Are Your Low-Fat Meals Are Making You Fatter?

Word Count: 950 NF Difficulty: Beginner

Everybody is convinced that the fat in your food is the cause for our nation’s obesity issue.  WRONG.  You know who the real culprit is? Sugar and simple carbohydrates.

Whenever you fill your body with more fuel than it actually needs, which is easy when eating food with a high sugar content, your liver’s sugar storage capacity is exceeded.  That extra energy is converted into fatty acids, hops back into the blood stream, and then gets stored as fat in various places on your body.  Secondly, anytime you eat simple carbohydrates that are loaded with sugar (white bread, fruit juice, white rice, bagels, soda, pretzels, cookies, crackers, ice cream, candy, etc.), the insulin levels in your body are spiked to help fill up your muscles with energy and stored glucose.  The extra sugar not used by your muscles or stored in them becomes fat.  To make matters worse, this whole process causes your body’s blood sugar to drop below normal levels which causes an increased appetite and you’ll need to eat again.  Not cool.

Now that 2/3rds of the country is overweight, everybody is trying to “eat better.”  If you’re a food company trying to sell more food, you’ll find a way to rework your products so they just APPEAR healthier.  Your customers will then buy your product because of buzz words like “no sugar added” and “low fat,” “reduced fat,” and “healthy choice.”  These terms are all relative, and more often than not the low-fat options aren’t much better than the regular options.

Let’s talk about a low-fat microwave meal that you find in your local Kroger, Stop & Shop, Ralph’s, etc.  It says “healthy choice,” it’s called “lean cuisine,” and the box says “low fat!” it has to be good for you, right?  Unfortunately, in order to make these things still taste good, they remove most of the fat (a lot of which can be good fat) and instead replace it with sugar, salt, bulking agents, flavor enhancers, and artificial flavors by the bucket-full.

Let’s take a look at an example: Lean Cuisine’s Orange Chicken: only 300 calories and 7 grams of fat, but it has 11 grams of sugar included in its 46 grams of simple carbohydrates.  Not a terrible meal, but not very healthy considering you’re paying for ‘healthy choice.’  This ‘meal’ wouldn’t qualify as a snack for most people due to its size, but

Here’s a list of all the ingredients in this teeny tiny little meal that won’t fill you up: Blanched Enriched Long Grain Rice (Rice, Ferric Phosphate, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid), Water, Cooked Breaded White Chicken Meat, Ground And Formed (Chicken Breast With Rib Meat, Water, Isolated Soy Protein (With Less Than 2% Soy Lecithin), Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphates, Chicken Broth Powder (Chicken Broth, Salt, Flavorings), Potassium Chloride, Salt, Garlic Powder, Battered With: Water, Modified Wheat Starch, Bleached Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn Flour, Rice Flour, Dextrose, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Egg Whites, Salt, Modified Cellulose, Predusted With : Modified Wheat Starch, Bleached Wheat Flour, Soybean Oil, Sugar, Yeast, Salt, Breading Set In Vegetable Oil), Orange Juice Concentrate, Red Peppers, Yellow Carrots, Edamame Soybeans, Sugar, 2% Or Less Of Soy Sauce (Water, Wheat, Soybeans, Salt), Modified Cornstarch, Chile Garlic Sauce (Chile Pepper (Chiles, Salt), Garlic, Water, Sugar, Rice Vinegar, Modified Cornstarch, Acetic Acid), Almonds, White Vinegar, Honey, Brown Sugar Syrup, Dehydrated Soy Sauce (Soybeans, Salt, Wheat), Sesame Oil, Garlic Puree, Ginger Puree (Ginger, Water, Citric Acid), Orange Peel, Potassium Chloride, Dehydrated Red Peppers, Spices, Caramel Color.

GOOD LORD.  It’s chicken, rice, and a few vegetables! When the list of ingredients is that long for a 300 calorie meal, it can’t be that good for you.  Why not have two grilled chicken tenderloins, a big salad, and some fruit for the same number of calories?

oreos_lowfatHow about “reduced fat” Oreos? Surely they have to be better for you, right?  Well, one serving of reduced fat Oreos is only 10 calories less than normal Oreos, has the same amount of sugar, and has 2 MORE grams of carbohydrates.  If Nabisco is trying to pull one over on you with this marketing hype crap, think of how many other companies are too.  Read your labels!

Be smart.  Eat natural when you can, and try to keep your simple carbs and sugar intake to a minimum if you want to lose weight.  Don’t buy into the hype from all of these ‘healthy food’ options.  Compare all of the options to find the healthiest (or least terrible), because they’re certainly not created equal.  Keep an eye on these important things:

  • Calories – obviously you want to keep calories down if you’re trying to lose weight, but not all calories are created equal.  100 calories of grilled chicken isn’t the same thing as 100 calories of peanut M&Ms.
  • Fat Content – not all fat is created equal either.  You want to keep the bad kinds of fat to a minimum (trans fat is the worst), but other types of fat (monounsaturated fats, for example) are actually good for you.
  • Carbohydrates – Not surprisingly not all carbs are created equal either.  Complex carbs (that you get from vegetables and quality grains) are far better for you than simple carbs (which I listed above).  Carbs that you get from natural sources can provide you with energy all day rather than in short bursts.
  • Sugar content – All of that processed sugar in your meals  quickly turns to fat in your system.  Its this stuff that’s making you fat, so get rid of it.

Stick with the natural stuff.  Bring your own lunch if you can, and eat things where you can pronounce all of the ingredients.  If you have no choice (which is impossible if you’re willing to plan ahead and put in 10 minutes of work) but to eat these pre-packaged dinners…choose wisely.

-Steve

NF Rewind: Nerd Fitness Begins…

For today’s 150th post, I decided to look back at my very first post from last fall, before I really knew what I was getting myself into.  Check it out!

How this site started:

When I moved out to San Diego in ’06, I weighed approximately 160 lbs. I had spent 4 years of college trying every workout routine in the book: one muscle group every day for 5 days a week, 3 muscle groups a day twice a week, etc etc etc. I think between Freshman year and Senior year I probably put on 5 lbs. (I didn’t drink through most of College, so the “Freshman Fifteen” that everybody else put on didn’t really apply to me. I would have LOVED to put on 15 lbs!) I tried it all, and nothing worked.

Things changed when I moved out to the West Coast and signed up at the local gym.  I was given 5 free sessions with a personal trainer, and I learned what I had been doing wrong all along: my diet. Even though I had done the right exercises for the four years of college to build muscle mass, I was only eating half the number of calories and grams of protein necessary for muscle development. In the 5 weeks hitting up the gym and meeting with my personal trainer, I was eating over 200 grams of protein a day and a ridiculous amount of good carbs, scattered throughout 7 meals (eaten every 3 hours), and I went from 160 lbs. to 180 lbs.

I figured after 4 years of intense work-out sessions, I was doomed to be skinny for the rest of my life (yeah, poor me. I know, I’m so lucky, blah blah blah. That’s not the point!) All it took was a change in my diet and my approach to the whole thing.  Since then, I’ve tried to absorb as much information and experience from all aspects of fitness to develop the most efficient way to stay in great shape.  I studied hard and became certified as a personal trainer; after the certification I continued studying and learning, soaking up as much information from as many sources as possible.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this whole fitness and health thing.  I’ve tried enough of the wrong ways, so I want to make it easy on you guys (and girls) to find the RIGHT way.

That’s my story, and this is where we begin.

-Steve

Always Be Learning

Later on tonight, I’ll be meeting up with Mike Rickett, a personal trainer from Colorado who had taught my personal trainer certification class.  Mike travels the country and teaches personal trainer certification classes, and when he’s not traveling he’s training athletes at the Olympic training center near his house.  Not a bad gig!

I love when Mike comes to town, because I know I’m going to learn something new.  Last time he came to town, he took me through an Olympic lifting routine that had me sweating buckets in only 20 minutes.  Prior to that day, I had never even considered doing Olympic lifting and couldn’t see myself getting real benefits out of it.  However, after that day I did some research and found that most Olympic lifters have incredible verticals and can hit the hell out of a golf ball.  As an avid golfer and pick-up bball player, I figured I had been an idiot for years by not doing these lifts.  Now, I do Olympic lifting every other week, trying to perfect my technique and increase my strength.  I always thought being able to dunk a basketball was something you’re born with – now, I’m closer than ever to having enough vertical to throw it down, and I know if I stick with these lifts I’ll be there soon enough.

Tonight Mike and I will be headed to the gym again, and I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn.  Mike’s is my Yoda. Maybe some new lifting styles, some new crazy exercises, or maybe a new way to do an old routine.  Whatever it is, I can’t wait to expand my knowledge and then pass along that info to you guys.  This whole “fitness” and “health” thing is quite the undertaking, and no matter how much you think you know, there’s always somebody that knows more.  I decided long ago that I could never be the guy that knows everything; there simply isn’t enough time in the day.  I was an Econ major in college, I don’t have a doctorate in health sciences, and I work a full-time job along with running this site.  Instead of trying to be an expert at everything, I’m going to continue to try and improve my life a little bit each day, whether it’s by learning something new related to fitness, eating just a little bit better, or helping somebody else improve their lives.   As long as I’ve done one of those things every day, I feel like I’m living my life right.  Like a Firefox or Mac OSX update, there are various stages.  You don’t jump from 1 to 2.  You jump from 1.1.2 to 1.1.3, or 10.5.3 to 10.6.1.  Some changes are small, some are monumental.  No matter the size of the change, as long as it’s SOMETHING, you’re improving.

  • On Monday, I gave up Muscle Milk shakes after drinking three of them a day for 3 years.  I’ve switched to creating my own post-workout shake that is made up of fruits, juices, and good calories.  I already feel better because I know exactly what I’m putting in my body.
  • On Tuesday, I helped a Nerd Fitness reader develop a healthy fitness routine and diet for his body type.
  • Yesterday, I finally gave up my Skippy peanut butter (after eating PB sandwiches daily for 20 years, I kid you not).  I’ve switched to natural peanut butter which has 80% less sugar, and actually tastes the same.
  • Today, I’ll be learning new exercises and routines from Mike.

I challenge you to do the same.  Make one switch in your diet, add a new exercise to your routine, do some research on a new technique, or help one of your friends who is looking to change his/her life as well.  Always be learning, always improve.  Make yourself a better person and make this planet a better place.

One step at a time, level up your life.

-Steve

My Interview and Workout for Eventualism.com

Wednesday is off and running, and I’m already feeling better about my decision to give up those Muscle Milk shakes.

Instead, I’ve switched over to creating a new concoction that has almost as many calories and is only a little bit more expensive: 6 oz of Orange Juice, a handful of frozen strawberries, half a cup of oatmeal, and one scoop of whey protein – blend it all up, and I’m left with a protein filled, good carb-loaded strawberry smoothie.   It’s freaking delicious.  It’s about 200 calories less than my old shakes, so I’m thinking of trying to find other ways to add calories without compromising the taste.  I think I’m going to lean towards adding some yogurt, switching out the OJ for milk, and maybe even adding some sunflower seeds.

A few other news and notes, if you haven’t got a chance to listen to it yet, head on over to eventualism.com and check out the podcast interview I did with Eventualist creator/comedian Mike Vardy about the history of Nerd Fitness and my future plans for the site.  Mike’s a great guy, and presents a satirical view on the whole “Getting things done” mantra.  Instead of GTD, Mike decided to go with FTD…you’ll have to check out the site to see what it stands for.

Picture 1Mike had me create a special Eventualist workout for his readers as well, which you can read about here, and download as a PDF here.

Next week, I’ll be flying home to spend some vacation time with my parents on Cape Cod, MA.  I won’t have a gym membership up there, so I’m going to have to come up with some creative ways to exercise.  Expect a post or two on exercise routines using just my bodyweight and things around the house, because that’s all I’ll have available to me.

-Steve

NF Mailbag: When Should I Drink A Protein Shake?

wayne-gretzky-21Wayne Gretzky asks: Hey Steve.  I was looking over your site the other day.  Great stuff man.

I’d like to try protein shakes but I’m pretty clueless.  A guy I play hockey with says I should have one before the game.  I’ve read  your protein shakes for newbies article but what else typically goes in a shake?  Anything special in particular with relation to the sport of ice hockey?  Also what’s your take on drinking coffee?  I never used to drink the stuff but started a few years back.  Most I would have is 2 cups usually.

Thanks,

Wayne

Steve writes: Wow, Wayne Gretzky emailed me! Not really.  Alright Wayne, as far as protein shakes go, their main purpose is to pump your body full of protein when you need it quickly and cheaply.  What does protein do?  Help rebuild your muscles after they’ve been broken down.  You don’t really get much energy out of a protein shake, but it certainly helps rebuild your muscles AFTER you’ve destroyed them.  Drinking a protein shake after your hockey game might be a good idea, because your muscles are all worn out and beat up from playing hockey.  Hockey is lots of sprints, so your legs will be pretty beat.  This is when your muscles need protein the most.  Before the hockey game (not immediately before), I’d recommend something that will give you energy – a banana and peanut butter, whole grain bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal and rasins, etc.  You want something with complex carbs (whole grains) and a little bit of sugar to give you energy throughout your game.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you want to stay hydrated, so make sure you’re chugging water starting the day before your games.  Hockey is one of those brutal sports that can really wipe you out if you’re dehydrated.

If you’re interested in drinking protein shakes after your games or after you work out, the easiest thing to do to start out is buying yourself a tub of 100% pure whey protein.  They’re cheap, you can buy in bulk, and they come in different flavors; I’m a vanilla fan myself.  You can mix a scoop or two (check the serving size) with just water, but most of the time those taste crappy.  Instead, I’d say mix it with milk, or orange juice and frozen fruit (my new favorite mix).  Adding frozen fruit is a great idea, and try to eat a few slices of wheat bread if you can too.  You NEED to get carbs along with the protein so your body can use the carbs to refuel and the protein to rebuild.  I’ve even heard of people throwing some oatmeal packets into the blender too, as oatmeal is loaded with complex carbs that will help your body refuel.

Get a cheap blender from Walmart or target, buy a bag of frozen fruit from the supermarket, and start mixing and matching good materials until you come out with a product you like!

I haven’t done too much research on coffee as I don’t drink it, but I know lots of people that do.  I know there are some issues for some people who drink like 5 cups a day with milk and sugar and cream in it, the calories really start to add up.  I’ll do some extra research into coffee and write a post about that soon because I’m curious myself.

Thanks for writing in!

-Steve

Have a question? Email me at Steve@NerdFitness.com and I’ll gladly answer it.

You Gotta be the Man.

Word Count: 668 NF Difficulty: Beginner

Trying to get in shape by yourself is always tough.

You’re surrounded by people who make unhealthy choices, choosing to sit on their ass all day rather than exercise, and would rather go to Burger King than eat a decent meal.  If you can find somebody to partner up with and help keep you accountable, things will be much easier.  However, if you’re the lone wolf, it just means you’re going to have to show stronger leadership skills, show stronger willpower, and be the Man (ladies, you can be the woMan, it’s cool).   Maybe you’re like Master Chief and have some other marines around you to help keep you on track.  More than likely though, you’re like Sam Fisher and have to go it alone (ladies, you’re gonna have to be like Samus, which is awesome because Samus kicks ass). 

You might be married to or dating a girl/dude who is unhealthy and likes you “just how you are,” and they won’t understand why you’re trying this ‘exercise thing.’ Maybe you’d like to get in shape with your girl/guy whose motivation is severely lacking and gets mad at you every time you want to go to the gym instead of watching a movie with them.  When you have to go it alone, it seems like everything is lined up against you.  When it’s not a priority for anybody but you, you’re going to have to work extra hard to be successful.  You gotta be the Man.

What being THE MAN requires:

  • Make good decisions, even when everybody else around you isn’t. I don’t mean you can’t have any fun.  Go out for beers, eat bad food every once and a while, but more often than not, you need to be the guy that sets a good example.  Suggest places other than fast food joints for dinner/lunch.  Order the healthy stuff while others are ordering deep fried.
  • Start exercising, and become knowledgeable about how and why certain exercises do what they do. If you like running or climbing or swimming or lifting weights, become the go-to guy in your group for information about that stuff.  If you know how to do basic exercises properly like squats, deadlifts, pull ups, chin ups, and presses, you’ll be more knowledgeable than 90% of the people in your gym.
  • Speak softly and carry a big stick. Don’t start preaching to people, because nobody likes hanging out with “that guy.”  Be a silent leader, but be ready to talk about your success if they ask.  People will have a lot more respect and admiration for you when you just go about your business and let others do the same.  Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and do it without insulting those who don’t.
  • If you don’t have anybody to look up to for information, find somebody less knowledgeable than you and help them out. The best way to get better at something is to teach somebody else about it.  I started this blog not because I was an expert, but because I wanted to become one by helping others.

Ya know what, most of your friends might make fun of you or tell you that you’re being ridiculous with your healthy behavior; let them.  When you’re all at the pool and you’re the only one without a gut, I think you’ll get over their playful insults. 

What if you’re married with kids? Want your wife/husband to get in shape with you but don’t know how to bring it up?  Start exercising and eating right, and then when your wife asks you why you’re wasting your time with exercise, that you already ‘look good enough,’ tell her that you’re doing it because you want to be around for a long time for your kids.  When you tell her you’re doing it for the kids, she can’t argue…and it might even kick her ass into gear.  Set a good example!

It’s a constant daily battle, are you up for the challenge.  If you start to get discouraged or begin to lack the motivation to keep up the fight, email me at steve@nerdfitness.com and I’ll gladly help. 

Stick with it.

-Steve

Do you know these Fitness Equations? You Should.

Word Count: 607 NF Difficulty: Beginner

C4743rWe’re all nerds here, right?

We’re all relatively intelligent, we don’t mind math equations, and we want to get in shape.  Every day, your body burns a certain number of calories just existing.  This is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (calculate your BMR here), and it’s based on your height, weight, and age.  You also burn calories when you expend energy doing physical activity (walking to work, swimming, climbing stairs, playing with your kids, etc.)  When you combine your BMR with the calories you burn doing physical activity, you have your total calorie expenditure.  Conversely, you get your energy from the calories you consume with each meal, drink, whatever.  Let’s take a look at some of the fundamental equations of fitness that you need to knowe.  This will seem overly simple, but so many people don’t realize these things when trying to get in shape:

  • Calories consumed > total calorie expenditure = weight gain. Although this is a quite simplistic look at things, it really works.  If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight.
  • Calories consumed < total calorie expenditure = weight loss. If you consume less calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight.  What a novel concept!
  • 3500 calories = 1 pound of body weight.

Okay, so when you’re just getting started with fitness, these are the only formulas you need to worry about, because they’re easy to remember, and they’re simple!  Let’s explore more closely.  If 3500 calories = 1 pound of body weight, then 500 calories per day (3500/7) = 1 pound of body weight.

For you big nerds trying to slim down – if you’re interested in LOSING a pound a week – you need to decrease your daily calories consumed by 500 calories, increase your calorie expenditure by 500, or find a combination of the two that equals a 500 calorie deficit.  My recommendation, find a healthy combination of less calories and increased calorie expenditure (by exercising more).  Obviously if you want to lose 2 pounds a week you’ll have to manufacture a 1000 calorie deficit.  I wouldn’t recommend too drastic of a deficit, or your body will think it’s starving and go into starvation mode.  (Read why starvation mode is bad here).

A few things to take from this: every calorie counts!  You know that half cookie you ate at lunch?  How about that half a can of soda you had left in your fridge.  Those calories definitely count, and they add up throughout the day.  Be smart.

For you skinny nerds trying to bulk up, if you’re interested in GAINING a pound a week – you need to increase your daily calories consumed by 500 calories, decrease your calorie expenditure by 500, or find a combination of the two that equals 500.  Now, if those 500 calories are all junk food, and you decrease your calorie expenditure by doing less exercise, the weight you’ll be gaining will be fat which is undesirable…unless you’re going for the fat look.  My recommendation, eat 1000 extra calories a day (GOOD calories), and then exercise with heavy weights (which will burn many calories, but less than 1000), and you’ll gain lean muscle.

Now to be honest, not all calories are created equal…but hopefully you knew that. Obviously a Mr. Pibb (dude didn’t even get his degree) and bag of Funyons isn’t equal to grilled chicken and rice, even though they have the same number of calories.  If you’re going to create a calorie deficit, do so by cutting the junk food out of your diet; Because that stuff is so bad for you, finding 500 calories to get rid of on a daily basis isn’t the tough part.  It’s actually having the fortitude and willpower to do it.

What can you cut out of your equation?

-Steve

Don’t Cheat Yourself: Do a Full Rep!

Word Count: 1057 NF Difficulty: Advanced

I wanted to kick off today with a link to a podcast I did for Mike Vardy, creator of eventualism.com , a satirical site aimed at helping people ‘get things done…eventually.  It’s like a site that Stephen Colbert would run if he decided to run a productivity website.  You can listen on Mike’s site, download it here directly, or get it in iTunes here.

Let’s move onto today’s topic, “Doing a full rep.”

I was at the gym last night, and in a span of 10 seconds I watched 3 guys half-assing it.  A guy was doing squats with three plates on each side of the bar, and he would go down like four inches before going back up.  Next to him, I watched a guy swinging all over the place as he did “pull ups” where he only went down halfway and then barely brought his chin over the bar.  In between the two, a guy was doing ‘bicep curls’ while throwing his back into each rep because he couldn’t actually lift the weight with just his arms.

Picture 2If you got a chance to read through yesterday’s article from Henry Rollins, you know that “200 pounds is always 200 pounds.” Mark Twight, the lead trainer for the actors from the movie 300, has slightly amended that statement: “to ensure valid measurement a yardstick must be one yard long and two hundred pounds is only that when moved through a complete range of motion — regardless of the speed at which it moves.”

Mark had a lot of competition between actors while getting everybody ready for the film; in this article (thanks for the link Evan!), he discusses how the majority of people in a gym will very quickly sacrifice form and completeness for speed:

“As our training group grew during the last year we noticed that, in the quest for faster times work quality was easily sacrificed. Such may be unconscious behavior but I like to call it cheating. When movement quality declined we couldn’t use the stopwatch to monitor improvements because other parameters must be fixed for the time to be relevant: if the load is fixed, and the movement is always the same then posting a faster or slower time is useful knowledge. If the load is fixed but the range of motion (ROM) is shortened a second variable has been introduced and knowing the time is no longer useful.”

“We train in preparation for sport-specific tests or work-related challenges, we do not train for the sake of it or because conditioning is our sport or hobby. We don’t do this because we want to look a certain way or to lose weight (these are consequences). We suffer during training to improve ourselves physically and psychologically and we measure those improvements on mountains, on frozen waterfalls, in burning buildings, facing cunning adversaries, on the battlefield, on the mat and in the cage. Because these tests occur outside the gym we don’t compete in the gym, we work hard, and we work together to make the sum greater than its individual parts. Cheating here won’t help us get where we are going so we enforce all quality all of the time.

“That’s our yardstick, how long is yours?”

If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.  I highly recommend reading the whole article, but if you don’t have time, here is the description for various exercises and what the guys at Gym Jones consider full reps:

Pull-ups: elbows must pass behind centerline of the body, if this happens the entire head rises above the bar, active shoulder position at bottom (as opposed to full dead hang)

Push-ups: chest touches the floor first, active shoulder and full extension at the top, body held as a solid plank, the hips do not move

Squats: thighs must be parallel to floor (at minimum) in the bottom position, full extension at the top of the movement

Lunges: trailing knee must “kiss” the ground but may not support any weight

Push-Press and Thruster: arms must lock out overhead, hips displace horizontally to the rear to initiate recovery of the weight, Thruster includes all attributes of a proper squat

Kettlebell or Dumbell Swing: weight must be raised higher than the head (arms about 45 degrees)

Box Jump: once established on the box the athlete must stand up completely, whether jumping for reps or max height taking steps to gain momentum is not permitted

Ball Slam: full extension at the top with hips forward, ball must actually be slammed (imagine that), catching it on the bounce is better style, rounded back not permitted during recovery

Burpees: includes a proper push-up, explosive finish (jump), overhead clap, and feet remain together throughout movement to ensure maximum hip displacement

Wall Ball: full squat required, ball must hit target

Dips: upper arm must be parallel to the floor (at minimum) in the bottom position, arms lock out in full extension at the top

Picture 3I love it! If you exercise each week and find ways to ‘cheat’ the system so you can lift more weights or do more reps, you’re not getting any better or stronger.  Practice perfect form every single time you’re in the gym.  Practice perfect form with each repetition.  Practice perfect form if you’re in a competition or trying to set personal bests.  If you don’t remove all variables except weight or reps, you won’t really know how successful you really are.  I know we have a few Crossfit readers on here; my concern with Crossfit is that due to the highly competitive nature of Crossfit, form is far too often sacrificed for faster times and more repetitions.  If you are a Crossfit guy or girl, do everything you can to promote full repetitions at your gym and amongst your peers so you’re all on a level playing field (and you’re all safe! sacrificing form is the fastest way to get injured).

You know the famous 300 challenge? When actors and stuntmen attempted to complete it, there were spotters watching each repetition to make sure each was done completely.  No three-quarter pull ups, no half-assed deadlifts, no fake box jumps.  I have ten thousand times more respect for amguy doing complete squats with just the bar than I do for a guy with 400 lbs on his shoulders only going down a quarter of the way.

Do a full rep!

-Steve

What’s Your Excuse, Chump!

Every day, you have a choice to get in shape or perpetuate an unhealthy lifestyle.

kingsizehomerIf you have been a couch potato for years, probably anything seems better exercising, so you come up with excuses to make yourself feel better about putting things off for one more day.  I’ve heard pretty much every excuse in the book, but there are three that repeat themselves over and over that drive me crazy.  Are you guilty of any of these?

I don’t have time to exercise – To (loosely) quote Boiler Room, You know what I say to that? I say, hey look, man, tell me you don’t like my firm, tell me you don’t like my idea, tell me you don’t like my ****ing neck tie, but don’t tell me you can’t put together 20 minutes of exercise a day.  I know there are single moms, with three children and two jobs, that still find a way to get up 20 minutes early to go for a walk or jog.  I don’t care what you do, as long as you find a way to do something.  If you tell me there’s not enough time in the day, what you’re really saying is that you’re not actually serious about getting in shape…which is perfectly fine.  Come back when you’re ready.

Don’t think you can actually get anything done in 20 minutes? Try some high intensity interval training or jump rope.  20 minutes will get the job done.  Want to really push yourself – try Tabata exercises.  This will only take 4 minutes and will probably destroy you.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.

fat-homer-simpsonI can’t afford a gym – Oh realllllllly? Sure they all have “initiation fees,” but if you show up, then tell them the price is too steep, and you’ll have to think about it, I guarantee that price will get cut in half.  Ask around your office or your group of friends; if any of them have a membership at a gym, you can probably sign up as a friend of theirs and get reduced rates and no fees.  “I can’t afford the 35 or 40 bucks a month, though” –  That’s one less night out at a bar a month, one less dinner date, one less video game.  If you’re serious about getting in shape, 40 bucks a month is a small price to pay.

Still too cheap? Find 4 different gym chains in your area, and go into each as a potential buyer.  They’ll give you a free week’s guest pass.  Find enough different gyms and you work out for free for quite a while!  Read about picking the perfect gym here.

I don’t like gyms – Before we deal with this one, do you really hate the gym, or are you just afraid of going to them? If you just don’t like them, that’s fine.  Personally, I LOVE to lift weights and get stronger, but I can’t stand my gym.  It’s a bunch of meatheads in spandex ogling themselves in the mirror while they do bicep curls or half-assed squats.  90% of the people in there do exercsises improperly, 50% of them are there to socialize, and probably 2/3rds of them have no idea what they’re doing.  I made up all of these statistics, but I bet I’m not far off from the truth.  Because of this, I make sure I go to the gym 1st thing in the morning when it’s practically empty, I put in headphones, keep my head down, and just do my thing.

If you really don’t like the gym and have no desire to use one, find another way to stay in shape.  Run every morning.  Go for a hike with your kids.  Join an ultimate Frisbee league.  Take your dog for a walk.  Get outside and enjoy this beautiful weather!  You can get in great shape doing just bodyweight exercises, so don’t think you need weights and treadmills.

Which one is keeping you from getting started?  If you did find a way around them, how were you successful?

Leave your comments below!

-Steve

Always Have a Battle Plan: StarCraft and Fitness

How many of you guys have played StarCraft?

Picture 2Hopefully everybody, because it rules.  How many of you got your asses handed to you on Battle.net for the first few weeks until you figured out what you were doing?  Okay maybe that was just me.  I’d always play as the Protoss, have illusions of grandeur, and kinda start building this and that, without any real direction, hoping to eventually end up with a full armada of Carriers (damn I loved those things) and destroy the other guy.  Of course, five minutes in, I’d get rushed by a bunch of Zerglings, I’d have no defense, and I’d get lit up like a Christmas Tree.  Those were the days!

With the upcoming release of StarCraft II‘s beta, I started thinking about how much fun I used to have with the original game, and how long it took me to recognize the fact that not having a battle plan ahead of time was suicide.  Obviously your plans change if the other guy rushes, but you still have a basic, specific strategy: set up defense, build an army, expand to new resources, develop your tech tree, kick some ass, GG.

Exercising is no different: if you walk into a gym with no clue what you’re doing, you’re gonna get slaughtered (not literally).  Don’t wander the gym aimlessly, looking at machines and say “oooh that looks like it might work the right muscles,” sit down for a quick set of 10, and then go back to wandering.  First of all, don’t EVER use machines – stick to free weights.  Secondly, don’t wander: have battle plan, noob!  Before you step in that gym, ask yourself what you want to accomplish, and be specific:

  • Use the rowing machine for 20 minutes. Great; how far do you expect to row in 20 minutes?  If you did 4000 meters last time, aim for 4050 meters this time.
  • Lift weights. Awesome; what muscles do you want to work?  Upper body?  Okay.  You’re going to do 3 sets of increasing weights of dumbbell chest presses, followed by 3 sets of pull ups, followed by three sets of increasing weights on dumbbell shoulder presses.  How much are you going to lift?  More than you did last time (which you’ll know because you wrote it down).
  • Run – Don’t like the gym?  That’s fine, it’s certainly not for everybody.  Where are you going to run, how long are you going to run for, and how much faster are you going to do it today than yesterday.  If you don’t know what you need to beat, you won’t push yourself, and you won’t get better.

Picture 3Remember last week when I said you need to find a way to be better than yesterday?  Without a battle plan, and without a battle history (what you did last time, and how you’re going to improve), you’re never going to get better.  With today’s technology, its ridiculously easy to keep track of everything you do.  Set up a simple Excel spreadsheet, and write down your sets, reps, amount of weight, and time.  Done.

Napoleon (the guy from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) would spend hours and hours setting up his battle plans, only to watch them become obsolete as soon as the battle began.  Ya know what?  **** happens.  You go to the gym, and there are dudes in spandex using all the benches.  You want to go for a run, and it’s raining buckets outside.  You’re playing Starcraft and you get rushed but manage to fight off the first wave of Hydralisks.  Things change, and some stuff is out of your control, so make sure you have a backup plan!  If you were going to do bench presses but they’re all taken, grab some dumbbells and do them on that lonely bench in the corner instead.  Jump rope in your house for 20 minutes rather than run in the rain.

protossIf you’re reading this site, I’d like to assume you have an intelligent head on your shoulders (if you’re a dumb nerd, we have a lot of work to do).  You are 37% more likely to get stronger and faster when you have a battle plan.  I totally just made up that statistic by the way, but I bet it’s pretty close.

Now who’s ready for StarCraft II? I’ve been watching these Battle reports on IGN – this game can’t come soon enough.

-Steve

13 Tips For Guaranteed Weight Gain – The Skinny Nerd Manifesto

So you’re skinny.

If this were an RPG, you’d be an elf. If this was Maniac Mansion, you’d definitely be Bernard.

Male or female, you’re called a “hardgainer” or “ectomorph.”

You don’t weight a lot, you think you eat a lot, and you just can’t seem gain weight. You’re ready to bulk up, build some muscle, and start feeling better about yourself…but you have no freaking clue what you’re doing.

People probably tell you “must be nice to have a fast metabolism,” but inside you’re wishing that you could eat and actually get bigger!

Luckily, you’ve found this site, and I’m here to help.

I used to be skinny too (see above).

I spent close to 15 years struggling to get bigger, and only in the past few years have I finally cracked the code.

I still am working on getting bigger and stronger, but I want to help you, because I know EXACTLY where you are right now. I’ve had the same challenges, felt the same way (“I must have bad genetics and just can’t get bigger”) and found a path through the chaos and misinformation.

In this article, we’re going to hammer home the 13 biggest points to help you get bigger and stronger.

Oh, and if you sign up in any of the yellow email boxes throughout, you can download our “bulk up” shopping list and cheat sheet to hang on your fridge!

Let’s start putting on weight right NOW

13 Ways to Get Bigger

1) Eat a lot – This sounds much easier than it really is, but it’s the truth.

If you’re not getting bigger, you’re not eating enough.

Do NOT overthink this. When I first started exercising and trying to get bigger, the personal trainer in my gym had me DOUBLE the amount of food I was eating. I thought he was crazy…until I did it and it worked. I had tried unsuccessfully to get bigger prior to that, it was simply because I wasn’t eating enough food. You might eat 3 MONSTER meals, 6 big meals, or any combination of whatever works for your schedule.

This is going to be difficult for a while, because your body isn’t used to eating this much food, which means you’ll have to force yourself to eat even when you’re not hungry. 500 extra calories a day = 1 extra pound gained per week.  Whatever you’re eating now, add an additional 500-1000 calories (spread throughout the day).

Need a bit more guidance?  Track your calories, get a caloric average for each day (rest day, training day, etc) and then eat MORE than that. if you are not getting bigger, then you need to eat more than that.

2) Eat a lot of good things – You need to eat a ridiculous amount of calories if you want to gain weight (depending on how skinny you are), but you want to make sure most of those calories are GOOD calories.

You could easily get 3500 calories eating Taco Bell and Twinkies, and drinking Mountain Dew, but your body will hate you, you won’t put on muscle, and that’s not a good long term solution (goodbye health).

If you want to build muscle, you want to eat healthy calories that are loaded with good protein, good carbs, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables to help provide nutrients and move all that food through your internal plumbing…which brings me to my next point.

3) Protein = building block for your muscles. Chicken, fish, meat, eggs, milk, almonds.  Aim for .8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. You don’t need to overdo it with 300+ grams of protein like you’ll read in fitness magazines – they say that so you buy their protein powders and go through it quickly.

4) Carbs are your friend when you need to put on weight – rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, etc. will help you put on weight. You can also eat a lot of it to get your calorie goals. You can get away with eating less healthy things like bread, pasta, and even snack food ON OCCASION, but try to avoid those things most days. Also, as previously stated,  every meal should have vegetables when possible so your body can properly manage all those calories as they move through your body.

In addition to carbs, eating lots of nuts (high calorie, high fat), as well as using healthy oils in your cooking and eating (coconut oil, olive oil) can easily help you reach your caloric goals too. If you’re not sure specifically what you should be eating for protein, carbs, and fats, download our “Get Bigger” Shopping List by putting your email in the box below:

5) Keep track of everything you eat – Track every one of your meals. Every calorie. The only way to know if you’re eating enough calories, enough protein, and enough carbs is if you track your calories and progress and then make adjustments. Once you start to get a good feel for how many calories you eat each day, try to eat the same meals to keep it easy. If the scale is moving up, keep doing what you’re doing. If the scale isn’t moving. EAT MORE.

If you’re ever unsure if you’ve eaten enough that day, eat more.

You can always scale back the calories later if needed. YOU WILL NOT GET TOO BULKY. Trust me. That should not even be a concern in your mind. Remove “I don’t want to get too bulky” from your vocabulary.

storm troopers hit the gym

6) Compound exercises are your friend – Up until this point, we’ve only talked about the weight gain portion. Do the above, and you’ll put on weight. HOWEVER, if you’re not also training properly, you’ll just be getting fat, and not building muscle!

Crap.

That’s where training comes in!

Concentrate on complex, compound exercises that recruit as many muscles as possible:

  • bench press
  • overhead press
  • squats
  • deadlifts
  • pull ups
  • chin ups
  • dips

Do these exercises, and concentrate on getting as strong as possible with each of them.

Want to really start diving deep into exercise technique? Read through our Strength Training 101 article series that will answer all your questions!

Not sure where to start or what to do? We’ve put together an assessment quiz, as well as numerous progressive workouts – for both the gym or home – in our comprehensive Nerd Fitness Academy.

Don’t worry about isolation exercises like triceps extensions, shoulder shrugs, bicep curls or crunches right now.  All of the compound exercises listed here use every muscle in your body, and when you overload your body with calories and protein, those muscles will grow.

I promise you – if you get strong with those exercises above, and eat enough, you will get bigger.

Terrified to even step foot into a gym? We understand! Check out our Beginner’s Guide to the Gym article for some basic strategies and workouts.

7) Appearance is a consequence of fitness – This is the mantra of the actors of who trained for the movie 300 – would you be okay looking like a Spartan?

Concentrate on being really strong and lifting heavy weights, and your body will follow suit. It doesn’t matter if you can only bench press 10 lb dumbbells right now and can’t do a single pull-up. Wherever you’re starting out, concentrate on being stronger each and every time you exercise.  Push yourself, get stronger, lift more, and before you know it you’ll be ripped.

Just like tracking your eating is important, so is tracking your workouts! Write down how you train, so that way you know exactly how to get stronger next time.

I REPEAT: If you eat enough calories, and focus on getting stronger, the result will be that you get big.

8) When exercising, keep your rest between sets to a minute or two, and don’t do more than 12 reps in a set – Keep your range of reps between 6 and 12, and try to keep the time you rest between sets to a minute or two. Example: incline dumbbell chest press – 12 reps of 50 lbs, wait a minute, 10 reps of 55lbs, wait a minute, 8 reps of 60 lbs.

9) Let your muscles rest – Never exercise the same muscle two days in a row. Muscles are made in the kitchen, not in the gym. When you train, you are breaking down your muscles. Then, during the next 48 hours, as you are eating a caloric surplus and recovering, your muscles get rebuilt bigger and stronger.

For this reason, never exercise the same muscle before it’s ready. Training 3-4 days a week with a day off in between each (and plenty of calories) is plenty of training. Skinny guys often don’t need to train more, they need to eat and rest more!

10) Sleep – You need to be getting at least 7 hours of sleep, but 8-9 hours of sleep every night for maximum gains.  Your body is doing nothing but lying there and building muscle while you’re sleeping.  If you are only getting 6 hours or less, you’re not going to get all the benefits of your exercising and diet.  I know it’s tough, but those 3AM raids in WoW or matches in Overwatch will need to wait – you can come back to them after you get big and strong.

11) Cardio is your enemy – Running long distances isn’t going to help you. If you’re going to run, do quick sprints or run up a hill. If you love to run, that’s fine, but understand you’ll need to eat even more calories and the running is actively working against your muscles that want to get bigger. Keep your distance cardio to a minimum if you want to put on some pounds.

12) Make it part of your routine – It’s okay to skip a workout here and there, but it’s not okay for you to skip a meal if you’re serious about weight gain. You need to be always eating. It sucks, it’s practically a full time job, but it’s what you have to do.  Eat.

If you’re eating all the time, and you still aren’t getting bigger, then you are either tracking your calories incorrectly or you are not eating what you tell yourself that you’re eating. Go back to basics, and track your calories again. Check serving sizes, count portions, and so on. Are you actually skipping lunch a few times a week when work gets busy, or skipping breakfast on the weekends when you sleep in?

13) Realize you will put on some fat, and that’s okay – with all of this eating, you are going to be putting on some fat along with your muscle. That’s okay! Trying to lose fat (when you’re skinny) and put on muscle at the same time usually results in neither been done well.

Figure out what your goal weight is, and then add another 5-10 lbs on top of it.  Once you get to that weight, cut back on the calories in your diet, do more sprints, and keep exercising: you’ll shed the fat quickly and be left with a killer figure.  Eat all the vegetables you want, but cut back on breads, pasta, rice, and oatmeal.

Now go eat something!

If you want to read more about this stuff, make sure you check out the following in-depth resources too:

-Steve

PS: If you haven’t already done so, or you’re overwhelmed about all of this, I got you covered. Put your email in the box below and I’ll send you a Quick Guide with a shopping list on what you should eat in order to get bigger!

###

photo credit: W_Minshull Hardcore Stormies Hit The Gym

 

How to Do a Proper Pull Up, and Why You Need to Do Them

So you want to do a pull up, eh?
wrk_pullups

When many people think of fitness and the gym, they picture meatheads doing countless arm curls, staring at themselves in the mirror.

Sounds about right to me, and that makes me sad.

What’s truly unfortunate is that I hvery rarely see people in my gym doing deadlifts or proper squats, and I’ve probably only seen a handful of people (in a year and a half) doing legitimate pull ups.

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not doing deadlifts, squats (going all the way down to parallel!), and pull ups and you want to “build muscle,” you’re leaving behind a TON of progress and gains.

We want to avoid that.

And you’re reading this article, which means you want to avoid that too! I knew you were smart.

If you’re afraid of making a mistake when it comes to doing pull-ups incorrectly, or you can’t quite do one yet but want to learn how, we’ve created a resource for ya: Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know – this guide will help you scale pull-ups til you can do them, get started in a gym, and how to train at home if you don’t have a gym!

You can download our massive strength training guide for free when you sign up in the box below:

Appearance is a consequence of fitness

When preparing for their roles in the movie 300, all the actors from the film went to train with Mark Twight.

who had them train by emphasizing “athleticism by combining compound movements, lifting, and throwing. Primitive tools – medicine balls, Kettlebells, rings – were used instead of machines. Each session was competitive, with a penalty-reward system tied to performance and results posted daily for all to see.”

That’s right, these guys weren’t training to have bulging biceps and chiseled abs.

Their motto, “appearance is a consequence of fitness,” meant that these guys worked on getting in the best shape possible – doing deadlifts, running sprints, Olympic ring push ups, doing pull-ups like clockwork, and then doing it all over again.

This type of training really struck a chord with me, because I’ve always been fascinated with turning myself into an absolute machine; if I happen to look good as a side effect, awesome.

There’s a reason you need to do 50 pull ups to complete the 300 challenge: only the fitness elite can attempt such a thing.

Proper PulL-Ups

Personally, I believe pull ups are one of the most important exercises in a routine and I recommend them to anybody that comes to me for advice.

Forget bicep curls; show me a guy who can do 25 pull ups and 25 chin ups and there’s no WAY his arms aren’t well-developed.

I’ve written an updated article on “how to do a pull up” that is a must read, but this article will get you started!

Find a bar that will support your weight, anywhere. I don’t care. Just find one.

If you have a gym membership there will be pull up bars all over the place.  At your house you might have “the perfect pull up” in your door way.  If you have neither of these things, find a local playground and use their monkey bars.  This is one piece of equipment that NEEDS to be in your arsenal, so find a way to get one.  No excuses, play like a champion.

  • A PULL UP is when your hands are facing away from you.  This will work your back and biceps.
  • A CHIN UP is when your hands are facing towards you.  Although this also works your back, it has more emphasis on your biceps.

Grab a bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width, with your hands facing away from you. Hang all the way down.  Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.  Slight pause  Lower yourself all the way back down. Go up, and really concentrate on isolating your back and biceps. Don’t swing!

Although we’ve written a pretty You can watch our quick 5 minute video on pull-ups here, which also covers how to scale them when you can’t quite do one yet:

Once you can do a single pull up, work on doing them in sets.

  • Do one pull up, then wait a minute or two and do another one.
  • Then wait a few more minutes and do another one.

A few days later, try to do two in a row, and do a few sets of two.

You need to start somewhere, but as soon as you can do one, you can find a way to do two.  After that, find a way to do three, and so on.  Remember, don’t cheat yourself by only going halfway down and not going all the way up.  Straighten your arms out at the bottom, and get your chin over the bar!

Want big biceps? Do close-grip chin ups. I guarantee if you’re banging out 3 sets of 12 at the gym, maybe even hanging some weight around your waist, your arms will be built like cannons and you might need to have them legally declared.

If you’re interested in doing more pull-ups (or getting your first!), and you are looking for some free routines to follow, check out our free resource, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know:

Remember, appearance is a consequence of fitness. 

Pull ups are a true test to somebody’s level of fitness, so where do you fit in?

Happy Friday!

-Steve

Are You Better Than Yesterday?

Word Count: 795 NF Difficulty: Beginner

Work has been kind of hectic in a good way, so I didn’t get a chance to start thinking about today’s blog until late yesterday afternoon.  I had no idea what I was going to write about when the perfect concept literally dropped itself into my email inbox.  Tim Ferriss, life hacker extraordinaire, had just posted a blog with the same title (HIGHLY recommended reading by the way) as the one I chose for today.  Hopefully he doesn’t mind, but I stole his blog title simply because it’s something you should be thinking about every day.  “Level up your life” isn’t this blog’s motto for nothing.

Are you better than yesterday?

If you can find at least one thing about yourself to improve upon every day (fitness, diet, work, health, family, video games, starting a company, etc.), then you will always go to sleep a better person than you were the day before.  As long as it’s something, no matter how small, you get to enjoy a small victory and build upon that success for the next day.

How about your diet? If you decided to throw out everything in your fridge and switch to 100% fruits, vegetables, and nuts, you’re probably going to freak out and quickly give up because you’re used to eating frozen pizzas, big macs, and cupcakes.  However, if you try every day to eat just a little better – drink one less soda than yesterday, make one less trip to the vending machine, bring in a healthy lunch once a week rather than going to Firehouse Subs – in a few months you’ll have a completely different diet and probably a different pant-size.  No more COSTCO sweatpants for you!

Picture 1If you’re a programmer and you come across bug-riddled software, you make a list of what needs to happen to fix the problems, and then you slowly move down the list and check things off.  Eventually, no matter how small the corrections are each day, you will have a solid, bug-free program.  What are the bugs in your life, and what are you doing to troubleshoot them?  Do you have a list?

I used to play Everquest 2 with my buddies; for those of you who don’t know, EQ2 is a massive multi-player online RPG (like World of Warcraft).  Between working a full time job and exercising regularly, I didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to playing (which is probably a good thing).  Luckily the game is set up so that I could log on and play for 20-30 minutes, finish a few small quests or kill some mobs and after a few days level up my character.  Life is no different.

Just saying “I want to get in shape” is far too vague and won’t give you any direction.  You need to give yourself quests and goals to accomplish.  Decide at what point you get to declare yourself You 2.0.  What accomplishments and achievements do you need before that happens?  Maybe something like this:

  • I want to lose 50 lbs
  • I want to do 10 pull ups in a row
  • I want to run a mile without stopping
  • I want to look down and see my toes.

Make your goals as specific as possible so you can measure yourself to make sure you’re getting better.  If you want to do 10 pull ups in a row, you’re going to have to increase your back, bicep, and forearm strength.  If you can only do two now, that’s fine.  Next week, go for three.  After that? Go for four.  If you eat right and work on being just slightly stronger than yesterday, eventually you’ll be doing 10 pull ups with ease.  Baby steps, son!

The best way I’ve found to gauge your success is to keep track of EVERYTHING.  Take a picture of yourself every Monday morning; write down everything you eat, and keep track of every single set, rep, and amount of weight for each exercise.  How are you going to know if you’re better than the day before if you don’t remember what you did?  Day to day it’s tough to see small changes.  However, if you find a way to better yourself every single day, I guarantee you’ll see major changes over time, as long as you keep track of where you started.

Are you better than yesterday? Hang this phrase on the back of your bedroom door.  Set your Google calendar to ask you every morning at 8 AM.  Add it to your desktop background.  Do whatever you need to, but find a way to remind yourself to be better today than you were yesterday; then, find a way to be better tomorrow than you are today.  Level up your life, one day at a time.

What are you going to do today to become You 2.0?

-Steve

NF Mailbag 7/29: I want awesome abs, help!

Word Count: 504 NF Difficulty: Beginner

mirrorReader Homer asks:  I know you need to work on abs to get a nice 6 pack; can you give me an abs only workout plan that focus on upper abs, the middle section on the abs and finally lower abs (which are hard to work on) so I can get the nice 6 pack. Thanks again Steve!

Steve answers: Hey Homer.  As far as ab exercises go, I don’t do a lot of ab work.  Do you do deadlifts and squats?  Both of those exercises work your abs like crazy, and will really build your core.  A strong core (abs, obliques, and lower back) keeps you safe from injury and as a result you will certainly have a solid six pack.  My guess is that you already have abs, you just can’t see them because they’re hidden under body fat.  I realize that everybody wants a washboard stomach – it’s the reason there are hundreds of ab machines for sale, “as seen on tv!”, that are an absolute waste of time.  You could use every one of these machines for 10 hours a day, but if you’re stuffing your face with donuts while watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia reruns (which I highly recommend: it’s one of the funniest shows on TV), those abs will never see the light of day.

You can do 1000 situps a day, but unless you have a body fat percentage below 10%, you’ll never see them. If you REALLY want to get the fat out of there, you’re going to need to get down to like 5% body fat – which means cutting out all unnecessary calories from your diet, eating lots of vegetables and protein, staying away from added sugar and sodas, and exercising like crazy.  Going from 30% BF to 25% is much easier than going from 10% to 5%, so it will require your complete dedication.  Ryan Reynolds got down to like 4% for Blade Trinity, and then immediately added some pounds after filming because it’s close to impossible to maintain a body like that.  You need to find a happy medium.

Want a quick ab exercise that will help with those ‘lower abs’ you’re after? Stand straight up, contract your abs, and then jump and tuck your knees into your chest/stomach.  Try to keep as vertical as possible through this whole thing, and jump as high as you can.  For each set of 10, jump immediately for your next rep right after you land.  Do 3 sets of 10 at the end of your workouts, two or three times a week.

Want another? Do crunches on an exercise ball; this gives you an extra range of motion (beyond parallel like when you do crunches on the floor), give your abs extra work and giving you a more efficient workout in the same amount of time.  I guarantee crunches on a ball when you fully extend your back on the way down will have your stomach working much harder than just a normal crunch on the floor.

-Steve

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