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

Nerd Fitness: Make Sure You’re Here for the Right Reasons

This past week was the busiest week in the history of Nerd Fitness!

This makes me happy; not because the numbers are up, but because there are more people interested with getting in shape.  With traffic increasing and new people stumbling across the site each day, I just want to make sure everybody is here for the right reasons.

First and foremost: I’m no bodybuilder.  I have no desire to be a bodybuilder.  I don’t even want to look like a bodybuilder!  I don’t have extensive knowledge of every supplement out there, and I don’t have time to spend three hours in the gym every day.  There are certainly plenty of sites out there dedicated to bodybuilders and how to become one; if that’s your passion you can find all the information you need there.  Some of the posts here might help you, but most will be too basic for you and you’ll want to find more hardcore instruction elsewhere (which is fine).

If you want to get skinny quick or get huge quick, this isn’t the site for you. Any site that promises fast results for only five payments of $59.99 is only after your money and will make these promises to get you to impulse-buy their product.  Life doesn’t work this way, and neither does fitness.  There’s no miracle plan: it takes hard work, strong will, and determination.

If you want controversial diet suggestions, three- hour gym routines, and advice on which crazy supplements will cut corners for you, this site isn’t for you. I don’t take a lot of supplements, I try to get in and out of the gym as quickly as possible, and I won’t promote a diet or practice unless it’s something I’ve actually done myself or has been proven by scientific research.

I have a full time job, I have a great group of friends, I have a lot of hobbies and passions, and I have this blog.  I’m really just a guy who wants to stay in shape and help others do the same.

Let me tell you what Nerd Fitness is:

  • A site for people who want to get in shape but don’t know where to begin.
  • A site for people already in shape who want to better themselves in all aspects of life.
  • A site for people who don’t have all day to dedicate to fitness.
  • A site that preaches personal responsibility and accountability.
  • A site for those who want to get in shape the safe, fun, and healthy way.
  • A site for people who want to help others reach their goals.

There’s a lot of bad fitness sites out there, and a lot of sites that are only after your wallet.  Most of them look like terrible infomercials with unrealistic promises and “buy now!” schemes, followed by endless “but wait there’s more” pop up windows.  They drive me nuts, and make me think that the site could care less about me as a person.  I won’t make these promises because I know fitness isn’t an overnight success.   I take a lot of pride in being honest and having integrity; I won’t compromise either on this site because it’s not worth it to me.

What do you get out of this site? What do you want to get out of this site? Shoot me an email at [email protected] and let me know how I can help you.  As traffic picks up, it will certainly take longer to get back to my readers (due to also having the full time job), but I promise I’ll respond as quickly as possible with the level of attention you deserve.

Thanks for reading!

-Steve

Keeping Your Gym Routine Fresh and Fun

weightsAsk somebody in really good shape if they look at exercising as a chore.  They’ll tell you “it’s not something I do, it’s just a part of who I am.”

It’s a great feeling, and I want to help you get there.  I’m a firm believer that a person in great shape will go farther in life and have a better chance of being successful than somebody who doesn’t take care of himself.  Sure it’s probably not fair, but it’s certainly true; good looking people get more breaks!  Although you can’t control your genetics, you can certainly control the rest of it: look good, have more energy, and live longer.  These three things are yours for the taking if you’re willing to work for it.

Now, more important than how you look is how you feel. Sure, you could take tons of supplements and steroids and get really strong really quickly…but who knows what that will do to your life expectancy.  Or, you could just lift weights all day, get strong, and have NO endurance.  Instead, I try to promote efficient workouts that help you be well rounded and actually have some fun with it.  You won’t “look like a bodybuilder in just 12 weeks!” but you’ll have a level of fitness that’s sustainable, doesn’t take up your whole day, and won’t burn you out.

Let me take you through my current routine. Click on each of the links if you want a further explanation of what I’m doing on these days.

Week 1

Week 2

  • Monday: Full body Workout
  • Tuesday: 20 minutes of high intensity running
  • Wednesday: Circuit Training
  • Thursday: 20 minutes of high intensity running
  • Friday: Full body Workout #2

My routine is a combination of lean muscle building (full body workouts on Monday and Friday), endurance and fat burning (Circuit Training), and complete strength building (Olympic Lifting).  Each of these routines work my muscles in a different way, keeping them guessing and keeping me from getting bored.  If you do the same thing every single day, it can get boring very quickly and you’ll probably give up on yourself.  Also, your muscles can adjust and adapt when you do the same thing over and over, bringing you decreasing marginal returns.  By mixing up your routine, your muscles are getting stronger and bigger in different ways.  You know how you’re always told in business to diversify your portfolio?  Your body is no different.  Mix it up, have some fun, keep your muscles guessing, and you’ll be ready for anything and everything.

Now, this looks like a LOT of exercising and many of you are probably saying “I don’t have time for that amount of exercise.” Stop making excuses.  Each of my workouts (on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) are done in 45 minutes, and my runs on other days are done in 20 minutes.  Factor in travel time, stretching, etc., and I’m only exercising about 3.5 hours each week.  I guarantee the amount of time I spend exercising gives me enough energy to require 3.5 hours less sleep each week.  For those of you who say you don’t have time to exercise: look what you can accomplish in 30 minutes a day if you keep the intensity at 100% and really push yourself.  Efficiency is key.

To summarize: don’t concentrate on just strength, size, or endurance. Mix up your routine so you (and your muscles) don’t get bored, you get to have some fun, and you “diversify your portfolio.”

-Steve


Look Like Jamie Bamber in Battlestar Galactica

Alright Battlestar Galactica fans (and NF reader Mianbao), this one is for you.

So you want to look like Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama, huh?  Who doesn’t! The guy is a freaking machine.  Not only is he jacked and looks like he could rip your arms off and beat you with them wookie-style, he even has chest hair.  That’s right, chest hair, like a real man!

Let’s talk about Jamie Bamber and how he prepared for his role as captain on this TV show.  Unlike other superhero workouts (Ryan Reynolds in Blade 3, Gerard Butler in 300, etc.) Jamie couldn’t just get in shape for a two-hour movie and then slack off; he had an entire season for which he needed to stay in amazing shape (which is far more admirable and makes him a much better role model in my opinion).  Jamie had to develop a routine and diet that would allow him to sustain the look for most of the year because he was either in the middle of a season or getting ready for the next one.

Mindset

Normally I’d start with diet and exercise, but I wanted to make a special note of how Jamie would prepare for his role on BG every year.  Jamie told Men’s Health, “I’m freakishly competitive, so I set a date to achieve a certain weight or fitness….I have a tendency to punish myself in my workout, which is hard when you want to keep something up all year round.”  I love this guy!  Freakishly competitive, completely self-motivated, and kicks his ass in the gym without being asked.  This is the kind of guy that should serve as a role model to other people.  Instead of just going through the motions in the gym, Jamie would always set a goal for a specific goal weight or amount of strength he should have by a certain date.  Without that specific date ahead of him, he wouldn’t know what to aim for.

I strongly recommend you do the same; once you have your goal weight and date, tell EVERYBODY you know about it, hang up the date on your calendar, put it in your cubicle, post it on a blog, in your journal and then hold yourself accountable.

Jamie JackedI think another important thing that separates Jamie from the pretenders is that fitness is a way of life for him; it’s not an hour in the gym here, a meal there.  It’s just who he is and what he does.  After each season is done, Jame gives himself a break and takes a month or two off from his ridiculous pace in the gym and with his diet.  Why? It gives him something to aim for when he starts to get in shape again for the following season.  And ya know what?  He probably wants to live a normal life too, which is why he takes a break every once a while.  It allows him not to get burned out, and stay focused.  In the same Men’s health interview listed earlier, Jamie said, “I’m happiest when I’m really physically fit and I feel best about myself but there comes a boredom point where I just can’t sustain it.”  When the filming season is done, he takes a few weeks off, eats burgers and fries, lives his life however he wants, and then he jumps right back into fitness and gets back at it.

Diet

Diet is ALWAYS the most important reason for somebody’s physique.  If you see somebody with 4% body fat and ridiculous muscles, it’s because they workout AND eat right.  Let’s go through a typical day for Jamie according to what he told Men’s Health:

  • Breakfast – Oatmeal loaded with dried fruits, nuts, and dates
  • Lunch – Salad, cottage cheese and balsamic vinegar. Grilled chicken with salsa in a burrito
  • Snack – Plain yogurt with almonds, walnuts or pecans
  • Dinner - Grilled chicken, tuna, or other lean meats

As you can tell, it’s all good stuff: Oatmeal for good carbs, almonds and pecans for good fats, chicken and tuna for good protein.  Once again, if this seems like a boring diet, it’s because it is.  Although the interview doesn’t explicitly say it, I can guarantee there is more to this diet than Jamie lets on; I have to believe there is at least protein shake or bar here and there, and he probably eats the food listed above in mass quantities so that he has enough energy to get through a morning of weight lifting and an afternoon of running 8-10 miles.  If he ran 10 miles a day and worked out in the gym without eating a LOT of healthy calories, Jamie would be built like a marathon runner instead of what he looks like now.

  • Lots of good protein and complex carbs every two hours throughout the day.
  • Lots of good carbs in the morning to give him energy for his exercise and running.
  • Good fats that his body can also use for energy while running.
  • NO JUNK FOOD. NO SODA. Strict Diet.

If you think this is too much to handle, then you have to ask yourself how badly you want this physique.

Workout

Jamie is a big fan of both exercising and running, which allows him to stay both muscular and extremely lean. If you watch this video of Jamie, all he talks about is running, hiking, and tennis which is quite misleading.  This man obviously has spent considerable time in the gym as well, he just keeps extremely lean with the running.  If you’ll notice, he talks quite a bit about interval training, explained further below.


Jamie’s Men’s Health Interview Video

Weight lifting

1BSGbrC06Jamie works out in the mornings by himself with just his iPod.  When asked why he works out in the AM, he said, “I love the idea of the whole day being in front of you and not having to think about it — just getting up and going…I love the feeling of having that muscle burn.”  Let this be a lesson to you: just because you don’t have a work out partner or a personal trainer doesn’t mean you can’t look like a superhero.  Rule number 87: no excuses, play like a champion.

I also work out alone.  I put in my headphones, I keep my head down, and my do my thing.  I can’t tell you how important music is to me in the gym.  It allows me to block out all distractions, put on my favorite song, and use the motivation from the music to help me through the stronger lifts.  I’m convinced I can lift an extra 5 to 10 lbs each time because of a good song.

Unfortunately, Jamie’s specific routine is tough to find on the internet, so most of this will be estimated guess work and comparable routines from similar looking guys.  Now because Jamie works out alone, I’d guess he does a lot of work with dumbbells and free weights instead of a barbell and machines.  Dumbbells help recruit as many muscle fibers as possible in your body to both lift and lower the weight while keeping the weight balanced and steady throughout the exercise.

For gym exercises, Jamie most likely does a lot of complex lifts like incline dumbbell chest presses, squats, lunges, pull ups, deadlifts, and shoulder presses.

If you don’t have time to hit the gym 5 days a week (and most people don’t) I’d recommend instead doing a full body routine like this a few times a week.  Just make sure you keep the intensity up BIG time, keep the time between sets 60 seconds or less, and keep your range of repetitions between 6 and 12 to build maximum muscle size.

Running

Picture 3Interval training. Jamie loves it, I love it, you should learn to love it.  If you don’t know why intervals are so fantastic for building muscle and losing weight, read my article here.  Even though Jamie loves to run, he hates running on a treadmill: it’s way too boring!  Instead, he tries to run on open trails, along a river, on the beach, up some hills, etc.  He finds a great spot to run wherever he is to keep his body constantly guessing and his mind away from boredom.  He usually goes on an 8-10 mile run (NF note: damn Gina!), and will do different intervals throughout the run by picking a spot half a mile ahead, then sprinting 3/4ths of the way and then slowly jogging the final quarter to recover.  I think the most important thing is that he doesn’t put a lot of thought into it: no heart rate monitor, no timer to keep track of pace.  He just runs, sprints til he’s tired, jogs til he’s not tired, and then sprints again.  How does your effort in the gym or running compare?

To read more about Jamie’s running techniques, read this Men’s Health article here.

There you have it.  Jamie’s a machine when it comes to diet and fitness, so you should expect to be the same if you want to look like him.  I don’t think you need to run 10 miles a day and work out two hours every morning, but I think you need to be absolutely dedicated and competitive like Jamie if you want to get anywhere close to his physique.  Pick a date two months from now, set your goals, and then tell everybody about it.  Bust your ass to reach those goals, and keep yourself accountable. 

Eat right, lift heavy, run fast.

Who do you want to see in the next Superhero Workout?  Leave a comment on this blog or email me at [email protected] and I’ll do the research.

-Steve

Other posts in the Superhero series:

Circuit Training – Build Some Muscles, Burn Some Fat!

ist2_5614813-strong-manYesterday morning I did my first round of circuit training.

I’m in pretty good shape and have been lifting weights regularly for a few years, so I figured the routine would be a challenge but not too exhausting.  Fail. This thing kicked my ass.  For those of you looking to build lean muscle, cut some fat, and avoid boredom in the gym, here’s something that might catch your eye.  Want proof that it works?  Daniel Craig did two days of circuit training a week to prepare for Casino Royale.  Read about his full workout by clicking here.  My theory is this: if it’s good enough for 007, it’s good enough for me.

Sounds good right?  Alright, now let’s find out exactly what circuit training involves: essentially you’ll be doing one exercise per body part, in order, without stopping.  Then, once you’re all the way through a cycle, you do it again.  And then again.  3 full circuits without stopping.

This is what I did yesterday morning:

  • Squats - 12 reps
  • Lunges – 12 reps (if your legs are REALLY tired, doing squats and lunges could seriously hurt you if you’re not careful.  In this case I’d recommend doing some machine leg exercises (12 reps of leg extensions, 12 reps of leg curls, and 12 calf raises instead).
  • Incline Dumbbell Press – 12 reps
  • Assisted Pull Ups – 12 reps
  • Tricep Rope Pulldown – 12 reps
  • Barbell Bicep Curl – 12 reps
  • Lateral Shoulder Raise – 12 reps
  • Jump rope for 60 seconds or do 50 jumping jacks

And that’s 1 circuit. You will do each exercise, with perfect form, and then move onto the next exercise immediately.  You can only stop for water after you finish the circuit (after you jump rope or do your jumping jacks).  Now, I cut the amount of weight I can normally lift by 25%, and I still had to stop a few times to get through this loop of exercises 3 times.  If you can do it without stopping, you should be able to get through the routine in 30 minutes or less.

For Newbies: If you’re just starting out with fitness and trying to build muscle while losing fat, I’d recommend trying to get through one circuit, take a minute or two break, and then finish the rest of your routine normally.  So, you would go through the WHOLE circuit once, and then you’d do a set of squats, wait a minute, do another set of squats, then move onto a set of lunges, wait a minute, do another set of lunges, then onto the next exercise.  Build your way up to 3 full circuits, and work on getting through them without stopping.

Don’t have a gym membership? Try this modified circuit training routine using just your body weight  This is more of an aerobic workout compared to a strength building routine, but it get’s the job done if you don’t have any weights to use:

Circuit Training Video

The thing I love about circuit training is that there’s always room for improvement. You’re building muscles while also building up your stamina.  Circuits will help turn you into a MACHINE.  If you can do 3 circuits without stopping, add weight or try to do four circuits.  Either way, you should be able to walk out of that gym, in 30-40 minutes, drenched in sweat and exhausted.

A few tips and tricks:

  • If you’re going to do circuits, do them early in the morning or late at night.  Don’t be an ass and tie up every machine/bench in the gym when everybody is waiting to use them.
  • If you come back to a machine and somebody else is using it, don’t wait.  Pick a different exercise that works the same muscle!
  • Normally I recommend just free weights, but for circuits using certain machines is okay if you’re exhausted and worried about proper form.  When possible, stick with free weights though, you’ll get much more out of it.
  • Don’t do a full body circuit two days in a row.  I’d say start with doing it once a week (along with your normal weight training and exercise), but space them apart so you don’t work the same muscle two days straight.

Be like Bond, become a machine!

-Steve

The Grocery Store: What I Buy and How You Can Eat Better

Picture 1Your diet is at least 80% of your success/failure when it comes to getting in shape.

Muscles are made in the kitchen and not in the gym, so I wanted to do an article on what I buy at the grocery store.  I’m a picky eater, and I don’t have time to prepare extravagant meals all day long.

Between having a full time job, exercising, playing piano or the occasional video game, and running this blog, the amount of time I have to prepare, eat, and clean up six meals a day.  I checked my past receipts, and I realized that I’ve been buying the same thing over and over and over, so I wanted to pass along what I actually buy:

  • 3 Gallons of 1% Milk - I mix all of my shakes with milk, so I go through a LOT of this stuff.  I drink two Muscle Milk (Collegiate Edition) shakes a day, each with two cups of milk – one after I work out/for breakfast, and then another one in the afternoon between lunch and dinner.  Before I go to bed, I drink a protein shake mixed with one cup of milk.
  • 1 Bag of Romain Lettuce and Lite Caesar Dressing - Salad prepared in 30 seconds.  I’m not a big fan of salads but I know I need to eat them, so why waste more time preparing them than I need to?
  • Sarah Lee Whole Grain Wheat Bread and 2 Jars of Skippy Natural Peanut Butter. Peanut butter sandwiches, 2 a day. Carbs, protein, good fats.
  • 1 Bag of Tyson Chicken – Frozen Chicken Tenderloins - coat with Pam cooking spray, add some spices, stick in over on cookie sheet for 30 minutes.  Easy.
  • 1 Bag of Whole Wheat Tortillas (Cut up 4 chicken tenderloins, add some cheese, and bam you got yourself a 5 minute chicken quesadilla.
  • 1 Box of Boil-in-a-bag Brown Rice Packets. Good Carbs!
  • 2 Lbs of 90% Lean Ground Beef, 1 BIG Jar of Prego, 1 Box of Angel Hair Pasta (along with some spices, Worcestershire sauce, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil to make the spaghetti sauce).  I’ll write a blog soon on how I make a week’s worth of spaghetti.
  • Box of Granola Bars/Protein Bars – I eat these first thing in the morning when I’m going to work out before work.
  • Bag of apples, bag of raisins.  More fruit!

Notice anything missing? That’s right, there’s no junk food on this list!  If you don’t want to be tempted with eating it, don’t put it in your house.  No Oreos, no chocolate chip cookies, no Twinkies, no soda, no candy bars, etc.  I don’t have a lot of money, and I have to buy a LOT of food to eat 4000 calories a day, so every penny I spend needs to be good for me.

I realize I don’t eat 100% healthy foods and I certainly don’t eat enough vegetables, but I make sure I don’t eat any crap.  Also, I’m always trying to get better, making my trips to the grocery store a constant work in progress.  Over the past few year and a half I’ve made the transition from white rice to brown, white bread to wheat, and flour tortillas to whole wheat tortillas.  Each week I try to make one change or mix something up to make my meals even healthier.  I know I still don’t eat enough vegetables, I want to start eating more natural foods, etc.; I always try to be better.

I challenge you to do the same. Every time you go to the store, buy one less junk food item, buy one more healthy thing, or take something you normally buy and find a healthier version of it.

-Steve

Be Careful Where You Get Your Fitness Advice

SantaAerobicsEverybody in the world thinks they know best when it comes to fitness. Of course, like 90% of people have no idea what they’re talking about, so you need to be careful who you get your advice from or you could be either wasting your time or even hurting yourself without knowing it.  Here are a few examples:

  • In my gym, there is an aerobics instructor that teaches a full class of step aerobics. The guy teaches a class every night…AND HE HAS A HUGE GUT.  If I was interested in getting into shape, I certainly wouldn’t take a class from a guy that’s out of shape because clearly it’s not working.  Would you take personal trainer lessons from a guy that’s really out of shape?
  • I was doing dips the other day at the gym and some random dude came up to me to lecture on how I should be doing the exercise. He went on and on and on about how much farther I should drop my shoulders at the bottom.  After he left, I kept doing them the way I’ve always done them; why? because doing them his way would destroy my shoulders and possibly cause long term damage. Keep this in mind: just because a guy is giving you advice in the gym doesn’t mean he has ANY idea what he’s talking about.
  • Hydroxy-cut was recently pulled off the shelves because it apparently caused all kinds of liver problems for a small percent of its users. These products were on the market for over seven years before finally getting pulled off the shelf.  What products are out there today that will get pulled seven years from now for screwing up people’s insides?
  • Open a Muscle and Fitness magazine, and you’ll see ads for every supplement under the sun, pictures of body-builders, many of them probably on steroids, and routines that require you to spend 5 hours a day in the gym.  Unless you want to look like those guys, you’re not the target audience for the magazine and probably won’t get much from their advice.

If you’re just starting out with fitness, all of these issues with false information and false advertising can be intimidating.  Now, I’m not saying “only read Nerd Fitness and only get your advice from this site,” because there are still plenty of great sites/books/people out there who are full of great information.   I’m just saying be smart when you get advice from a source.  On Nerd Fitness, the advice and recommendations I give come from first hand experience.  I won’t endorse a product, routine, diet, supplement, or another website unless it’s something I’d use myself.  If I am endorsing something, it’s because I’ve done it and it works.

If you go to the gym, if you read a muscle magazine, if you hear through the grapevine about this amazing weight loss pill or miracle workout, do your research before you put all your eggs in that basket.  As with everything else in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

I promise that I’ll continue to do my research before posting an article.  It’s very tough to find 100% reliable information out there, so shoot me an email at [email protected] if you come across something you’re considering but not sure about and I’ll give you a straight answer.  If I don’t know the answer right away, I’ll do the research to make sure you don’t waste your money on a crappy product or do serious damage to yourself.  Just know that the advice I give will always lean towards “better safe than sorry,” because I just don’t thinks health risks are worth the extra few pounds lost or muscle gained.

Life is too damn short. Why not have fun with fitness, be safe, and feel good about yourself?

-Steve

Oh Hai NerdFitness 2.0

Check out the new look!

I finally buckled down and got Nerd Fitness 2.0 off the ground. Sure most of the changes are cosmetic, but what’s wrong with looking good, right? Plus, now you can see my face on the home page, so you can tell who the hell is writing these things every day.

  • I added some survey functionality so I can add a poll at the end of posts to get your thoughts on the article.
  • For those of you on Twitter, it’s now really easy to tweet a post you like. Just click the retweet button at the bottom of the post and there you have it!
  • At the top of the page, I’ll be working on posting the best articles in each category, followed by a whole section just for newbies trying to get started.

I’ve finally recovered from the Olympic workout from last Thursday, so I’m ready to get back in the gym this morning and bust my ass.

Other than being freaking tired, it’s nice when you actually feel good on a Monday.

-Steve

Olympic Lifting – Run Faster and Jump Higher

Last night, my friend and mentor Mike Rickett was in town to teach some personal trainer certification classes, and asked if I’d be interested in working out with him while he’s in town.  Mike is the guy I go to with all of my fitness questions.  He has trained everybody from high school athletes to world-class Olympians, so I knew I was in for something that would kick my ass.  When he told me we were only going to do four exercises and be done in 25 minutes, I couldn’t wait to see what the hell we could do that would destroy me in such a short amount of time.  Welp, 25 minutes later, my shirt was drenched and sweat was literally pouring off my face in buckets.  What the heck did I do that has me sore all over today?  This is how sore I am; my forearms hurt every time I type word in this damn blog.

Olympic Lifting

To borrow from this Men’s Health article: “Olympic lifts, as they’re called, have no equal for developing speed, flexibility, and coordinated, total-body strength and muscle.”  Sounds good to me!  Also, Olympic lifters, on average, have the highest vertical leaps of all athletes.  Ever wanted to dunk a basketball?  This is what you need to be doing.  Every single muscle in your body will be worked to lift more weight than you’ve ever lifted, in a much quicker fashion.  Also, because you’re doing all of these exercises with such speed, you’re recruiting every Fast-Twitch muscle fiber, which has the greatest capacity for increased size and strength (you can read about fast twitch vs. slow twitch muscles here).  I have no desire to look like a heavyweight Olympic lifter, but the thought of lifting tons of weight, becoming more powerful, faster, stronger, and have the ability to jump much higher sounds freaking awesome.

The Routine

We did the Jerk, the Clean, the Snatch (stop laughing), and then the Clean and Jerk.  For almost all of these exercises I was just using the bar (45 lbs) because I wanted to make sure I could get the form down properly before attempting with serious weight.  Mike told me for some of these exercises it will take a good year before I have the form down perfectly.  I’ve never left a gym more excited or sweaty than last night.  I did 4 sets of each exercise, for a total of 8 reps.  I made sure to err on the side of caution by just doing exercises with the bar until I got the form down properly.

The Jerk, The Clean

These are generally done together for the “clean and jerk,” which is explained below, but the two movements that make them are called the clean (picking up the bar from the ground and bringing it up to your shoulders), and the the jerk (pressing the weight from your shoulders over your head).  Now, don’t think of these movements as just a dead lift, and then a shoulder press.  Speed and form are of the utmost importance in these exercises, allowing you to lift crazy amounts of weight in just a few seconds.  We warmed up with these to get my body used the movements so I could do the next two exercises (which are done in the Olympics).

The Snatch

Think of the snatch as a deadlift, barbell shrug, jump squat, and overhead squat, all done in one motion.  Sounds complicated?  It is, which is why you should watch the video below.  If you’re going to attempt this on your own, study this video over and over again and do it with a very light weight until you have the form down properly.  Keep your abs contracted the ENTIRE TIME so you don’t mess up your back.  A strong core is crucial.


The Snatch

The Clean and Jerk

This is another one of those exercises that works your entire body in just a matter of seconds.  Think of this one as a deadlift, upright row, front squat, and push press all done in a few seconds.  Also complex, so this video below is a great resource to show you how to complete one properly.  Sorry for the ads that show before the video, but it’s worth it:


The Clean and Jerk

After 4 sets of 8 reps for each exercise, I was exhausted and excited. After some dynamic stretching (an absolute must after lifting weights), I was ready to drink 8 gallons of water and eat an entire cow.  No wonder most Olympic lifters eat like 8000 calories a day and have probably 5% body fat.  I realize these are super advanced moves, and unless done with 100% proper form can result in serious injury, so attempt them at your own risk.  If you are interested in getting started with Olympic lifting, I’d recommend asking your gym if there is a coach in the area who can give you a lesson so you start out on the right path. If you’re worried about injury, follow this workout to get most of the benefits without the huge risk of messing up your body.  Stick with it, and eventually you might even be able to do something like this:


HUGE lift

I got a long way to go before I can lift like that guy, but you gotta start somewhere, right?

-Steve

100th Post Extravaganza: a Look Back and a Look Forward

100postsHoly crap I wrote 100 posts on this thing!

Two years ago, after reading Tim Ferris’s “4 Hour Workweek,” I bought the domain NerdFitness.com.  It took me forever to finally take that catchy, clever domain and turn it into a legitimate site, but I did it!  There’s a right way to approach fitness (healthy diet, enjoyable exercise) and there’s a wrong way (tons of supplements, paying ridiculous amounts of money expensive trendy infomercial equipment).  I went through a lot of the wrong ways to get there the right way, and I want to make sure you don’t have to do the same.

I know how you feel: searching the internet for reliable fitness advice is like finding a needle in a haystack.  The only sites I found were ones begging me to buy their product, telling me I could gain 60 lbs of muscle in two months (if I paid four payments of $99.99)!   I’ve tried all kinds of different “get fit quick” schemes, and NONE of them worked.  After getting certified as a personal trainer last year, I wanted to create a place where people could get legitimate information on being healthy and actually have fun with it.  You won’t find any quick-fitness schemes on here, because I know none of them work and I won’t waste your time.

The most important thing I want people to take away from this website is that you are responsible for yourself. You and only you are accountable for your actions: not your genetics, your job, your wife, global warming, or the economy.  It’s your life, and you’re more than entitled to live it exactly how you want, but don’t go blaming ANYBODY when things aren’t going your way.  Solutions, not excuses!  Can’t afford a gym membership because of the economy?  Go to a park and do pull ups on monkey bars at your kid’s school.  Don’t have time to exercise?  Bull****.  If you want it bad enough, you will find a way.  People that shut their mouths and “play the hand they’re dealt” go on to do great things.  I want to be inspired by those people, and I want to inspire others that have the power to become those people.

Now, doing this stuff all on your own sucks. You’re probably surrounded by friends who eat like crap and do nothing, co-workers who get mad at you for not eating birthday cake for the third time this week, and we all have that inner-sloth just begging us to go back to bed, skip today’s workout, and swing through Burger King on the way home from work.  That’s why this site exists, to help people stay on the path and stay motivated.

I can’t wait until Nerd Fitness is fully realized as a living, breathing tribe of ridiculously strong, intelligent people all helping each become better versions of themselves.  I’m certainly not the world’s best expert on health and fitness, but I have a real passion for helping people improve their lives, I great grasp of what this community can become, and I know how we can get there.  Unfortunately, I have a full-time job and normal life to live, so NerdFitness 2.0 (and ultimately 3.0) has taken longer than expected.  Please know that I have a plan, and the wheels are in motion.

Until then, I hope you guys will keep reading every day, because I will continue writing every day.  All I ask is that you email me at [email protected] and let me know how I can help.

Thanks for your support, now let’s get after it.

-Steve

Here’s a look back at some of the most read posts over the past 5 months:

Fast Twitch vs. Slow Twitch: What Kind of Muscles Do You Want?

Alright guys, this article is going to jump into the more scientific side of fitness, but it’s still fascinating and something you should know.

Ask yourself this question: Do you want to be able to run ridiculously fast for a short period of time, or do you want to be able to run for hours and hours without wearing down?  Believe it or not, your muscles are composed of certain fibers that are already destined to be one or the other.  However, with enough proper training you can actually control how much of each type of fiber you have in that body of yours.  What are these fibers?

Type I Fibers

MarathonType I fibers are “slow twitch” fibers.  They use oxygen to fire, and they take longer to get going, but they can go for a longer period of time without getting tired.  The force per contraction on these muscle fibers is spread out over time.  People who have trained for marathons and enjoy running long distances (not me) will have a higher percentage of Type I fibers (that are more efficient) than a sprinter or a couch potato.

Type IIb Fibers

picture-3Type IIb fibers are “fast twitch” fibers.  These fire anaerobically (without oxygen), they fire extremely quickly, but they get tired easily.

Sprinters and most fast animals in nature (cheetahs, lions, deer, etc.) will have more “fast twitch” fibers: longer periods of rest, followed by ridiculous amounts of quick speed and energy.  Guys loaded with Type IIb fibers will tire more easily on long distance runs, but they can definitely beat your ass off the line in a quick race.  Because it’s such a great amount of force in such a short amount of time, these fibers are also used in weight training.

Type IIa Fibers

Fence riders…halfway between type I and Type IIb.  These are equal parts aerobic and anaerobic.  Not great at long distances, not great at sprinting, but pretty good for either.  The “jack of all trades” muscle fiber, if you will.

Those are your three different types of muscles fibers. You’re born with these fibers in certain proportions, and they will affect how successful you are at either developing as a long distance guy, or a sprinter guy.  Most bodies have 50% of Type 1 and 50% of Type 2 (A and B), but many elite athletes (world class marathon runners, Olympic sprinters) can have up to 80% of one or the other.  Obviously a sprinter with 80% fast twitch fibers will have a better chance of being fast than somebody with only 30% fast twitch fibers.

Your muscle fiber composition is already built into your genetics.  It’s like picking a random race whenever you start playing an RPG: initially, you already have certain strengths and weaknesses (stamina and strength vs. intelligence and wisdom, etc.), but by the end of the game you’ve done enough leveling that you can erase those differences and mold your guy into exactly what you want.

The real world is no different.  This study suggests that it’s possible through training to adjust the levels of each of your types of muscle fibers.  If yo genetics say you should be a sprinter, but you really want to run marathons…enough training will make your muscles conform and function better with increased amounts of Type II fibers.  Of course, had you been born with 80% slow twitch muscles your path to better marathons might be easier, but you can still get there…you just need to bust your ass and work harder!

Moral of the story: your genetics might have you already set up to be better at one thing or the other, but hat doesn’t mean you don’t have a choice.  Do what makes you happy, and with enough persistence and solid training you can control how your muscles function.  Personally, the thought of running really fast excites me more than running for a really long time, so that’s how my training is directed.  Plus, looking like a sprinter isn’t a bad side effect.

Thanks Mr. Wizard!

-Steve

Weight Belts and Gloves – Do You Need Them?

I walked into a gym today and saw a really big fat guy with a huge gut put on a weight belt to do bicep curls and bench presses.  I’m sure he thinks he’s helping keep himself, and unless he’s had serious back surgery he’s dead wrong.  I’m here to tell you that weight belts are a waste of time and are probably doing you far more harm than good.

Weight Belts – Years ago, I almost bought a weight belt because my back would hurt while doing squats (even though I was probably only lifting a hundred pounds).  Turns out, unless you’ve had a serious back injury, your lower back should only ‘hurt’ while doing squats if you do them wrong!  If you do them correctly, you’ll be working the hell out of your legs and your lower back all at the same time.  While wearing a weight belt, you’re depriving your body of using all of those tiny stabilizer muscles to keep the weight steady while raising it and lowering it.  Sure, you might be able to lift more, but your lower back will have the strength of a 10 year-old girl.  Not an ideal situation, especially if you have a 10 year old daughter for reference.

Now, when you lift weights without a belt, you have to recruit extra muscle fibers just to keep the weight steady.  This is also why I’ll only recommend free weights instead of machines.  Machines only let you lift in two directions, while free weights will use far more muscles to keep the weight steady.  Stick with free weights, and no belt!  Don’t believe me?

Stuart McGill, who has his PHD in  back studies and back exercises, had this to say when it comes to weight belts:

  • People without back problems don’t get any protective benefit from wearing a belt.
  • If you’re injured while wearing one, your injury could be far more severe.
  • Belts increase your blood pressure if they’re worn properly. Suck!
  • Belts change your lifting styles, often screwing up your form in order to lift the weight.  Not cool.

If you have lower back problems on squats, then your lower back isn’t strong enough to support the weight, even if your legs are.  My recommendation?  Decrease the weight, and really concentrate on strengthening your core before building up the weight on your squats.  Instead of spending money on a weight belt, spend money on a single personal training session and make sure you’re performing all exercises with PERFECT FORM and you’ll be far better off in the long run.

Now, if you HAVE had lower back problems/surgery, I highly recommend getting a doctor recommendation and exercising with a trainer after getting better to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

exerciseback_medGloves - People wear gloves to get a better grip on the weight bar, or because they don’t want calluses on their hands.  Personally, I think calluses make you feel more like a bad ass, and I’m guessing the guys at “the Art of Manliness” would agree with me.

When you pick up a bar without gloves and you feel your grip start to slip (not from sweat, but from your strength going), it’s because you haven’t developed your hands and forearms enough.  As you lift heavier weights and work out the rest of your body, your hands and forearms will develop right along with them.  Here’s a great article about gloves and their ‘need.’

I’m a big advocate of keeping things as natural in the gym as possible.  Stay away from machines, don’t add accessories to help you unless you absolutely need them.  Stay away from weight belts, and wear gloves if you feel like you need them.  You can get by without using either.

-Steve

Up Review

Last night I had the chance to see “Up,” the newest film from masterpiece makers Pixar.  As usual, the film was preceded by a quick five minute short, this one entitled “Partly Cloudy.”  Although not as good as last year’s “Presto,” which had me laughing literally from the first frame to the end credits, “Partly Cloudly” managed to get quite a few chuckles, awwws, and the occasional belly laugh.  Enough about the pre-movie, let’s talk about the main event.

Up is a Pixar movie through and through. Incredible visuals, a soundtrack that perfectly sets the mood for each scene, and at least 20-30 moments where you shake your head in admiration at how clever these guys are!  I mean, this movie was better acted and provided more emotion and inspiration than any movie I’ve seen recently, and it’s all done with computer generated graphics.  I do have to warn you: after a comical five minute introduction to our main character, a young and enthusiastic Carl Fredericksen, the next 15 minutes are surprisingly dark and will tug at your heartstrings, daring you not to cry.  However, after the extremely sad beginning, the movie gets going and you’re allowed to smile once again.  We’re introduced to Carl as he is today: a grumpy old man in the twilight years of life, bearing a striking resemblance to Brooks from the Shawshank Redemption.  His childhood dreams of adventuring in South America have been replaced with waking up, eating breakfast, getting ready, and then sitting on his front porch to leer at passersby.

After he’s told he must vacate his house, this former balloon salesman decides to take matters into his own hands, tying thousands upon thousands of balloons to it and floats off into the great unknown, seeking adventure, all by himself.  Or so he thought.  Neighborhood kid Russell, dealing with abandonment issues of his own, needs only one more merit badge, “Assisting the Elderly,” to complete his scout training and get promoted to senior Adventure Explorer.  What begins as a strained (but funny) relationship expands into the kind of grandfather-grandson bond that makes you go “awwwww.”  Russell’s comedic timing, funny one liners, and a level of naive optimism that can only come from a kid provide great contrast to the pessimistic defeatist attitude of our old protagonist.  Throw in gorgeous scenery, talking dogs (one of which steals every scene he’s in), a bird named Kevin, and some great action sequences and we have another Pixar hit on our hands.  Kids will love the talking animals, funny noises, and slapstick humor, while Adults will laugh, cry, and probably reevaluate their own hopes and dreams.  It’s so good that it works extremely well on both levels.

I fully recommend this movie to anybody and everybody, no matter what age. “Up” proves that it’s never to late to start an adventure, no matter how old you are.  I left the theater with a big smile on my face and a huge desire to go on some adventures of my own; better start saving now.

Thanks Pixar, you’ve done it again.

-Steve

Where does this fit in the Pixar Hierarchy?  I’d say ahead of Ratatouille, Cars, a Bug’s Life, and the Incredibles…behind Finding Nemo and Toy Story, and right up there with Monsters Inc. and WALL-E.

Here’s the trailer for Up:

Up Trailer

Steve’s Goals for June 1st – Did I get there?

GoalsTwo months ago, I wrote about my goals and plans for June 1st: hoping to gain 12 lbs in 8 weeks.

Yesterday, I stepped on the scale over at my gym and weighed in at 184, one pound short of my target weight.  Yeah, it sucks to come up one pound short.  But you know what, I still managed to put on 11 freaking pounds (mostly muscle) in only 2 months, and I now weigh more than I ever have in the past.  All of you people out there trying to lose weight are probably pissed off at me right now for talking about how tough it is to gain weight; please realize that it’s probably as hard for you to lose weight as it is for me to gain weight.  I didn’t eat junk food, I didn’t eat whatever and whenever; I eat probably the same way a person does who’s trying to lose weight, I just have to buy twice as much of it and spend twice as much time eating it.

How did I manage to put on 11 healthy pounds in 8 weeks? I followed this full-body routine 3 days a week in the gym, got some exercise on the two other weekdays, and I ate between 3700 and 4000 calories a day.  LOTS of grilled chicken, pasta, lean ground beef, peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, protein shakes and meal replacement shakes in between actual meals, brown rice, asparagus, apples, orange juice, salads, etc.  Sure, I’d treat myself to the occasional meatball sub from Subway (terrible for me, I know, but LOADED with protein and carbs, two things I desperately needed), but for the most part for the past 8 weeks I ate healthy, I ate a lot of food, and I ate often.

So what do I do now? Well, for starters, I need to keep eating and exercising.  If I slack off on either end, then my body will quickly revert to my old weight and all the hard work and dedication will have been for nothing.  Why will it go back so quickly?  It’s because your body, skeleton, organs, etc. all take approximately 6 months to get used to your new weight.  Read more about this here.

Also, I’m going to set new goals. My new goals are to get up to 187 lbs (3lb. increase) and to drop my body fat % by 2 points by August 1st (2 months).  By gaining 3 lbs, and losing 2 % of my body fat, I’ll have actually put on 6 total lbs. of muscle.  Because this goal is less about gaining pounds and more about gaining muscle, I’m going to be adding in extra cardio sessions to my routine.  Now, I hate cardio, I hate running long distances, so I’ll be working on finding the most effective cardio in the least amount of time:  Sprints, jumping rope at a high speed, kicking my ass on the rowing, and eventually taking some capoeira classes will help me build only lean muscle and give me more energy.  You’d be amazed how much you can sweat in only 20 minutes if you really push yourself.

There.  Now that this blog is written, I have to be accountable for my actions.  We’ll see how I do on August 1st!

-Steve

And now for something completely different: E3 is this week (the most famous video game exposition of the year), and yesterday Star Wars: The Old Republic was announced.  It’s a massively-mulitplayer online role playing game by the guys who made Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Jade Empire.  Let’s hope the game is bad-ass, because the trailer is incredible:


Star Wars: The Old Republic

Superhero Movie Workouts – Are They Worth It?

Last week, each NF post centered around a movie star who got in shape for a particular role and what each one of them ate, how they exercised, and what resources were at their disposal to get it done.

In case you missed any of the posts, here they are:

I had an absolute blast writing these posts, and I’ll certainly be doing more of them in the future because I really enjoyed finding out what goes into preparing for a role in certain flicks.  However, I want to make things clear; they were written with as much emphasis on entertainment as education.  These are people who were paid millions of dollars to look like they do, had all the time and resources in the world, personal trainers, specialized diets, and great genetics.  Oh, and they also already started off in incredible shape!

More often than not, after these movies were shot the actors quickly lost their figures because they couldn’t (and weren’t expected to) keep up the torrid pace of exercise and dieting that they had stuck with for months months.

EQ 2What does this mean for you?  The best analogy I could come up with involves playing a game like World of Warcraft or Everquest.  You know how you make your character, and then you spend hours and hours and hours leveling up, getting better stuff, fighting tougher enemies, etc?  It takes forever, but you have a blast doing it and you really get that sense of accomplishment when you make it to the highest level.  There’s always going to be people that have more time to play than you do, or have better resources, but you’re still happy because you’re playing with friends, you’re doing it at your own pace, and you have a life outside of the game (hopefully).

Then there are powerlevelers: these guys already started out ahead and spent lots of money to ‘twink’ their characters, making them far more powerful than if they were playing legitimately.  Hell, sometimes they even pay other people to level their characters for them.  They get to the highest level in record time and can probably kick your guy’s ass.  You know what?  Screw those guys.  You made it to the top while having a job, you did it legitimately, and you’re having fun with it.  That’s what’s important.

Fitness is no different. If you really want to look like King Leonidas, go for it.  Just know that it might take you a really freaking long time to get there because you simply can’t dedicate eight hours a day to being in shape.  I think it’s okay with setting lofty goals because you’re more likely to bust your ass to achieve them.  If you say you want to lose 5 lbs, you’ll half-ass it because “hey, it’s only 5 lbs.”  However, if you say you want to lose 80 lbs, cut your body fat percentage, and run a marathon, then you’ll make some serious changes to your lifestyle to make it happen.  Have the lofty goals, but pair them with realistic expectations.  If you’re a 300 lb 6ft 5inch guy, looking like Brad Pitt in Fight Club probably won’t happen.  Pick somebody with a similar body type to yours, and then set your goals from there.  Once you know how you want to look like, factor in what you can actually get accomplished while still living your life.

Don’t know what your goals should be or how long it should take you to accomplish them?  Shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’ll gladly answer any questions you have.  Also, If you have any requests on future movie hero-workouts, post a comment or email me.

Go get it.

-Steve

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