I know what you mean taking a few days off the routine is hard.
But some suggestions as noted:
STRETCH! Stretching pre-workout warms up the muscles, and helps prevent injuries and cramps. I usually do 20 minutes of stretching, mainly my legs. My hamstrings are so tight, but are finally loosening up.
Also, since your gym is cold, cold also is another reason muscles cramp up. As a diver, it's important to keep those muscles warm (hence the wet suit, which has tiny microscopic air sacs in the suits), water conducts heat 25 times faster than air. So maybe after doing your cardio, put on some sweats to cover your legs and keep them from getting cold.
Then you should stretch again, removing the built up lactic acid in your muscles.
As my routine, I do cardio every other day, weights and resistance in-between, taking Sun off or as a makeup day for something I missed. For me, I prefer the treadmill, I find the elliptical also good, and the stationary bike fairly boring.
As far as squats go, I also can't stand my leg day. Your gym should have a leg press machine and also a Smith Squat machine, where the weight bar is on a track, and it may look like a cage. That may help a little with your technique. Don't overdo the weight! Getting an injury will set back any gym time!
Sorry but I don't think anyone should squat with a smith machine, it causes the barbell to track incorrectly and makes you put undo stress on your lower back.
Squatting should be done with a free barbell, and form should be priority over how much weight used. Do this and you will avoid back and knee injuries from squats.
Leg days are the hardest because of how much energy and oxygen you use when lifting the legs, but they are also the biggest engines for burning fat, and should be your main focus.
It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself. ~Muhammad Ali
You must have long-range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short-range failures. ~Charles C. Noble
July 6th 2010: 225 lbs, 24% body fat
Nov 30th 2010: 181 lbs, 12% body fat
Dec 28th 2010: 177 lbs, 11% bf
Total weight loss 48 lbs.
Squatting should be done with a free barbell, and form should be priority over how much weight used.
Your time is probably better spent learning how to do full squats properly with a barbell. You could ask a trainer and/or search youtube to get an idea of the proper form. Make sure your thighs are at least parallel to the floor, preferably you would squat even deeper (i.e. your thighs should make contact with your calves). You'll get the most bang for your buck this way (as midwestj already pointed out), both by fully developing the potential fat burning power of your quads (woot!) and by avoiding injury, which will help you continue to train without interruption.
Thank you for all the good advice. I never heard the idea that the legs are big engines for fat burning. It makes a lot of sense, and gives me a very good reason to focus a bit harder (and smarter) in that area. As hard as it is for me at this early stage.
With adjustments, my routine is now changed, but I don't know that it's optimized and I have a couple of questions. Sorry for a long description of what I do, but this is mostly self-created with some adjustments from random advice and I have no idea if I'm working smart.
What I'm trying to do now is cardio of about 40min three times a week. I have adjusted from going at a constant pace that pushes me the whole way after warmup and before cool down to a kind of interval that I don't know if I'm doing right. After stretching, I warm up for five minutes at minimal exertion, then do two minutes at moderate exertion followed by one minute of hard exertion, and repeat the moderate to hard about ten times, then cool way down for 5 minutes. I'm open to any recommendations on how to make this more efficient, though I really love the good sweat from cardio.
Three times a week, in between the cardio days, I'm stretching, doing 10-15min of moderate cardio to get my blood pumping, then do nautilus (we don't have free weights). We have five upper body and four lower body plus the one where you bend forward. I do 10 reps on each machine at a weight where I can just finish the last rep, then repeat with two more sets. This seems to be about all I can manage as far as number of sets.
I am also mixing in some wii exercise here and there, and certainly on my off day.
It was said earlier that legs are efficient fat burning engines, but I don't know if I'm getting enough on my legs with this routine. I actually don't know if I'm getting enough of anything. I like my routine, but I also want to be efficient and give my body what it needs.
BTW, I'm not on a low carb, high protein diet. My ratio tends to be around 50-60% carbs, 20-25% protein, and 20-25% fat, and I'm pretty happy with the way I eat. My after workout routine, based on something I read that I have no idea if it's correct is to get a carbs and protein in within 30min of the end of my workout. I try to get about 100g of carbs and 25g of protein, usually using a good natural juice and banana for the carbs.
Can I break up my weight sets with 5-10min on the bike, tread, or eliptical in between? Should I be doing fewer reps and more sets?
Rip me apart. I need to learn. I'm loving this, and would likely overtrain without good advice because I'm enjoying the feeling so much.
Sounds pretty solid to me overall. Here are a few tweaks I'd maybe consider, but itís totally up to you and what fits your goals, lifestyle and available equipment best.
You might not be getting the best bang for your buck from your cardio sessions if you can keep up the intervals for an entire 30 minutes (the "workout" in between the warm up and cool down) -- this suggests to me that they may not be intense enough. That being said, I don't know your fitness level really well. There are tons of ways to do this though, so don't get too caught up in the details! I've heard suggestions that one of the best ways to do interval training for folks who enjoy cardio is to warm up, then perform high intensity intervals (HIIT) for, say, 10 minutes, then do a moderate-pace steady state cardio for 10 minutes, then do another 10 minute HIIT, followed by a cool down. The key to HIIT is to make sure your "work" intervals are REALLY intense and your recovery intervals really allow you to recover (i.e. sprint all out and then walk easily). Just to give you an idea, for me HIIT on a treadmill is usually 1 minute sprints at 8.5mph followed by walking at 3.7mph. Incorporating steady state in the middle of a longer cardio session would be maybe a 6mph jog. (This is purely to give an example of the difference between "rest" and "work" intervals -- of course, it'll be different for every one). For a long time, I was cheating myself out of the benefits of HIIT by recovering at too high an exertion, which didn't let me go all out during my sprints (where all the beneficial stuff comes in). Make sure youíre performing HIIT too often, otherwise your muscles won't repair themselves and you'll risk injury. Many trainers recommend twice a week, so maybe you could to a lower-intensity steady state cardio session for that third time.
Regarding your strength routine, you may want to add some body weight exercises in to compliment the work you're doing on the Nautalis. Body weight squats, lunges, pushups, etc. might round out your routine a little better. I know tandoorichicken has posted an at home plan in this thread that incorporates many of these types of movements -- they're pretty straight forward and don't require formal equipment. Hopefully I linked that correctly! The number of sets and reps youíre doing sound fine on the surface to me (others may disagree), but it really depends on your fitness goals. My suspicion is that if you don't know if you're getting enough (as you mentioned with leg exercises, for instance), you probably aren't. You should be working hard and challenging yourself most of the time. That doesn't mean feeling like a quivering ball of goo every single night you come out of the gym, but you should definitely feel some butt-kickage from your efforts! You may need to increase the weight and lower the reps to accomplish this, but youíll be the best judge of that.
Nutrition is such a personal thing, itís hard for me to comment. Iíd maybe try to tip your protein intake to closer to 30% or higher. One way to do that is to replace your banana and juice with a protein shake post-workout. Youíll still get a bunch of carbs, but itíll increase the protein youíll need to repair the muscle you just ripped apart. If you donít like the idea of using a protein powder supplement (it took me quite a while to come around to the idea), try blending Greek yogurt, a splash of milk and your banana instead.
Wow! This got long! Sorry! Hopefully itíll give you something to consider and I hope others will post with more ideas (Iím no expert!). Iím personally really impressed by your enthusiasm and drive to tweak your routine. This thread has really reminded me that fitness is just an ongoing experiment with our bodies and we can always change and improve what weíre doing!
Wow, that was a great reply, SailorDoom, and I really appreciate it. Everything you said makes sense to me. While I am trying to work hard, my fitness level is still pretty low. My knees aren't bad, but I'm not real comfortable running on them yet. I'm going to try to take your suggestions off the treadmill, and onto the bike and eliptical. In retrospect, I'm definitely not pushing at my utmost on those work sets, and I'm probably not going down low enough on my rest sets. I'm anxious to try it out and glad tonight is cardio night for me
I've been dreading incorporating the good bodyweight exercises, which I know means I need to be doing them. I dream of one day being able to work with a trainer, but I think I'm going to need to do a little better job of finding the edges of my fitness level to start pushing it up. It's become easy to feel like I'm doing good if I work up a good sweat, and I know this isn't supposed to be easy.
Wow, what a difference that made. I'm wasted in a really good way, and a way I haven't been since I started a few weeks ago. I took the suggestion of doing HIIT 10min, steady cardio 10min, and HIIT 10min. I also cranked up my work sets about 25% faster than I had been going and doubled the incline, and took my rest sets way down to about 2/3 of what I had been doing. Keep in mind that my range is much much lower than someone who is fit, but it felt amazing. I felt like I could just barely make it to the end of my work sets. I was absolutely soaked when I was done.
Thanks again for the advice. It was a good reminder to push myself.
SailorDoom, thanks for the reference to the other thread! I must say, I'm quite proud of that routine, it's my first! Someday I'll get a personal trainer certification so my parents will finally listen to me and start doing it too. Lol.
DB, SailorDoom pretty much nailed everything I wanted to say above, so I won't get into the workout stuff too much.
One thing I will suggest though, is to switch to a "smarter" warmup on your strength days. Stretching can reduce the amount you are able to push yourself if you do it before lifting (it puts your muscles in a relaxed state) and 10-15 minutes of cardio is pretty irrelevant from a physiological standpoint and just creates fatigue. A better strategy is to passively get blood flowing into your lifting muscles by way of massage, then training the movement and technique (not as critical with machines but still useful for muscle memory) with no or very light load, before moving on to the actual sweat work.
So, when I prep for lifting, say for example the bench press, usually I'll take a foam roller or a medicine ball and passively "wake up" the muscles by kneading them out and getting out any areas of residual soreness (like from carrying my backpack around). Then I'll do a pressing motion or a chest fly with either no load or very light load, such as with a Theraband, really slowly to get the muscles in the groove of the movement, and do a couple of really slow reps of those. After that I'll move to the actual bench (or in your case, at this point you would move to the machine) and move just the bar with no extra weight. After that, I'll start loading up the bar for my work sets.
For the cool down, that's when I'll do my stretching. Muscles get really tight after a lifting workout and that's part of the reason for the stiffness and soreness the next day. Like I said before, stretching helps put the muscle into a relaxed state so you don't hurt as much the next day. As someone who's literally had to roll out of bed onto the floor and crawl around on his hands and knees just to get to breakfast, trust me, the post-lifting stretching helps A LOT.
I think just warming up and cooling down smarter will let you push yourself harder in the gym without wearing you down more.
1) eat real food - more vegetables, moderate meat, moderate fruits, less grains, less sugar, less vegetable oils.
2) exercise - moderate intensity cardio, sprinting, heavy lifting, dedicated stretching and mobility.
3) live - relax, de-stress, meditate.
Disclaimer: I'm not professionally qualified to make any formal recommendations. I've just done my homework and I'm my own guinea pig. All of my data, unless otherwise cited, comes from a sample size of n=1 (me).
Last edited by tandoorichicken; 12-11-2010 at 02:49 AM.
Sounds like great advice, Tandoori. I'm so happy to have you experienced folks as a resource. I'm going to do your warmup suggestions tomorrow with my weights, and attempt what you described in your other thread as one of my weight days next week. I feel like a complete geek but this is so fun!