No. 1. Family, friends and other relationship require effort, sacrifice, being inconvenienced and doing things and listening to things you don’t want to. Who needs that?

Be blameless. If you never step forward and take responsibility, then you can never be blamed.

Defend yourself. Your view and opinion should be protected in every instance. Don’t let something you disagree with go undefended. Prove yourself always.

Protect yourself. Keep your guard up. Trust no one. Love no one. Those you let in might hurt you. Keep a wall around your heart. It’s safer that way.

Expect to lose. If you expect it, you can’t be disappointed right? Don’t put yourself at risk by having high expectations. Expecting to win and for good things to happen puts pressure on you and makes you face self-doubt, angst and tension. Just surrender early. Then the pressure is off.

For extended study… just find two or three losers and interview them. Find out what TV shows they watch, what radio programs they listen to. Find out where they eat and what they eat. Who do they spend time with? What do they talk about? What magazines, books, blogs and newspapers do they read? Find out what they think about our current economy, our government and the future. Ask them how they treat their spouse. Find out what they think about their co-workers. Etc.

Take copious notes. Make a long list. Then, DON’T DO ANY OF THOSE THINGS! Those are the things that mess up your life. Do the opposite and you become the opposite of a loser, which is a what? Yeah, a winner! That’s what you want to be, right? Then don’t think, act, talk, walk, dress or do what losers do.

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by Dr. Mark Cheng
Kicking, punching, trapping and grappling—the four ranges of combat are mentioned in almost every discussion of Bruce Lee’s jeet kune do. But with the exception of Dan Inosanto and the late Larry Hartsell, none of Lee’s personal students has focused on the fourth range, which is ironic because grappling is all the rage these days. In this exclusive interview, Inosanto addresses the often-overlooked subject of JKD ground work, both as it was practiced during Lee’s life and as it’s being practiced now.

Black Belt: A lot of people think that Bruce Lee’s jeet kune do was only about kickboxing and trapping, but that’s not the whole picture, is it?
Dan Inosanto: Absolutely not. While sifu Bruce was alive, he personally researched grappling arts like Chinese chin-na, Wally Jay’s jujitsu and Japanese judo, and he trained with Gene LeBell. Even in Tao of Jeet Kune Do, he clearly illustrated grappling techniques—throws, locks and submissions. And if you watch the opening scene of Enter the Dragon where he’s fighting Sammo Hung, how does he finish the fight? With a submission.

Black Belt: Why do you think that so many people can’t see past Lee’s kickboxing, trapping and nunchaku work?
Dan Inosanto: Sifu Bruce knew what looked good on camera. [Most] of the techniques in his movies are striking oriented, not because he couldn’t do other things but because he clearly knew that the subtleties of grappling are very hard, if not impossible, for the camera to capture.

Just look at mixed-martial arts bouts. In the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the referees didn’t stand the fighters back up if they were inactive on the ground for too long, but the fans started booing, and the promoters had to acknowledge that the viewing public wanted to see action or else the money would go elsewhere. The action might be a little shift of the hips or fighting for grips underneath, but if the fans can’t see it, they can’t appreciate it. And if they can’t appreciate it, they won’t enjoy it.

The other reason he didn’t show as much grappling in his movies is it was an area that was relatively new to him. He had tons of hours of kick, punch and trap training, but his research into the grappling arts was still in its infancy. If he was going to show something on-screen, sifu Bruce wanted to really shine at it.

But he was actively investigating the ground range, and he even started developing chi sao from the ground. However, during sifu Bruce’s lifetime, fighting was more of a stand-up game.

Black Belt: Was grappling a regular part of the curriculum at the Chinatown school?
Dan Inosanto: Sifu Bruce taught locks and submissions on the ground, and takedowns, but they weren’t contested. In other words, we practiced them for technical development and not in a sparring sense, like we did with kickboxing. We didn’t wrestle against each other like we did with the kickboxing.
What he did do was work on certain things with individual students during his private lessons. When he taught private lessons, he’d not only focus on what might work best for individuals—their personal JKD—but also train himself at the same time, bettering his own skills in a particular range.

One of the things that made him unique was his ability to move from kicking range to punching range to trapping range to grappling range. At that time, most martial artists really shined in one particular range. If you kicked, you didn’t punch or grapple much. If you punched, you didn’t kick or grapple much. And if you grappled, you didn’t have the same skill level in striking. Sifu Bruce was way ahead of his time in how he was training himself and his students to be adept at bridging the gap between ranges.

Black Belt: Are there different ranges within grappling range?
Dan Inosanto: Certainly. There’s what’s referred to in Tao of Jeet Kune Do as the tie-up range, which is essentially the standing clinch range. This is like what wrestlers do now with pummeling. They have the collar hold. They grab the biceps, triceps, wrist, neck, forearm, etc. These clinch tactics are highly useful for strikers because they allow them to tie up their opponents and gain some time to recover from a solid hit or to catch their breath. Grapplers must learn this range, or else they’ll be unable to bridge the gap and dominate their opponents on the ground. So they have techniques like overhooks, underhooks and the two-on-one to help them achieve the takedown. That’s a different game than the ground game, but they’re both part of the totality of grappling.

Black Belt: Did Lee teach drills that included striking on the ground?
Dan Inosanto: No. We put those in later, after his passing, [because] of shooto people like Yori Nakamura, who taught those to us around 1989 to 1990. Because of working with Yori, I saw the necessity for ground work, and then later when I got into Brazilian jiu-jitsu with the Machado family and Renato Magno, I really saw the need for ground work.

I combined a lot of the movements from shooto and Brazilian jiu-jitsu vale tudo training with the striking, trapping and grappling that I learned from sifu Bruce and others. Not that what I’m doing is 100-percent correct, but those are the sources that make up our ground game, and we give credit for what comes from where.

We also have influences from other grappling systems—dumog, which I learned from Juan LaCoste; naban, which is the python system of bando as taught by Dr. Maung Gyi; and others.

Black Belt: Bando has a grappling system?
Dan Inosanto: Yes. There’s a history lesson here. People often think that something is absent from history when they don’t have exposure to it in the media, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. Mixed martial arts have always been around. Bando, for example, has kickboxing, weapons and wrestling, but very few people knew about it before. Why now? Because there’s money involved with MMA, instead of people just doing something as a cultural or family treasure.

Even on the Hawaiian sugar plantations decades ago, the Filipinos were doing MMA. They kickboxed and grappled with sticks and training daggers. Now we’re more aware of it because of the TV coverage and Internet exposure.

Black Belt: Many people say that trapping is its own separate range and is distinct from grappling. What are your thoughts?
Dan Inosanto: Trapping is actually easier on the ground. The ground takes away one vector of motion, so it limits the opponent’s motion and forces him to be really elusive. A good shootwrestler or BJJ practitioner knows all about trapping at a high level, but he doesn’t necessarily call it “trapping.” He might call it “clinching” or “pinning” or “holding,” but all those terms reflect a form of trapping. For example, if someone underhooks your arm or grabs your arm and hits you or throws you, you got trapped. A trap doesn’t have to be a pak sao or lap sao or something like that.

Black Belt: On the ground, can you employ a variety of percussive or striking techniques?
Dan Inosanto: Absolutely. You have to be able to flow into and out of whatever a situation calls for or whatever energy your opponent gives you. Like I said, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a strong trapping art, and higher-level practitioners might trap your arm and transition to a position of greater advantage and leverage, then start punching or elbowing you. You have to realize that trapping in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, for example, is about creating control of a limb to create control of the opponent’s body before attempting a submission. When I was training with sifu Bruce in stand-up, he’d create a control on two of my limbs just for a moment and hit me at least two or three times per trap.

Black Belt: Perhaps because of the earliest UFCs, there was a lot of talk about how boxing doesn’t work on the ground. On the other hand, I’ve heard that Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini would even bob and weave on the ground. Is that true?
Dan Inosanto: Yes. While we were training once, I was watching him hold someone in the guard when he was working on vale tudo. As the person in the guard was trying to rain down punches on him, Boom Boom bobbed and weaved until he found an opening for either his punches or a control and submission. He didn’t have to be taught that. He just applied his natural instinct as a world-class boxer. You can certainly employ a great deal of what works in standing range on the ground as long as you understand the context. The clinch skills he learned as a stand-up boxer serve him very well on the ground.

Black Belt: Some instructors claim that it’s hard to get power when striking on the ground.
Dan Inosanto: Boom Boom Mancini can uppercut you in his guard, and it will seriously rattle you. It doesn’t take a knockout shot each time. All you have to do is get a couple of shots in, and you’ll be surprised how greatly your opponent’s skill or ability level decreases. The late Carlson Gracie said that the first punch a black belt takes can turn him into a brown belt. After two punches, he becomes a purple belt, and after three punches, he’s operating at a blue belt’s technical level. After four, he’s basically in raw survival mode.

A punch can also be a setup for another technique, like an attack-by-drawing sequence. You can use a punch as an irritant, just to get the opponent to put his arms up, which in turn can give you the opportunity to change position, gain control and make a submission.

Black Belt: What are your thoughts on the grappling legacy of Lee?
Dan Inosanto: My personal thought is that sifu Bruce would think that it’s OK to research other grappling arts, like shooto and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I think that if he’d had information on those systems, he’d have researched them to find out what was valuable.

These days, we use some of their techniques and moves in our JKD. When I teach, I always say, “This move came from shootwrestling,” “This series came from kali,” or “This move came from Brazilian jiu-jitsu.” We maintain the integrity of what was passed on from sifu Bruce while not closing our eyes to the good points of other systems.

I hold the rank of senior shooter under sensei Yori Nakamura, black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Rigan Machado and sixth-level black belt in bando under Dr. Maung Gyi, but regardless of those achievements, I realize that I have to be more proficient and knowledgeable. Even though I learned grappling from masters such as LaCoste, Tenio and Subing, the arts of shooto, BJJ and Erik Paulson’s Combat Submission Wrestling refined my understanding of grappling.

It’s like when you go to someone’s house, you don’t walk in the door and see that every little thing [comes] from only one store. You might see one piece of furniture, like a couch, from one store and an end table from another store. As long as the ensemble works well together visually and functionally, nobody makes a big deal out of it. That is JKD. You don’t have to embrace everything that comes from one source or rely solely on one source for everything you need. What we have and what we use as individuals should be customized to our tastes and abilities. Rigan Machado said to me: “You don’t embrace the entire system of BJJ but rather embrace what works for you in BJJ. You don’t adapt to BJJ but take out of jiu-jitsu what adapts to you.”

Some critics will say, “Don’t call that ‘JKD grappling,’” since what we’re teaching might be only 40 percent of what sifu Bruce taught, but what worked for him might not work for you. JKD grappling is a result of research, experimentation, creation and development in order to tailor-make a system of grappling that suits the individual. It is a sharing, experimenting and learning process at my academy and is under constant evolution.

Street fighting is evolving. Back in the 1960s, nobody knew how to kick like the average street fighter does now. And nowadays, because of media exposure, the average untrained assailant is more familiar with grappling. War, conflict, combat, fighting—however you want to put it—it’s in constant evolution. If your combative technology and strategies don’t evolve, you risk extinction. The spirit behind JKD is still intact and very much alive, but the body and the usage of it have evolved to be aware of the entirety of combat.

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N. Wellwood Avenue closed off Monday while crews repair the damage caused by Irene and her downed trees.
•ByRick Karas

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This list is in no particular order. I could have put krav maga, haganah and others in there, but when I got to 10, I stopped. This list will piss off many instructors, but they have to realize, for example, that with a system like kyokushinkai, which came from goju-ryu and has many descendants like asahara, enshin, yoshukai and zendokai, they were not left out. Krav maga, for example, has nothing that the Okinawan, Japanese and kickboxing systems do not. If I were to include all of them, the list would go into the hundreds.

Kyokushinkai Karate

It has a great history of physical toughness and conditioning, as well as an arsenal of leg kicks, sweeps and knee strikes from the outside and from the pocket. Most K-1 champions come from this style. It’s weak on ground maneuvers, though.

Outlaw Tai Chi

It has an effective composition of quick strikes (cutting and tissue-ripping moves) to vital areas like the eyes, ears, face, neck and groin. The emphasis in training is on pure nonclassical maneuvers, as is seen in most other Chinese systems. However, this style is weak on structure and ground maneuvers.

Bando

Although strictly a weapons-based style, it lends itself to highly effective defensive techniques (without weapons) from old-school monk tactics largely developed years ago in Southeast Asia along trade routes. It contains bleeding techniques, head striking, low-level flange kicks, drop kicks and farewell kicks not taught in other kickboxing styles.

Kajukenbo

It’s a hybrid system that uses the best parts of other styles, from upright maneuvers to grappling. It was designed strictly for self-defense, instead of adhering to traditional rituals or sporting competition. Its weaknesses are a lack of movements to control the horizontal relationship with assailants—like all styles—and always using the hands as the primary means of defense.

Chinese Kenpo

It has a curriculum that encompasses all areas of self-defense. Practitioners learn a range of attacking angles, realistic scenarios and methods for defending from any position with any weapon. The main weakness is a lack of emphasis on ground maneuvers, along with limited kicking and knee striking.

Okinawa-Te

The original system had a complete arsenal of weapon and non-weapon skills. It had the perfect blend of old-school, pain-tolerance training with scientific skills that utilized the least amount of effort and time to produce the maximum amount of damage. Its weaknesses are the amount of time it takes to learn all the long animal forms (there are 36, with one having up to 500 moves) and a lack of “balanced” ground maneuvers.

Judo

Although it was created along the lines of a non-jutsu activity, which means it was designed mainly for exercise and sport, the best bouncers I’ve ever worked with were judo black belts. Because judoka spend most of their time doing tug-of-war-type drills with partners on the mat, they’re very successful in reality combat, even with their limited striking ability.

Aikijutsu

Its tactics for off-balancing an opponent before leveraging him—as opposed to jujutsu, which is more concerned with straight leverage—is a good system to bridge the gap between the sport/exercise aspects of the old-school (read: hard-core) jutsu forms and the free-flowing sport forms we see on TV. Beware of the ‘consumer’ atmosphere found in some schools today and the lack of effective striking skills when practicing self-defense drills.

Kickboxing

This style can offer the very best of realistic, upright striking skills, hands down. If you learn the old muay boran knees, the head butt, the bleeding and cutting techniques, and the old-school takedowns, this system cannot be beat. Its weakness is a lack of attention to self-defense as opposed to sport. The conditioning drills taught at most authentic schools make up for any need to practice purely self-defense scenarios.

Boxing

Few martial arts teach these two defensive skills: Use the head to protect the head and the body to protect the body. Instead, they use weapon-fighting tactics—using the hands to protect the head or the body. For self-defense from the pocket, it would be hard to defend against a good boxer. Of course, his lack of elbow strikes, groin attacks and ground defense is limiting, but for pain tolerance and conditioning, it can’t be beat.

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You can stage a coup on calories without ruining your life or eating a single rice cake: Just follow this simple advice.

Way #1

Always Eat a Man’s Breakfast
No more Lucky Charms—you want some protein and fat. Scrambled eggs and a few sausage links will keep you fuller longer than an airy doughnut will.

Way #2

Eat More!
We’re talking three good snacks and three healthful meals. But what do you serve during the bowl game if you can’t have chips and dip? Mixed nuts—especially almonds—will satisfy your craving for something crunchy while helping to build muscle.

Way #3

Just Say No to Starches
Foods like pasta, white bread, and potatoes make you fat. If you must have pasta, make yours whole-wheat. Same goes for bread, and swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes. Just don’t eat too much!

Way #4

Lift Weights
Yes, you have to hit the gym, and no, lifting beer cans during happy hour doesn’t count. The muscles you build will not only improve your performance, they’ll stoke your metabolism so you burn calories long after your workout is over.

Way #5

Think Before You Eat
Don’t just stuff your face with the stale cookies left over from the holidays, eat what tastes good and what’s good for you. Take your time eating; you’ll stay fuller longer.

Way #6

But Have Fun Once in a While—or Once a Week
Stifle those cravings for too long, and you’ll be miserable and might fall off your new plan forever. Just splurge reasonably—two slices of pizza, not the whole thing.

Way #7

Go Low-Carb
It’s the easiest way to drop weight fast. The cravings are hard at first, but it gets easier—especially when you see the results.

Way #8

Run Intervals
It’s easier to alternate between hard and easy running instead of going for a long run—especially if you don’t like running. Plus, you’ll be done faster and burn more fat.

Way #9

Never, Ever Drink Sweetened Soda
But go ahead, have a glass of wine now and then. Low-carb beer is fine, too, in moderation.

Way #10

Don’t Fear Fat
It makes you feel full, helps control your appetite, and your body needs it.

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By Eric Cressey, C.S.C.S., Photographs by Aaron Hewitt
Lawyers have a word for accused criminals who represent themselves in court: convicts. Similarly, trainers like me have a word for guys who write their own workouts. Several words, actually: “weak,” “injured,” “skinny,” “fat,” and, worst of all, “skinny-fat.”

Why? Because it’s human nature for us to make it easy on ourselves. We pick exercises we like. We design workouts that play to our strengths and ignore our weaknesses.

And yet the most successful programs I’ve used are ones I created for myself. My secret? I follow the same process I use to write workouts for my clients, starting with the five considerations on the following pages. Guide yourself with them, and you’ll create a custom routine that can have you looking stronger and more buff in no time.

1. Which exercises should I include?

The best workouts are built on basic compound exercises: squats, deadlifts, bench and shoulder presses, chinups, rows. As your own trainer, your job is to fit these exercises into a balanced program. Below are the exercise categories I draw from to do just that, along with the number of times I use a category in a week. But to make it easy, my Ultimate Strength Workout shows you exactly how to put it all together. Add in a great warmup and some core work, and you’ll have a template you can use to build the body you want.

SQUAT (1 or 2 times a week)
Includes barbell back and front squats and all the dumbbell variations.

DEADLIFT (1 or 2 times a week)
Includes traditional barbell deadlifts (arms outside legs), sumo-style (wide stance, arms inside legs) and straight-leg lifts, and more variations than most of us could do in a lifetime.

SINGLE LEG (2 or 3 times a week)
Includes lunges; stepups; single-leg squats; and deadlifts with body weight, a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells.

HORIZONTAL PULL (2 or 3 times a week)
“Horizontal” refers to the direction of movement if you were standing up. So if you’re doing a seated cable row or a bent-over dumbbell row, it’s still considered a horizontal pull. This category also includes face pulls and inverted rows.

HORIZONTAL PUSH (2 times a week)
Examples of these exercises include the classic pushup; the bench press with barbell or dumbbells; dips; and all their variations.

VERTICAL PULL (1 or 2 times a week)
Includes chinups, pullups, and lat pulldowns.

VERTICAL PUSH (0 or 1 time a week)
Includes all the variations of the shoulder press.

2. What should I do first?

The first exercise in each workout should be the one that requires the most effort. If your goal is overall strength, begin one workout with a squat and another with a deadlift, and separate them as much as possible. So if you do squats on Monday, do deadlifts on Friday. On Wednesday, you could start with an upper-body exercise. If your main goal is upper-body size, do the reverse and start your Monday and Friday workouts with upper-body exercises.

3. How many sets/reps?

Most of us do well with a mix of heavy (for strength), medium (for muscle size), and light (for muscular endurance) weights. This calls for a combination of low-rep (3 to 6), moderate-rep (7 to 10), and high-rep (11 to 15) sets.

Your set count should be inversely related to your number of reps per set. If you’re doing high reps (15, say), 1 to 2 sets might be enough. For 10 to 12 reps, do 2 or 3 sets. For 8 reps, 3 or 4 sets would work well. And if you’re doing 3 or 4 reps per set, you probably want to do 5 or 6 sets.

The key is to manage the total volume of each workout. On this month’s workout poster, you’ll see that each sample workout includes 14 total sets of strength exercises. Add in core training and perhaps another exercise to shore up a weakness, and you could end up with 20 total sets.

That’s not a magic number; you may see better results with more or less volume. But it’s a good benchmark for most men, most of the time.

4. How will I make progress?

This, of course, depends on your main goal.

STRENGTH
You measure progress by the number of plates on the bar, so you want to increase the weight on your main exercises each week. Let’s say you’re doing 5 sets of 3 reps of the front squat. In the first week, you use 135 pounds for your fourth and fifth sets. The second week, you might go up to 155 pounds for the final sets.

You can continue like this for a few weeks, but eventually you’ll hit a point when your strength gains are smaller than the weights you can add to the bar. To use heavier weights, you have to reduce your number of repetitions. So instead of 5 sets of 3, you might do 3 sets of 3 and 2 sets of 2. Or you could do 6 sets of 2, using progressively heavier weights in each set, with the goal of using the heaviest weight possible in your final set each week. You can apply this strategy to any exercise, with any configuration of sets and reps.

SIZE
Muscles grow bigger when you make them stronger, which is easy enough to understand even if it’s sometimes hard to pull off. They grow because you make them do more work. You can accomplish that by adding a rep or two to each set or by adding a set to each exercise.

Let’s say you’re doing the barbell incline bench press. You start with 4 sets of 6. For the first few weeks, you should see steady increases in strength simply by adding more weight to the bar. When you feel your strength reaching a plateau, try to squeeze out an extra repetition or two—that is, do 7 or 8 reps—with the same weight on your final 2 sets. Or you could add a fifth set. That gives you more total work, which should lead to bigger muscles.

5. How can I keep my program fresh?

Your workouts will turn boring—maybe even counterproductive—if you don’t revise them every 4 to 6 weeks. You have two ways to keep them challenging.

1. Change exercises within each category—switch from chinups to pullups, for example.

2. Change order. If you’ve been doing 3 sets of 10 reps of the final exercise in a workout, try doing it first, using heavier weights for 5 sets of 3 reps.

Whichever strategy you choose, I highly recommend that you give yourself a weeklong break between programs. You don’t need to take the week off; just use that week to do less—fewer sets, lighter weights. You’ll likely find that this “rest” helps boost future gains. And it’s especially important if you’re feeling beaten up and run-down.

Last point: The only way to figure out what works best for you is to haul your butt into the weight room, push yourself, and see what happens. Until then, the best-written plans are just pieces of paper in your gym bag.

Anybody can slap together a bunch of exercises and call it a workout. Many people do, and they have the mediocore results to prove it. But we have a way to create the perfect workout for YOU. Eric Cressey’s Ultimate Strength Workout is available exclusively on Men’s Health Personal Trainer. Try the workout for 4 to 6 weeks, then customize it by plugging in your own exercises. Click here to learn more!

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The Classic
Good for: General upper-body conditioning

Balance your weight on your toes and palms, with your hands a comfortable
distance apart, probably just beyond shoulder-width. Your body should form a
straight line from your ankles to your head. Squeeze your glutes and brace your
abdominals, and keep them that way for the duration of the exercise. Slowly
lower yourself to the floor, pause, and push yourself back up. Repeat a few
hundred times.

Variations: Three-point pushup (place one foot on top of the other to make
the exercise a little more challenging); decline pushup (set your feet on a
bench or chair to strengthen your shoulders); and triceps pushup (place your
hands close together, directly under your shoulders, and keep your elbows tucked
close to your sides as you lower your body—an adjustment that shifts the work
from your chest to your arms).

Rotational Pushup

Good for: Athletic performance in sports involving torso rotation, such as
tennis, hockey, and baseball

Assume the classic pushup position, but as
you come up, rotate your body so your right arm lifts up and extends overhead.
Your arms and torso should form a T. Return to the starting position, lower
yourself, then push up and rotate till your left hand points toward the
ceiling.

Variations: One-dumbbell (grip a dumbbell in one hand, rotate to
the dumbbell side for half your repetitions, then switch the dumbbell to the
other hand); two-dumbbell (grip dumbbells in both hands, and alternate sides
when you come up).

Barbell Pushup

Good for: Stability of midsection, shoulder; grip strength

Get into
the classic pushup position with your hands on a barbell (the kind that can roll
away if you don’t keep it steady). Knock out the pushups, but not yourself—keep
in mind that one slip can send you crashing teeth-first into the floor.

Plank

Good for: Posture; midsection endurance and stability

Lie facedown,
rest your weight on your forearms and toes, tuck your hips, and hold your body
in a straight line from ankles to shoulders for 5 seconds. Do a total of 10
5-second holds.

Variations: When 5-second holds are easy, progress to
longer holds, until you can stay in the position for 30 seconds. Next, try a
regular push up position with your hips tucked. When you can hold that for 30
seconds, try it on your knuckles.

walking pushup

Good for: Abdominal development; shoulder stability

Set up in the
classic pushup position on a smooth floor, and place your feet on a towel. Walk
with your hands across the room, turn, and walk back. Keep your back flat
throughout the movement.

Plyometric Pushup

Good for: Developing upper-body power

Set up in the classic position
on a well-padded carpet or exercise mat. Push up hard enough for your hands to
come off the floor and catch some air. When you hit the floor, go immediately
into the next repetition, pushing up again as hard as you can and catching more
air.

suspended pushup

Good for: Upper-body strength and stability

Wrap a pair of straps (or
chains) around a chinup bar or the crossbar of a power rack. At the bottom, the
straps should be about 12 inches off the floor. Attach gymnastics-type rings (or
a straight bar) to the ends of the straps

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Anthony Galie has been motivating people for more than 30 years and is an expert on teaching others how to achieve even the loftiest of goals. He firmly believes that a person can purposefully rewire their subconscious mind for success. Watch this week’s video to hear Galie discuss some great ways you can program yourself to succeed.

Did you learn anything from this video? Did this speech motivate you to strive for greater success? Do you use any of the methods Galie promotes? After watching the video be sure to share your comments below, and feel free to pass this video on to friends and family.

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