There are so many myths and misconceptions regarding fitness and health. It is my mission to simplify things for everyone. I remember reading Steve Reeves’ book “Building The Classic Physique” and in it he explained how he made amazing progress in a relatively short time. When asked about how it was possible, his answer was “No one told him he couldn’t do it”. By taking a simple approach combined with the fact that his mom taught him a lot of important information about healthy eating, he made great progress. Unfortunately nowadays with so much information overload out there about exercise and diet, what ultimately ends up happening is ANALYSIS PARALYSIS. This means that when there’s so much information given to you, you simply don’t know what to do and ultimately end up doing nothing! If I’m not mistaken, a number of you reading this have done exactly this. Don’t worry. You’re not alone!
THE THREE BIGGEST MISTAKES
These are some of the biggest misconceptions out there and have sabotaged many people with good intentions.
- ENDLESS HOURS OF CARDIO
Don’t get me wrong. Cardio definitely has its place. But doing the amounts that many people do is not only pointless, but can actually be one of the worst things for quality fat loss and muscle gain. After about 45 minutes or so, Cortisol levels start rising in the body. This is the catabolic hormone which will break down muscle which will greatly reduce the effectiveness of your weight loss efforts. Muscle burns calories just sitting there. Believe me, any program that doesn’t add quality muscle to your body is worthless. Often, you’ll hear terms such as “toning” or “firming up” or “shaping”. These words are used because people have the idea that you’ll look like the Hulk if you start weight training and actually build muscle. Forget those words! When people use those words, it really means you’re building muscle. Don’t forget that!
- OVER-SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS
You may have seen programs that people follow where you train each muscle only once a week. You’re expected to workout five or six days a week training one or two muscles a day. ABSOLUTE NONSENSE! A complete waste of time! First of all, do you really want to have to go to the gym every day? For people who actually have careers and families, let’s see how long you last on a program like that! The body responds far better to whole body workouts or at the most, split over two days. Depending on your starting fitness level, this ends up being between two and four days per week. This is realistic, sustainable, more effective, and more fun!
- HEAVY WEIGHTS
The human ego is probably the worst enemy you’ll ever face! Many people insist on lifting weights they clearly can’t handle. The end result is injury and no progress! Probably not the results you were hoping for. The fact is that moderate weights will do a far better job AND be a heck of a lot safer! Also by using a quick pace and principles of HIIT training, you can use lighter weights while still getting a great workout. There are many exercises that are done with simply your own bodyweight as well. Some programs can be done which are almost 100% bodyweight exercises. Although I prefer to practice and teach a combination of bodyweight and equipment exercises.
THE THREE SECRETS TO FITNESS FREEDOM
- AFTERBURN/ E.P.O.C.
E.P.O.C. stands for Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption. The common nickname is Afterburn. So this refers to the fact that during a good, tough, and quick-paced workout, an oxygen debt is created since you’re working and breathing hard. This debt must be paid back so your body goes into this Afterburn mode. This means that your body will be in “overtime” fat burning mode allowing you to continue burning fat even up to 36 hours after the workout is finished! And just in case you think that this only applies to fat loss, it works great for muscle building as well. One of the classic bodybuilding workouts was 8 Sets of 8 Reps. You would take one exercise and 8 sets of 8 reps with only 20 or 30 seconds between sets. Typically you would take between 4 and 6 exercises per workout and do each exercise in this manner. Legendary Trainer To The Stars Vince Gironda often used this workout to whip people into shape quickly and he called it “The Honest Workout”. I think you can see why!
- MULTI-JOINT EXERCISES
There are generally two classifications of exercises. Single-Joint and Multi-Joint. And while they both have their place, Multi-Joint exercises must definitely make up the majority of your workout. A Single-Joint exercise will train only one muscle at a time. It’s also known as an Isolation Exercise and a couple of examples are Dumbbell Curls or Leg Extensions. However, a Multi-Joint exercise will train several muscles at once all with one movement. So not only are you getting more bang for your buck by training several muscles at once (activating more muscle fibers), but you will as a result have a higher growth hormone release, which will of course lead to more muscle! It’s really a Win-Win situation. Some examples of Multi-Joint exercises are Squats, Overhead Presses, or Pushups.
Now with that being said, Single-Joint exercises do have their place. For example, the side deltoid muscles of the shoulder and probably best trained with Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises. Also, they can provide some relief from the more demanding Multi-Joint exercises. There was actually an exercise system developed by Robert Kennedy many years ago called “Pre-Exhaust” or simply “Pre-Ex”. This involved taking two exercises for a muscle group and training them in a Superset manner (back to back). The first would be a Single-Joint Exercise and the second would be a Multi-Joint exercise. An example would be Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises and Overhead Dumbbell Presses. Because the weak link in the Overhead Press is the tricep muscles, then by first fatiguing the shoulder muscles with the Lateral Raise you will have pre-exhausted the shoulders and therefore train the shoulders to their limit when you get to the Overhead Press and not be limited by the triceps. Of course this is very advanced training, but it does help illustrate how there can be value for both types of exercises. However never forget that no matter what level you eventually may reach, Multi-Joint exercises must make up the Lion’s Share of your workout.
- MODERATE WEIGHTS/BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES
There are many benefits to bodyweight exercises. For one thing, you always have your gym with you since it’s your own body! Also due to the nature of bodyweight exercises and the need to stabilize and support yourself, there is core work in just about every exercise and virtually every bodyweight exercise is Multi-Joint. Going hand in hand with the philosophy of bodyweight exercise is using moderate weights. Heavy weights can be dangerous and not even give you the desired results. Studies have shown that the most work done in the least time will produce the best results. In fact, I never go below 8 reps of any exercise. The range I use mostly is between 8 and 15 which when combined with short rest periods will bring you the best results for fitness and muscle building. Obviously if you’re planning to compete in Weightlifting or Powerlifitng you’ll need to go through times of the year when you train on maximum lifts to prepare for your meet. However, the vast majority of people have no interest in this. And even if you do compete in these sports, the majority of the year is spent using higher reps. A fact that may surprise people!
There is a training system that puts these ideas together quite nicely and it’s known as HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. It is a very versatile system and can be easily customized to the individual. First let’s clear something up right away. There is a gross misconception that all HIIT workouts are vomit-inducing, super high intensity workouts. This is simply not true and trainers who put people through this are simply lousy and/or sadistic trainers!
It can be customized to the level of the individual. It also doesn’t always go by the clock the way some people think. Reps can be counted as well. The intervals do not necessarily refer to time (although it can). It refers to periods of intensity. If you do 10 reps of an exercise, rest for 20 to 30 seconds and then do another 10 reps, repeating this several times, you are alternating between high intensity and low intensity/rest. This alternating is what makes HIIT work and has been shown to be far more effective than steady state cardio where you simply walk/jog at a steady pace for 30 minutes. It can be done in other ways as well. Of course it can be timed. One method of HIIT training which you’re probably familiar with is a round of Boxing. 3 minutes of fighting (high intensity) followed by 1 minute of rest. Yet another method is to use distance. A common method and one which I’ve used many times is to go to a football field and use cones placed along the track. I’ll place a cone at the starting point and begin with a fast sprint until I reach the first cone. Then I’ll walk to the second cone. When I reach the third cone it’s time to sprint again, and I continue this for as long as desired. The distance I place the cones will vary.
So in conclusion I hope you’ve found this information useful and I also hope that I’ve helped simplify things for you. There are times when I’m thankful that I began my fitness journey many years ago before the internet existed. It was a lot easier to learn and not hear hundreds of different opinions on Google, YouTube, etc. I had (and still have) excellent coaches and trainers. I also read some fantastic books written by true authorities in the fitness world. Not simply some guy posting something on an online forum.
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