The 28-Day Challenge: Are You Up For It?

What’s with the beach?  Keep reading and find out.

While I was out at sea last week, I had an article published over on Art of Manliness: 8 Reasons You Need to Rediscover Your Passion for Exercise.  I feel really honored to be a part of that site, so thanks Brett and Kate! If you’re new to Nerd Fitness, welcome!  Here are the best ways to connect:

Site Update

I realized I did a site update a two weeks back, but it’s time for another quick one:

I now have over 1,000 email and rss subscribers!

If you run your own blog and are currently trying to build a following, I want you to know that it took nine months of writing every single day to get my first 100 subscribers.  It then took three months to get to 500 (after I cut back to two high-quality posts a week and started putting major effort into building relationships with other bloggers and websites), and then a month and a half to go from 500 to 1000 (with a big bump from my guest post on Art of Manliness).

Moral of the story: Whether you’re building a website or losing weight, remember – momentum is a powerful thing.  Stick with it.

The Four Week Challenge

Four weeks from now, I’ll be back out on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. This time, however, it won’t be for work – I’ll be going on an actual vacation!

Because of this, I figured it would be a great opportunity to challenge myself to get in great shape over the next month.  If I’m going to be sitting on a ship deck or the beach in board shorts every day, might as well try to look damn good doing so.  I plan on taking some updated pictures and shooting a video or two for Nerd Fitness while traveling, which is all the motivation I need to stay on target.

Here are my goals for these upcoming 28 days:

  • Gain at least five pounds, hopefully all muscle – I know you’re saying “damnit steve you suck, who gains weight before going on a cruise?”  Well, I’m a skinny mofo, and I want to be a little bigger.  The only way to do that is by eating lots of good, healthy food over these next four weeks.  I’ve gained 18 pounds in 30 days before, but this time I’m going to do it in a much healthier fashion.
  • Hit the weights hard three times a week – If I’m going to get bigger, I need to lift heavy weights with consistency, so I’ll be working out at a gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • Sleep more - I never sleep – I stay up way too late answering emails and writing articles (like this one), which is great for the site but terrible for my health.  I’m never going to get bigger and stronger if I don’t take care of myself.

Rather than fill up this blog with daily ups and down of my 28 day challenge, I’ll be posting my journal in the 28 Day Challenge on the Nerd Fitness message boards.  I’ll be posting my meals and complete workouts on there so you can follow exactly what I’m doing.  Yup, this is you getting early admission into the GREATEST MESSAGE BOARD EVER!!

Warning: the previous statement was a blatant lie.

Join Me.

Starting today, I want you to make a pledge to do two or three things that level up your life with 100% consistency over the next 28 days.

I’ll be taking a picture of myself and all of my measurements this morning (bicep, chest, legs, waist, and weight).  I encourage you to do the same – even if it’s just a picture and your weight.  – You don’t have to show anyone your pictures either – they’re more for you to see your results, but if you ARE okay with showing them that’s okay too.

Next, I want you to come up with a list of two or three obtainable goals or new habits you’d like to develop over the next month.  Preferably one diet related and one fitness related.  Don’t be too ambitious, but make sure your goals will be a challenge for you.

And then get it done, one day a time, for the next four weeks.

Why 28 days? Other than the fact that my vacation is four weeks from now…28 days is the perfect amount of time to see the start of great results (if you are completely devoted to the task at hand), and it’s also the perfect amount of time to develop a new habit according to Leo over at ZenHabits (one of my favorite sites).  Also, 28 days is enough time to build up some serious momentum going into April and May – which leaves plenty of time for you to get ready for the summer and swimsuit season.

Join the NF boards and start your own thread/diary on the 28-Day Challenge section along with me. Public accountability is incredible for keeping you going when you feel like giving up; plus, you’ll have a community of people to lean on when you’re not strong (cue “Lean on Me”).

Note: when you sign up for a new account, it should email you an activation link.  If it doesn’t email you anything after an hour or two (and it’s not in your spam), please email me at [email protected] and I’ll make your account active.  Still trying to work out the kinks.

Win a Prize – OMG!

To make things interesting – I’m going to award a prize to the person who is the most consistent and a prize to the person who has the best results (biggest transformation – either weight loss or muscle gain…this is where pictures really help).

Please note: I’ll be picking my winners from people that post their goals and results on the NF message boards and people who announce their acceptance of the challenge on their own website and track progress there.  If you’re in, let me know a.s.a.p!

Now, because this is all on the honor system, and because I’m broke as hell – the prize isn’t going to be “1000 dollars cash!” or anything like that…OR IS IT!?!?!

(no, it’s not.)

I was thinking more along the lines of a Nerd Fitness t-shirt (not even available yet!) and an iTunes gift card. Maybe I’ll even pick you up a souvenir down in Mexico when we stop in Cozumel…I hope you like comically oversized sombreros!

To preempt your questions or concerns that this 28-day challenge isn’t very well organized or thought-out, that’s because it ISN’T very well organized or thought-out.  I came up with this idea at 11:15PM last night when I should have been going to bed, so cut me some slack :)

Alright, let’s do this:

  • Post your goals on the Nerd Fitness message boards (preferred method).
  • Post your goals on your own website and send me a link (I’ll take it).

Don’t forget to take a picture of yourself today, and another picture of yourself at the end.  I encourage you to write down as much as possible, every single day – it will help you stay on track – and it will make it easier for me to pick you as a winner!

Let’s see what we can get done in 28 days as a fellowship.  I don’t care if I’m the only one doing it or if all one-thousand of us are leveling up during the month of March…either way I plan on kicking ass and getting stronger and healthier.

How bout you?

-Steve

###

If you liked this post and you want to keep flexing your brains and biceps, please sign up for the RSS Feed of Nerd Fitness or get NF posts daily via email.

photo: JeffPro57

What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?

I just bawled my eyes out while watching MTV.

Now, before you judge me (boo pre-judgement), please hear me out.  I just finished watching the latest episode of The Buried Life, a show that has quickly become my favorite 30 minutes of television every week.  What the heck is The Buried Life, you ask?

The Buried Life Trailer

If you can’t access YouTube, here’s a quick rundown:

Relying on goodwill, guts and gumption Duncan, Ben, Dave and Jonnie travel the globe in a purple transit bus to complete a list of ‘100 things to do before you die’. For every item they complete on their list, they help a stranger achieve one of their dreams. Everywhere they go they ask the question: What do you want to do before you die?

I’ve only seen two episodes of the show and I’m already hooked.  I’m absolutely in love with the premise and the show itself is highly entertaining and motivational.  Sure, the crazy things on their list make for some excellent television – but the best part of the show is clearly their weekly attempt to help a complete stranger cross something off their own list.  On the episode that had me crying, the guys raised enough money to fly a young girl out to Colorado to visit her mom’s grave for the first time.  It was unbelievable.

When you break it to the simplest terms, this is what life is all about – making memories, finding a way to be happy, taking chances, and helping others do the same.

I feel like I have an opportunity to do some pretty awesome things in my life, and Nerd Fitness is allowing me to help others cross things off of their own lists.  Whether it’s losing 100 pounds, running a marathon, or sticking around long enough to watch your kids graduate college, I want to help you with your list.  I’ve seen what getting in shape can do for somebody’s self-confidence and drive – If I can help you turn things around in your own life, you’ll hopefully inspire others to do the same.

I realize it’s really uncool to watch MTV these days, but this show is worth a watch – it’s a half-hour reminder to have some fun, do things you love, and help other people along the way.  Whether they’re trying to party at the Playboy Mansion, make a toast at a stranger’s wedding, or compete in a Krump contest in L.A., the Buried Life are living proof that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

If you want to check out the show, you can watch full episodes over on MTV.com.

Now, while I’m helping other people level up their lives, I’d like to eventually cross a few things off my own list (which I just started making myself).  Here are six things I’d like to do cross off my list:

  1. Become a published author.
  2. Visit New Zealand.
  3. Skydive.
  4. Get in the end credits of a movie.
  5. Save somebody’s life.
  6. Compete in Ninja Warrior

Some of those things seem relatively easy given enough time and money, others not so much (Ninja Warrior, saving somebody’s life), but I honestly feel like nothing on this list is off the table.  That’s why it’s on my list!

I want to hear five things from your list in the comments - nothing is considered too easy or too hard.  Make sure you put down your correct email address (it will remain private) when posting a comment, so I can reach out to you if there’s anything I can do to help you cross something off your list.

Let’s have some fun, and let’s help each other.

-Steve

###

The Lord of The Rings Guide To Getting Sh** Done.

Nerd alert!

What can be said about The Lord of the Rings trilogy that hasn’t already been said?  It’s easily one of the greatest literary achievements of our time and one hell of an underdog story (which I love).  Sure it’s fun to lose yourself for an afternoon in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, but have you ever considered taking a few lessons from these imaginary characters and applying them to your own life?

You can learn at lot more from Frodo and the Fellowship (wow that sounds like a really crappy tribute band) than you might realize.

I’m going to teach you how to use the Lord of the Rings to help you get sh** done in your life, whether it’s losing weight, getting a new job, winning a competition, starting a side business, and more.

Let’s do this.

What’s Your “One Ring”?

While trying to destroy the One Ring, Frodo ran into orcs, giant spiders, ring-wraiths, traveled thousands of miles, and almost died approximately a million times.   Through all of this adversity, he managed to keep his eye on the prize and eventually save all of Middle-earth.

Oh, and he did it barefoot.

What’s your “One Ring” – Is it something like “lose fifty pounds?”  Maybe it’s “run a marathon,” or “pack on fifteen pounds of muscle.”  Whatever your goal is, find a way to take one step towards that goal every single day.  Frodo always knew exactly where he needed to go (Mordor) and exactly what he needed to do (throw the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom), so all of his steps and goals were in that direction.  Once you’ve decided where to go and what to do, it’s much easier creating a plan to actually get there.

Now, as for the kind of steps you take – I don’t care if they’re “What About Bob” baby-steps or massive hops, skips, and jumps – just find a way to make a little bit of progress.  If you backtrack or get lost, find the path and keep going.

One step at a time my friend, my one step at a time.

Push Yourself

As Sam and Frodo were making their way beyond the Shire, Sam stopped moving at one point and declared, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” For somebody that’s never been outside of his comfort zone, this must have been terrifying.   He later found out that he’d have to go all the freaking way to Mordor to protect Frodo.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam was wearing diapers under that tunic because he was so scared.  Doesn’t matter.  You know what DOES matter?

He did it.

You might have never run a 5k before.  You might have never been in a gym before, or lifted weights, or taken a yoga class.  Hell, maybe you’ve never asked out a girl before.  Whatever it is, everything outside of your “Shire” will scare you – that’s part of life.  Until you step outside of your comfort zone, unless you push yourself harder than you pushed yesterday, nothing will change.  There’s nothing wrong with staying safe, but I’d like you to challenge yourself whenever possible – you’d be amazed what will come of it.  Small victories over small fears can help build momentum towards bigger challenges.

And momentum is a damn powerful thing.

Have a Fellowship

Frodo had Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, his three hobbit buddies, and Boromir (booo!) to accompany him on his quest to destroy the ring.  They protected him, motivated him, listened to him, inspired him, befriended him, told him when he was wrong, and even let him go do his own thing when necessary.  Without this crew, there is no way in hell Frodo survives more than ten minutes.

Who’s in your fellowship? Do you have friends to confide in, parents to hold you accountable, a wife who will ask you how your training is going?  Find a way to get positive people around you who will make you a better person.  I have been fortunate enough to have a great circle of friends, and I owe a lot of my success and happiness to having them around.

Now, what if you don’t have a great group of immediate friends who are supporting you in your quest?  Thankfully, the internet is here to help your ass out.  I’ve met some AMAZING people through this website, dozens of other bloggers and hundreds of other readers who are helping each other improve their lives from half-way around the globe.

You keep me accountable, you motivate me, you even pick me up when I miss a workout.  It’s fascinating and a great thing to be a part of, and I encourage you to find people to help you do the same.  Start a free blog, tell your co-workers about your goals, email me and let me know how I can help.  We’re all in this together, and we’re more powerful as a group than any of us could be alone.

Do the Best With What You Have

While traveling through the desolate and dangerous Mines of Moria, Frodo started complaining about his situation to Gandalf, talking about how he wished the Ring and this crazy quest had never fallen into his lap.  Gandalf came back with a line that will stick with me forever:

“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

And THAT’S why Gandalf is the man. No matter your age, no matter your appearance, no matter your genetic history, no matter your current predicament, you have to remember that your hand has already been dealt.  You can’t cry over spilled milk, you can’t complain about the past, you can’t worry about what happened five minutes ago.  You can only control what to do from this moment – right now – onward.

Draw a line in the sand today and tell yourself that from now on you’re going to be a different person.  You can’t control what’s already happened, but you sure as hell can control what’s going to happen from now on.  You’ve been given the opportunity to live a life on this planet to the best of your ability.  In the grand scheme of the universe, that’s pretty freaking awesome.

Make the most of it.

Set Out Today

You’ve got your quest laid out in front of you, you’ve got a good fellowship of friends to support you, and you’re willing to push yourself further than you’ve been.  Now it’s time to take action.  No matter how daunting your quest might appear, find a way to take one step closer.

Don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow.  Do what you can with the time that has been given to you today.

-Steve

###

Here are some other popular posts you might like:

photo: Dan Taylor

The State of Nerd Fitness – 2/18/10

We’re approximately an 1/8th of the way through 2010, so I thought today would be a good time to update you all on the state of Nerd Fitness.  Next week is both busy and awesome, so I wanted to fill you in before things get crazy.

Good times!

Big Week Next Week

What’s the big news, you ask? For starters, I’m headed back out to sea with my company Sixthman for Cayamo, a 5-day singer/songwriter cruise with some incredibly talented musicians.  Fortunately, I’ve already written my two articles for next week and I have them queued up to post on Monday and Thursday (a Steve Kamb first).

And that’s not even the biggest news of the week!  While I’m out at sea, I have a guest post going up on one of my favorite sites in the world, a site through which many of you have discovered Nerd Fitness.  Hopefully this guest post will lead to some newly enlightened individuals making their way over to my little site here.

Now, because I’ll be out floating on a boat I won’t be here to greet any of these new people. That means I need your help!  Beginning on Tuesday, if you start to see some new faces in the comments, please be extra nice and make sure they stick around.  If you’re extra nice, I’ll even bake cookies and send them to you (NF note: Steve refuses to do any sort of baking ever, so don’t expect cookies).

Oh, and I apologize in advance for being two weeks behind on my email responses coming up…these cruises really back everything up.  Poor me.

Nerd Fitness Update

Thirteen months ago, I created NerdFitness.com without really knowing what I was doing.  I feel like over the past few months I’ve really hit my stride, writing articles that are resonating with NF readers and making an impact.  I’ve had conversations with people in Spain, New Zealand, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, and China…and that’s just in the past two weeks.  Seriously, how cool is that?

This site is building some awesome momentum – watch out world, because the Nerd Fitness brigade (fellowship? tribe? still haven’t figured out what to call us yet) is coming in hot.

Honesty and Integrity

I’ll be the first to tell you I am not an expert personal trainer. I’m only 25 years old, and really didn’t find my passion for fitness until a few years ago.  I do have a personal trainer certification, but I haven’t spent nearly enough time in a gym training people on specific exercises and helping people with 100% perfect form for exercises to consider myself an expert.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I want to be honest with you.

There are way too many people out there pretending to be the world’s greatest trainer, and there are way too many sites selling “the best fitness routine ever!”  These people and their websites are a slap in the face to guys like Alwyn Cosgrove, Craig Ballantyne, Jason Ferruggia, Mike Rickett, and Jason Varley – guys that I respect who have been in the personal training business for over a dozen years each getting actual results with hundreds of clients.

For this reason, I don’t want to be pretend to be something I’m not..I just want to be me: a normal guy with a day job and a life who just happens love fitness and wants to make a difference by motivating and helping others.  Hopefully you read my post last week: I miss workouts, I skip meals or overeat on occasion, and I definitely don’t get enough sleep.  Just like you, I’m down in the trenches every day just trying to be a better person.

That being said, I want you to know that I will continue to go out of my way to research all of my articles to the best of my ability.  If I’m discussing a topic that I don’t feel completely confident in, I’ll open the floor for discussion or defer to the opinions of my educated mentors.  I may not be an expert, but I guarantee I care more than anybody else (other than yourself) about helping you get what you want out of life, which means I’m going to bust my ass to make sure you’re inspired, motivated, and informed.

Remember, everybody loves a good underdog story.

NF Message Board

As many of you know, I’ve been working on building a Nerd Fitness message board for the past month or so: nothing super fancy, but a place for NF readers to connect, ask questions, and motivate each other.  I’ve met so many cool people through this site and it’s pretty awesome to see them starting to connect with each other.

I still have some kinks to work out, but I’d like to get as many people posting in there as possible who are interested before opening it to the general public.  Let me know if you’re interested (email me at [email protected]) so I can add you to the community.  We’re up to about 30 “beta-testers” at the moment, but the more the merrier!

Nerd Fitness as a Business

Before I get into this, I want to make one thing clear: no matter what happens, you can expect to read new, well-researched, entertaining, and informative articles completely free of charge on this site for years to come.  That will not change.

I’ve decided after thirteen months of daily writing, I’m at the point where I feel confident in my skills and direction to start taking steps towards turning this site into a business.  I now have my own LLC (Level Up Enterprises,), a business bank account, and even business debit card with my name and company on it.  Steve’s all grown up!

For starters, I’d like to create an E-book for readers who really want day-by-day workout plans and diets. Now, because I don’t consider myself an expert on program development, I’m planning on partnering with trainers who ARE experts at program development.  Now, before you start thinking of those lame “lose 40 pounds in 4 weeks” crappy online fitness programs, remember that this is Nerd Fitness, and you’re dealing with Steve Kamb.  This book will be bad-ass, incredibly unique, and well worth it.

I took down the download for my free E-book, because it’s time for a re-write…I’m now six months wiser!  I’d like to update a few sections, add in fresh content, and make some adjustments to a few things here and there.  Hopefully I can get this back up soon – yes it will still be free!

I’m also tossing around the idea of getting sponsors for the site, but I haven’t convinced myself completely that this is the path I want to take. I do know that I only want to work with sponsors who line up with my values as a person, which means I’ll be turning down 90% of the companies that come to me looking to promote their products through the site.  Oh well.

I’ve selected what charity Nerd Fitness will be partnering with for the Warrior Dash Costume Dignity-Massacre! There are quite a few things that need to happen before I launch the fund-raiser, but the first big hurdle is out of the way.  Expect an official announcement around early April.

Lastly, I signed up for a online small-business class with Chris Guillebeau over at the Art of Nonconformity. If I had to model my website and eventual online business after somebody’s it would be his, so this is a really cool opportunity for me.

Big Things

I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Every new email I get from a reader who has lost weight inspires me.  Every new comment from a complete stranger means there’s one more person ready to change his/her life.  I feel really fortunate to help bring together a community of good people who want to help each other.

I’ll be checking in occasionally next week from the Caribbean (yeah, poor me…I know).  I just want to say thanks for reading, thanks for sharing this site with your friends and co-workers, and thanks for inspiring me to be a better person every day.

So…that’s my life. What’s up with you?

-Steve

###

If you liked this post and you want to stick around, please sign up for the RSS Feed of Nerd Fitness or get NF posts daily via email!

Photo: Sam LLIC Photography

How To Build Your Own Workout Routine

What should I do for a workout?

I get this email at least once a day, and I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the perfect answer for everybody.  Considering that a program should be developed around a person’s biology, age, goals, diet, free time, etc, there’s a lot of factors I can’t get in ten minutes through email.

I can certainly offer up suggestions, but there’s one person that knows what’s best for you: YOU.  Developing a workout routine for yourself can be scary, but it’s really not too difficult and kind of fun once you understand the basics.

First of all, what are you doing now. Is it working?  Are you safe and is it making you healthier?  If so, keep doing it!  However, if you’re JUST getting started, you want to mix things up, or you’re ready to start lifting weights (after reading that weight training is the fat-burning prize fight victor), it’s good to understand what goes into a program so you can build one for yourself.

Let’s do this.

Determine Your Situation

How much time can you devote to exercise?

If you can do an hour a day, that’s awesome.  If you have a wife, three kids, and two jobs, then maybe you can only do thirty minutes every other day.  That’s fine too.  Whatever your time commitment is, developing the most efficient workout is crucial.  Why spend two hours in a gym when you can get just as much accomplished in 30 minutes?

Where will you work out? At a gym? Using some weights at home? Just body weight exercises?

What Exercises Should I Do?

Keep it simple, stupid.

Unless you’ve been lifting weights for years, I recommend doing a full body routine that you can do two or three times a week.  You want a routine that has at least one exercise for your quads (front of your legs), butt and hamstrings (back of your legs), your push muscles, your pull muscles, and your core.  Yes, this means you can develop a full body routine that uses only four or five exercises.  Hows THAT for efficient?

  • Quads – squats, lunges, one legged squats, box jumps.
  • Butt and Hamstrings – hip raises, deadlifts, straight leg deadlifts, good mornings, step ups.
  • Push (chest, shoulders, and triceps) - overhead press, bench press, incline dumbbell press, push ups, dips.
  • Pull (back, biceps, and forearms) – chin ups, pull ups, inverse body weight rows, dumbbell rows.
  • Core (abs and lower back) – planks, side planks, exercise ball crunches, mountain climbers, jumping knee tucks, hanging leg raises.

Pick one exercise from each category above for a workout, and you’ll work almost every single muscle in your body. These are just a few examples for what you can do, but you really don’t need to make things more complicated than this.

Add some variety – If you do the same routine, three days a week, for months and months both you and your muscles will get bored.  If you do bench presses on Monday, go with shoulder presses on Wednesday and dips on Friday.  Squats on Monday? Try lunges on Wednesday and box jumps on Friday.  Pick a different exercise each time and your muscles will stay excited (and so will you).

Lastly, your muscles don’t get built in the gym, they get built when you’re resting. Give your muscles 48-72 hours to recover between workouts.  A Monday-Wednesday-Friday workout works well to ensure enough time to recover.

How Many Sets Should I Do?

Not including a warm-up set or two, I recommend doing between 3-5 sets per exercise.

Keep your total workout number of sets for all exercises is in the 15-25 set range (5 or 6 exercises of four sets is a good start).  More than twenty five sets in a workout can either be overkill (doing more harm than good) or you’re not working yourself hard enough (boo inefficiency).

How Many Repetitions Should I Do?

If you’re looking to burn fat while building some muscle, keep your number of repetitions per set in the 8-15 range.  If you can do more than 15 without much of a challenge, it’s not difficult enough for you.  Add weight or change the exercise so that it’s tougher.

If you’re looking to build size and strength, you should vary your rep ranges depending on the workout.  Although I’m currently following a variation of Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength (2nd edition) routine (heavy weight at five reps per set),  I’ll be switching to this type of routine in the next few weeks:

  • Low reps (5-8) and heavy weight on Mondays.
  • High reps (12-15) and lower weight on Wednesdays.
  • Medium reps (8-12) and medium weight on Fridays.

If you can keep your muscles guessing by constantly forcing them to adapt to different routines, they’re more likely to get harder, better, faster, stronger (thanks Daft Punk!).

What’s the significance of the different number of repetitions?

  • Reps in the 1-5 range build super dense muscle and strength (called myofibrillar hypertrophy).
  • Reps in the 6-12 range build a somewhat equal amounts of muscular strength and muscular endurance.
  • Reps in the 12+ range build muscular endurance and size (this is called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy).

By doing rep ranges at each of these different increments, you’re building well-rounded, balanced muscles – full of endurance, explosive power, and strength.

You can even mix up your amount of weight and reps within a single exercise.  Here’s an example of what I’d do for a dumbbell chest press on a Friday:

  • 12 reps at 65 pound dumbbells, rest 90 seconds.
  • 10 reps at 70 pound dumbbells, rest 90 seconds.
  • 8 reps at 75 pound dumbbells, rest 90 seconds.
  • 6 reps at 80 pound dumbbells, done!

Always try to keep your muscles guessing, and you’re less likely to plateau (get stuck lifting the same amount of weight).

How Long Should I Wait Between Sets?

I purchased The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises, which is a great book LOADED with exercises, tons of pictures, and routines.  They have a very basic formula for how long to wait between your sets based on how many reps you’re doing for the exercise:

  • 1-3 Reps: Rest for 3 to 5 minutes
  • 4-7 Reps: Rest for 2 to 3 minutes
  • 8-12 Reps: Rest for 1 to 2 minutes
  • 13 Reps+: Rest for 1 minute or less

Now, pair this time between sets with how many reps you are doing.  If you mix up rep ranges on a daily basis, you need to mix up your rest time between sets too.  This is how you build well-rounded muscles, and a well-balanced body.  w00t.

How Much Should I Lift?

This one is easy: lift enough so that you can get through the set, but not too much that you have NO fuel left in the tank at the end.  How do you determine how much that is?  Trial and error.  When just starting out, or if you’re doing a new exercise for the first time, always err on the side of caution.

Now, if you’re doing exercises with just your body weight, you need to find a way to make each exercise more difficult as you get in shape – once you get past 20 reps for a particular exercise and you’re not gassed, it’s time to mix things up.

  • Can you do 20 push ups no problem? It’s time to start mixing them up to be more challenging.  Pick a variation from the Art of Manliness Push Up Article and make yourself work for it!
  • 20 bodyweight squats too easy? Hold some weights high above your head as you do the next set.  Try one-squats.  Always be challenging yourself.

How Long Should I Exercise?

45 minutes to an hour.

If you’re doing 15-25 sets of total exercise, you should be able to get everything done within that 45 minute block.  Now, factor in a five or ten minute warm-up, and then stretching afterwards, and the workout can go a little bit longer.  If you can go for over an hour and you’re not completely worn out, you’re simply not pushing yourself hard enough.

Less time, more intensity, better results.

What if you don’t have 45 minutes? Maybe you want to build some cardio into your weight training.  That’s where these next two sections come in.

Alternating Sets

Let’s say you’re doing four sets of squats and you plan on doing four sets of dumbbell bench presses after that.  If you wait two minutes between each set, this will take you around twenty minutes or so (factoring in the time to get set and actually do the set).

Try this instead: Do a set of squats, wait one minute, then do a set of dumbbell presses, wait one minute, then do your next set of squats, and so on.

Because you’re exercising two completely different muscle groups, you can exercise one while the other is “resting.”  You’re now getting the same workout done in half the time.  Also, because you’re resting less, your body has to work harder so your heart is getting a workout too.  Jackpot.

Let’s see how this would play out in a sample workout:

  • Lunges alternating with incline dumbbell presses, four sets each, one minute between sets.
  • Wait a few minutes to catch your breath and get set for your next two exercises.
  • Straight leg deadlifts alternating with wide-grip pull ups, four sets each, one minute between sets.
  • 3 Sets of planks, stretch, and get the hell out of there!

Circuits

This is the most effective way to burn fat when exercising.

This is also the most effective way to make you involuntarily swear at inanimate objects.

A circuit requires you to do one set for EVERY exercise, one after the other, without stopping.  After you’ve done one set of each exercise in succession, you then repeat the process two, or three, or four more times. I’ve written about two body weight circuits here on the site:

If you work out in a gym, here’s a previous article I wrote about weight circuit training. Circuits get very tricky when in a gym, so make sure you’re doing them when it’s not crowded.

Keep Track Of Everything

Keep a workout journal! You should be getting stronger, faster, or more fit with each day of exercise.  Maybe you can lift more weight, lift the same amount of weight more times than before, or you can finish the same routine faster than before.

Write everything down so that you can compare yourself against a previous workout.

Recap

Okay, so I realize that’s a ridiculous amount of info, but it’s all very important stuff.  Let’s break it down into easy chunks right here:

  • ALWAYS warm up – 5-10 minutes on a bike, rowing machine, jumping jacks, run up and down your stairs, etc.
  • Pick one exercise for each big muscle group – quads, butt and hamstrings, push, pull, and core.
  • Do 3-5 sets for each exercise.
  • Determine how many reps and how long you’ll wait between sets for each exercise.
  • Mix it up! Vary your reps, sets, and exercises.  Keep it interesting.
  • Increase your efficiency and work your heart by doing alternating sets or circuits.
  • Keep your workout to under and hour.
  • Stretch AFTER your workout.
  • Write everything down.

So how’d I do?  Good enough explanation?  Not enough detail?  Too Confusing? Way too long?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

-Steve

###

photo: mdwombat

A Missed Workout

This is not the article I intended to write today.

Last night after work and going to the gym, I came home to type my blog post, and ended up writing 2,000 words on a subject that was more about life and less about health and fitness.  I decided it wasn’t a great fit for this site (in its current state), so I put it in the drafts folder, and started writing another article.  2,000 words into my second article, I realized that I didn’t love it.

I woke up early this morning to finish, and came to the realization that I couldn’t get it done in time with the level of polish and professionalism that you, the Nerd Fitness reader, deserve.  For the first time in quite a while, I don’t have a big-time article for you to read on Thursday.  I equate it to a missed workout in the gym.  I can blame it on my scatter-brained mind, lack of free time between my real life and my day job, need for sleep, whatever.  Excuses, everybody has ‘em.

I’d like to reference Wedding Crashers and the quote “Rule #76. No excuses, play like a champion.”  Sorry, but that’s bullsh*t.  You know what?  Life gets in the way sometimes.  Last night was one of those days, and it wasn’t from lack of effort.  I went to the gym, I tried to better myself, and I wrote close to four-thousands words for the site.  They just weren’t good enough.  I’d rather not post an article than post something I’m not proud of.

What does this have to do with fitness?

We’re all human.

None of us are perfect.

Life happens. Sh*t happens.

So you ate like a pig on Super Bowl Sunday.  You skipped a workout to go watch your kids basketball game.  Maybe you skipped a run because you wanted to play Halo with your roommates.  Honestly, who cares?  Do NOT beat yourself up over it.  It happens to the best of us – it doesn’t make you a failure, or a bad person, or a slacker.   You’re not alone.

I do the best I can with the hand I’m dealt, I try to live my life to the best of my ability, and I try to have some fun every once a while.  I hope you do the same.  If you miss a workout, if you go eat a 2,000 calorie awesome blossom at Outback, if you sleep in on Saturday and decide to not run, it doesn’t mean you don’t care about yourself.  It just means that you’re human!  Like the rest of us.

Just make sure not taking care of yourself doesn’t become a routine.  I don’t plan on making a habit out of missing my self-imposed deadlines, so I’ll see you with a regularly scheduled, kick-ass post on Monday.

Thanks for listening.

-Steve

photo: BitPicture

How to Get Started With Intermittent Fasting

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you probably ate a ****load of food last night while watching the Super Bowl (Google definitely had the best ad, by the way).

You’re thinking to yourself, “I put on five pounds last night, how the hell do I get back on track?”  I’m going to introduce a seemingly ridiculous concept to you, one that I hadn’t ever considered until doing the research:

Intermittent Fasting.

Sounds like the worst thing ever, right?  Starving yourself on purpose?  “TOTALLY LAME,” as Awesome-O would say.

Well, if you’ve been unsuccessful at losing weight, if you’ve lost weight but you’ve hit a plateau, or if you just want to try something new, this might be the jump start you need.

Disclaimer: this is just my opinion based on my research and reading. This is less of a recommendation article rather than an eye-opener and call for discussion.  I do present my opinion at the end though, and I’d love to hear yours.

Diets – Six Meals For the Win?

For years, the concept of lots of small meals throughout the day really clicked with me.

If you space out your meals evenly, keep your calorie count low, you’ll lose weight, right?  I’ve even talked about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Lots of people follow the “eat multiple meals a day” ideology and lose weight, so it works.  Less calories, more meals, evenly spread out.  It makes sense.

However, I’ve recently done some research and reading on IF…which also makes a lot of sense to me.  By not eating every once a while, your body has to burn the fat in your system for energy, which would lead to weight loss.  Also, by not eating for twenty four hours, you’re pushing your body into a calorie deficit, which also leads to weight loss.  It makes sense.

So, how can these two seemingly conflicting ideologies both make sense? Simple – they both allow your body to burn more calories than you consume.  And, if other research on the body’s physiology while fasting is to be believed, there are multiple other benefits as well.

Let’s get down to business.

What the Hell is Intermittent Fasting?

IF is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you purposely avoid eating for a twenty-four hour period (or two) during the week. Why?  Because recent studies have shown that your metabolism operates more on a marathon basis (how many calories consumed over a long period of time) than on a sprint basis (what you ate yesterday).  Prior to this research, I was giving way too much credit to my stomach – it’s not nearly as intelligent as I thought.  Think long term when it comes to calories consumed and burned, not short term.

Mark over at Mark’s Daily Apple has a great write-up on the evolutionary science behind fasting. Mark runs one of the most thorough and successful paleo diet blogs out there, and I highly value his opinion.  I love looking into the evolutionary aspects of diet and fitness, and I’m often very weary of any new “breakthrough” that requires a pill or drink or anything.  We’ve survived as a species for tens of thousands of years with diet, exercise, and intelligence.

Fasting is one of those evolutionary aspects that makes complete sense to me.

How Does it Work?

Our bodies are genetically engineered to deal with feast or famine.  10,000 years ago, surprisingly there was no free All-Star Slam Breakfast from Denny’s!   Our bodies need fuel to operate, and if there isn’t any food in the stomach to pull from, it uses the fat stored within the body for energy.  The fat gets burned for energy, the body keeps moving, and thus becomes leaner.

Secondly, because of these skipped meals, you are putting your body into a calorie deficit (averaged out for the week).  Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so start thinking of your calories more in terms of weekly units rather than daily amounts, if that helps.  More calories burned compared to calories consumed = weight loss!

Here’s a video from Brad over at Eat Stop Eat (which reads like an infomercial, ugh…but it’s legit) explaining the similarities between fasting and exercise.  He also wrote a guest post over on Fitness Black Book.  I considered setting up an affiliate link for Brad’s e-book in case you’re interested in purchasing it, but I didn’t want you to think I wrote this article to get affiliate money.  Instead, you can form your own opinion, and then buy Brad’s book if you’re interested.


Brad Pilon – Eat Stop Eat

How Do You Do It?

Simple: pick a day (or two) per week and purposely skip breakfast and lunch, and then eat a normal dinner. Brad over at Eat Stop Eat recommends doing this type of fasting once or twice a week – for example, a fast on Monday, and then another one on Thursday.  Liquids are okay on fasting days, just not ones with calories.  Heyoooo H2O!

If you’re used to eating a LOT of food, and you normally eat a big breakfast, this is going to be a pretty big drastic change.  Start by skipping breakfast and see how your body reacts to it.  If you can handle that, work your way up to skipping breakfast and lunch.  Notice that I’m not saying you should skip breakfast and lunch every day.  Eat normally five days a week, try a fast one of the other days for a few weeks and see how your body reacts.

Eat, don’t eat, and then eat.  Got it?

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

A recent article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gives a great overview of these benefits which include decreases in blood pressure, reduction in oxidative damage to lipids, protein and DNA, improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, as well as decreases in fat mass.”  This study discusses studies done with humans (not mice) specifically.

From the LA times: Mark P. Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging: “In normal health subjects, moderate fasting — maybe one day a week or cutting back on calories a couple of days a week — will have health benefits for most anybody.”

I’d like to see more studies, with better controls done for more solid proof of these benefits, but I expect that to happen soon.

Risks of Intermittent Fasting

So, all we see so far are GOOD things about not eating for a full day. What the hell is BAD about it? First off, I can see myself getting extremely hungry to the point of annoyance when starting out this process.  This is echoed by Ruth Frechman, a registered dietitian in Burbank and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn: “You’re hungry, fatigued, irritable. Fasting is not very comfortable. People try to cut back one day and the next day they’re starving and they overeat.”

I imagine there is quite the learning curve for your body when it has to switch from using readily accessible carbs for energy to using your body’s fat stores, so I can see the first few fasting days being extremely difficult.  NF Reader Matt makes a great point in the comments that I’m reposting here for all to see:

“One thing I think people who are considering this should ask themselves – how are you at controling your hunger at the moment?  Losing weight is all about consuming less calories than you burn.   The biggest obstacle to this is hunger.  That is, uncontrollable hunger.  If you are starving yourself on 800 calories a day, then you will be much more likely to binge and go way over your calorie goal.  So it becomes important to eat when you are hungry, not when you are starving.”

Moral of the story? Don’t overdo it – if you feel light headed and you can’t function, EAT SOMETHING.  Listen to your body, and find a way to make it work for you.  We only get one chance on this planet, so make it count.

Have I tried It Yet?

Honestly, I haven’t. Well, not on purpose anyway.  The idea of skipping a meal or two goes against everything I’ve done for the past seven years.  If you’re a person who is used to eating a lot of food all day long, this probably scares the crap out of you too.  However, considering the fitness gurus and researchers that I read all highly recommend this type of “diet,” I’d be stupid if I didn’t give it a shot.  After all, if I can’t practice what I preach then I’m being dishonest to myself and to you all.

My biggest concern was losing more weight and muscle mass.  Then I saw that Craig Ballantyne, another fitness dude whose opinion I really respect, gained 13 pounds, most of which was muscle, while doing IF.  If he can do it, so can I.

Lastly, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough energy to get through a workout if I didn’t eat beforehand.  However, after doing my research on IF, I did a test-workout this past Saturday in a fasted state and had zero problem getting through the routine.  That was a big boost for me to move forward with writing this article and planning to try it out myself.

I’m going to try this one day this week, I’ll let everybody know how it goes. I still expect to build muscle and put on some pounds, even when skipping the first two meals of the day occasionally.

Do I Recommend It?

This is tough for me. Because I haven’t done it yet, I’m cautious about throwing my whole support behind the concept.  However, I do believe that this is another system that will definitely work for many people (but not all).  It’s just like every other successful diet: eat good foods, and don’t eat too much.

This is my recommendation:

  • Is your current plan working? Good! Don’t change it!
  • Is your current plan NOT working? Give this a shot.

If you only get ONE thing from this whole article, it’s this: there is more than one way to lose weight, so don’t worry about your method being the best.  The best diet is the one that makes you lose weight and keeps you healthy.  If you’re already losing weight, keep doing what you’re doing.  If you’re not, maybe do a little bit more reading on IF and give it a shot.

My advice? Do it the day after you’ve stuffed yourself, and balance things out.  In terms of losing the most weight the quickest, I’d probably recommend the Paleo Diet and intermittent fasting with weight training in the gym.

So what are your thoughts? Have you tried fasting before?  Successful or miserable failure?  Will you give a shot?  If so, please post your stories, thoughts, successes, concerns in the comments and we’ll see if this is something we can all wrap our heads around.

-Steve

PS- Message Board Update – The message boards are still in ‘beta testing,’ but I would love to add some more readers to the mix to help me test it out.  We have about 20 readers contributing already , keeping track of their workouts, encouraging each other, etc, and I want some more!  If you’re interested in helping kick start the NF message boards, email me at [email protected] and I’ll get you an invite.

###

picture – Undronotto

Help Me Make a Complete Ass of Myself – It’s for a Good Cause.

Screen shot 2010-02-03 at 7.53.10 PM

I signed up for another 5k race the other day.

After my last one (where I got destroyed by a 10-year old girl), I decided that was enough humiliation for the year.  That all changed when I came across the greatest thing ever: The Warrior Dash. Essentially, it’s a 5k race through the woods of Georgia, complete with kick-ass obstacles, tons of mud, warrior helmets, live music, and free beer.  It takes place on May 22nd in Moutain City, GA.  It’s essentially like a live-action version of MXC: Don’t Get Elminated!

This is how they tell you to train:

  1. Day one: run as far as you can. Go home. Day two: do the same thing.
  2. Find the dirtiest pond in your neighborhood and snorkel in it – in your slippers, without goggles.
  3. Practice your climbing and crawling skills at your local jungle gym.  Ignore the small children and parental glares.
  4. Do not shower or shave for weeks in order to obtain a true Warrior look.

Greatest. Race. Ever. Now, as I perused the site looking for more information, I found out that costumes were not only acceptable, but strongly encouraged.  A light bulb went off in my head.  I immediately emailed my group of friends and convinced a whole bunch of them to dress up in costume with me and run this thing (not that it took much convincing).

So, why are we all going to dress up like idiots, you ask?

Because this is the perfect opportunity for the Nerd Fitness Community to point and laugh at Steve and his friends while also raising money for a really good cause!  I’m in the process of selecting a great charity to partner with, getting the framework set up, handling the process and financial garbage, etc.  If you have any recommendations for a great cause – preferably something with kids – or if you’ve done anything like this before and you have any advice please email me at [email protected].  I’m kind of winging it here.

This is where you come in. I’ve recruited my friends to wear increasingly more ridiculous costumes based on how much money we raise for the cause.  The amounts and the charity haven’t been confirmed yet, but I have a few weeks before I officially launch this thing.  In the meantime, I would LOVE to hear your ideas on what the heck we can wear for costumes.  There’s 14 of us, I think nine dudes and five chicks.

These are just the first few ideas that have been tossed around:

Screen shot 2010-02-03 at 10.36.34 PM

Braveheart: Kilts (hopefully not free-balling it), warpaint, wigs and beards. Bagpipes optional.

Screen shot 2010-02-03 at 10.48.57 PM
300: Speedos, capes, beards, hopefully not shaved chests, lots of war cries. Maybe spears.

Screen shot 2010-02-03 at 10.50.39 PM
Super Heroes: Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Batman, etc.  Lots of spandex.

Screen shot 2010-02-03 at 10.55.29 PM
Mortal Kombat: Johnny Cage, Scorpion, Raiden, Sub-Zero. No fatalities though.

Screen shot 2010-02-03 at 11.00.10 PM
Ninja Turtles: Four turtles, April O’Neil, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady, Shredder, Splinter. Kowabunga!

Screen shot 2010-02-03 at 11.03.45 PM
Smurfs: White pants, white hats, lots of blue paint.  We’ll draw straws for Gargamel.

Screen shot 2010-02-03 at 11.50.51 PM
Oompah-Loompahs: What more needs to be said? We’ll just buy a vat of Jersey Shore self-tanner.

THESE ARE ONLY EXAMPLES.  I want to know what you’re thinking.  The way I see it, every time we hit a new milestone (say, 1000 bucks – Braveheart, then 2000 bucks – Ninja Turtles, etc.), we’ll move up to a more awesome/insane costume.  Hopefully this will result in some hilarious costumes, great pictures, funny montage videos (hell yes I’m making a montage), and a lot of money for a really good cause.

What say you? What would you like to see our group of schmucks wearing when we crawl through mud and jump in lakes?  All ideas are welcome; I’ll rank them by ridiculousness and then assign dollar values.  Let’s have some fun and do something great for kids who really need it.

Once I get everything organized, expect an official announcement in a few weeks after this next round of cruises.

By the way, we’re in the 11AM wave and we’ll be camping out for the weekend, so make sure you let me know if you’ll be at the event too!

-Steve

###

If you liked this post and you want to stick around, please sign up for the RSS Feed of Nerd Fitness or get NF posts daily via email!

All photos are linked to their sources.  Please let me know if you’d like me to take them down.

What Burns More Calories: Cardio, Intervals, or Weight Training?

Screen shot 2010-01-30 at 4.06.35 PM

Fat loss is at the front of everybody’s mind these days, even storm troopers.

Let’s say you want to lose weight, and you want to do so in the fastest way possible.  Is it hours on the treadmill?  Sprints up a hill?  Could it possibly be squats and bench presses?  I’m going to guess that you have assumptions on what might be best for you.  In today’s royal rumble, I’m going to break down the difference between these three contenders and let you know which will give you the most bang for your buck.  The results, which certainly aren’t unanimous, will surprise you…

Meet today’s contestants:

  • Cardio: Pretty much anything with relative low intensity that you can do for a prolonged period of time that elevates your heart rate.  Regular aerobics, going for a three mile jog, running on a treadmill for an hour, using the elliptical for twenty minutes, etc.
  • Interval Training: When you decide to run, bike, use the elliptical, etc. with varying rates of speed and intensity.  Sprinting for 30 seconds followed by 90 seconds of jogging, and repeating this cycle for 20-30 minutes.
  • Weight Training: Whenever you lift weights or do body weight exercises, often times in a cyclical nature.

There have been hundreds and hundreds of studies done on this stuff (yay for science), and it’s certainly something that I’ve put considerable time into researching as well as it’s my job to figure out how to get in shape most efficiently.  I will have a decision for you by the end of the battle.  However, before we get there, there’s ONE thing that needs to be made crystal-clear:

If you are interested in getting in shape, the MOST important thing you can do for yourself is adjusting your diet.

Your diet is responsible for 80-90% of your successes or failures.  As I’ve said previously, even if you spend ten hours a week exercising, that still leaves 168 hours for you to mess things up.  Doh.  If all you care about is losing weight, the fastest path to success is with a freaking kick-ass diet.  Keep your total number of calories under control, cut out the junk food, give up soda, and start eating REAL FOODS: veggies, fruits, and lean meats.

Got it? Good.

So you’re on board with the whole “eating right” thing (w00t), but you still want to exercise to burn more fat.  Let’s break down each competitor:

Cardio

Cardio is the most basic thing you can do when it comes to burning calories. Let’s talk science: if you burn more calories than you consume in a day, you will lose weight.  Step on a treadmill, run three miles, and you’ll burn around 300 calories.  You don’t need any special weights, have extensive knowledge of any difficult exercises, just a pair of shoes (or a pair of Vibrams) and your legs.  This is why the majority of people who start exercising do so by just running a treadmill or elliptical for hours: it’s tough to mess up, and it’s pretty mindless.

Now, here’s my problem with cardio: it can be really boring!  Running outside is a different story, but I’d rather punch myself in the crotch than spend two hours on a treadmill.  Secondly, in terms of getting in shape, it’s definitely not the most efficient form of exercise.  Lastly, although it trains your heart to be in shape by remaining at a higher level of operation while exercising, it doesn’t train your heart to prepare for moments of extreme stress because it never really has to deal with rapid changes (explained in the next section).

So why isn’t cardio efficient when it comes to burning calories? There’s very little Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) with cardio, which means you only burn calories when running; not much happens afterwards.  If you want to read about how cardio doesn’t really burn any extra calories, you can read this fascinating article from NYT which is loaded with studies and references on the subject at hand.

What IS good about cardio? The thing about cardio that makes it better for almost everybody, other than it’s easy learning curve, is that it’s very low impact – your body can go for hours and hours, day after day, and not get worn out.  If you have the desire and willpower, you can burn calories all day long, like the guys in Born to Run.

High-Intensity Interval Training

When it comes to efficiency in burning calories, high-intensity training is leaps and bounds ahead of cardio.  Why is that?  EPOC, dude, EPOC!  That stuff I was talking about before.  Essentially, when you do high-intensity interval training (HIIT), your body and metabolism function at a higher rate of burned calories for hours and hours afterwards.  What does that mean? It means you’re burning calories while sitting on your ass playing Modern Warfare 2 or re-watching Lost Season 5 (not that I’m doing this currently, or anything like that).  You can read all about HIIT here.

So, how the hell does that work exactly?

HIIT constantly forces your heart to adjust to changing conditions: sprints, jogging, sprints, jogging, up hills, down hills, etc.  Your heart learns to operate outside of its norm, and your body learns to adapt to these changes.  All of this changing and sprinting kicks your metabolism into high gear for hours after you finish exercising.  To quote Mark’s Daily Apple, a site that I love:

A study (PDF) from the University of New South Wales followed the fitness and body composition changes in 45 overweight women in a 15-week period. The women were divided into two groups and assigned interval or continuous cycling routines. The interval “sprint” cycling group performed twenty minutes of exercise, which repeated eight seconds of “all out” cycling and then twelve seconds of light exercise. The continuous group exercised for 40 minutes at a consistent rate. At the end of the study, the women in the interval group had lost three times the body fat as the women in the continuous exercise group. (An interesting note: the interval group’s loss in body fat came mostly from the legs and buttocks area.)

Three times the amount of fat loss and half of the exercise time? Sounds good to me.  If you sift through the rest of Mark’s article, you’ll find reference after reference discussing the benefits of varying your speed and intensity over straight normal cardio.  Now, the bad thing about HIIT is that it takes your body quite a bit of time to recover, and you can really only do it for 20-30 minutes at a time before you get too exhausted to continue.  The other bad thing about HIIT?  Your body will hate you after just 20 minutes.

Weight Training

So if cardio is decent for burning calories while you exercise, and high intensity interval training is more effective because it burns calories both during and after exercise, where does weight training come in?  Alwyn Cosgrove, a fitness expert whose opinion I highly respect, wrote a great article discussing the Hierarchy of Weight Loss loaded with numerous studies highlighting the benefits of weight training in comparison to cardio.  This is the best part:

Overweight subjects were assigned to three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights. The diet group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The aerobic group lost only one more pound (15.6 pounds) than the diet group (training was three times a week starting at 30 minutes and progressing to 50 minutes over the 12 weeks).

The weight training group lost 21.1 pounds of fat (44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic only groups respectively). Basically, the addition of aerobic training didn’t result in any real world significant fat loss over dieting alone.

Thirty-six sessions of up to 50 minutes is a lot of work for one additional pound of fat loss. However, the addition of resistance training greatly accelerated fat loss results.

These are the lessons I’d take from this: what you eat is the most important thing when it comes to weight loss, aerobic training helps but not nearly as much as you’d think, and weight training when combined with the two is the most effective method to dropping pounds.

Now, what kind of exercises are best suited for this type of weight training for weight loss?  According to Alwyn, exercises that recruit the largest number of muscles (squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, squat thrusts, burpees, inverted rows, pull ups, and push ups).  Do any of these exercises sound familiar? (cough, NF beginner body weight workout and NF advanced body weight workout, cough).  By doing these exercises in a circuit without stopping, keeping your rep ranges in the 8-12 range, your body will get a super workout, you will build muscle, and you’ll burn calories at an accelerated rate for reportedly up to 38 HOURS after your exercise.

Want some more literature about how weight lifting is better than intervals (and way better than cardio)? Check out Alwyn’s interview on the Death of Intervals over on Jason Ferruggia’s site.  When it comes to performance, these fitness guys are two of the best in the business: no bull****, just results.

Is it that cut and dry?

Nope. Sure, if you keep the variable time as a constant, like 30 minutes of exercise, doing “metabolic resistance training” (a fancy term for weight lifting circuits) burns more calories than high intensity interval training, which burns more calories than straight cardio.  However, due to the stressful nature of Weight Training and HIIT, you can really only do those activities for 30-45 minutes before your body gives up and needs a few days to recover.  Cardio doesn’t have as nearly as stressful an impact on your body, so you can go for hours and hours and hours and do it again the next day (provided your body is in shape).

Medhi over Stronglifts highlights this uber-important fact in a great post called Why HIIT Is NOT Better For Fat Loss.  Essentially, because you can only do so much HIIT or weight training, you can only burn so many calories before your body wears out.  If time isn’t a factor for you, and you don’t mind spending more time in the gym on a daily basis, you can burn way more calories doing steady cardio than with just 30 minutes of weight training three days a week.

Judge’s Verdict

My decision on what you should do certainly depends on your fitness level, how much time you can devote to exercise daily, and what you actually LIKE to do. Remember: above all else, your diet is king.  Eat poorly and none of the above matters.  Eat right, eat real foods, and exercise, and you’ll get better.  Here is my advice to you:

Do cardio if:

  • You really enjoy the treadmill or elliptical, or you just really like running
  • You have all the time in the world
  • You’re just getting started and don’t really know what you’re doing

Do HIIT if:

  • You don’t like lifting weights, but you still want to burn calories as quickly as possible
  • You only have a limited amount of time every day
  • You like pushing your body to its limits.

Do circuit weight training if:

  • You want to build muscle while burning calories
  • You like burning calories while sitting on your butt.
  • You’re not afraid of lifting weights.

Honestly though, this is just the science-y stuff.  Ultimately, I just want you to be happy and healthy, which means it’s up to you to find a great combination of the three methods above that keep you smiling and keep the weight off consistently.  Luckily, there’s no 100% perfect way to get in shape, so find something that you love and stick with it.  If it ain’t workin for ya, take some advice from this post and see what kind of results you get.

If you’ve spent months doing steady-cardio, try varying the speeds and intensity every once and a while.  If you’re afraid of lifting weights, give it a shot once or twice a week and see if the weight starts to come off quicker.  Try adding some basic cardio into your weight lifting routine on off days to knock off a few more calories.  Most importantly, eat better!

What say you, nerds?  Are you a cardio lover?  Weight-lifter for life?  Where have you seen the most success?

Let’s hear it.

-Steve

###

picture: Waihey

The Definitive Nerd Fitness Workout Playlist

Screen shot 2010-01-27 at 11.41.00 PM

Does music ever make you feel like this?

It does for me, which is great because music happens to be a huge part of my life.  My day job involves producing floating music festivals on cruise ships (watch a spur-the-moment commercial I made on one of our cruises last week), I go to a few concerts a month, I play both guitar and piano, and I have a playlist in my iTunes for practically every occasion: for work, while studying or reading, when at a party, while falling asleep, and most importantly for working out.

I’m convinced that I can lift five to ten pounds more when listening to the right song. Unfortunately, because my gym loves to play Taylor Swift techno remixes all the time (don’t ask), I’ve resorted to bringing my own iPod and loading up my own workout playlist.  Put in the headphones, keep my head down, and take care of business.  I figured today would be a good day for me to highlight what’s on that playlist and ask you what I should add to it.

Steve’s Nerd Fitness Workout Playlist

This is what I listen to when lifting weights.  Feel free to make fun of anything in here you don’t like, as that’s what’s music is all about: making fun of others who listen to things different than you :).

There you have it – Steve’s proven formula to get pissed off and pumped up: some generic angst-y alt rock and hip hop.  What songs did I leave out?  What am I missing?  Let’s help create a cool list of songs for all readers.  Maybe when I have time I can turn it into an iMix on iTunes or something.  Only time will tell…

Now it’s your turn. What do you listen to when you work out?  Do you need happy music or angry music?

Let’s hear it!

-Steve

###

If you liked this post and you want to stick around, please sign up for the RSS Feed of Nerd Fitness or get NF posts daily via email!

photo: Notsogoodphotography

Previous Next View Archive