NF Mailbag: July 16, 2009 – Office Worker Wants to Add 15 Lbs. of Muscle

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Post length: 1800 words NF Difficulty: Advanced

NF Reader Ryan asks: I wonder if you can help me design a workout/diet routine, since I have a feeling I’m in a relatively similar situation to you when you started your bulk up quest.

For starters, I’m working your typical 8-4 desk job.  I use the gym in my building at work, which is nice because it costs me nada, but sucky because it’s got limited equipment.  It’s got some treadmills; machines for chest press, bicep, triceps, ab crunch, pull downs, shoulder press, leg press; free weights; and some benches.  There’s also a squat station, but I have never really done squats in my life.  I’ve always stuck to leg presses since my knees/ankles are shit and I’d rather be in a sitting position if my knee gives out than standing with XXX pounds on my shoulders.  With respect to time, if I work out, I like to do it during lunch, because at the end of the day I just want to get the F out of here.  So, if I do that, I have an hour.

I’d say the main problem for me is admittedly my diet, and that’s because I’ve never really smartly combined diet and exercise before.  Food was always one thing and working out was completely separate, and never the two did meet.  I never eat breakfast, because I’m one of those ‘get up-shower-gtfo the door’ kind of people.  Ok, I eat a weak ass cereal bar when I get to work — but that’s basically nothing.  And I don’t eat “right” for dinner, because I despise the time and effort it takes to cook a decent meal haha.  So, tell me what I need to go get for groceries and I’ll begrudgingly follow suit.  Right now I probably weigh about 165, which is decent considering my height, but I want to add maybe 10-15 lbs-ish of muscle and tone up a bit to be more cut.  My metabolism (like yours) has always kept me in decent shape and not overweight, so that’s a bonus; but I’d like to get into a more solid routine and figured you could weigh in (no pun intended…. seriously).

Steve writes: Hey Ryan, thanks for the email; let’s break this down into two parts, diet and exercise.  We’ll start with diet, because that’s by far the most important thing:

Diet

As I tell most people, the most success I’ve found with tracking my weight has been by using the free account at dailyburn.com, so I’d recommend you sign up there, input your height, weight, and goal weight, and it will tell you how many calories you need to eat per day.  Then you divide that number by 5 or 6 (depending on how many meals you can eat per day), and you have how many calories, carbs, and grams of protein you need to eat with each meal.  First of all, you need to start with a great healthy breakfast.  Eggs and wheat toast, oatmeal and a protein shake, etc.  I don’t have much time in the morning either, so my mornings usually start with a giant shake that has 40 grams of protein and 60-70 grams of carbs in it to get my morning started.  Get that metabolism started and the muscle building as soon as you wake up!

I try to get 25-30 g of protein with each meal.  Here are the best sources of protein: eggs, milk, chicken, fish, lean ground beef, almonds, peanuts, and most legumes too.

veggietales1Throw in some good carbs: vegetables are your best bet, wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes.  The more vegetables you can eat and the less refined carbs you can eat, the more ‘cut’ you’ll end up looking.  The most important meals are breakfast (read why here), the meal right after your workout (generally a shake with equal parts protein and carbs), and then the last one right an hour before bed (just protein, no carbs…don’t want them to turn to fat while you sleep).

If you can’t stuff your face with good food right after your gym workout, it’s a waste of time.  So either eat a good meal, or bring in a blend and some whey protein powder.  I do it in my office, and you get the occasional joke from a co-worker, but it’s usually coming from somebody who has a donut in their hand.  You win, trust me.

The reason you need to eat as often as possible (every 2-3 hours) is because after you work out, your body is constantly rebuilding the muscles you just broke down, so you want to supply your muscles with a constant supply of building material (protein).  Because you’re looking to bulk up, you’re going to want to eat carbs too, so that your body doesn’t run out of energy and use the protein for that instead of building muscle.  Vegetables are low on calories, high on fiber, really good for you, and can count for your carbohydrate intake.

You’ll probably put on a few pounds of fat as you put on 15 lbs of muscle.  I’d recommend bulking up (by eating like crazy in the manner listed above), and then we can make a few changes to your diet and exercise routine to burn off the fat and leave behind the muscle afterward (more sprints, more vegetables, less refined carbs).

Exercise

Okay, so you have a free gym at work, and you have an hour for lunch.  This sounds perfect, because I don’t like workouts to go more than 45 minutes AT THE MOST.  I’d start off with a quick 3-5 minute warm up (treadmill, jumping jacks, jumping rope) just to get the heart pumping and your muscles warmed up.

457mI’d try to stay away from the machines if possible (read why here), only because they don’t allow your muscles to have free range of motion, which is crucial. When you use free weights, you have to recruit extra muscle fibers to keep the weight steady, so you’re building extra muscle on top of muscle while you’re working out, sort of like a two for one.  I know you say you have knee problems, so I think sticking with the leg press is okay.  However, I would recommend trying out squats (read my article on squats) with just the bar on your back, practice good form (watch the video), and go down til your thighs are parallel to the floor, and you’ll be amazed how much you work practically every muscle in your body.

If you’re not ready for squats, try some lunges with just your body weight (or with dumbbells in your hand) to build up strength in your legs and knee ligaments.  After initially being scared of both exercises for years, I’ve finally come around on the squat and deadlift and now I can’t get away from them.  As long as you do them right, by starting with low low low weight and just work on getting the motion down, you can do them safely and still see gains.

For the rest of your exercise, you want to keep your exercises intense, with minimal rest between sets, and keep your number of reps in your sets in the 6-12 range for maximum size.

The weight bench and the free weights are going to be your friend.  If there’s a pull up bar there, even better.

To start I would recommend full body routines that will work every single muscle in your body, and then to eat like crazy.  Here is a sample full body workout routine that I do on Mondays:

Exercise Routine

For each exercises, aim for 4-5 sets, waiting 1 minute between reps (example: 12 reps at x weight, 1 minute rest, 10 reps at x + 5 weight, 1 minute rest, 8 reps at x+ 10 weight, 1 minute rest, 6 reps at x+15 weight, 1 minute rest, 12 reps at x weight).

Picture 1Incline Dumbbell Chest Press (set bench at 35-45 degree angle, press dumbbells up and together) – 5 sets, 1 minute rest between sets.

Keep the rest between sets to just a minute, and obviously pick weights that work for you.  If you’re used to waiting 3 minutes between sets, you’re going to need to drop your weight BIG time.  After this your chest will burn, your shoulders will burn, and your triceps will burn.

Wide Grip Pull Ups (5 sets)

Do however many reps you can on the first set (stop at 12 if you can do more), then wait a minute and do the next set, etc.  By the 5th set you should be exhausted and probably only be able to do 1 or 2.  If you don’t have a pull up bar, I’d recommend a single arm dumbbell row (just alternate hands, increasing weight just like above for the Incline Dumbbell press, and don’t take any breaks.  By the time you finish the right side, the left side will have already waited 1 minute, so just rapid fire this one).

Squats, Lunges, or Leg Presses – 5 sets, 1 minute rest between sets

If you’re up for squats, try em out.  Even just the bar or 10 lb weights on each side is enough for you to feel it if you squat properly.  If you keep your butt back so that your knees don’t extend out over your toes, the pressure should be off your knees.  Squats really build up the strength of your core and abs, which will help with your quest to look shredded with six pack abs.

Romanian Deadlift

5 Sets, 1 minute rest between sets

This exercise is a little weird to explain, so here is a good instructional video.  Head over to the squat rack, grab the bar, put a slight bend in your legs, and then just bend over from your waist like a drinking bird, pushing your butt backwards and lowering the bar down to the middle of your shins.  This will work your butt, lower back, and hamstrings.

In 4 Exercises, you’ve worked every single muscle in your body, and you’re done in 35-40 minutes. Stretch for 5 minutes AFTER you workout to prevent injury, get the blood pumping into the muscles that are all tightened up, and then get the heck out of there.

You always want to keep your muscles guessing, so never do the same exercise two days in a row.  You can work that body part again after a few days, but hit it from a different angle with a different exercise to promote stronger growth.

Example: For chest, do dips between parallel bars (if your gym has them) or close grip bench press, chin ups instead of pull ups (palms facing you instead of away from you), regular deadlifts, and lunges.  The guys from 300 never did the same workout twice, and I think they turned out okay.

If you want to REALLY get dedicated, add 20 minutes of interval training/sprints on Tuesday and Thursday.  You’ll be surprised how crazy you can get in 20 minutes.  Read all about interval training here; you can burn fat and boost your metabolism in these 20 minutes, perfect for building lean muscle and shredding fat.  And if you’re dead set on looking shredded, cut back on soda and drinking and those pounds of fat will fly right off.

-Steve

Have a question for Steve? Email him at [email protected] and you might be featured in next week’s Mailbag.

You Can’t OutRun Your Fork!

Whenever I talk to people about how to get in shape, all they want to talk about is what to do in the gym to look better and feel better.  I tell them I only get 3 hours a week in the gym; they have the other 165 hours a week to either stay on track or fall off the wagon.  Regardless of what you do or who you want to look like, diet is far and away the most important thing you need to take care of before you have a chance in hell at getting in shape.  Two truths:

  • If you’re overweight, you need to make significant changes to your diet if you want to get in shape.
  • If you’re skinny and want to bulk up, you need to make significant changes to your diet.

When you break down weight loss into it’s most basic elements, you need to burn more calories than you consume.  Sounds simple right?  Have you ever really stopped to think about how easy it is to eat 100 calories and how hard it is to burn 100?  It’s a simple math equation, so you can’t really fudge the numbers like Enron accountant.  You either burn more than you eat, or eat more than you burn.  Here’s a little chart I made to drive that point home.  After factoring what you normally eat, if you eat/drink any of these other things extra on top of what you normally eat:

Picture 6

Now, take a look at that chart, and tell me what you see. Some of these numbers aren’t exact, but they’re pretty damn close; I kept the numbers even to keep things simple: Let’s say you eat two donuts for breakfast, hit up Domino’s for lunch, grab some fries and a drink from McDonald’s on the way home, and then eat a Taco Bell Fiesta Salad (hey it’s a salad! it’s good for me) before bed.  That’s a day full of calories.  Now, you do need to factor in your Basal Metabolic Rate (calculate here), which is how many calories you burn to just exist.  If you eat 3500 calories a day (thank you Bread Bowl), and you burn 2000 for your BMR, That means you practically need to run a half marathon to even things out.

If you eat normal meals, just go a little bit over budget (an extra 250 calories every day) and don’t burn it off, then you’re looking  at an extra 25 lbs of extra weight each year. (500 calories per day more = 1 extra pound of body fat a week.  500 calories less per day = 1 lb of fat loss).

Remember last week’s post about using common sense? See if you can justify to yourself having to run a HALF-EFFING-MARATHON because you ate an extra 1500 calories worth of crap today.  Drink a 6 pack of coke while working?  That’s fine, just start running til you’ve burned them off.

Calories in, calories out. That equation isn’t changing, so unless you have hours and hours to dedicate to fitness, why not make a change or two to your diet, sacrifice the 10 minutes of bliss you get from a McFlurry, and start losing weight immediately?  I can only dedicate an hour or less to fitness every day, which means I need to watch what I eat, and I’m fine with that.  You can’t outrun your fork, but you can certainly watch this 6 minute video of a guy beating the original version of Sega’s OutRun.  Going to be honest, I gave up after 15 seconds, but maybe you’re a big OutRun fan:


OutRun Speed Run Video

Yesterday’s Survey Results

I’d like to start with a big thank-you to the people that filled out the survey yesterday (here’s the link in case you missed it).  I got a lot of really good information and some insight on what you’re looking for.  An overwhelming majority of you weren’t interested in a Nerd Fitness message board, so I’m going to hold off on creating one for the time being.  I can see one happening eventually once the community is big enough to support it, but in the meantime I’m just going to concentrate on pumping out solid content on a daily basis.

Another big thing that came through in the surveys was that I didn’t have enough “nerdiness” on the site…and I agree. If you wanted generic fitness advice, you could get it anywhere on the web.  There’s no shortage of fitness sites (although most are garbage), and I want to create content that you can’t get anywhere else.  I actually came up with a great idea (I think it’s great anyways) this afternoon and spent a good 3 hours working on it.  Depending on the programming, hopefully I should be able to add it to the site in a few weeks.  For those of you looking for more nerd in Nerd Fitness, it’s coming.

Thanks again,

-Steve

PS Who caught the Harry Potter midnight show last night (there has to be at least one of you).  How was it?

Help Me Help You!

Picture 1Nerd Fitness is growing, which makes me happy.  I really feel like a proud parent.

Which is good, because I don’t have kids, I’m not married; hell, I don’t even have a girlfriend (which is also good, because I couldn’t afford one if I did).  Might as well be proud of something, right?

As this site gets bigger, I want to make sure it’s getting better as well, which means I could really use your help by filling out the survey that I link to here.  It’s only 7 questions long, and 4 of them are multiple choice.  The quiz will literally take you 5 minutes, and you’re just watching YouTube videos anyway. After the link I talk about why I ask the questions I did.

Nerd Fitness General Survey

What do you want to read?

As I plan out the week for what I’m going to write about, I try to stick with a mix of diet, motivation, humor (shut up, I’m funny), and success stories.  Are there certain kinds of posts that you enjoy reading more than others?  Did you seriously get anything out of my post last week on squats, or would you rather just hear more about the workout routines and success of actors who prepare for movies like Ryan Reynolds in Blade Trinity or Gerard Butler in 300?

If I know what you’re looking for, it’s much easier for me to write what you want to read.

Message Boards

If Nerd Fitness had a website, would you join it?  I’ve seen a few really great message boards, and I’ve seen message boards where everybody yelled at each other, discounted each others’ opinions, and generally made it a hostile environment.  If I were to create a Nerd Fitness board, I envision a place where NF readers interact with each other, I answer questions that will in turn help others who might have a similar question, and the community motivates each other to become better people.  I’d rather have 10-15 legitimate posters actively contributing than thousands who just trash each other and run everybody else out.

Message boards can be scary, so I want to make sure you guys would actually get use out of it before moving forward with creating one.

My First E-Book

I’d like to put together a free e-book for loyal Nerd Fitness readers, I just want to know what you guys want in it: specific diet and exercise instruction, general tips, a compilation of Nerd Fitness success stories, or maybe even two books: one for skinny nerds looking to bulk up, and one for big nerds looking to trim down.

Let me know what you want in the book, and I’ll start writing it tomorrow.

Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.  Here’s the link again to the survey.

-Steve

MY UFC 100 Story from Las Vegas

I spent the past weekend at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV for a bachelor party (yes I’ve seen The Hangover; we booked this trip way before we heard about the movie). Anyways, we managed to book a room coincidentally in the very hotel where the 100th Ultimate Fighting Championship was taking place.  I’ve never seen a single UFC event (because I’m too cheap to pay 55 bucks to watch it on TV), so I had no idea what to expect when my friends convinced me to head over to the MGM Grand and watch it on a massive TV with hundreds of other fans.  The only guy I had heard of prior to watching the event was Brock Lesnar, a terrifying beast of a man who probably eats bullets for lunch and punches grizzly bears when he’s bored.

By the end of the three hour event, I left even more terrified of Lesnar, but far more impressed with the guys in the middle weight classes. These fighters all hover around the 180-190 weight and are built like absolute machines with zero body fat and incredible skills.  Because I’m in that exact weight class, I realized what’s possible as far as athleticism and strength if I’m willing to work for it.  One guy in particular stood out above the rest: Canadian mixed martial artist Georges St. Pierre. (GSP as he is known among fans). This guy rules.  For those of you who have been following UFC for years and want to yell at me for being late to the party, last one on the bandwagon, etc., shut it!  Better late than never, right?

GSP has black belts in both Kyokushin karate and Brazilian jiu jitsu. At age 7, he decided to learn karate to defend himself against a school bully, but it was watching Royce Gracie fight in 1993 at UFC 1 that inspired him to one day become a UFC champion.  Since then, he’s gone on to study all kinds of other fighting styles (boxing, wrestling, etc.) to ‘diversify his portfolio’ and make sure his opponents would always have to guess how he’d attack next.  On Saturday, fighting against a guy 20 lbs heavier than him (who used far stronger dehydration techniques to get down to the right weight class for the weigh-in), GSP put on a clinic and in five rounds managed to keep his championship title by dismantling Thiago Alves.  GSP actually pulled his groin halfway through the 3rd round and proceeded to fight for two additional five-minute rounds.

Picture 1The thing I loved about watching GSP fight was both his technical style (not a single weakness) and the sheer amount of strength, endurance, and muscle he can pack into 185 lbs. The guy has tree trunks for legs.  Actual tree trunks!  When I watched GSP fight, all I could think of was efficiency.  There is no wasted fat on his body, and no wasted movement in the ring; every strike, punch, kick, tackle, or grapple is done because it’s the most efficient and productive move at that precise moment.  Other than his pulled groin, GSP looked only slightly tired after going five rounds; his opponent on the other hand looked like he had just been run over by a train.  You know my stance on efficiency, and Georges St. Pierre has buckets of it.

You can call me a GSP disciple and a converted UFC fan.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to start taking steroids, buy a Tapout t-shirt, and get a terrible tattoo.  No offense to you normal UFC fans out there…but to the rest of you, COME ON!  I figure if I look like GSP and have his endurance, I’m doing something right, so expect a blog post in the future with his training and diet techniques.  “That’s a crazy goal to have” you might say.  Why not try to model yourself after the best, right?  Other than training and eating right to look like GSP, but as soon as I can afford it, I plan on taking Capeoira classes (read about why here) as well.

Don’t worry Mom, I won’t be fighting anybody anytime soon – I like my face the way it is.  Now, even if you don’t like UFC, hopefully you can appreciate this guy’s dedication to his art and the way he has completely transformed his body into a lethal weapon.

GSP! GSP! GSP!

-Steve

The Diet Advice That Will Change Your Life

Want to lose weight fast, get rid of your gut, sleep better, look better, live longer, and become more attractive to the opposite sex?  WHO DOESN’T?!? Well, I’m here to tell you about an amazing diet breakthrough that will transform your life, if you’re willing to make the commitment and make these changes.  Are you ready?

Use your head, and stop eating crap!

There you go.  Take those two tips to the bank and thank me later.  These are the first two fundamental steps to losing weight.  You might be saying, “That’s dumb, and way too simple, give me something I can use,”…to which I’d reply, “oh really a-hole!” and then I’d apologize for calling you an a-hole.  I didn’t mean it.  But seriously, you’d be surprised how guilty you are of the things listed below, which you’d probably avoid if you used common sense:

  • If you order some food, place it on a napkin, and then you can see through the napkin because of the grease, it’s probably bad for you.
  • If you can’t pronounce 95% of the ingredients, it’s probably bad for you.
  • If it looks bad for you, it’s probably bad for you.
  • If it was deep fried, covered in some special sauce, and served with other things that are also deep fried, it’s probably bad for you.
  • If it came out of a vending machine, it’s probably bad for you.
  • If you ordered it at a drive-thru window, it’s probably bad for you.
  • If you’re ordering it at 2AM after a night of drinking, it’s probably bad for you.

How many times a week do you eat a value meal from a fast food joint, complete with fries and a large Coke?  How many times a day to go to your office’s snack machine?  Do you go to Waffle House after you go to a bar?  Do you skip breakfast?

nosodaThese are all simple changes you can make in your life if you’re actually dedicated. “Oh, I don’t want to give up soda, I need the caffeine,” “but I don’t have time to make a real meal, which is why I eat fast food.”   All I’m hearing here is excuses from weak-minded people who don’t want to change.  You don’t put sawdust in your gas tank because it will jack up your car’s insides.  You shouldn’t fuel your body with crap either!  If you really want to get in shape, these are the changes that will make or break you.  Are you mentally strong enough to give up sugary sodas, late night binge eating, and terrible fast food?  This whole health thing is 80% mental and 44% physical.  Think about it.

Not sure if something is good or bad for you?  Use your common sense, and I guarantee you’ll make the right decision.

Here’s the challenge: Give up fast food and soda for 3 weeks. Depending on how much soda and fast food you normally consume, you can see an absolutely ridiculous change in your weight and health.  Earlier this year, a Nerd Fitness reader was drinking 6 cans of Mountain Dew a day.  She gave up soda, started doing basic exercises, and guess what happened?  She LOST 30 effing pounds (over a few months, not 3 weeks…but still!)

wafflehouseWhy three weeks? Psychologists say it takes three weeks of doing a daily activity for it to become a habit.  Every day in your office, instead of drinking a can of Coke, get a big ole FREE glass of water from the water cooler.  Who knows, while you’re there you might even find out why everybody keeps talking up that Tobias Funke (please tell me you get this reference).  If you go out to dinner, save 2 bucks and get water (or ‘water with lemon’ if you want to scare your date away, pansy.)

No more late night fast food runs.  No more fast food runs during the day either.  “But it tastes so good!”  Yeah, of course it does!  It was created to taste good and be produced cheaply.  Just say no, and in a few weeks you won’t crave it any more, and eventually you won’t even miss it.  Bring your own lunch to work, bring a bag of almonds to snack on at your desk, celery and peanut butter, an apple, etc.  Don’t buy it from a vending machine, don’t buy it from a drive-thru (and no, going into McDonald’s doesn’t make it better).

It’s okay to treat yourself to terrible food or drinks every once and a while (I’m talking like once a week), but once you get to a certain point you won’t even want that ‘once a week,’ and you’ll wonder how you ever survived on the stuff.

-Steve

NF note: there may or may not be a new article tomorrow.  I’m flying to Vegas this weekend, which means I may or may not have to trade this laptop in for more casino chips.

Why you NEED squats in your workout and how to do them right

Please view the updated version of this article, Strength Training 101: How to Squat Properly.

One of the best exercises for you, whether you’re trying to build muscle or lose weight (or both) HAS to be the squat.

However, it’s also one of the most difficult exercises to do properly unless you actually know what you’re doing.  Let’s take a look at why this exercise is so great, and then how to perform it properly for maximum results and minimal chance of injury.

This article is 1100 words long, which is a testament to how beneficial and important this exercise is to fitness…and how easy it is to screw up.

Squats for the win!

Squats work practically every single muscle in your body.  Okay that’s an exaggeration, but it’s not far from the truth.  If you’re looking to burn fat, you want to do exercises that trigger as much of your body as possible so it’s all getting worked and exercised.  On the other side of the coin, if you’re looking to build muscle, your legs and back can put on the most muscle in the shortest amount of time.

If you are serious about getting in shape and losing weight, or if you’re a beanpole and looking to gain muscle, you absolutely need to include squats in your routine.

Before we get into how to do squats, here’s my squat story: When I started lifting weights back in high school, I went to the gym and had no idea what I was doing.  I had a guy “help” me out by throwing me into the Smith Machine (Stay away from the Smith Machine!  read why you should use free weights instead of machines whenever possible), load up some weight on it, and have me do squats all the way down to the floor.  Due to the angle of the bar coming from the Smith Machine, my back got all jacked up.  I just assumed I wasn’t cut out for squats, and stayed away from them.

A few years later I started doing squats again, but I was only going down a very short distance before standing up.  My legs weren’t really getting a workout, and I wasn’t really seeing the gains that everybody talks about you’re supposed to get from squatting: I still had chicken legs.  Eventually I moved back to the Smith machine (I was an idiot), added even more weight, still maintained that limited range of motion, and kept my chicken legs.

One day, I finally decided that I was going to man up and do actual squats. I hopped into the squat rack, loaded up some weight, went down for the squat, and got stuck.  Luckily the safety bars were in, and I got out of there with just a bruised ego.  I immediately took all the weight off the bar, and did low squats with JUST the bar (only 45 lbs) for 3 sets of 12.  My legs were sore for 3 days afterward, and my back didn’t hurt!  For a few months after that, I was adding weight extremely slowly, and concentrating on having perfect form with my squats.  My lower back got stronger, the ligaments in my knees got stronger, and my legs got stronger.

After feeling confident in my squatting ability, I started to add more weight more quickly, and the muscles started to build.  The other day I squatted a personal best, and it was in the 4th set after only a minute break since the previous set.  Sure I could add a lot more weight and take longer breaks between sets, but I’m content with being safe, lifting weight that I know won’t injure me because I’m always in control, and still seeing solid growth in my legs.

Squats for Newbies

Before we start loading you up with tons of weight, make sure you can do regular body weight squats.  Here is a video that looks like it was made in 1984, but does a great job explaining good form on a body weight squat:


Body Weight Squats

squat3A few tips to remember:

  • Squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. If you don’t go down that far, you’re cheating yourself and doing a fake squat.  Go way down, and you’ll feel it in every muscle in your leg.  This will give you a really strong core along with strong legs and a strong back.
  • Try not to extend your knees past your toes. If you’re doing the squats right, you should be sitting back with your ass out and back straight.
  • Don’t arch your back. The best way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to keep your head up when you squat, and KEEP YOUR ABS tight throughout the whole exercise (that’s right, squats will even work your abs).
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, and point your toes slightly outward.

Want to see a good test if you’re doing a good squat? Stand up in front of your desk chair, and ‘squat’ down into the chair.  Are you sitting?  Good. Now stand up without leaning forward at all.  if you’re squatting properly, your ass will be sticking out, your back will be straight, and you’ll be able to stand right back up without having to lean forward to get momentum to stand back up.

How to squat in a squat rack:

squat rackSo you’ve done the chair test, and you can sit and stand without having to lean forward.  You can do 3 sets 12 reps of body weight squats and that’s no longer a challenge.  Let’s try adding some weight.  Get into the squat rack, set the bar at just below your shoulder level, and set the safety bars low enough that you’ll be able to squat low with the bar on your shoulders.  Duck under the bar, grab the bar with your hands in a wide grip (palms facing forward), and rest the weight across the upper part of your back (not your neck!).  If the weight bothers you across your back, see if there’s a bar pad that you can put on there.  They’re usually lying around by the squat racks, smith machines, etc.

The position you want:

  • Flat Back
  • Elbows high
  • Chest up and out
  • Abs tight

Oh, and DON’T even think about wearing a weight belt (unless you’ve experienced serious back injury in the past).  Read why here.

No Squat Rack?

No problem, grab some dumbbells, and hold them in front of you like you’re getting ready to press them up to work your shoulders.  Keep them here as you squat up and down, maintaining the same good form as described above.  Want to get a full body workout?  Every time you stand up for your squat, press the weights up above you.  You’ll be working your legs, abs, back, shoulders, chest, and triceps with one exercise.  Just practice good form on both and you’ll be all set.

Doing squats ‘the right way’ and still getting lower back or knee pain?

If you are, then take 10 minutes and watch this great video on the two most common squatting errors and how to correct them.  Trust me, it will pay off in the long run:


Squatting Mistakes and how to fix them

If you’re afraid of squats, now is the time to add them into your routine.  Start with very light weight (or just your body weight), practice absolute perfect form, and then in a matter of weeks you’ll be packing on the plates and dropping body fat while building muscle

-Steve

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy reading:

photo source: squat

NF Mailbag – July 7th, 2009: Fix My Diet!

In this new segment of Nerd Fitness, I’ll be compiling some of the best emails and questions I receive each week (or every two weeks) and showcase them here on the site.  This is an experiment, so I’d love to hear from you on how informative these emails are and if it’s something worth continuing.  Now, just a warning.  I might have changed the name of the person who asked this first question just because I haven’t got his permission to use his real name yet.

Optimus Prime asks:

optimusprimeDiet. Obviously the most important part, right?  How does a person go about figuring out the right amount of calories a day?

I weigh 194 lbs (down from 225), and I have learned to incorporate exercise into my everyday life.  It hasn’t been easy, but the reward has been great.  I feel/look much better.  I want to take this more seriously, and eat better as well.  I already make sure to eat a good healthy breakfast (boost the metabolism) and I eat a healthy lunch/dinner.  However, I really only eat 3 times a day.

I need to determine how many calories I should be taking in, and then I would assume spread them throughout the day?  My fear is am doing all of this exercise, and not fueling my body enough.  However, I am also worried that I could take in too many calories, compared to what I am burning.

Steve says:

Thanks for the question Optimus!  First of all, congratulations on dropping 30 freaking pounds!  Most people struggle with the exercise part, because it’s tough to put everything aside and make time every day for getting in shape.  The fact that you’ve done that already is the easy part.  Onto the diet!

First – Figure out your goal weight, but DON’T GET TOO CAUGHT UP IN THE NUMBERS!  If you’re exercising daily, then I’m going to guess you’re building muscle as well.  Even though the number on your scale might not be dropping, keep an eye on what you look like!  If you look better, who cares what the scale says!  Broader shoulders and a bigger chest can weigh the same as a beer gut.

Okay, let’s say you like how you look, but you still want to lose another 10 lbs.  If you’re doing it the healthy, safe way you can expect to lose 1-2 lbs. every week.  I’d say 5-7 weeks for 10 lbs is an obtainable goal.

Next, set up a free account at DailyBurn.com (formerly Gyminee). I’ve been using this website for about a year now and it has really helped me keep track of my diet.  After you input your height, weight, age, and goal weight, it will tell you exactly how many calories you need to eat to lose the weight and how long it should take.  It will even tell you how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you should be eating every day as well.

It will give you a range in calories, and you’ll need to experiment within that range to find the right balance for you.  If you aren’t dropping weight, aim towards the lower end of the calorie spectrum that they recommend.  If the weight is coming off too quickly, eat more!  It’s a balancing act.

Once you figure out that calorie amount to eat every day, take a look at your daily schedule and figure out how many meals you can eat; the more often the better. Let’s say they want you to eat 1800 calories – if you can eat 6 meals a day (spaced apart every 2-3 hours), then you want to try and eat 300 calories or so in each meal.  The reason you want to eat 6 smaller meals rather than 3 larger ones is because you want your metabolism to work as often as possible, firing on all cylinders.

Then, keep track of everything you eat. DailyBurn makes it easy by having a massive database of food that already has all the nutrition information loaded in.  Whenever you eat an apple, or a handful of almonds, just put it into the site and it will tell you where you’re at that day for staying within your calorie and nutrient goals.  NF Tip: if you eat the same thing every day, save those things as your ‘favorites’ on DailyBurn.

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind:

  • Try to get 20-30 grams of protein in each meal.  Lots of chicken, fish, eggs, almonds, lean ground beef, etc.  Protein shakes are great for the meals between the meals (which you can read about here).
  • Cut as much sugar out of your diet when possible – this will go right to your waistline (or ass).  Sodas, sugary juices, candy, etc.  Get it out of your diet.
  • Eat whole grains when possible – switch from white bread to wheat, from white rice to brown rice, etc.
  • Eat all the fruits and vegetables you want!
  • Some studies have shown that your metabolism slows down towards the end of the day, so try to cut back on the carbs you eat later on.  It seemed to work for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale and Ryan Reynolds in Blade Trinity.

To summarize: once you figure out your caloric intake over at DailyBurn, divide that number by 5 or 6 and figure out how many calories you should be eating every 3 hours.  Eat lots of protein (a high protein breakfast for sure), cut out the junk, lots of veggies and fruits, and try to eat your carbs earlier in the day.

For a related post, check out the 5 tips for weight loss article.

-Steve

Interested in having your email answered on Nerd Fitness?  Email [email protected]!

Lose weight and build muscle…or do one, then the other?

I was speaking with a friend of mine last week who is trying to lose 15 lbs., get in shape, and then build some muscle.  His plan was to do a lot of cardio and minimal weight lifting to cut the fat from his body, and then hit up a gym to start putting on some muscle and getting some definition.  His heart is in the right place, and as long as this plan has him eating better and exercising I’m all for it.  However, there are a few things I suggested to my friend that I thought would be good information to pass along to you guys as well!

More lean muscle = faster metabolism – If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to get that metabolism of yours jump-started.  The faster your metabolism, the faster you process food and the more weight you’ll lose.  Did you know that the higher percentage of lean muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolism will operate? How do you build lean muscle?  By lifting weights!  It’s a good cycle to get in.  When you lift weights, you build muscle, which speeds up your metabolism, which will help you burn calories better, which will make you lose body fat, which will increase the percentage of your body that’s lean muscle, that will speed up your metabolism more, and on and on.  Do not ignore lifting weights as part of a plan to lose weight.

Want to keep your metabolism working all day long?  EAT BREAKFAST (read here for the full reasons why you need to eat breakfast).

Muscle weighs more than fat – everybody knows this, but it’s important to think about when you’re trying to lose weight and only concentrating on the number on the scale in front of you.  Muscle does in fact weigh more than fat, which means you can weigh 185 lbs and look like Ryan Reynolds and have 3% bodyfat, or you can weigh 185 lbs and look like a slob with a big beer gut.  If you’re trying to lose weight, pay more attention to what you look like and less what your scale says.  That number doesn’t tell the whole story.

To summarize: rather than doubling your work, losing weight and then building muscle, work on being as efficiently as possible by doing both at the same time.  If you go with this plan, pay more attention to what you look like rather than what the scale says.  If the number stays the same but you’re noticing your shoulders and chest are getting bigger and your waistline is getting smaller, you’re doing something right!

-Steve

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

I’m off to the gym this morning to try the 300 challenge for the 2nd time, and then I plan on spending the rest of the afternoon in a tube floating down the Chattahoochee River.

Hope you all have a great weekend, and I want to leave you with one of the funniest, most random Simpsons clip in history:


Simpsons Clip

USA! USA!

-Steve

An Open Letter to the United States of America

captain_america-thumb-400x546Dear United States of America:

Congratulations on your upcoming 233rd birthday!  Unfortunately, the celebration must be short-lived, because I’m here to warn you about a threat to our nation that is greater than any we have faced in the past.  Yesterday, it was reported that this enemy has infiltrated and infected over 1/3rd of our population and it’s numbers continue to grow every day.  I am not talking about a supernatural biological weapon.  I am talking about a disease that is 100% preventable: obesity.

Right now, our economy is in the gutter, 10% of our workforce is unemployed, 200 million of us are overweight, and in some states almost half of our children are considered obese. I love this country with all of my heart, but we have GOT to turn things around.  We may be down but we’re not out, damnit.  Today is a new day, and we can start making that change right now.

We are better than this! I know it, you know it, even Captain America knows it.  If you’re overweight right now, it probably seems like a lost cause to you.  This attitude will get you nowhere, which I’m sure you’ve heard millions of times before.  What makes this time different?  I’m going to help you.  All I ask is that you take responsibility for yourself, take control of your life, and stay on target.

It’s never too late to change.  It will require hard work, sacrifice, determination, and sheer will-power.  If you are really interested in turning your life around, email me at [email protected] and I’ll gladly get you started down the right path if you’re willing to work for it.  I want to help.

If you’re already in shape, please me help out and lead by example. Continue to eat right and exercise, and work on getting others to join you.  If you have loved ones in your family who are overweight, tell them that you’re worried.  Help them help themselves.  Show them how to eat healthy.  Take them with you to the gym.  Ask them every single day how they’re doing.  Just let them know you care!

I love this country, and I want to us to be the standard upon which all others are judged. If we want to be considered a shining beacon of freedom to the rest of the world, why not be a shining beacon of long life, prosperity, and healthy living too?

On Christmas Day 1776, George Washington and his troops gathered on the shores of the frozen Delaware River and exchanged this password: “victory or death.”  233 years later, the same belief holds true: victory over obesity or death.  This 4th of July, celebrate your independence from an unhealthy lifestyle.  Start to make changes that will increase your quality of life.  Ask your friends for help, and help those in need.  This is a battle we can win if we work together.

Are you in?

-Steve

Protein Shakes for Newbies: What to Buy & When to Drink

Two Nerd Fitness readers emailed me yesterday asking about protein powder and shakes.

Whey ProteinThis blog is for you guys!  First of all, if you are able to get your protein naturally in regular food, go for it.  Chicken, steak, burgers, almonds, peanuts, eggs, fish, milk, etc.  Essentially, food gets expensive when you need to eat it every three hours, it’s a pain in the ass to make, eat, and clean up afterward…Which is where protein shakes come in!  I’m no dietitian or bodybuilder, so the advice below comes from personal experience and suggestions from respected people that I trust.

Things to keep in mind when buying:

  • To start out, buy 100% whey protein.  There are other kinds of protein powders that I’ll go into on another post.  For now, look for something that says “100% Whey”
  • When buying protein powders, you want to try and buy a product with minimal other ‘stuff.’ Low carbs, low sugar, low sodium, low calories, low fat, etc.  The good stuff is like 99% protein.  If you go into a vitamin or nutrition store, always check the label before buying.
  • Pick a flavor that you like! Protein powders generally come in a few flavors: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, etc.
  • Don’t buy from GNC. Prices are outrageous, and they often have an agenda to push the stuff with the highest profit margin.  BUY ONLINE, where prices are often half of what you’ll pay in a store.
  • If you’re a picky eater, buy a few single servings before you invest in a 3 month supply of protein powder.
  • Like the flavor? Buy in bulk when possible.  Many places online will offer 5 dollar shipping or free shipping on orders over $x amount.  If you’re serious about fitness and think you’ll be drinking shakes for the foreseeable future, buy a few tubs at once and save on shipping.

Most Popular Brands:

  • Cytosport Complete Whey Protein: 18 grams of protein per serving, 103 servings, 40 bucks. This is the brand that I’ve been using for a few years.  I picked the vanilla flavor because I’m not a fan of chocolate.    Because it’s only 18 grams, I take a scoop and a half because I aim to get around 30 grams of protein every 3 hours.
  • Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein: 24 grams of protein per serving, 77 servings, 40 bucks. Although this has less servings per container, each serving has more protein in it so both come out essentially the same when it comes to total amount of protein as the Cytosport.  This is a big hit on all the fitness message boards (and with bodybuilders).  Word on the street is the chocolate flavor is delicious and mixes really well.  I’ve never tried it, but I’ve heard nothing but good things from multiple sites and hundreds of users.  Also available in vanilla, strawberry, and other flavors.
  • Update: Check the comments of this blog for another recommendation and differing view on Optimum Nutrition.

What to mix it with?

Picture 2Personal experience: the side of the label tells you to mix one scoop in 8 oz of water and it “mixes well and tastes great!” Fail. I don’t know about the chocolate version, but the vanilla/strawberry powder mixed in just water is TERRIBLE.  Instead, I mix one scoop in with 8 oz of skim milk.  I’ve mixed vanilla powder with 8 oz of orange juice and it’s pretty good too.  Want some variety?  Add bananas, strawberries, blueberries, peanut butter, etc.  Try different combinations and find something that you actually like.  If you can choke down straight water & protein powder, you are a stronger man than I.

What’s that?  It doesn’t taste like the best thing ever?  Drink it, pansy.

What to mix it in?

UltimateChoppersBlenderBest advice: buy a cheap blender.  Go to your local Walmart, Target, Kroger, Publix, Sam’s Club, Stop & Shop, etc. and buy a blender for 20 bucks.  They make super deluxe models, smoothie makers, and fancy machines that will do everything.  Forget that crap; buy a cheap one because you’re going to be using it every day, multiple times a day.

Nf tip: don’t let your roommates use it to make margaritas – their cocktails will taste like protein and your shakes will taste like tequila.

Your other option is to buy a cheap shaker, which has a spoke-type thing in it to break up the powder when you mix it in with milk, water, OJ, whatever.  Personally, I’ve found that these things don’t work nearly as well as a blender.  You could shake a mixer for 3 minutes and it still won’t be as good of a blend as 15 seconds on a blender.  Spend the 20 bucks and get a blender

Your final option is to buy a BlendTec Blender (“Will it Blend?”) for like 700 bucks, but you can then mix your protein with iPhones, glowsticks, pens, golf clubs, hockey pucks, and more.  I wonder, what would happen if I drank glowsticks and protein?

When to drink them?

The most important time to drink a shake is right after you exercise.  This is when your muscles have been broken down from exercising and in desperate need of protein to rebuild.  I always drink a shake right after exercising.  However, don’t think one shake a day will do it unless you’re eating high protein foods throughout the day.  You want to provide your body with protein every three hours so it always has a constant stream of “building blocks” to use on those muscles.

Looking to build muscle? If you’re a skinny guy trying to gain muscle, you’re going to be eating a lot of calories and want to aim for at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.  Let’s say you weigh 150 lbs and you want to gain muscle, you want to eat 6 meals a day with at least 25 grams of protein in each.  Try drinking a protein shake at the end of the day an hour or so before bed – because you’re sleeping and not expending large amounts of calories, your body can use the protein from the shake to rebuild your muscles.

Studies have also shown that a breakfast high in protein will result in less desire to eat big unhealthy meals throughout the day.  Protein will help fill you up!  Keep this in mind if you’re looking to lose weight.  Eat breakfast!

Recap:

My recommendation is to buy a tub of Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein online, in whatever flavor you like, and while it’s getting shipped to your house, go to your local grocery store and buy a cheap blender for 20 bucks. Start drinking shakes after your work out, for sure, and then whenever you’re in between meals and in need of protein.  Think of a shake as a way to get good protein when you can’t afford/don’t have time to make a good meal.  I’ve even bought an extra blender and left it in the kitchen in my office at work.  Bring in a tub of protein and a gallon of milk and I’m good to go.  Sure you might get a funny look or two from a co-worker, but I guarantee they won’t be laughing when you kick their ass at the company softball game and look like King Leonidas from 300.

-Steve

Author’s note: the reason I linked to Vitacost.com is because it’s where I buy all of my stuff.  They don’t pay me to promote them, I just like their low prices, cheap shipping (5 bucks), and they’ve never screwed up an order in 4 years.

Other Related Posts:

Tabata Part 2: Ultimate Exercises in only 4 Minutes

Yesterday we went over the Tabata Protocol, an exercise method that only lasts four minutes but can do more for your aerobic (and anaerobic capacity) than 60 minutes of cardio.  Don’t think it’s just limited to running and biking however; you can do other exercises that will work your full body and leave you crying on the floor like a baby when you’re done, and I mean that in the best way possible.  Here are some other exercises that will work burn major calories and kick your ass, while also improving your endurance, strength, and ability to operate at maximum capacity for longer periods of time.

  • Squat Thrusters – If you have a set of dumbbells, hold them up at your shoulders, do a squat, and then when you stand up thrust your shoulders up and do a shoulder press.  Your goal is to do as many reps as possible (with good form) in the 20 seconds.  Keep the weights right next to you so you keep your rest period to exactly 10 seconds.  Stand by a clock or keep a stop watch handy.  Here’s a handy video to show good form on Squat Thrusters:

    Dumbbell Thrusters
  • Jump Rope – After you read last week’s article on jumping rope, maybe you want to mix it in here with some Tabata.  Next time you’re watching Arrested Development reruns, see what you can get done during the 4 minute commercial break.
  • Push Ups - Don’t go for a specific number, just try and do as many push ups as possible in the 20 seconds for each interval.  Remember to work on good form, and write down the number of reps you do in each set.
  • Burpees – Funny name for an ass-kicking exercise.  Stand up, then squat down, kick your legs out, do a push up, bring your legs back in, and explode up into a jump.  Here’s a video showing the exercise in action:

    Burpees
  • Pull Ups – This will test your back, biceps and forearms to the limit.  Pull ups are my favorite exercise.

These are just a few examples.  Concentrate on exercises that work your whole body, that you can do safely but at maximum effort.  The great thing about Tabata is you can always improve.  If you did 10 burpees per segment last week, this week go for 11.  The better you get, the more reps you’ll be able to do in each 20-second set.  Always get stronger and faster.

Want to see some crazy Tabata in action? Check out this CrossFit workout in Oahu, where people did 8 rounds of Squats, Push-ups, Sit-ups, and Pull ups.  Technically it’s only 16 minutes of exercise, but look at these guys by the end of it.  That’s how I want to feel when I’m done exercising.  What did you accomplish in the last 16 minutes?


Oahu Tabata Exercise

What can you accomplish in 4 minutes?

-Steve

Tabata Training: The Most Efficient 4 Minutes of Your Life

Warning: This article deals with a highly advanced exercise routine.  Attempt at your own risk, and make sure you’re physically fit enough to do so.

Jamaica Internationa Invitational MeetThere are hundreds of websites, workout DVDs, and equipment that claim to make you lose 20 lbs, build rock-hard muscles, and look like Hercules in just a few minutes a day.  They’re all full of crap…or so I thought.  It turns out one method ACTUALLY WORKS: Tabata.

Developed by Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., a former researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Tabata is a method of exercise that lasts only 4 minutes long but absolutely kicks your ass.  Here’s what you do: pick an activity and go all-out for 20 seconds, and then rest for 10 seconds.  Repeat this cycle 8 times straight for a total of 4 minutes.

Does it work?

Dr. Tabata took two groups of elite atheletes and put them through 6 weeks of training (5 days a week). Group 1 Ran 60 minutes a day at 70% capacity, while Group 2 did sprints in the Tabata principle (sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10, sprint for 20, etc. for 4 minutes.  At the end of the 6 weeks:

  • Group 1 increased only their aerobic capacity (how long you can run) by 9.5% and anaerobic capacity (how long you can run at maximum effort) by 0%.
  • Group 2 increased their maximum aerobic capacity by 14% AND increased their maximum anaerobic capacity by 28%.

For more information on this study (that goes WAY more in depth), read this article.

Starting out?

You might think you can survive a measly 4 minutes; however, if you’re not in great shape, Tabata workouts are probably too intense.  If you’re just starting out with fitness and looking to work your way up to Tabata, start with regular interval training (explained in detail here) first until you’re ready.  Then, mix in some Tabata by starting with only 2 minutes of exercise (4 sets of intervals) and work your way up to 8.  Concentrate on safely going all out so you don’t pull a hamstring or hurt yourself.  Remember, this was developed for Olympians, and at the end of 4 minutes it left them lying on the floor.  It will take both physical and mental strength to get through these routines on a consistent basis.  Mind of matter!

Which exercises should I do?

Start with a 5 minute warm-up to get your heart pumping and loosen up your muscles.  Always end with a 5 minute cool down/stretch to bring yourself back down to earth.  You want to try and pick exercises that recruit the most muscles possible for maximum fat burning:

  • Sprints – Simple enough.  Sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10. Sprint for 20, rest for 10.  This is tough to do without a partner yelling out your times to you.  I run with a stop watch with big numbers and glance at it around 20 seconds to make sure I stay on time.
  • Elliptical Machine – Less wear and tear on your joints, but tougher to go “all out” because it can only go so fast.  Crank the resistance all the way up if you can handle it.
  • Rowing Machine – Ow.  This will explain why guys that rowed Crew in college were freaking ripped.
  • Stationary Bike – It’s a bike.  Pedal like hell.

If you can, have a friend help you for the 4 minutes to both motivate you and keep track of time.  Tomorrow morning will be my first attempt

-Steve

Jumping Rope – Not Just for 8 Year-Old Girls Anymore!

When was the last time you jumped rope?

When you were seven in in Mr. Whathisface’s P.E. class, right?  You probably had fun, you probably wiped out once or twice, and wacked yourself in the back of the head with the rope.  I’m telling you to bring it back, son!  In any boxing gym around the world, you’ll notice jacked guys with zero body fat beating the **** out of each other, beating the **** out of a punching bag, and jumping rope.  Why jump rope?  Because it enhances coordination and builds stamina.  As a boxer, you need to be both light on your feet, coordinated, and have enough endurance to go 15 rounds.  I just bought myself one and it’s kicking my ass.  My calves hate me.  I love it.

Here’s some tips on getting started:

  • Find a surface with some give. Don’t jump on concrete if you can avoid it, because you’ll be jumping up and down repeatedly which could cause wear and tear on your joints.  On a mat or carpet is best.
  • Pick a good rope! Don’t go for the 3 dollar Dora the Explorer rope at CVS, but don’t worry about buying the gold plated one with diamond bearings either.  Find one that’s between 10 and 20 bucks with some weight to it.  If you buy one that’s too light you’ll have trouble whipping it around because it just doesn’t have enough momentum from being so light.  Any sporting good store, or even Target’s sporting good section should have one.
  • Pick the right length: step right on the center of the rope and bring both handles up to our chest.  The handles should be chest-high.
  • Wear sneakers. Don’t jump rope barefoot…same issue as with jumping on concrete.  Wear good sneakers, jump on a mat or carpet and you’ll be good to go.
  • When you jump, keep your hands down by your waist and arms out to the side. Don’t swing your arms, the movement should be all in the wrist.  Working on jumping really low to the ground rapidly.  Try jumping one foot, try crossing your arms, try jumping forwards and backwards.  More of a challenge?  Try to jump and swing the rope around you twice before landing.

I’m a big fan of interval training, and I apply that to jumping rope as well. Try jumping as quickly as possible for 30 seconds followed by 90 seconds of relaxed jumping.  Then do another 30 seconds of fast jumps and 90 seconds of slow jumps.  Try to keep this up for 20 minutes and let me know how your calves feel the next morning.

I’d go into all the benefits of jumping rope but I’d just be wasting your time.  It’s physical activity, and if you do it long enough you will lose weight (considering you have a decent diet).  A guy weighing 180 lbs can burn 800 calories an hour with jumping rope.  Personally I’d get bored way before an hour, but good for that guy!  My recommendation: if your house is big enough, jump rope during a TV show (doing intervals) and you’ll be well on your way to elite status.  Jump rope between sets at the gym and see if you can make it through a full workout.  Build up your stamina, get coordinated, and burn fat.

Still not convinced? Well, Rocky Balboa jumps rope, and he single-handedly took on Communist Russia with his fists and WON. What more proof do you need!  “If I can change, and you can change…then everybody can change!”  If this doesn’t get you motivated, you’re dead to me:


Rocky IV Training Montage

If you’re looking to mix it up, go get yourself a jump rope and see what you’re missing. 

DRAGOOOOOOOOOOOO!

-Steve

Parkour and Free Running – Beyond Badass

Do you remember the opening sequence of Casino Royale, where Bond is chasing a man through Africa, and the bad guy jumps through cars, over buildings, under dump trucks in one fluid motion.  Almost doesn’t seem real, does it?  Well sucka, it is real.  It’s called Parkour, and it will blow your mind.

Parkour, according to Wikipedia, is defined as “a discipline with the aim of moving from one point to another as smoothly, efficiently, and quickly as possible using principally the abilities of the human body.” The idea is to look at obstacles and devise a plan to run full speed through/over/under these obstacles in the most efficient (and artistically kick-ass) way possible.  The activity that eventually become “Parkour” was created by a French naval officer named Georges Hébert back in the early 20th century, but it didn’t evolve into what it is today until David Belle took the concept and “ran” with it in the late 1990’s (get it, “ran”?! ZING!).  The background story and history is actually really cool; I could spend 2000 words explaining it, or I can just direct you to Wikipedia which will do a much better job.

This whole Parkour thing is said to be a state of mind rather than a series of actions, concentrating on efficiency and speed to conquer an obstacle. Now, there is a similar activity called Free Running, which was derived from Parkour but features more acrobatic (and less efficient) maneuvers.  Alright, enough word, let’s see it action.  Here’s a video from a French movie with three minutes of awesome Parkour, followed by a real life video of two brothers doing some free running:


B13 Escape – Parkour!


Two Brothers Free Running

What does this have to do with fitness?  Look at these guys! They’re in great shape and can run full speed through dangerous environments.  Sure, you only see the videos of these guys succeeding, and not the ones where they go face first into a brick wall, but it’s a pretty sweet example of what human beings are truly capable of when it comes to physical excellence.

So you’re probably watching these videos and saying “wow these guys are awesome, but there’s no way I can do this stuff.” or “wow these guys are idiots they’ll be dead in six months.”  Luckily, Parkour and Free Running have become so popular that they’ve even made a videogame where you play as a Parkour expert.  EA’s Mirror’s Edge is a first person adventure that will have you flipping across rooftops, disarming agents (yup, just like in the Matrix), and running like a bat out of hell over and under everything.  I just beat this game last week and had an absolute blast with it.  The combat was kind of weak but when the game works, it feels amazing.  It’s only 30 bucks right now at Best Buy, making it a great bargain:


Mirror’s Edge

I realize for most of you this post will go into the “wishful thinking” category, which is fine. I’m definitely more an admirer of the sport/art than a wanna-be-participant as well.  If you ARE interested in learning more about Parkour, check out LearnParkour.com and their tutorial movies on how to get started.  You’ll be able to pull off some of these moves without hurting yourself too badly (except for maybe the wall flip, yikes), and it will also give you a great workout…if you can stay out of the hospital.

Moral of the story: here’s another example of a group of people in great physical shape who probably never step inside a gym; they’re too busy flipping off of walls, hurdling large obstacles, and sprinting through urban landscapes.

Sounds pretty sweet to me.

-Steve

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