Diet: Exercise – Some Motivation

As of today, I have spent three months berating you, my lovely and talented reader, for three months about the use of exercise in the battle to lose weight and now we are finished.  Of course, as with the food portion, there are things I didn’t talk about and topics I did not cover –

such as that VO2 zone at the top, which is a heart rate level reserved for athletes, meth users, and people being struck by lightning -

– but you still have a good jumping off point to start crafting your own work-out routines.  But even with all this helpful non-expert knowledge that I have attempted to impart, it can still be daunting to decide what you’re going to do.  It may be even harder now, as it’s easy to pick which candy bar you want when there are only two choices, but much more difficult when you are given 14,399 choices.

"I guess I'll just take the sweet one . . ."

But remember what I said way back when (or, at least I think I remember; my memory is fuzzy, I often forget to put on pants before I leave the house) that you will need to start off with baby steps when you begin to exercise.  This is not just to give your body time to adapt to the strain you will put on it, but also allow you to try out different things until you find the one that suits you the most.  If you’re lucky, you will find that two or three choices feel good to you which will make losing weight that much easier as we tend to forget that we’re working when we are having fun.

Like when I chase after campers pretending to be bigfoot.

And yet it can still be daunting because that first step is always the hardest, and deciding on a routine is a lot different than doing that routine.  So I’ll give you a little booster that can help you get closer to becoming a work-out machine.

The Five Minute Wake-Up Exercise

When I wake up, usually the first thing I do is turn on my computer.  Unlike some of my friends and family who tend to think technology is the devil and our dependence on it is the heralding of our inevitable doom, I live off of my computer.  I’ll wake up, check my email, surf for some geeky info on the next big superhero movie, take to a friend in China and then plan my blog post for the day.  Others may go to the bathroom, or make a beeline for the coffee pot, or throw their alarm clock against, mutter something between an expletive and whatever they were dreaming about (e.g. “Fuck off, you goat monkey and put that marionette back into the bathtub”) the wall and go back to sleep.  Whatever your normal morning ritual is, what I propose is a slight addition.

Within the first five minutes of waking about, do a simple exercise.  It doesn’t have to be strenuous: jumping jacks, sit-ups, push ups, squats, running in place.  Any one of those will do.  And don’t worry about doing a full work-out either; one to five minutes will suffice.  Do it everyday, without fail, until you do it without even realizing you are.

Once again, like when I chase after campers pretending to be bigfoot. I don't even realize I do it anymore.

Not only will this really wake you up, but it can also raise your entire metabolism for the day by 5%.  I didn’t exactly pull that number out of my ass; a weight-lifting coach that I had in college told me that, and while I have not done any fact checking on it, it sounds nice and serves my purpose.  Hey, if you’re gonna BS, you should at least be transparent about it.

Like this fish, who tells nothing but lies.

Whether or not it really raises your metabolism for the rest of the day, the main function of the exercise is not to burn fat but to train yourself to start new habits.  Losing weight is not just the elimination of bad habits but the formation of good ones, and exercising is just a habit.

For shits and giggles, I wanted to see if I could form a habit at will.  I decided that whenever I was bored, I would gently bite my nails.  At first it was a chore, but after no time at all I had started to notice that I was chewing away my fingers.  I was terrified at my newly formed habit, but I was also thrilled that it had worked.  That’s what you want do with exercising, sans the terror.  Waking up and exercising just a little bit everyday will get you used to working out without having to think about it; that exercise is not something you have to do, it is just simply something you do.  Once you’re there, you’ll realize it’s not so difficult to continue the practice.  Now, I’m not suggesting you always work out in the morning, but starting everyday with a little activity will put you in the right frame of mind.

And you’ll have the added bonus of shaping your body.  Fifty push-ups everyday doesn’t seem like a lot, but after a season you will feel a difference.  Yes, major weight-loss will take time and if you have more than fifty pounds to lose you’re not going to have a model’s body within a year with five minute exercises, but every little bit helps as it all adds up and it doesn’t take that long to start seeing changes.  It’s simple mechanics: If you eat right and exercise properly, your body will have no choice but to lose weight. The real fight, as I have always said, is in your head, and a good way to win that fight is to form a good habit.  Think of it this way:

If you had been exercising a little bit every single day, or eating right, or both, during the entire time that I have been blogging about all of this, you would not recognize the person you would see in the mirror.  You wouldn’t be an Adonis, but you would be healthier, stronger, fitter, and yes, probably slimmer as well.  It may take a whole lot of time and effort to completely change everything, but it doesn’t take that much to start seeing results.

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Diet: Exercise – Anaerobic Exercise

No, I didn’t misspell aerobic; YOU misread.  Maybe you need some new glasses.

If you can't tell what this is, go see your optician.

While aerobic exercise gets its energy from a mixture of glucose and oxygen, anaerobic exercise says a big, “FUCK YOU,” to oxygen and gets its energy from only the glucose in your body. This makes sense since the word anaerobic (first coined in the 1880’s) means “in the absence of oxygen”.  Now this doesn’t mean anaerobic exercises are done without breathing; that’s as silly as it is extremely lethal.  All it means is that your body is not using the oxygen you are breathing in to trigger glycosis, which is the metabolic process that converts glucose, sucrose and other chemicals from the –crose family, into energy.

Through something called anaerobic metabolism (what clever names these scientists give these things), your body accesses energy stores that are only found hiding in your muscles.  The amount of oomph anaerobic metabolism creates is enough to help you punch a charging rhino into next week.

Accurate depiction.

So if it burns more fat and creates such high amounts of energy, why don’t we just tell aerobic exercise to screw off and simply do anaerobic exercises?  Well, let’s take a look at that heartrate chart I showed way back when I still felt blogging everyday was going to be fucking easy.

See where anaerobic exercise falls on our chart?  See how it’s labeled “Hardcore Training”?  That isn’t a bullshit title, it really is hardcore.  Anaerobic metabolism is only set off when you start driving your body with more intensity than aerobic exercise requires.  Aerobic exercise is about longevity; it’s about running a marathon at a comfortable pace so that your body doesn’t give out long before the end.  Aerobics is the normal, hardworking Joe of exercise.

Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, is the total badass of exercise; it comes in wearing a leather jacket, drop kicks a cop off of a cliff, has relations with every woman in the room, and then paints a mural of Bruce Lee by spitting Bacardi 151 on the wall and then lighting it on fire.  But if you have ever been that person at a party, you understand that unless you are fueled by some outside source (cocaine), you simply can’t live your entire life at that break-neck pace.  While the fuel that anaerobics draw from creates high-octane energy, you have a very limited supply of that fuel.  While a person can continue to do aerobic exercise long past forty minutes, the human body can only keep up anaerobic exercise for about five minutes.

This is partly because anaerobic exercise creates a build up of lactic acid.  Lactic acid is a byproduct of glycosis and other metabolic functions, and it is normally released or reprocessed by the oxygen you consume.  Anaerobic exercise doesn’t use oxygen though, and the lactic acid that is produced during these exercises just sort of hangs out in the blood stream until your body starts using oxygen normally again.  While raising the acidity of your blood seems awesome because you take one step closer to being like the xenomorph in Alien –

"Yeah, I've been working out."

– it can also lead to acidosis, which, if we all remember A Few Good Men, can lead to all sort of problems.

Problem #1 - I make Jack Nicholson angry.

Acidosis can cause a number of physical maladies: Shortness of breath, coughing, headaches, dizziness, weakness, muscle failure, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea.  While the medical studies have shown that a build up of lactic acid is not the primary cause of acidosis (link), it is a factor.  The human body was simply not designed to maintain such a high energy output for a prolonged period of time.

Having said that, anaerobic exercise is a great way to lose weight.  It burns through stored glucose (e.g. fat) faster than aerobic exercise, and recovering from a build up of lactic acid makes your muscles stronger.  What exercises are considered anaerobic?  Any intense exercise that you can only keep up for a few minutes; sprinting, biking up a steep hill, maxing out while lifting weights (lifting the heaviest weight you can without injuring yourself), climbing up a stair case at a brisk pace with 50 lbs. strapped to your back.  If there was a scale that measured how hard you work, with laying on the ground at 0% and running from a deranged, chainsaw wielding killer at 100%, anaerobic exercise would be at about an 80%. 

And the good news is that you don’t have to do just one type of exercise in a single workout!  While jogging at your normal pace (aerobic exercise), you can start sprinting (anaerobic exercise) and after 30 seconds to a minute you can return to your normal pace.  Then after five to ten minutes later you start sprinting again.  This cycle is called interval training, and if you are serious about losing weight you will want to work it into almost every exercise routine.  Doing short bursts of anaerobic activity will get your heart rate way up and your body will burn through more fat, and the aerobic exercise will give your body time to recover by letting your body process the lactic acid and returning your heart rate to normal.  Because you are only doing the anaerobic exercise for a short period of time, you won’t work yourself into exhaustion, and you’ll still be burning fat during the aerobic exercise. And because almost every exercise can be modified to be anaerobic, interval training is easy to insert into any work out.  It’s a win-win situation.

The picture at the beginning was of a goat standing on a cow, by the way.

Diet: Exercise – Weight Training, Part 3 (with GIFS!!!)

The internet tells me there are approximately 639 muscles in the human body.  That seems like a pretty exact number to be approximate about, but whatever.  Most of these muscles connect and help stabilize your bones and don’t really come into play when losing weight.  I mean, sure, there might be an exercise to help you develop your temporalis (a thin large muscle covering your skull responsible for moving your jaw, which can be seen at the temples when someone is clenching their teeth), but it’s not going to help you shed a few pounds if you’re able to bite through a large chunk of wood.

Although, talk about a heavy dose of fiber.

While there are many muscles that should not go ignored when working out, there are a few major muscles that you will always have to focus on, and I have listed them below.

ARMS (Biceps, Triceps, Deltoid)
If you imagine your arm is like a camel, the hump of the camel is the bicep.

He must work out a lot.

The triceps are directly beneath the bicep, on the underside of the arm.  These muscles are responsible for moving your elbows, which might not seem like much until you find yourself trying to eat with completely straight arms and discovering new ways to get the food into your mouth (hint: bring your face to the food.  It’s messy, but it works).  The deltoids are the muscles covering your shoulders, and grant you the ability to lift your arms in front of you, to the side and above you head (a.k.a. the YMCA muscle).  They are usually grouped together with the back muscles, but it’s my blog and what I say goes.

LEGS (Quadriceps, Hamstring, Gluteus Maximus)
Quadriceps are the muscles on the front of the thigh and run from the knee to the hip.  Hamstrings are the same thing, but on the back of the leg.  Why the front thigh muscles sound like a robot and the back thigh muscles sound like an instrument for a pig, I don’t know, but they are both crucial for moving your knee and swinging your leg which is only important if you like to go places and do shit.  There are also the calves (back of the lower part of the leg) which help stabilize and move your ankle.

We all learned what the gluteus maximus is in junior high, right?  You don’t need me to describe it, and I don’t need you making any childish jokes.  Some people have big glutes, some have normal sized glutes, and some people seem to not have them at all (you poor, poor bastards).  It gives us good posture and helps stabilize where our lower and upper bodies meet.  Now let’s just move on and keep our dignity.

Hahaha, just kidding. BUTTS!

CHEST (Pectorals)
What I have dubbed “The Superhero Muscles”, the pecs are the two large, thick, fan-shaped muscles that cover your chest (except for you ladies; you can find them under your awesome funbags).  While having strong arms helps you do things, it’s your pecs that carry most of the load as they help you lift, rotate and flap your arms.  All these actions in just one pair of muscles!  BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!  Along with all the arm stuff, they also help you breathe in deeper into your lungs in case you need to hold your breath for a prolonged period of time, such as jumping into a swimming pool, or running through the tear gas that the police just shot through the window while you haul a bag of rubies and doubloons and a shot hostage into an air vent that leads to laundry room where you hid a motorcycle early last week.

Listen, I don’t judge what you do on the weekends.

BACK (Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius)
Seriously, all these muscles sound like robots from Transformers.

"Don't just stand there, Trapezius! We need to defeat Lateralus Medialis!"

The latissimus dorsi (or “lats” for short) is a large muscle on the lower back, and extends from your arm pit to your spine.  Seeing that pretty much everybody was on the wagon, the lats also help with the movement and rotation of the shoulder.  This is also true for the trapezius, which is a huge triangular (or trapezoidal, if you’re getting all lexiconic on me) muscles that connect the shoulder to the base of the skull and almost all the way down your spine.  Along with moving your shoulder (specifically “The Shrug”), it also assists in moving your neck.  But both of these muscles also help your balance, and stabilize, support and strengthen the spine, which the internet tells me is one of the most important things in the body, which leads me to the next muscle group –

ABDOMINALS (Awwww, don’t make me list them all . . .)
There are a lot of muscles in your belly region and it’s important that you work them all.  Transverse abdominal, interior obliques, external obliques and the rectus abdominus all make up the abs (also called your core, although that term also includes some back muscles), and they are responsible for good posture and aid in the movement of the spine.  And while the pecs may help you take a breath in, the abs help you breathe out.

EXERCISES

There are many many many exercises that you can do to work these muscles, and I’m not even going to try to list them all seeing as I’m slothful and you’re already on the internet and can look them up yourself.  But I will go through some rudimentary body weight exercises that cover the basic gamut.

PUSH-UP

Also called the press up or a floor dip, the push-up is a magic exercise as it works the triceps, the pecs, the deltoids, and the entire upper body as a whole.  The exercise consists of lying on the floor with your hands placed on either side of you and lifting your body off of the floor with your arms while keeping your back and legs straight.  And it can be easily modified to increase the difficulty, utilize your chest more or target other muscles like your biceps by simply changing the position of your hands, using one arm or changing the elevation of your feet.

PULL-UP

Targeting your shoulders, elbows, back (specifically, your lats) and your torso in general, the pull-up (or chin-up) consists of grabbing an overhead bar and lifting your body off of the ground.  Much like the push-up, this exercise can be altered to target specific muscles, such as your biceps, simply by changing the placing of your hands on the bar and lifting so the bar goes behind your head.

SQUAT

This exercise works your entire lower body, although you feel it mostly in your groin.  And by “feel”, I mean that’s where it going to hurt for the next few days after you’ve done a few sets of these, but if there is any time where feeling discomfort in your groin is a good thing, it’s here.  Performed by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and then squatting down (hence the name) all the way to floor and then returning to standing position, all while keeping your back straight.

LUNGE

Another complete lower body exercise, although this will make your butt sore.  Excuse me while a giggle like an infant at the term “butt sore”.

. . . . . .

Starting from a standing position, step forward and lower your body to the ground while keeping one foot in place, and then return to a standing position.  Both the squat and the lunge and be modified by adding weights or other movements (lifting a leg, etc.).

SIT-UP/LEG LIFTS

Targeting the abs and hip, sit-ups and leg lifts help strengthen your core which will make your entire body stronger.  While laying flat on the floor with your knees bent and placing your hands behind your head, lift you torso off the ground and bring it to your knees, and then lower it back to the floor.  It is vital that you keep your back straight throughout the entire process (have you picked up on that theme yet?) as you can injure yourself if you don’t.  But a sit-up only focuses on a few of the ab muscles, so you’ll also want to do some leg lifts which are sort of reverse sit-ups.

Instead of lifting your torso to your knees, lift you legs straight up in the air and then lower them back to the ground.

As I said before, there are more exercises than these, and if you use weights you’ll be able target specific muscles more effectively.  But if you perfect these exercises, you’ll be in a good place.  In fact, you can create an effective routine comprised entirely of these simple exercises.

And thus ends my posts about muscles.  Is there more?  Oh, that’s a big “You betcha”, but since we’re in this for the long haul (that whole business of losing weight and keeping it off for the rest of your life) there’s no need to rush into all the information that’s out there.  If I added anything else, it would be to remember to breathe out when you actually lift the weight so you don’t burst a blood vessel.  Still, looking back over it, I’ve come to two conclusions:

  1. We’ve gone over the most important basic of strength training; and
  2. I’ve used parentheses far too much.

    But they're just so CUTE!

Diet: Exercise – Weight Training, Part 2

“Another post on muscles?  Ugh.  Fine, but look, can you please stop giving us definitions and just tell us what to do already?”  BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, you fool.

These terms/concepts/practices are not just important so you can talk with any muscleman without sounding like a noob, but they are also crucial in getting the most from your work out and also keep you relatively away from harm.  Besides, isn’t that the point of the internet; to convey important and vital information in tiny, easily read chunks along with a bunch of “uncredited” photos?  I will, however, meet you half way in the sense that I’m just going to jump right into it without too many introductory explanations, and for a few reasons:

  1. If you have been following, you’re head is probably already in the zone, so I don’t need to butter you up.
  2. Also, if you have been following, I am sure you are as sick of reading my “wit” as I am of listening to my great-aunt’s stories of when she bought her very first car back when the motors were on the outside, ran on oats and carrots, and looked like horses.
  3. The time that it takes me to make these things is eating into my Downton Abbey time, which I have recently started watching and will not rest until I am caught up.

    Nothing else matter right now.

STRETCHING/WARM-UP

I should have mentioned this back in my post about aerobics, but then I’m pretty sure I was drunk when I wrote that and time makes fools of us all.

A lesson I insist on learning over and over again.

Stretching before working out is important no matter what the activity, but with weight training it is incredibly imperative.  Stretching helps to limber up joints, muscles and ligaments so you can get a full range of motion (more on that in a minute) and to get blood flowing to all the places you’re going to be working on.  To go right into exercising without stretching can cause your body to seize up, leading to cramps and aches that will make it difficult to continue moving.  It can also keep you from sensing the real pain of injury, which makes you more susceptible to actually hurting yourself.

While stretching is a part of warming up, it isn’t the entirety of it as we need to get your blood flowing faster than its normal rate.  Muscles need blood to do their work, and if you want to be able to lift more and thereby get better results, you are going to need to get your blood pumping to all your muscles before you begin.  This can be done by doing a couple of sets (again, I’ll get to that in a little bit) with very light weights, but an easier way is to do some light cardio before picking that dumbbell up.  It doesn’t need to be long (five to ten minutes walking at a steady yet brisk pace will do).  It may not seem like much, but you will be able to do more afterwards.

FORM

Form is one of the most important parts of weight training, if not the most important.  Being able to lift 300 lbs. with one arm is all well and good, but you won’t get any stronger nor do yourself any favors if you don’t have good form.  In weight training, form refers to the very specific method of executing an exercise properly, which means that you are utilizing the area(s) of your body in an exact manner that will work said area the most effectively.

. . .

Sorry, I had to take a moment there.  I just confused myself with that last sentence.

What that really means is that, while exercising a part of your body, you do not try to make it easier on yourself by compensating with other parts of your body that aren’t meant for the occasion.  In weight training, this manifests by a person using a separate set of muscle groups to handle a weight (e.g. using your back while doing a bicep curl).  By doing so, you don’t work the muscles you are hoping to target and therefore will not get results you desire.  In its simplest terms, having bad form is cheating, like looking at the answers to the crossword when you’re stuck.  Yes, looking at the answers helps you finish the puzzle, but by doing so you miss the entire point of the thing.  You’ll always be stuck cheating if you never take the time to learn and do it right.

If having bad form is effective in any way at all, it is very effective at injuring you.  You have probably heard “lift with your knees, not with your back”, and if you haven’t, then shit, you need to read a book or something.  That safety precaution is entirely about good form.  While every exercise has a different form (that means you have to do some studying before you try out a new exercise) to most utilize whatever muscle you are focusing on, a general rule is to always keep your back straight, your feet shoulder width apart, and keep it that way through out the entire exercise.

RANGE OF MOTION

Every joint in your body has a limit to how much is can bend and straighten.  The area between these two ends is called the range of motion and it basically represents how far your body can move in any given direction.

No comment provided.

Range of motion is important because you will be stronger if you use your entire range of motion while lifting weights.  In a normal day, we never utilize our full range of motion.  Instead, the range of a given limb is shorter because we aren’t normally called to reach all the way above our heads, or straight out in front of us, or squat all the way to the ground.  But this is why it is important that we do use our full range of motion while weight training because it forces us to use the muscles we never use during a given day.  To lift with a limited range of motion is like playing the first level of Super Mario Bros.; of course it’s easy!  We’ve played it 1,000 times in our lives, so there is no room for progress.

If you don't get that reference, then our relationship ends here.

This does make weight training harder, as you will have to lower and lift weights past the point where it stops being entirely comfortable (uncomfortable ≠ pain, by the way), but that’s the whole point of exercising!  It’s not supposed to be entirely comfortable, or else you’re not getting any where.  Stop being such a big baby.

You. Right now.

REPS & SETS

While aerobics are measured in time (how long you workout) and distance (how far you go while working out), weight training is measured with repetitions (reps) and sets.  Reps are how many times you lift a weight without stopping.  If you can do 50 push-ups before you have to take a break, you can do 50 reps of push-ups.  A set is a group of repetitions (thank you thesaurus from helping me not say “a set is a set”).  Splitting your reps into sets helps you work out for a longer period of time before you get to the “If I Try To Lift A Feather, My Arm Will Fall Off” stage by letting you rest between sets.  Instead of doing those 50 push-ups, you could do three sets of 25.  You won’t tire as quickly, and you’ll end up doing more push-ups.  Not that doing fifty in one go is bad, not in the least, but it will help give your routine variety, and variety is a magic word in this case.

Not that how much you can lift isn’t important either (I’m getting to that next), but by adjusting your reps and sets you can workout with any amount of weight.  If you are stuck with light weights you can do more reps and fewer sets, as you won’t need to take a break as often.  If, on the other hand, you have heavier weights, doing fewer reps but more sets will help make the best workout.

OVERLOAD

The human body is incredibly good at adapting.  It can get used to almost anything.  This means, in a sort of logical leap that helps me save time because I want to get back to Downton Abbey, the more you do the more you will be able to do.  This is where the concept of overloading comes in.  Overloading refers to the act of always lifting just a little bit more that you are comfortable with (once again, uncomfortable ≠ pain).  You can practice driving on a simulator all you want, but at some point you’re going to have to go outside your comfort zone and actually get in an automobile, just as you are going to need to start lifting heavier and heavier weights.  I know I just said that reps and sets are very crucial to weight lifting, but in the end you will still need to add more weight if you want to progress with getting stronger.

Will you get bigger muscles by lifting heavier weights?  The short answer is yes, but that’s not a bad thing.  Muscle takes more energy to maintain, so the more muscle you have, the more fat you will end up burning.  We get larger muscles through a process called hypertrophy –

What I imagine when I say "hypertrophy".

– which is the growth of muscle cells.  Every time you lift a weight, your muscles get these tiny tears in them.  That sounds scary, I know, and it is (you are tearing yourself underneath your skin where you can’t see it, how disturbing) but it’s a perfectly normal process.  As your body rests up and heals itself while you’re not working out, those tears don’t come back together perfectly as they scar a little.  The more “scars” you create on your muscles, the bigger they get.  Muscles are the scars of exercise.

Sexy, attractive, disturbing scars.

This is a good thing, as the bigger your muscles get the more you will be able to lift, thus perpetuating a cycle of exercise that will end up pissing you off (“I can lift another five pounds?  Shit, now I have to.  Motherfucker.”).  But for those of you who aren’t really going for big muscles (I’m looking at you ladies), don’t worry.  It takes a lot of work to become one of those walking behemoths that you see at bodybuilding competitions, and you’ll have to lift a lot more than simply adding five more pounds to your weights.

REST

Too much of a good thing ain’t so good, so it is important that you take a rest from lifting weights.  If you don’t give yourself time to heal, those tiny tears in your muscles will only begin to get bigger and bigger without ever scarring up, and at some point you’ll end up injuring yourself.  Luckily, you have many muscles in your body, and while some are healing you can be working a whole different group of muscles.

"YOU WILL NEVER STOP MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"

You don’t have to constantly exercise, as I can’t demand you do something that I myself can not do (my drinking gets in the way . . . of everything . . . even my drinking), but give yourself one or two days before you exercise the same muscle group again.

All right, we’ve only got one or two more muscles posts to go.  We still have to go a little more in depth to all the different muscle groups you have, as well as the exercises that target them.  And . . . there’s other stuff, but my whiskey and PBS show (public entertainment is good?  What an age we live in) are screaming at me to rejoin the party.

NOTHING else matters right now.

Diet: Exercise – Weight Training, Part 1

Enough talk.  The time for you to put down that remote control (or candy bar, or baby, or whatever you happen to be holding right now) and pick up that dumbbell that you ended up kicking under your bed eight months ago and lift it up has come.

That’s right, pick it up.  Now put it down.  Now lift it up.  Now put it down.

Voila.  GOOD NIGHT EVERYBODY!  Remember to tip your server, because this cheap ass place makes us pool tips!WEIGHT TRAINING

The most well-known muscle exercise, weight training is exercise that uses – ahem ­– weights to increase your strength and muscle size.  There are other forms of strength training (resistance training, which involves what are essentially big rubber bands, and isometric training, which involves holding a weight at a fixed position) that work wonders and get results, but for the most part you are going to be using weight training for most of your exercises.  But weight training is not a small category, not by a long shot.  In fact, I’m going to have to take up a few posts on weight lifting alone so I can say all I want to on the matter without boring you into the ground.

Too late.

There are many modes of weight training, and each come with their own benefits and downfalls.

Free Weights

The highest form of weight training, and what we all envision when we think of lifting weights.  Free weights are called so because they do not include any mechanical assistance that helps you lift the weights, which consist mostly of a gripping bar (sized for either one or both hands) and “weight-discs” (more things should come in disc form; it makes me feel like I’m in the future) that can be added or subtracted to change the weight of the – oh christ – the weight.  It’ll change the weight of the weight.  I’m just banging on all cylinders over here.

I CAN WRITE ON THE BLOGGY BLOG!

The pros to free weights are vast.  Because you have no other machinery to help you keep the weight in balance, you will be working your target muscles much more, as well as using more that your target muscle just trying to keep the damn weight steady.  This may not seem like a big deal until you try to bench press something, and you find your arms shaking after a few seconds, no matter how light the weight.  This ends up giving you faster results that impact more than one area.  But it’s also versatile, allowing you to workout every part of your body with an array of positions and an adjustable bench.

The con is that it is much easier to injure yourself on free weights than with the other means of weight lifting because you are the one who has to do all the work.  I’m going to talk about form in next week’s post, but suffice it to say that it’s not good enough to just lift the weight any way you want.  There are exact and precise movements and positions that you must be able to maintain throughout the entire exercise or else you negate whatever effects you get from lifting.  But with free weights, having bad form can and usually does lead directly to injury which means that although free weights can change your body faster, you will have to go slower while you learn good form.

There’s also the risk of dropping of these things on some one’s foot/hand/neck/head, which will require at least one trip to the hospital.

"BUT THE GUY ON THE INTERNET SAID IT WAS SAFE!!!!"

Weight Machines

What I think of as “Weight Robots”, weight machines are either built-in weighted plates or weight-discs that are hooked together by a system of ropes, pulleys, bars and handles, and that by pulling or pushing on the right parts you lift the weights.  The weight is adjusted by putting on more weight-discs or by hooking up more plates in the system. These machine can look as cool as they can scary, being a mix between either being a large mech suit –– or the machine that ate that lady in Superman 3.The good side to weight machines is that they make it easy for the user.  “PULL THIS BAR!  NOW SQUEEZE THESE PLATES!  PUSH THAT THING!”  And depending on how new the machine is, it might come with nice soft pads for your arms and tuchus, as well a handy how-to guide posted on the side of the machine.  When first walking into the gym a person can get a little intimidated around the dozens, if not hundreds, of free weights, not to mention all the serious looking musclemen that usually live there.

"Sir, can I use that after you're done screaming?"

Weight machines are great for the beginner as you can just go and start without a lot of know how, and can actually help teach you good form as sometimes the machines are designed to not give you a choice in the matter.  They can also help teach you a little about anatomy as each machine is designed to work few muscle groups, which can aide in your process of sensing every part of your body.

The con is that with the loss of total control also goes the benefits of total control grants.  It may be harder to injure yourself but it is also harder to get the same kind of impact that free weights give you.    That may not seem like such a bad thing when you start off, but depending on what kind of body you want to end up with, you may not get there on a machine.  Another big downer of weight machines is that they are expensive and not very economical.  Each machine really only does one exercise, meaning you have to have a lot of machines to get a full work out.  If you find one that includes everything, odds are it’s not going to be as effective or it’ll be fucking expensive.  Amazon.com lists the cheapest machine at about $250, while the most expensive is around $2000.  I just punched myself for even looking at a piece of exercise equipment that’s worth a month’s pay for me.  In short, good for beginners but bad for the person who likes to keep their money.  And if you’re one of those, then you should try . . .

Body Weight

For the financially challenged, or the incredibly independent, or the person who likes to be able to do everything without getting out of bed (ever), there is body weight lifting.  These are exercises that, in lieu of buying weights, you push, lift and pull your own body mass to work your muscles.  This is my favorite of all the strength training exercises because it is the most practical.  What’s more useful:  Being able to lift a car, or being able to lift yourself up over something, like a tree if a bear is chasing you, or a wall if it’s a bear dressed like a cop chasing you?  I would like to be able to pick up an automobile, but even if I could I think being able to move my own body maybe more useful on a day to day basis.

Maybe.

The benefit to these exercises is that you can do them anywhere at any time.  Waiting for the elevator?  Do some push-ups.  Waiting on an elevator?  Do some squats.  Climbing out of an elevator that has been stuck in between floors for a few hours?  Do some chin-ups before climbing out.  (sorry, I’m on an elevator while I’m writing this.)  The form of these exercises are simple and easy to perfect, and it’s difficult to hurt yourself while doing them.

The down side is that you cannot escalate your work out as easily as you can with the other methods.  Once you are able to lift your body with ease, there aren’t many ways to continue growing your strength.  You may gain tone and endurance by doing more reps (which I will explain in the next post), and you can make your work out more intense by changing the angle of your body, but for the most part your overall strength will stop to increase.

Alternative Weights

This is not a technical term and I don’t have time to research what this method is actually called if I want to post this on time.  I’M ON THE CLOCK HERE, PEOPLE, CUT ME SOME SLACK!  These exercises use everyday objects to train your muscles, and by everyday objects I mean rocks, medicine balls (basketballs filled with sand), sandbags (bags . . . filled with sand), tractor tires, sledgehammers, weighted clothing and anything heavy that is in your general vicinity.  You know that part in the movie Misery where James Caan lifts the typewriter over his head to get stronger?  That’s alternative weight lifting.

An angry lady with a sledgehammer is a great work-out motivator.

The good part about this method is that it is working many muscle groups with one exercise.  Flipping a gigantic tire down the street works your entire body all at once and has the added bonus of getting you to your optimal heart rate at the same time.  These exercises are also included in what I like to call the “Fuck Gyms” attitude, as they are taking normal objects rather than normal weight lifting gear.

The bad part is that it is harder to keep track of just how much you are lifting, which is an important part of the entire process.  I’m sure that rock seems heavy, but it’s hard to tell and I’m not going to start weighing rocks because that’s just silly.  It’s also very easy to hurt yourself while performing these exercises because you are basically taking the role of a furniture mover or construction worker.  Ask any one of those guys if it’s easy to hurt yourself while moving large heavy objects, and they’ll laugh at you and try to slap you in the face once they are able to fix their slipped disc and stand up straight again.  And while some of the items may be lying around your house, I don’t know how many people have regular access to tractor tires.

Luckily, I have a tractor tire garden.

So which of these should be the one you pick?  Who said you had to choose just one?!  Frankly, the best way to avoid the negative side of each of these is to do them all.  That may sound like a lot more lifting than you were originally prepared to do, but the great thing is that these four groups can be mixed and matched to create uber-routines.  Wear a weighted vest while doing push-ups.  Match every bicep curl with a lunge.   Use a medicine ball while you do squats.  You can’t really add more exercises to the machine weights, but not all foods taste better pickled, if you know what I mean?

"Ummmmmmmmmmm . . . "

Okay, I’m a little delirious because it’s getting late, but case in point: Just as you can match a vast array of Jelli Bellies to create new flavors, you can match strength training methods to create a routine that is custom made to your body, and that is a big key to successful weight loss.

 

Diet: Exercise – One Final Reason

Sigh.  You’re still not on board with the muscle thing, are you?

Patrick Stewart is so disappointed in you.

Look, I can understand why you might be hesitant about lifting weights or flipping over a big tire or doing a chin-up.  Most weight lifting/strength training is either associated with bodybuilders (which, I agree, seems down right bizarre and utterly frightening sometimes.  I mean, look at this guy –

I really wish I could say this was photoshopped.

– yeah, it’s impressive.  It’s also fucking scary), or athletes/models/action movie stars –

He may have a nice body, but I bet he's ugly as sin. Why else would they crop off his head?

– which, while being very pleasing, isn’t exactly practical for most of the human population (those people were either born with some incredibly good genetics, or they just work out almost all day).  You’re not trying to be some kinda meat monster, and you have enough problems dealing with the unrealistic body image issues that the latter group invokes in society, let alone trying to look like them.  You want to lose weight and be healthier, not be the shining example of supreme fitness and muscle tone.   I dig it.

Literally.

But I’m not trying to reshape your body to be more pleasing to the eye, nor is it my goal to have you be able to pull a semi with your teeth.  I don’t care if your body meets up with society’s standards.  What I care about is your health, both physical and mental, and I know that if you have been a big person for most of your life your weight is a key factor in both of those arenas.  I know that if you can lose the weight, you’ll live longer and feel better about yourself.  So I’m going to bottom line this shit.

BUILDING MUSCLE MAKES YOU LOSE WEIGHT

It may not seem like it, but it does, and a lot.  Aerobics are still going to be your main avenue on the weight-loss journey as you need to build up your endurance more than anything else at first.  But after your endurance is up, you will need to start doing more and more muscle work, and here’s why:

When you exercise, you boost your metabolism.  The harder you work out, the higher your metabolism goes and the more stored energy you burn.  When you finish an aerobic exercise, your metabolism is going to stay boosted for about 20 minutes.  It takes a little while for your heart rate to return to normal and if you exercised vigorously your body is going to be working in overdrive to replenish the energy you used up.  Twenty minutes, and then your heart rate gets on the square away again and you body isn’t as starved for calories as it was, and thus your metabolism returns to its ordinary setting.

But with weight/strength training, your metabolism stays up for the entire day.  THE.  ENTIRE.  DAY.  If you lift some weights for half an hour in the morning before going to work, then your metabolism is going to burn hotter while you’re driving to work, typing up them sick spreadsheets, taking a break one too many, and all the way until you get home for dinner.  This is because, while your heart rate can return to normal fairly quickly, it takes at least a day for your muscles to return to normal after a work out.  A full day in which your metabolism will be working harder to get the energy your muscles need.

That’s it.  If all my talk about how it makes you healthier hasn’t sunk in, then just focus on this – If you want to lose some serious weight, if you want to change your body chemistry so that you keep off what weight you lose, weight training is one of the most important things you can do.  BUILDING MUSCLES MAKES YOU LOSE WEIGHT AND KEEP IT OFF.

Now don’t go picking up that dumbbell just yet.  While weight training is important, it can also be a lot more dangerous and correct form is crucial in your ongoing safety.  Also, there are more options to this than just lifting weights, so there might be something that is better suited for you.  I’ll go over all of that soon enough.  But I don’t want to hear any more of this, “But I don’t wanna”, bullshit.  If you say that, you’re gonna get smacked.How did that feel?Not very good, yeah?That not me that’s slapping you.  That’s the “Fat Voice” in your head; the one that tells you you’re not worth a damn.  The one that says you’re not worth the effort of losing weight.  The one that wants to keep you fat.  Every time you make a bullshit excuse to not work out or eat right, that Fat Voice is going to –– you.  And let’s not pretend; its slapping you down.  Down into depression, insecurity and shame.  But I’m here to help in every way I can, to help you find the tools to fight the Fat Voice, because that motherfucker does not get to win.

The struggle against weight loss is about conquering your barriers, and that’s going to take a lot of effort.  But you know what?  You’re worth it.

That last one was from me.  It kinda looked like fun.  It totally was, too.  But I’m really sorry.  If you want to, to be fair, you can go ahead and –Ow.

Diet: Exercise – Muscles

Every now and then I find myself perusing the television (or the internet, most likely) and happen upon videos of bodybuilding or weightlifting competitions, and I have to devote a little time to watch these hulking creatures stand-up on a stage, half-naked, and do things with their bodies I never thought possible.  Part of my fascination is wondering what compelled these people to alter their bodies so much to the point where they seem more beast than man.  Another part is the joy of wondering what they are thinking about in those extreme moments of exertion.

"I wish they would bring back M.A.S.H."

But mostly I watch in complete awe and admiration for the discipline these people show by never giving up in their training.  Nothing can tire you out like a body that continues to be sore and achy long after the workout has ended, and the prospect that you’re only going to have to do more tomorrow can take away whatever strength and perseverance that is left in you.  To continue on you have to convince yourself that the soreness you feel is a good thing, almost pleasurable, and that the pain that you feel rolling out of bed and crawling towards the bathroom only so you can cry into the toilet bowl because you can’t bring yourself to stand up to mount properly is a sign of success.

"If Minnie Mouse and Mr. T had a baby, what would it look like?"

Most of us don’t want those kinds of bodies, let alone to have to go through what those people go through to achieve those results, and yet muscles are a crucial part of any real weight-loss plan.  “But I don’t want big muscles, Nic!  I just want to look decent naked.”  BAH, I say to you, BAH HUMB WILLERTONDONPILLIPOO!  We all want to look good naked, Mr./Mrs. Obvious, but this isn’t about getting big muscles and looking like Conan.  The importance of muscles is larger than the cosmetic.  I mean, hell, minus some hair, bones, a little blood and a few pesky organs, you are primarily made of muscle.  They are the ‘meat’ of you.

You.

You know when you smile?  Muscles.  You trying to click away from this page because you’re sick of my abuse?  That’s muscles moving your fingers there, Einstein.  Lifting that third glass of scotch for the evening to your mouth?  All muscle.  From digging that grave to bury that dead body outside Reno to pooping (especially pooping), muscles are the reason we are able to move and, like, do things.  So fuckin’ a they are important to more than just your looks.

Although looks are definitely a factor. I mean, look at those buns.

Before we get to the different ways to give your muscular system a work out, I’m going to spend today’s article talking about the inner workings of muscles and the different kinds you have in your body.  Although I’m sure most of you took your middle school biology (which isn’t to say that most of you were paying attention), it’s important that we all share the same vocabulary as we move forward.  It’s also good to go over the basics every once and awhile to keep sharp.  I also don’t want to spend a lot of time writing today as I’m listening to The Dark Tower on audiobook and want to get through that sucker before the world comes to an end (it’s about a full seven days of audio, and I think I’m somewhere around day 2).

Fuck you, Stephen. You've stolen my life with your entertaining and captivating stories!

WHAT ARE MUSCLES?

Muscles are the tissues in the animal body that are responsible for creating all force and movement of and within the body.  They are made up cells that are comprised of contractile filaments (which mean that they . . . ugh . . . that they contract.  Thanks dictionary, that’s helpful) that move past one another and can grow bigger in response to stimuli.  Essentially, your muscles are a bunch of strings on a pulley system, and when you want to move a limb or whatever, the stings are pulled through the pulleys (or they contract to shorten the strings) which brings your limb to wherever you want it to go.

But muscles are responsible for more than just the voluntary (they move when you want them to move) motions of your body, but they are also responsible for the all of the involuntary ones as well.  While it may seem creepy that your body is moving on its own without your consent, it really is for the best.  You want to know where most of would be if we had to think about pumping our own blood to do it?

That's right.

So, among the overall category of muscles there are three sub-categories, only one of which we are in control of.

CARDIAC

These muscles are located only in the heart and are in control of moving your heart and pumping the four liters of blood through out your body.  Out of all of your muscles, these are the most important and probably the hardest working as they never stop until you’re dead.  In fact, you might want to consider dying a little earlier than you’re planning to just to give them a break.

Have a heart for your heart, you monster.

SMOOTH

While the cardiac muscles are only responsible for your heart, smooth muscles are responsible for every other movement inside your body, such as the esophagus, stomach, intestines, bronchi, uterus, urethra, bladder, and iris.  All of your internal organs are covered in smooth muscle, which helps each of those organs perform their respective tasks at the right time.

SKELATAL

What you imagine when you think of muscles, these are the muscles that cover your entire body and are attached to your skeleton via tendons, and since these are the only kind of muscles that are voluntary, are responsible for every movement your body makes.  These are the ones you will be concerned with when you are working out and trying to get stronger.

"I HATE THE NEW FACEBOOK!"

But the categorizing doesn’t stop there!  Oh no, for four easy payments of $0.00 (payment plans available) you too can learn the different forms of skeletal muscle!There are three kinds of skeletal muscle, and we are going to be interested in working both kinds as we move forward with our exercise regime. One is slow twitch muscles, which are the long-lasting muscles.  If you are running a marathon or climbing a mountain, these are the muscles your are relying the most.  They are resistant to fatigue, and are mostly located in the lower half of your body to help keep you on your feet.  Another is fast twitch, which are the Superman muscles.  Lifting a large weight (like a dangerous cyborg gorilla threatening to blow up the world) over your head and throwing him off the skyscraper where you have had your final, epic battle, or swing a baseball bat, utilizes the fast twitch muscle.  They aren’t as resilient to fatigue as the slow twitch, but they can handle much more weight and can react two to three times faster to compensate.  Then there are whitefiber muscles, which are the fastest reacting muscles.  Good for fast paced, short form activities (like sprinting), but they tire and run out of juice very quickly.

No one muscles is more important than the other, and although a body will usually tend to favor one kind of muscle over another (splitting people into either a “Runner” type or a “Strongman” type), everybody should spend time developing each kind of muscle.  It will not only strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligament, help lengthen your endurance, give you a wider range of motion, improve your bone density and health of you joints, but it will help boost your metabolism and burn calories throughout the entire day!

All of that, and more, with just a few push-ups!  Act now, and we’ll throw in improved appearance and invincibility (sorta).  Hurry!  This is the deal of a life time, and it only lasts until the day you die!  Will you pick up the phone and/or dumbbell and change your life?