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 steve@nerdfitness.com 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

How to Look Like Brad Pitt in Troy

In today’s “How to Look Like A Superhero,” we’ll be checking out Brad Pitt’s routine to get in shape for the movie, Troy.

A few years back, you went to the movie theaters expecting to see the next epic, the next Gladiator, the next outlet for your macho, kick-ass, behavior.  Instead, you got “Troy,” and you probably fell asleep during the boring middle parts.  And then you got mad because they made both sides seem like the good guys, and you already knew how it was going to end, and yet you hoped it wouldn’t be THAT bad.  But it was.  The only thing worth watching again was that first scene where Achilles takes down the giant with one stab of his sword, which was freaking AWESOME.


Achilles Fight in Troy

Brad PittSo let’s say you decided you want to look like Achilles and you’re ready to hit the weights just like Brad did! Before you Google “Brad Pitt Troy workout,” know that everything you’ll find is either misleading or incorrect information.  I’m sure one or more of the routines I’ve found is the correct one, but honestly I don’t like any of them.  You’ll find routines that focuses exclusively on the upper body and completely ignores the lower body: a great way to look top-heavy and ridiculous.  Secondly, you’re looking at a guy who had 7 months to train for this role and had a personal trainer, strength coach, stretching coach, masseuse, yoga coach, and more.  So, rather than give you a routine that won’t work for most of you, I’d rather amend the listed routines and provide you with a better, healthier, safer routine that will still have you looking like you’re the best fighter in Greek history.  Brad went from approximately 160 lbs. in Fight Club to 185 lbs in Troy, which means he had some serious muscle to build and weight to gain.   As a thin guy with a very low body fat percentage, Brad’s metabolism most likely operated faster than the speed of light.  In order to put on at least 20 lbs of muscle, he needed to break his pre-movie routine into two phases, commonly known as a “Bulk and Cut” routine.

Exercise

When you’re very thin and looking to put on muscle mass, you will need to eat a LOT more than you’re eating, lift heavy weights, and keep your basic cardio to a minimum.  Now, as you’re gaining muscle mass, you’ll also be gaining a little of fat.  It’s inevitable. It’s okay though, that’s why this is called the “Bulk” phase.  What you’ll want to do is concentrate on compound exercises (bench press, pull ups, deadlifts, and squats are the four biggies) to promote growth throughout your whole body.  Although Brad only concentrated on his upper body, you’re going to NEED to do deadlifts and squats too; these exercises will pump up your legs and back, which happen to the be two parts of your body where you can gain the most weight the fastest.

To get the most out of these exercises, you should concentrate on completing between 12 and 6 reps with each set for each exercise, often training to absolute failure.  Absolute failure = by the time you’re on your final rep of your last set for that exercise, it should feel like that’s the last possible thing you could lift.  Heavy weights, lots of compound exercises, and minimal cardio. Cardio will take away from your weight gain.  Instead, I’d recommend working your cardio into your routine by minimizing the amount of time in between sets, waiting no more than a minute before starting up again.  To see a routine that I’m currently using with these principles in it (that has allowed me to gain 12 lbs in 7 weeks), read my blog here.  Personally, I like training the whole body when I’m in the gym, and I imagine that’s how the warriors of old would have trained as well: not concentrating on sculpting their triceps, but rather concentrating on lifting heavy weights and getting ready to kill people!

BPTOnce Brad reached the correct amount of weight and strength he desired, he flipped a switch and spent 3 months working on cutting the fat off his body (hence the “cut” phase of the routine), leaving nothing except muscle on his body.  You might think this is where you give up the weight training and just start running everywhere.  Wrong.  If you do that you’ll quickly lose all the muscle you just gained, because it takes your body 6 months to get used to its new weight and will quickly revert back to its old size if you stop.   To keep your weight and cut your body fat, continue training with weights but incorporate more cardio and sprints into the routine to shed the excess weight.  To get the most of out of your cardio in the lowest amount of time, read about interval training here.

Diet

Apparently Brad ate 4 meals a day that consisted of high amounts of protein and low amounts of carbohydrates.  He also gave up smoking, drinking, and eating junk food.  These three things right here are HUGE factors that contributed to Brad’s success in the gym and on the screen.  Now, when it comes to the rest of his diet, I have to disagree with his trainers once again.  Considering he was training for 3 hours a day, removing carbs from his diet robbed him of necessary energy to get through these grueling workouts!  Also, I don’t think four meals a day is enough to give him constant protein throughout the day to build those muscles.

My suggestion?  If you’re skinny and trying to bulk up, you need to be eating close to 4000 calories a day, and those 4000 calories should be composed  of at least 1g of protein per lb of body weight and 1.5 to 2 times that number of grams of complex carbohydrates.  Take these numbers, divide them by 6 or 7 (depending on how often you can eat), and that’s what you need to be eating close to ALL day long.

Here’s an sample of times when you need to eat:

  • 7:00AM: Breakfast
  • 9:30AM: Snack
  • 12:00pm: Lunch
  • 2:30PM: Snack
  • 5:00pm: Dinner
  • 7:30pm: Late night snack
  • 10pm: Pre-bed snack

troy-560At each of these meals (including dinner), I’d aim to get AT LEAST 30 grams of protein, 45 grams of complex carbs, and 10-15 grams of good fats.  Think lots of chicken, tuna, steak, eggs, protein shakes, and protein bars for your protein, and whole grain pasta, oats, brown rice, potatoes, and whole grain wheat bread for your complex carbs.  Also, you can eat all the fruits and vegetables you want.  I’d limit the amount of carbs you eat at the very end of the day (your last two meals) because studies have shown that your metabolism is slower at the end of the day (when you’re not exercising), so those carbs would get turned to stored fat while you sleep.  As long as you’ve been exercising, the protein you eat at the end of the day will be used to rebuild your muscles while you sleep.  If you’re worried that you’re eating too much, I guarantee you’re not – think about how tough it’s been your whole life to gain weight.  If you put on a few extra pounds, it will probably take you only a few weeks to lose the ones you don’t want.  When in doubt, eat.

After you’ve bulked up enough and you’re interested in shredding the excess fat from your body, I’d continue to eat every 2-3 hours and keep your intake of protein high.  I’d cut some of the carbs from your diet, but make sure you’re still eating enough to give you energy to get through your workouts.  I’d work on finding a balance between increased amounts of sprints and interval training for cardio and a decreased amount of calories until you find a good balance.  You want your weight to remain constant and your body fat percentage to decrease.

There you have it! It might not be the exact Brad Pitt Troy workout you expected, but it will certainly get the job done (Trust me, I know…because it’s working for me right now as we speak).  My advice: if you’re looking to follow a specific routine by following a specific celebrity, pick somebody other than the genetically gifted Brad Pitt.  If you’re skinny and trying to bulk up, follow Ryan Reynolds for his transformation in Blade 3, and for you bigger guys looking to slim down, try Daniel Craig’s routine to prepare for Casino Royale.  Just keep in mind that these guys had personal trainers and specific diet plans to get them where they needed to be.  Expect to get less successful results if you’re picking a routine while working a full-time job, raising a family, and not having the time or money to eat 10 professionally prepared meals a day.

You can probably sense a trend with all of these routines: lots of protein every 2-3 hours, sprints for cardio instead of long runs, keep your routines specific: compound exercises, between 3-6 sets and 6-12 reps per set.  Work yourself to exhaustion, give your muscles ample time to recover, and you’ll be sacking Troy in no time.  I realize this is a weird sentence if you know a dude named Troy, but he’s probably an ass and should be taken any way.  My apologize to all the people named Troy who aren’t full of themselves out there.

-Steve

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How To Look Like Gerard Butler in the Movie 300

In today’s “How to Look Like A Superhero,” we’ll be checking out Gerard Butler’s routine in the movie, “300.”

gerard_butler300

“Madness? THIS IS SPARTA!” screams King Leonidas before he kicks a Persian messenger into a 10,000 pit that happens to exist on the edge of town.  Easily one of the most testosterone-filled, uber gory, macho films ever created, 300 took the world by storm, suddenly making it okay to walk around in a loin cloth and yell things at people.

You’ve watched the movie, and you say to yourself in between your 3rd and 4th donut, “yeah, I want to look like that guy.”  Well Skippy, here’s your chance to shine.   To prepare for this role, Gerard Butler went through some of the most physically demanding training of any actor in recent memory to look like the true King of Sparta.  Similar to Daniel Craig’s training for Casino Royale, Gerard went through many different circuits and unusual exercises to build terrifying amounts of lean muscle and destroy any body fat on him.  By the time the movie started shooting, King Leonidas was one bad mofo you did NOT want to **** with.  Gerard had to make three significant changes to his life during the four months getting ready for 300: his diet, his exercise routine, and his mentality.  Yeah, not only did the guy have to eat like a warrior and train like a warrior, but he had to think like one too.

Exercise

To accomplish the monumental task of becoming a Spartan King, Gerard tapped Mark Twight, a world-class mountain climber, who insisted on training like your life depended on it.  He also kept his usual personal trainer, and often trained with both on a daily basis.  After weight training, and circuit training, he’d go and do training with all the stunt/sword/spear trainers and work on his fight choreography, and then go practice the moves after he learned.  When it’s all added up, Gerard often trained for six hours a day, for more than four straight months.  Gerard would even lift weights in between individual shots to build up the lactic acid in his muscles and puff up their size (blog post coming on this soon).  Personally, I think six hours a day is way too much training, and having two trainers is overkill, but it worked for Gerard and I won’t doubt the man with these results.  He literally devoted his life to the physicality of the role, and it shows.

300Back to the routine: rather than doing individual muscle group exercises every day, Gerard did exercises and routines that literally beat the crap out of him.  Flipping massive tires, sprinting while being tied to a bungee cord, olympic ring exercises, and other unconventional exercises worked out his entire body and kept his muscles guessing, shocking them into continual growth and development.  Think bootcamp style training, where weights and cardio and mixed in together and done without breaks.  If it sounds miserable, it’s because it is miserable…and I mean that in the best way possible.

For example:

  • Instead of doing regular pushups, he would put his feet on a bench, and extend out while supporting himself on just two olympic rings hanging from the ceiling.  Not only would his body weight cause the rings to swing all over the place, but he would do crazy amounts of pushups on the rings, working every single fiber in his chest, triceps, and shoulders.
  • By flipping tires, Gerard would get an intense lower body, lower back, and shoulder work out.
  • Doing pull ups until his arms fell off.  Pull ups will work every muscle in your back, biceps, and forearms.

Noticing a pattern?  Instead of training with machines or barbells, Gerard wanted to train like a warrior, flipping over heavy objects, doing pull ups with his body weight, etc.  To look like a warrior, you must train like one. Let’s talk about the famous 300 challenge (you can read more about it here), where you have to try and complete 300 reps of various exercises as quickly as possible:

  • 25 pull ups
  • 50 dead lifts with 135 lbs
  • 50 pushups
  • 50 box jumps
  • 50 floor wipes – maybe the worst thing ever.
  • 50 clean-and-presses with a 36lb kettle bell
  • 25 more pull ups

Each actor on the movie’s goal was to finish this circuit as quickly as possible.  One guy did it in approximately 18 minutes.  My first time trying this “test,” it took me an hour and a half and I wanted to die.  I’ll be trying it again soon.

Now, for you mere mortals, you can make great strides in the gym without exercising for six hours a day.  In fact, I’d say that unless you’re a genetic freak or on steroids, this amount of training will most likely do more harm than good.  I’m guessing that Gerard’s training varied from cardio, to strength, to flexibility, to power, to stability.  I guarantee Gerard wasn’t working each muscle group every single day, because his muscles need time to recover!  That’s when the real growth happens: on your days off.  If you work your muscles in different ways, from different angles, with different goals each day (speed, strength, agility, etc.) you can work out like crazy and still see crazy results.  Gerard, know that I’m not calling you crazy.  Please don’t hurt me.  I’m a big fan of Sparta.

Diet

GB 300I’ve scoured the internet looking for Gerard’s diet to prepare for this role, and I simply couldn’t find it.  However, after studying similar routines and consulting various sources, I’m pretty confident I can guesstimate what he ate on a daily basis.  To build muscle, cut body fat, and have enough energy to train for six hours a day, he had to eat:

  • Insane amounts of protein (which can be found in eggs, grilled chicken, tuna and other fish, steak, protein shakes, and protein bars),
  • Complex carbohydrates – oats, potatoes, multi-grain pasta, brown rice, eaten with his first few meals of the day to give him the energy to get through these grueling workouts.
  • Limit carbs in the afternoons and evenings – because metabolisms slow down at the end of the day, and these carbs would then be stored as fat.  Some disagree with this, so feel free to take it or leave it.
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Water. LOTS of water.

Because he needed to not only be strong but have an extremely low body fat percentage, Gerard probably cut out nearly anything from his diet that wasn’t efficient.  His body fat had to be in the single digits so you could see all the hard work he put in the gym.  (Read here to find out the truth about your abs).   To keep the energy levels constant, and keep enough protein in his system to constantly rebuild all his muscles after exercise, he would have to eat between 5 and 8 meals a day, spread out every 2 or 3 hours.  Each meal would contain at least 30 grams of protein, a vegetable or two, some complex carbs, and water.  Obviously this takes a lot of fine-tuning to ensure maximum muscle building and energy refueling without eating too much to build fat.  It’s a science.  Gerard treated his body like a machine and did everything possible to operate it as efficiently as possible.

Here’s a video discussing his role as King Leonidas and the training necessary to make it happen:

I’ll leave you with one of the most inspiring quotes I’ve read from Gerard about this training regiment: “You know that every bead of sweat falling off your head, every weight you’ve pumped — the history of that is all in your eyes,” says Butler of his dedication. “That was a great thing, to put on that cape and put on that helmet, and not have to think, Shit, I should have trained more.”

“Instead, I was standing there feeling like a lion.”

Here’ the 300 trailer, just to get you pumped up for the rest of the day.


300 Trailer

“Spartan, come home with your shield…or on it.”

-Steve

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How to Look like Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

For part 2 in the “Look like a Superhero” series, we’ll be taking a look at Daniel Craig for his role in Casino Royale.

Not bad for 40!

So, you want to look like James Bond huh? Daniel Craig, the most bad-ass 00-agent since Sean Connery, spent months with a personal trainer turning himself into a 007 killing machine.  Not surprisingly, he completely changed his life for this movie: working out five days a week, eating almost exclusively healthy food, and having a personal trainer and dietitian to keep him in line.  Unlike Ryan Reynolds in Blade 3, Daniel didn’t have to add tons of weight, he needed to lose weight, build muscle, and get cut.

Daniel took a different approach to fitness compared to other celebrity routines.  While some people concentrate on one muscle group per day, working it only once a week, Daniel often did full body circuits, supercharging his heart rate and building muscle and endurance at the same time.  Rather than trying to look like a perfectly sculpted pretty boy, he wanted to look like a guy that could sprint for 3 miles, lift up a car, rip your head off, and then sleep with your supermodel girlfriend.  It’s not a bad look to go for, I guess.  If you’re into that kind of thing.

Diet

DC TuxBefore we get to the workout, let’s talk diet.  If you want to look like you could kill a man with your bare hands, you won’t get there pounding a 2 liter of Mountain Dew and eating Ho-Hos.  Like everything else I’ve been preaching, your diet will account for at least 80% of your successes or failures.  Here’s an analogy: you think James puts REGULAR gasoline in that Aston Martin?  Hell no.  Premium! Your body is the same way.  If you want to get the most out of your routines, you want to give your body the best fuel possible at all times.

First and foremost, Daniel Craig gave up smoking.  There was no compromise on this one.  Secondly, he was allowed to drink, but only on Friday nights and Saturdays.  If you think he’d mix some protein powder into those shaken Martinis, it doesn’t work.  Drinking dehydrates you, and your body needs that hydration to use the protein to rebuild your muscles.  Keep this in mind next time you think it’d be smart to make a margarita protein shake.

Daniel also cut out all the crap from his diet, ate 5-6 times a day, cut out carbs in the afternoon and evenings, ate lots of vegetables and fruits, and concentrated on eating high quality protein (fish, eggs, chicken, protein shakes, etc.)  “Wow that doesn’t sound like any fun,” you might be thinking.  That’s because it’s not fun.  It’s boring and you have to give up a lot of the stuff you might like to eat.  Face the facts: if you want to look like a 00 agent, you’re going to have to completely change how you eat, make sacrifices, and stick to a strict diet.

Here is a typical day for Daniel on his diet (From Squidoo):

  • Breakfast: 2 Poached Eggs and 2 pieces of Toast
  • Snack: Protein Shake -or- fruits and Nuts
  • Lunch: Meat or Fish with small amount of Brown Rice -or- Baked Potato
  • Snack: Protein Shake -or- Yogurt with some Nuts
  • Dinner: Meat -or- Fish with some type of Leafy Green Vegetables like Salad, Spinach, or Broccoli.

Because Daniel was more concerned with cutting body fat while building muscle, his carb intake was very low.  Also, the guy’s 40 (damn!), which means he has a slower metabolism; if you’re 20, skinny as a rail, and trying to look like James Bond, you’re going to want to eat WAY more complex carbs.  If you’re on the bigger side of the spectrum and trying to slim down…this diet will work for you.

Workout

Please know that Daniel was training with a professional on a daily basis (millions of dollars certainly help).  If you don’t have the luxury of a trainer, make sure each exercise is done with light weights until you have the form down PERFECTLY.  Heavy weights + bad form = injury, lost time, and no supermodels.  Suck.

DC Bond GunI’ve seen all kinds of routines all over the internet when it comes to what Daniel Craig actually did for his workout.  Honestly, I don’t care which one is right, because they all have the same basic principle.  The most reputable source I found was Men’s Health, so that’s the one I’ll analyze here.  According to their site, Daniel would do weight training Monday through Friday, and then some light cardio and stretching on Saturday and Sunday.  Nowhere on the site does it mention seducing attractive women, but I imagine this is built into his cardio on the weekends (zing!).

Some workout routines (like Ryan Reynold’s from Blade) followed a “one muscle group per day” routine.  Daniel instead took the full-body route on Mondays and Fridays, working out his entire body, doing sets back to back, limiting rest between sets, and building cardio right INTO his weight training.  You might wonder why a guy who’s trying to trim down wouldn’t do more cardio.  The lack of straight cardio is important for these two reasons:

  • DC wanted to look muscular and cut, not lean.  If he just did cardio, he’d look like a marathon runner.  Where’s the intimidation there?
  • The higher percentage of lean muscle you have, the faster your metabolism works.  You know how some people complain about slow metabolisms?  I know a lot of it has to do with genetics, but I bet they don’t do any sort of weight training either.  If you’re trying to cut your weight, doing just cardio will only get you so far.  Weight training builds lean muscle, which speeds up your metabolism, which will help you lose even more weight.

Let’s take a look at his full body circuit routine on Mondays and Fridays, from Men’s Health.  On this day, Daniel would do 10 reps of each exercise and then move immediately onto the next exercise and do 10 reps, then move onto the next one.  He would do three complete circuits of these exercises, minimizing rest.  If you don’t know some of these exercises, you can read about them on the MH website.

  1. Clean and Press
  2. Weighted Knee Raise
  3. Weighted Step-ups
  4. Pull ups
  5. Incline Push up
  6. Triceps Dips

Now, the reason he can do these exercises back to back to back is because they work different muscle groups.  When you do a pull up, you use your back and biceps.  For an incline push up, you use primarily your chest, shoulders and triceps..which means you can do these two exercises back-to-back without overexerting yourself.  Personally, I might rearrange these exercises slightly, splitting up the push ups and dips, because they both work your chest, shoulders, and triceps (although in different capacities).  Of course, I don’t look like James Bond (YET), so I’ll leave the routine planning up to his trainers.  Here is the rest of his schedule; you can click on each day to see the specific exercises:

On each of these days, Daniel would work out just the muscles in the group he was isolating.  For each exercise, he would complete 4 sets of 10 reps.  Again, if it were up to me, I would have started with 12 reps, and increased weight each time while decreasing the reps in each set (12, 10, 8, 6), but I’m not the one with the golden gun (GET IT? I’m on a roll).  I’m a big fan of this routine because it works the cardio right into his weight training.  Nothing bores me more than running long distances, or even worse, running on a treadmill.  By lifting weights in quick succession with minimal rest between sets and exercises, you can get a great cardio workout while burning fat and building muscle at the same time.

Here’s an interview with Daniel Craig talking about his diet for Casino Royale:


James Bond Interview

Long story short: you can look like this at age 40 if you have a lot of money, a personal trainer, a diet coach, great genetics, and five days a week to train.  If you don’t have those things, you can still get the Bond look; it just might take you longer than it took Daniel Craig.  I really want to go watch Casino Royale now.

-Steve

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How to Look like Ryan Reynolds in Blade 3

For part 1 in the “look like a superhero” series, we’ll be taking a look at Ryan Reynolds for his role in Blade 3.

Blade 3 Straight onSo you want to look like Ryan Reynolds in Blade 3 huh?  Sure he might be a jackass, and most likely full of himself…but DAMN the man is cut.  First and foremost, let’s get a few things out of the way: RR was already in decent shape and had a low body fat percentage before he started his six months of training for Blade 3.  Secondly, he has great genetics, he got paid insane amounts of money for this role, and he had a personal trainer and dietitian to keep him on track.  I guess when you don’t have a day job or kids, working out for 3 hours and eating 8 meals a day is actually an option.  Keep this in mind when you don’t look like this overnight.

As a guy who was already in great shape, had a low percentage of body fat, and only had to worry about adding lean muscle, Ryan only had to worry about adding good weight and cutting the little fat he had.  You can see where this is going: Ryan was already in shape and had to get to an almost unhealthy body fat percentage for this role.  As soon as the role was done, he took a break, because training this much was beyond crazy.

Diet

Damn Van Wilder!

I’m going to start with the diet first, because it is absolutely the most important thing.  I worked out for YEARS and couldn’t put on any weight; it wasn’t until I fixed my diet and I got big almost overnight.   Ryan ate right and it shows. His diet consisted of eating between 6 and 8 meals a day, every 2 hours, with a lot of protein and complex carbohydrates in throughout the day and just protein (no carbs) after 8pm.  He also ate a lot of protein and carbs immediately after his workouts to promote growth; the carbs to refuel his body so the protein can be recruited by the body to JUST BUILD MUSCLE.  Where did he get all that protein?  A lot of eggs, chicken, steak, protein bars, and protein shakes. For his carbs, he ate a lot of oatmeal!  Good ole fashioned oatmeal (without added sugar).  Sounds boring?  It’s because it IS BORING.  Ryan had it down to a science and treated his body like a machine, getting the exact amount of nutrients necessary to gain mostly muscle and not fat.  My guess is that he probably spent the first four months putting on 15 lbs (10 of which is muscle, 5 of which is fat), and then the last two months cutting the fat, leaving just the muscle.  If you’re going to gain weight, this is how it’ll happen.

Read more about why protein is so important here.

I’ve found a few different places where it lists a typical day for Ryan.  From sixpackabs.com:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs, some “good” fat like a spoon of almond butter or slice of avocado, and 1 cup of oatmeal with applesauce
  • Midmorning snack: protein bar
  • Lunch: albacore tuna wrap or chicken and salad
  • Mid-afternoon snack: protein shake (whey and water), protein bar, or apple and almonds
  • Dinner: broiled fish or chicken, brown rice, vegetables, and salad
  • Evening Snack: protein shake

Supplements

Not only did Ryan eat 8 meals a day, but he also took supplements to help him get there.  No, not steroids.  He did take creatine (a BIG boost for building muscle), L-glutamine, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), whey protein powder, and a multivitamin.  Three years ago, when I put on 18 lbs. in 30 days, I was taking a meal replacement supplement that had creatine in it, so I can attest to the fact that it does in fact work.  However, I stopped using it since and have managed to gain plenty of healthy weight without it.  I can tell you that it does work, I just choose not to take it.

Workout

Blade 3 shirtRyan worked out for probably 3 hours a day to prepare for this role.  Now, that’s not three hours of weight training, but weight training and fight training and stuff like that.  However, he did do some form of weight training six days a week.  Ryan would work out a specific body part to almost absolute failure each day.  Example: Chest on Monday, Legs on Tuesday, Back on Wednesday, Shoulders on Thursday, Arms on Friday. When I say failure, I mean FAILURE: he would absolutely destroy his chest on Monday, and then not work it again until the following Monday.  To get maximum muscle building potential, Ryan would keep the number of reps in his sets between 6 and 12.  (Why between 6 and 12 reps?  Read here).

I don’t have his specific routine but I can guess his chest routine: Bench press (bar or dumbbells): 12 reps at a certain weight, wait only 1 minute, add weight, do 10 reps, wait 1 minute, add weight and do 8 reps, wait 1 minute, add weight and do 6 reps.  Then repeat this with incline dumbbell flys (same structure of increasing weight, wait, and reps).  Then repeat with another chest exercise until your body physically cannot lift anything.  Want to get more complex?  Superset some of these exercises with each other.  Make sure you have a spotter for each exercise, because you want to struggle with your last few reps.  If you can do it without a trainer, you should be probably be lifting heavier weights.  A warning: You will be sore. Very sore.  Which is why you won’t work that muscle group again for another week.

Now, He also exercised his abs religiously, and did so by allegedly doing between 500 and 1000 situps to start each workout.  GOOD LORD. Personally, I don’t have time to do 1000 situps.  Also, I don’t want to do 1000 sit ups! Eff that.  I believe your abdominal muscles need rest in between workouts  like every other muscle (although the do recover faster than other muscles, some say), so I would recommend giving yourself at least a day off in between ab exercise days.  As for how to do the workout, once you can do more that 25 sit-ups at a time, doing MORE and MORE of them is a waste of time.  I’d recommend adding weight (doing sit ups on a ball, with a 25 lbs plate on your chest, for example) instead of adding reps.  Your workout stays the same length of time, you just up the intensity.

Cardio?

RR was already in great shape, and did NOT want to lose any weight, he needed to gain 10-15 lbs. of muscle.  Because he was doing intensive fight training along with the weight training, cardio was definitely not something that would not be beneficial for him.  By exercising daily, and doing the exercise and routines that I talked about above, Ryan was able to work his cardio INTO his weight training by minimizing downtime between sets.

Here is a training video from the set of Blade 3:


Blade 3 Training Video

So there you have it. Just think, if you have millions of dollars, great genetics, and all the time in the world to train, of COURSE you can look like this. If you don’t have those things, you just have to make do with what you have.  I don’t have the time to train 3 hours a day and I don’t have somebody to prepare my meals, but I’ve managed to go from 173 lbs to 184 lbs. (keeping my body fat percentage at 9%) working out just 3 hours a week over the past two months.  You can read about my current routine here.  Once I get to 185 lbs, my goal weight, I’m going to REALLY analyze my diet, add in some extra sprints, and maintain my weight while decreasing my body fat.  I don’t think I’ll be able to get down to 3% like Van Wilder here, which is fine.  I work a full time job and I run this blog, so I don’t have the time or resources to get there.  Ryan didn’t even maintain that level of fitness after the movie finished shooting, because THAT LEVEL OF FITNESS IS CRAZY!  I’m sure he was glad to have his life back afterward.

My recommendation – read this story for entertainment, and then find a way to pick and chose parts of it that can help you become who you want to be. Find a way to be in shape, and be happy with that level of fitness.

Any questions regarding this routine leave a comment and I’ll certainly help out.

-Steve

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Nerd Fitness 2.0 is on the Way!

Happy Friday everybody!

I’ve spent most of this week out of town for my day job, and you can see why the updates haven’t been consistent if you read the blog I wrote for Sixthman today.  I know, how terrible, I had to hang out with a bunch of musicians and watch them create songs for three days, poor Steve.  Anyways, it’s made me realize that there will often be weeks where I won’t be able to update every single day. Because of this, I’ve decided there needs to be a better way for this community to grow even if I haven’t written a blog for that day.

This weekend in Atlanta is expected to be pretty crappy unfortunately, which means I’ll have plenty of time to move Nerd Fitness over to a new platform.  Instead of having just the blog, I’ll be making NF more of a full-scale website with easier access to previous articles so you can read about exactly what you want to learn.  I’ll also be expanding the more technical part of the website, providing descriptions of specific workouts and exercises for those of you getting started and in search of guidance.  Once I can get things squared away, I’m going to look into developing a Nerd Fitness message board that will allow you guys to interact and help each other out.  I’ve been on a few message boards, and understand that they can be both a pain in the ass and detrimental if people use them for the wrong reason.  I envision a board where healthy discussions, tips, funny stories, and motivational advice exist; I’m even considering making the board invitation-only so that only people who REALLY want to be there will have access.

What do you guys think?  Would you use a message board?  Would you be more/less likely to use it if it was exclusive?  Personally, I’d rather have five dedicated posters who are actually getting something out of it than 1000 people who spam and flame each other.  Eventually, I’d like to create a Nerd Fitness starter-kit for guys who want to get in shape but don’t know where to begin and aren’t ready for a gym membership.  Rather than making something and hope it’s what you’d want, I’d rather build it with your help and make it as beneficial as possible.

-Steve

Damn you Ants!

Damn you ANT!

Damn you ANT!

Sorry about no update yesterday.  The day job has been hectic in a really good way.

Earlier this week, I spent two days writing about running and running shoes, and I’ve manged to get two of my toes infected…which means I won’t be running for quite a while.  Last weekend while my friends were in town, I walked through an ant pile down at our pool.  While my friend Sarah was busy saying, “oh they won’t bother anybody,” the ants were busy attacking my feet with the firey passion of a thousand suns (I don’t know what that means, but it sounds like a lot).  They bit a few of my toes which then swelled up like crazy.  Being an idiot, I wore sneakers all day on Saturday while helping out at Pet-a-palooza – think music festival except with way more dog poop than normal – which gave me crazy blisters, which then became infected over the past two days.  AWESOME.

Now that I’m back from Augusta, I plan on heading to that pool tomorrow afternoon and absolutely GOING TO TOWN on that ant hill with a big-ass can of Raid.  I will end them.  Ants aside, I’m realizing that I’m going to have to get creative if I’m going to stay on my fitness routine.  Being out of town for four days, not sleeping much, eating sporadically, and not being able to wear shoes has certainly thrown a wrench in my workout.  As I’ve stated in a previous blog, it’s important to find a way to get exercise in there even if it it has to be in an unconventional way.  I won’t be able to run for probably two weeks, so I’m going to have to find other ways to get cardio.

Here are some thoughts:  Split up my workouts so I hit up the gym more often – five days a week instead of  three days a week- and supercharge my workouts (minimal rest between sets, lots of supersets, etc.) so I get an aerobic workout too while lifting weights.  Also, I’m thinking of maybe swimming to get my heart race pumping without needing to use these feet!  Other options would be to do a boot camp style thing in my house in the morning without shoes on, maybe running in place, jumping rope, jumping jacks, etc. etc. etc.

It’s a setback, but it’s no excuse to start slacking and take some days off.  I’ll find a way around it, because I know that I need to stay on track.  I’m very close to hitting my goal weight, and I only have ten more days to get there.

Stay on target!

-Steve

Couch to 5k: Get Off Your Ass!

My friend Kappy, a bigger guy by most standards (his nickname is Grande Rojo), has been following the “Couch to 5k” plan on CoolRunning.com over the past few weeks; I decided to check it out and make sure he’s following a good plan.  After going over the website, I am now fully supportive.  I’m a big fan of interval training, so I’m glad that this program is built around them; it’s a great way to exercise both your body and your heart.

My recommendation?  Sign yourself up for a 5k race and time it so the race occurs at the end of your “couch to 5k” training cycle.  Sure you can skip your training and just go to the 5k, but I don’t think you’ll be to happy when you get passed by a 75 year old grandmother pushing a stroller.  Hopefully this will give you the motivation you need to actually follow your training regiment for the race.  Now, once you finish one race, sign up for another one, and work on improving your training and your time.  Always have something to look forward to, something to strive for, and a goal to reach.  Once you there, set another one!

If you’re reading this in a desk chair or your couch at home,  maybe the Couch to 5k is the kick in the pants you need to get started.  Follow the directions exactly and in 9 weeks you’ll be crossing the finish line.

What are you waiting for?  Put down the remote, buy a GOOD pair of running shoes, and start the Couch to 5k plan today!

-Steve

PS – I do have one complaint about the Cool Running site.  The first ad I saw on there was for PIZZA HUT!  Come on people.  Try running a 5k with Pizza Hut in your stomach and tell me it’s a good idea.

I Take Sports WAY Too Seriously.

Bruins LoseI realize this has nothing to do with nerds or fitness, but it’s relevant I swear. I was going to write a  post last night, but I got sucked into watching the Red Sox, NBA Playoffs, and NHL playoffs, and it ended up being the worst case scenario:

  • The Red Sox lost in 12 innings, and David Ortiz went 0-7, stranding 15 runners in scoring position.
  • The Celtics lost game 6, which means game 7 will now be played on Sunday night, when I’ll be on a plane headed to Miami.
  • The Bruins lost game 7 in overtime, and the goal was scored by the same jerk who sucker-punched our player two days ago and didn’t get a rightfully-deserved suspension.

Talk about a rough night. Yes, I realize as a Boston fan, I have absolutely nothing to complain about this decade (3 Super Bowls, 2 World Series, and an NBA Championship).   However, losing in such a fashion still destroys me.  My friends even tell me that it’s more fun watching me watch a game than it is to watch the game itself.  After these games ended and I tried to pull my night together, I just couldn’t.  I don’t know why I get so emotionally involved.  I mean, I never met these guys, I don’t live in Boston anymore, and none of them are actually from Boston…and yet every night I scream at my television, get way too excited over a win, and far too depressed over a loss.

I remember a few years back when the Red Sox lost to the Yankees in extra innings in the playoffs (Aaron f***ing Boone) and I had an Econ mid-term the next day – I was so crushed that I just went to bed and BOMBED the test.  That’s not the right way to go about life!  I’m alive! I have a job! I have my health and a good group of friends!  I have nothing to complain about!

I gotta relax.  It’s not the end of the world.  Growing up playing sports gave me an outlet for my competitive nature.  Now, I’m reduced to watching people making millions of dollars and having my night hang on the outcome of a game thousands of miles away.

I gotta join some league or something that will allow me to get competitive. Maybe it’s time to join a tennis league, or start playing pick-up basketball again.  All my friends are playing Ultimate Frisbee, but I can’t join their league due to timing conflicts.

Any suggestions?

-Steve

Hey Big Guys! Your Excuses End Here.

Terence lost 200 lbs in 11 months.

Terence lost 200 lbs in 11 months.

I don’t care how old or how big you are, it’s never too late to make a change in your life.

Meet Terence Haynes, a 430 lb., 45 year-old guy who suddenly decided to completely change his life.  He set out to lose 200 lbs in one year, and did it.  After losing all the weight, he rediscovered his passion for sports and a desire to continue improving his life: he went back to college and joined the college wrestling team.

If you have nine minutes to burn this morning/tonight/tomorrow, watch this video on ESPN.  For you big guys/girls out there who have lost hope, who think it’s a waste of time, or perhaps you’re just too far down the road that you can’t get in shape.  This guy ate 20,000 calories a day and was literally eating himself to death…so he enlisted the help of a personal trainer, cut his diet to a healthy 1800 calories (which must have felt like starvation for weeks), and exercised 4-6 days a week.

Obviously losing 200 pounds in a single year is an extreme case, but when you go from 20,000 calories to less than 2,000, and start exercising almost every day instead of sitting on a couch…you will get extreme results.

If you’re looking for motivation, here it is:


Terence Haynes Video

If you don’t have time to watch the video, feel free to read the article here.

Now, if you’re looking to get back into exercising, make sure you consult your physician before you start any exercise to make sure it’s okay, and then take it slow.  Instead of concentrating on the numbers on the scale, concentrate on fitness goals – The scale might lie to you, but your body won’t.

Take it one day at a time, do a little bit more every day, eat right, and your weight will drop before you know it.

-Steve

Getting Started Again After a Break

Get back on the horse SON!

Get back on the horse SON!

Let’s say you just got back from vacation, you’re just getting over the flu (fully recovered), or you had friends come in for a long weekend.  Not surprisingly, you probably had too much to eat or drink and your body started to get used to this whole “doing nothing” thing.  It happens to everybody, and who cares?  We’re all human, we’re all entitled to vacations, and we’re all entitled to have some damn fun.  We only get one chance at this thing called life, so we might as well enjoy it, right?

However, once things go back to normal I highly recommend jumping right back into your routine, no matter how tired or worn out you feel.  It’s easy to come up with any excuse to stay home: I’m too tired, I’ll just wait one more day, why should I, ehhhhh, etc.  We all know that it’s 8 million times either to put that first day off a little longer because you’re not ready.  Being as cliche’ as possible: there’s no time like the present, so just do it.

To put it simply: Get your ass off the couch, and do something!  Taking unexcused “days off” is a slippery slope, and one that can derail your success extremely quickly.  Unless you’re sick or hurt, you owe it to yourself to get out there.  You might be tired, you might have a crappy workout, so what!! Toughen up and get through it.  You’re going to do this because you’re motivated, and you realize that skipping today, whether or not you get on track the next day, will make skipping the next time that much easier…and maybe that time you can’t get right back on track.

I woke up yesterday morning feeling like crap, and I wanted so badly to take the day off for exercising.  Because I’ve made myself accountable via this website, and I’ve had really great success on my current workout plan over the past five weeks, I decided that skipping is NOT an option.  Once you remove the “slacking” as an option it gets much easier to get to the gym.

This is another reason I highly recommend working out with a friend who keeps you accountable: whenever you’re not feeling good he can drag you there, and whenever he doesn’t feel good you can drag him there.  Just make sure you don’t pick a slacker as a partner or you’ll both make each other feel better about skipping.

Now let’s say you’re going to a tough time in your life, you have eight projects due over the next three weeks, or you just can’t get to the gym consistently.  Expecting to have time for the gym five days a week during this time period is crazy.  However, the WORST thing you can do is say to yourself, “well if I can’t go consistently, why bother going at all – it’s a waste.”  Not true, idiot!  If you can find time to go to the gym at least once a week, do a full body workout (which you can get done in 30 minutes) , and keep your diet on a regular track…you’ll be able to start things right back up where you left off instead of having to play catch-up.  Sure, you might not see any gains during those three weeks, but it’ll be like you’re treading water instead of drowning.  Plus, going to the gym for the first time in a week is much easier to do than going to the gym for the first time in a month.

Go.  If you can get there you’ll feel 100 times better afterwards.

-Steve

Nerd Fitness: Beyond Diet and Exercise

I can only show you the door.  You're the one who has to walk through it.

I can only show you the door. You're the one who has to walk through it.

I realized this weekend that Nerd Fitness should be the catalyst for improving people’s lives.  That is my goal for for this site – to facilitate good changes in people’s lives, to allow them to find their inner strength, their true motivation, to realize that exercising is a microcosm for their future successes in life.  I want Nerd Fitness to be the place that allows people to become 2.0 versions of themselves.

I see people every single day in the gym paying crazy amounts of money for personal trainer sessions and then half-ass it.  Of course, the trainer doesn’t care, because he gets paid either way.   This drives me bonkers.  I think it’s smart to have a mentor, and a trainer can make sure you’re doing exercises with proper form so you don’t get injured.  However, if you’re intelligent (and if you’re reading a nerd fitness site I’d like to think you are), you can be smart about getting in shape and not have to spend thousands of dollars.  I’d much rather see a really skinny or overweight guy in the gym by himself, with his headphones in, recording his results on his iPhone…pushing himself every day to get better.  I’d rather hear about the programmer who decided to start riding his bike to work, ultimately lost over 100 pounds, and will soon compete in a Ironman Triathalon.  These are the guys who will be successful in life, and will help others along the way.  These are the people I want in the Nerd Fitness community.

Now, why did I decide to start a fitness website, even though there are already a million of these things out there already? It’s because 99% of the sites out there are extremely overwhelming, beg you to spend 4 easy payments of $89.99 for their program, and endorse products that probably aren’t good for you (but make the site owners an extra 20 bucks a week).  I know what it’s like to have no clue  where to start…and it sucks.  I created Nerd Fitness to approach wellness from a different angle – I’m not a body builder and I have absolutely no desire to become one; I’m just a normal guy with a day job that wants to help other people become better versions of themselves.  I want to make things as easy and fun as possible for you guys, because your lives depend on it.  Why not have fun, look better, and live longer!

I want to help, and I need your help. I want you to email me at steve@nerdfitness.com and let me know what questions you have about your exercise plan and diet, if you got a gym membership and need a routine, what you’re struggling with, and let me know how I can help.  I don’t have all the answers, but I can put you in touch with people who can answer the questions I can’t.  I want you to email me and let me know what topics I should be writing about more often; I want to know if my articles are too confusing, too long, or too short; I want to know where I can improve so that I can help you improve.

My friend Saint’s success (losing over 30 lbs in a few months) has shown me that if somebody is determined to change their lives, they can do it without a personal trainer yelling at them five days a week.  Hell, Saint didn’t even have a gym membership!  Fitness is what you want it to be: if you want to run marathons, you can.  If you want to climb mountains, play Ultimate Frisbee, study karate,  or win the Tour de France, you can.  There’s no right way to get in shape; you just need to find out what makes you happy and healthy and stick with it.  I don’t care if you’re 18 or 80, fat or skinny, in shape or immobile; there’s a better version of you waiting around the corner, and I want to help you get there.

Like Morpheus says in the Matrix, “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo…but I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

-Steve

email Steve at steve@nerdfitness.com

What’s Better – Free Weights or Machines?

Dumbbells for the win!

Dumbbells for the win!

What a weekend – I had nine friends in town (2 from Massachusetts, 1 from Ohio, 1 from New York, 2 from D.C., 1 from Memphis and 2 from Nashville), so our apartment got kind of hectic.  However, the daily updates are back!

For those of you guys with limited time in the gym, you need to be concentrating on exercises that work and recruit as many muscles as possible.  Sure you can use a machine and work out a single muscle group decently, but your range of motion is extremely limited – you can push it out, and then lower it back to the starting position.  Although this certainly helps prevent injury by not allowing you to drop weights on yourself, it’s limiting the amount of work your muscles can do in the same amount of time.

If you’re a daily reader of the blog, you know that I am a big fan of efficiency.  If you can get more done in less time, why do anything else?  Because of this fact, I strongly prefer free weights to machines for many reasons.

  • When you use free weights, your body has to use every single muscle to keep the weight stabilized as you raise and lower it. Because you’re using these extra muscles (that you’re not using if you’re on a machine) to keep things steady as you lift, you’re getting more done in less time!
  • Because you’re using free weights (like dumbbells) you get to work both your left arm and right arm independently, instead of using a barbell you can find out if your body is out of balance.
  • Machines often put your body in weird positions or at odd angles which can cause injury (shoulder press machines, pec deck machines, etc.) I’ve learned to stay away from because they put unnecessary stress on unwanted muscles and joints at funny angles.
  • Free weights make you feel better about yourself (this is my own opinion).  You see a weight, you pick it up.  The next time you’re there, you either try to pick up that same weight more times than before, or pick up a heavier weight.   If you’re on a machine, you’re just pulling a pin or turning a dial.  It’s not as easy/fun to see the growth.

Now, there are a few things to consider when using free weights, and that is the safety factor.  If you don’t have good form, or you don’t have a spotter, you can get “injured bad” because you could drop the weights on yourself or mess up a muscle by doing it incorrectly.  Make sure you practice perfect form, and really concentrate on isolating the muscles used in the exercise and you can see greater gains in the same amount of time.

This is why I prefer to do incline dumbbell press instead of a chest press machine, squats with a barbell instead of in the smith machine, straight pull ups instead of lat pull-downs on a machine.  It seems more natural, more muscles get recruited in the process, and I get more out of it.

Here is my routine now. I keep it simple, I use free weights, and I’m seeing great results.

-Steve

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