Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Signs someone is trying to rip you off:
• Extravagant claims of massive improvement in a short period of time with little or no effort. If it sounds too good to be true, guess what? It is.
• Claims of secret or suppressed knowledge that "the [diet/fitness/medical/exercise] establishment" doesn't want you to know about. Claims that all well-established forms of exercise like running and lifting weights are wrong.
• Claims about spot reduction or converting fat to muscle, both of which are impossible. Losing fat and gaining muscle are possible, but you don't literally turn one into the other.
• Use of meaningless language like "toning" or "sculpting" instead of talking about quantifiable changes to body composition, strength or endurance.
• Magical language. Your personal spirituality is beyond the scope of this guide, but appeals to vaguely defined concepts like "energy fields" that are never actually explained and "internal cleansing" of various "toxins" that always remain nameless are usually strong indicators that someone is trying to con you.
• Overuse of scientific-sounding language that is never actually defined. Real programs may have some jargon in them, but they will explain what the jargon means. At worst, you'll be able to easily find the meaning of their terminology, because they're using real concepts with a real scientific basis. Con artists just tend to throw lots of big words at you in the hope that you just give up and assume that they're smarter than you are, and you can never find out what they actually mean, because they just made it up to sell you something.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Progress beyond poundage
The thing about your weight is that it doesn't tell you what you're made of, just how much of you there is. The name of the game is losing fat, not muscle, so what happens if fat goes down and weight stays the same or goes up? You made up the difference in lean mass, of course. You shrink in areas that were full of fat, because muscle is more dense than fat. People on good programs often see larger changes in clothing sizes that their weight change would suggest. This is a good thing, because your real progress in terms of appearance is better than the scale is telling you.
The best way to track your overall progress appearance-wise is by measuring yourself with a tape measure in areas you want to get bigger or smaller, and by taking pictures of yourself at regular intervals. This way you can see how your body composition is changing for the better.
Monday, January 09, 2012
Watching your weight
Your body weight isn't everything - composition is more important - but it is certainly good to know. What follows are tips for tracking your weight.
A common pitfall in tracking weight is to weigh yourself at different times of the day. You body weight can easily swing 5 pounds based on how hydrated you are, when the last time you ate or had a bowel movement was, and so on. For most consistent results, weigh yourself first thing in the morning, preferably fully evacuated. Incidentally, this is also a lower weight than any other time of the day.
Don't weigh yourself every day, you'll see too much random variation to know if anything is going on, and the overall change you are looking for is only going to be a few pounds a week. So weigh yourself once a week.
Friday, January 06, 2012
Lifting weights: example programs
The following are good, proven programs to follow for weight lifting. The key thing to keep in mind is that you don't need a perfect program for you, because one doesn't exist anyway. You just need to follow a program that is fundamentally sound and work hard at it. Some of the programs are more bodybuilder-oriented or athlete-oriented, but in truth they all do the same basic things and work on the same basic principles. For a normal person working hard at them, they'll produce the results a normal person would want: more strength, more muscle and less fat.
Recommend beginners do dumbbell rows instead of Pendlay Rows or Power Cleans (because they are easier to do correctly), and stick to the military press instead of the optional hang cleans (for the same reason).
Bill Starr Linear 5x5:
This is a very good, basic workout from a renowned strength coach.
Big Boy Basics:
This program is a bit more complex than the other two and incorporates more workouts per week, but is definitely worth a look.
HAVE A FANTASTIC WEEKEND!
Friday, January 06, 2012
Lifting weights - general guidance for following any program
Track your progress in writing! Write down how much you lifted & how many times you lifted it every session. You won't have any sense of concrete progress if you don't, and you'll lose track of your lifts and screw things up. Every week, focus on beating your numbers from last week. If you cannot do this, it's time to analyze your diet and your sleep habits, because something is wrong.
Don't be afraid of barbells or dumbbells. The key to safely using them is to focus on good technique (form), and to increase the weight you are using gradually. Only do the exercise for as long as you can do the exercise properly and control the weight. If you can't control the weight, reduce the weight until you can.
Do a good warm-up. A few minutes of light cardio is a good general warm-up. Then before you do each exercise, do 8-12 reps with very light weight. Many weight lifting workouts have a built-in warm-up, where you start with a light weight and then increase the weight gradually with each set.
It is not important what weight you start with, but where you end up. Be conservative at first, but from then on constantly try to add weight or increase the number of repetitions for every exercise from workout to workout. If you do this, you'll be working very hard soon enough. 2.5% more weight per week is a realistic goal, and at first you may gain more like 5%/week. That sounds small, but it adds up to a huge strength improvement in a year.
You have to push yourself to get results, but don't be stupid. Soreness and stiffness are normal; genuine pain is not. If you hurt yourself, give yourself plenty of time to 100% recover from an injury before you start again, or you'll just re-injure yourself.
Most barbell exercises can be substituted with their dumbbell equivalent, or vice versa, and achieve the same training effect. As a beginner, you may find it easier or more comfortable to work with dumbbells, and this is fine. The only exceptions are squats and deadlifts, because it can be difficult to get enough weight on dumbbells without making it very awkward.
You need days off from lifting. Do not try to lift on off-days in a lifting program in an effort to make faster progress; you'll over-train and start doing worse, not better.
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