Monday, December 27, 2010

Week 6; My Workout Routine

My stats for this week are:

Weight: 154 lbs.
Waist: 31.3"
I'm skipping photos this week for three reasons:
  1. There's very little noticeable difference from week to week so far
  2. The last photos I posted are from just 4 days ago, and
  3. Quite frankly, I'm tired of looking at my nearly naked body (and I'm guessing you are, too)
I'll post them more frequently starting late January, since my refined diet will be in place.

What I will do, however, is talk a little about my current workout routine, since a few people have asked about it.

I'll start with the usual spiel regarding us all being an experiment of one, everyone's body reacts differently to a given stimulus, yadda, yadda (it's true, though). I'll also mention that I rarely stay on a particular routine for an extended period because the body only changes if it sees a reason to (plus, I get bored). For a short period of time, a given stimulus will cause the muscles to rebuild a little larger and stronger so they can cope with an unexpected stressor. But if that same activity (same reps, same weight, same rest period) is continued for a prolonged period, the muscles will stop adapting, since nothing is changing. It doesn't take a complete restructuring of a routine to continue the growth/strength gains. It can be as simple as slightly increasing the weight, reducing rest periods, changing the rep schemes, doing the exercises in a different order, etc.

With all that said, here's my current routine. I won't list the amount of weight I use, because that's very individualized.

MON (Pulling muscles: 90 sec rest between sets)
5 min. warmup on Schwinn Airdyne
Pullups - 3 sets
BB deadlifts - 2 warmup sets, 2 heavy work sets (5-6 reps each)
DB bent rows - 2 sets of 8-10 reps per arm
DB/BB curls - 2 sets of 8-10 reps
Weighted situps (holding plate to chest) - 3 sets (I alternate these with the next exercise)
Hanging leg raises - 3 sets

20 minute spin on the Airdyne
1 set each of pushups, pullups, situps, hanging dips

WED (Pushing muscles: 90 sec rest between sets)
5 min. warmup on Schwinn Airdyne
BB bench press - 1 warmup set, 3 works sets (6-10 reps each)
BB (or DB) military press - 2 sets (8-10 reps ea)
DB overhead extensions OR hanging dips - 2-3 sets
DB squats (holding dumbbells at sides) - 2 sets (10-15 reps)
DB fly/press (inclined on bench) - 2 sets (8 reps of each movement)

same as Tues

"Beach work"
(meaning the "showy" muscles; arms, shoulders)
I might do a few sets of curls, triceps exercises, lateral raises for shoulders, etc. Basically, I'm giving the major muscle groups a rest from the big lifts, like bench presses and deadlifts (I LOVE deadlifts, but they're very hard on the body if done with heavy weights and potentially dangerous, as witnessed by my separated shoulder back in '04)

"4 Minute Drill"
I'll do as many pushups, pullups, situps and hanging dips in 4 minutes (doing each exercise for 4 minutes, resting several minutes, then doing the next, etc.) These can get pretty intense. It's fun to see what approach gets me the most reps (i.e. low reps, short rest, medium rest, medium rest, etc).


I just started splitting my workouts like this. Previously, I was doing my entire body in one workout, but as I increased the weight and sets, it was just too much (i.e. I almost passed out a couple of weeks ago).

I'll make a few changes to this routine over the course of the next few weeks. I'll be reducing the rest periods between sets to 60 seconds for a few weeks, then 45 seconds, then 30 seconds the last couple of weeks in February. Consequently, the weights will have to decrease a little. I'll be operating on a slight calorie deficit, so my strength will decline a bit (plus, I'll give my muscles less time to recover). I'm hoping the increased intensity will result in more fat burning and limited muscle loss.

I'll also gradually increase my cardio. If my heel obeys, I'll add in some walking a few days per week, and I'll change one of my easy Airdyne spins per week to an interval session.

Along with drinking lots of water and getting adequate sleep, that's about it. Oh, I am planning on weaning myself off of caffeine the next few weeks, mostly for personal reasons (not that it's necessary for this project). That's the only substance I've been addicted to in my life, and it's always a killer to get off of it. Refined sugar will also be a no-no. I may post my diet when the time comes, too. I think I've got it pretty much planned out.

Of course, everything I've just posted is subject to change if things aren't working ;-)

Hope I didn't bore you to tears, but hopefully I shared something helpful. Remember, I'm just a scrawny runner that got into weight lifting many years ago during the times I wasn't I'm no expert. I'm still learning as I go.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Week 5.5 (Okay, I Lied)

Insane workload or not, I NEEDED to get in at least one workout this week. Today marks one month since I publicly stated my goal of developing a defined six-pack by the end of February 2011. According to the photos, not much has changed. I may have gained a bit of muscle mass, but my weight and waist measurements are virtually unchanged. Due to my heel injury, I've done very little cardio work...which means diet and weight training are the key factors in the loss of bodyfat I’ll need to achieve in order to expose the elusive washboard abs. I've started using additional resistance in my crunches (holding a weight plate on my chest), along with hanging leg raises. Admittedly, I'm kind of in a holding pattern until about mid-January, when I'll start adjusting my diet. Until then, I'm trying to maintain control, while still enjoying holiday goodies. The workouts will become more intense as well. The rest periods I'm currently using between sets (currently 90 seconds) will be reduced around that time as well.

Okay, here are the (somewhat redundant) photos:

Have a Merry Christmas, folks!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Time

I've been bombarded with work, so I've decided to make this a "rest week", as far as workouts go. I'll hopefully be able to get back into the groove next week.

Merry Christmas & enjoy the holidays!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Week 4

Once again, there isn't much visual difference showing up in the photos. I can say that I've gotten stronger on nearly all of my lifts, and I believe there is some muscle growth, but as far as bodyfat levels are concerned, there's no decrease. In fact, it may be nudging up a bit. No cause for concern yet, though.

My workouts are still primarily focused on building strength. Right now, I'm only lifting weights twice per week (and doing bodyweight exercises most other days). I've learned that my body needs time to both recover, then rebuild. As I approach cut-down time, I'll reduce the number of sets I do, but keep the intensity (weight and reps) high, much like a running program would be structured leading into a key race. The body needs less volume so it can recover, yet the intensity should be maintained so as to not lose sharpness (in this case, muscle size and definition). I've read a lot of well-informed articles stating that, despite old-school thinking, lifting lighter weights for more reps does NOT increase definition, but keeping the weights relatively high, but with shorter rest periods will help retain muscle size & definition during a "peak" phase. The definition and "cuts" come from slowly reducing the level of bodyfat.

As for cardio, I got the go-ahead to do some swimming and light spinning, but after doing an easy 20 minutes on Precor's version of the Lifecycle, my heel ached for two days. Once work lets up (crazy busy this week), I'll give the pool a try.

I did hit a milestone yesterday. For several weeks, I've been trying on and off to do 100 pushups in 4 minutes. I finally hit that goal yesterday by doing 102. My next goal is to do a single set of 20 pullups (I'm currently stuck at 17).

Enough blabber. Here are this week's photos:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Week 3...and Back Tips

I'm realizing that there really isn't much change in my appearance from week 1 to week 3. That may be that case until I start working specifically to burn the fat late next January and all of February. I'm working on increasing my strength, but I don't want to bulk up too much for a couple of reasons: I don't want to put on too much fat since it'll be harder to burn it off, and quite frankly my wardrobe is limited and I want to be able to fit into my jeans! I think I'm adding just a bit of muscle (I only measure my waist), but it's probably not noticeable.

Here are this week's photos:

I also want to talk about back training. A lot of people who do casual weight training prefer to work on the showy muscles — biceps and pecs — and neglect their backs. Not only is this a bad idea from an aesthetic point of view, but it's terrible for posture. If your anterior delts and pectorals are overly developed and your back is underdeveloped, you'll end up having a hard time not slouching and rolling your shoulders forward. A strong and developed back helps to keep your upper body posture balanced. Our backs also tend to be weak links (lower back, in particular) and are easy to injure if they're neglected. Personally, I enjoy training my back more than any other body parts. I keep it simple. Deadlifts, bent rows and pull ups cover all three “planes” of movement (pulling up, pulling in, pulling down, respectively). For the first two, I wear a weightlifting belt for safety. Since I haven't posted a back photo yet, here's a recent shot of my still-a-work-in-progress back:

That's it for now. I'm REALLY itching to start doing some cardio...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Week 2...and Post-Thanksgiving Fallout?

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday and enjoyed time with your families. I certainly did, even though it was in about a foot of snow across the state at my dad and step-mom's house. The kids had a (snow)ball, though!

As I suspected, the food situation would be challenging. With absolutely NO disrespect toward my my wife and my mom, my step-mom is a GOOOOOD cook. And her pies (made from scratch) should be illegal. Her pecan pie can make captured spies give up sworn secrets.

So how did I do? First of all, I didn't deny myself of the goodies. I partook in Thanksgiving as usual, with one slight adjustment. This year, I didn't stuff myself to the point of being sick, like I have the last who knows how many years. Yes, I filled my plate, but I didn't go back for seconds. I basically just controlled my portions (meals and desserts). Here at home, I have more control over my dietary choices, so an occasional indulgence while visiting the family during the holidays isn't akin to a fitness train wreck. If you deny yourself ALL the time, you're setting yourself up to binge. Trust me, I've been there.

As for workouts, I managed to utilize my dad's exercise room once, but threw in push-ups, sit-ups and hanging dips once a day (I do at least one set of each every day, along with pull-ups when I'm at home). Today, I hit the weights pretty hard, too, starting to increase my poundages.

Even though I've backed myself into a corner by choosing the end of February as my target date for the shining 6-pack, I'm going to periodize my training (much like I do as a runner). This next month will be dedicated to lifting heavier weights and increasing muscle mass. I'll loosen my diet just a bit (i.e. I'll increase calories), but it won't be a free-for-all with the goodies. It's much easier to build muscle mass while taking in slightly more (healthy) calories than maintenance level. Consequently, my abs, as they are now, may lose some definition. I'll do my best to keep them visible, but my focus will be on gaining a little weight which, hopefully, will be mostly muscle.

Beginning in January, I'll switch gears once again, then again in February, in order to burn off the remaining fat while hopefully preserving most of the muscle. I'll detail those approaches later.

And with all that said, here are this week's comparison photos:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The "Before" Pics

As I haven't made this blog known until now, feel free to read the first entry, below, to find out what it's all about.

I wish I had taken my "before" photos sooner, since I've been doing strength training the last couple of months (when I was running very little or not at all). But, since my "before" condition isn't too terrible (if I can say that myself), it should provide an even greater challenge to tighten the abs even more, while hopefully adding a bit more muscle and strengthening my core.

Just "getting sharper abs" is a bit of an amorphous goal. After all, how do you define success? It's a matter of degrees, I suppose. I know in my mind what I'm looking for. I suppose I could throw a bodyweight and waist measurement goal out. How about 160 lbs. with a waist under 31", by my 44th birthday (Feb. 28, 2011). That would mean a net gain of 8 lbs. of muscle with less bodyfat. That's a pretty lofty goal in that time frame, I know. I do have the benefit of "muscle memory", meaning I used to lift weights fairly seriously until I started running again in January of 2009. I could also throw in a bodyfat measurement, since I have a Tanita scale that gives that reading, but I don't know how accurate it is...and I tend to look more at waist measurement (and appearance) anyway as a gauge.

I guess I should briefly outline my plan of attack. Weights 2-3 days per week and slightly smaller food portions than I've been eating. Vague? I know. I'm going heavy on the fruits and veggies and light on the red meat. Supplements consist of a multi vitamin, vitamin C, Glucosamine, fish oil, and flaxseed oil. Breakfast tends to be a bowl of Cheerios with raisins (or half a banana) on top...or oatmeal with raisins, walnuts & honey, and an english muffin with Adams all-natural peanut butter. I usually eat a lunch consisting of a hard-boiled egg, an orange, half of a large apple, carrot sticks, maybe a slice of wheat toast with Adams all-natural peanut butter, and water. I'm trying to get back into the habit of eating healthy mid-morning and afternoon snacks in order to keep the nutrition flowing all day. As for dinner, I don't want to rock the boat too much...and my wife usually makes nutritious meals, so I'll just eat appropriate portions of our usual dinner. As the final date looms nearer, I'll probably tighten up the dinner, maybe making my own most nights. When I say "final date", I don't mean my quest for lean muscularity and good eating will end there. That's just when I'll post my "after" photo. The journey will go on after that.

Where's the cardio in this approach? I wish it was alive and well, but as I'm in a walking boot for a heel injury, I'm unable to do any at this time (nor can I effectively work my leg muscles). That will make both muscle building and fat loss more will the holidays, with all their goodies. Why exactly am I doing this now? Seriously, though, when I'm cleared to start cardio again, it'll likely be in the form of stationary bike, swimming, and possibly walking on a treadmill. Hopefully running won't be far behind.

As for my total approach (weights, diet, cardio), I'm basing it on a gentleman I've followed for years, Clarence Bass. He's an accomplished Olympic lifter, bodybuilder and fitness guru, now in his 70's. His philosophy has always made the most sense to me, regarding a balanced approach to getting and staying fit and healthy. I've gotten to know him via email over the years, and he's a great guy. While he's not a runner, I'll still be applying many of his ideas to my training. And talk about abs...holy cow, he's got 'em!

Anyway, without further adieu, here are my "before" photos. I'll always take the same poses for the weekly photos and include my weight and waist measurement, along with any other pertinent info I think of.

Care to join me in this challenge?
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Let The Quest Begin

My friend and fellow runner/blogger, Chris K, recently challenged me to work on "getting my abs". Why this particular challenge? Briefly, I'm an injured long-distance runner (see my running blog), as well as a VERY goal-oriented person; especially when it comes to fitness and exercise. To stay focused while I'm not running, I need a concrete goal to shoot for. My primary objectives, while I'm rehabbing my injury, will be to:
  1. Stay in cardiovascular shape
  2. Increase my upper body strength and, to some degree, muscle mass
  3. Eat as clean and healthy as possibly, thereby allowing me to...
  4. Get an etched six-pack!
What kind of fool decides to take on this challenge during the holiday season (in the U.S.)? Me...I guess. I honestly had second, third and fourth thoughts about creating this blog, because I love me some holiday baked goods! Pecan pie, fudge, gingerbread cookies...

Okay, never mind the challenge. I'm going for "flabs" instead., I need to do this.

Getting abs to show THE CORRECT WAY (i.e. not just starving myself) will be tough. I want to maintain and/or increase my overall muscle mass while doing so. I've been close before, but never really got rid of the last little bit of fat obscuring the bottom two abs.

I plan on posting progress photos once per week. I'll determine which day of the week once I take and post a photo of my current state. I'm already relatively lean (due to my running, up until recently), so I don't have a ton of fat to lose. Just need to tighten things up a bit. I'll also post stats (weight, waist measurements) and the challenges I've faced and either failed at or overcome. Like many personal fitness-oriented blogs, I'm making this public for accountability purposes. I'll probably document other strength-related goals, too (I'm trying to achieve a set of 20 pullups for the first time in several years).

The wild card in this quest will be the walking boot I'll soon be wearing, which will undoubtedly affect my exercise selection. I'll make do, though.

(Maybe I should put a walking boot on my pie hole...)

So...this blog will chronicle the ups and downs of trying to become lean enough for "Ab Out Time." (a little play on words there, you get it? About Time...Ab Out Time...ahem)

"Before" photo coming soon...