Category Archives: Fitness

My Fitness Lifestyle

English: Fitness
English: Fitness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up, I was usually quite active. Not having a television for most of my childhood, mom pushed us outdoors when the weather was nice. No matter where we lived, it was quite the norm to be out all day and maybe get back in time for supper. This held while living in Seymour, Tennessee, and Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Fort Ritchie, Maryland, and Patch Barracks, Vaihingen, Germany (nicht Vaihingen an der Enz).

I also played many different sports: Little League Baseball in Seymour, basketball and soccer at Fort Belvoir, just basketball in Maryland, and just soccer in Germany. During my junior year of high school, I took up running on my own, eventually running 3 miles a day in under 18 minutes. I used my Multiplan skills I developed while working in the Comptrollers Office to record my times and calculate my time per mile.

My freshman year of college was at Johnson Bible College (now Johnson University). I went out and made the soccer team, this too had me running and staying in shape. As my father retired from the Army during this time and the family moved to Johnson, I stayed on campus when I went to the University of Tennessee. For a few years on, I continued to stay in shape by running.

In the summer of 1990 when I was 22, I changed my philosophy and goals. Being 6’5″ with a 31″ waist, I was quite skinny. Now I wanted to build some muscle. The Eubank’s Activity Center had a weight room and a few machines. I started to lift weights, eat more, and dug into magazines like Muscle and Fitness. By the time I married in July 1992, I was put to nearly 190 pounds from my start of 160 and had some strength. Shortly after getting married though, I stopped training.

After a couple of years of near inactivity and starting to have lower back issues, my wife and I joined Court South on Alcoa Highway. It was not only close to our house, it was on the way to my job at the University of Tennessee, Hodges Library, Systems Department. As I worked noon to 9 pm, I soon was taking my clothes with me, working out and showering, then heading to work. I would shave before I left home. I made a few gains in strength and size, but not much. For the most part, I kept my legs strong for ski season. Back then, my skis were 203 centimeters long and I was on Ski Patrol at Ober Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This took some leg strength to patrol for hours on those sticks.

During the year of 1997, we moved to Marion, Ohio when I took a job with Macola Software. When I first moved up, I played on a recreational league soccer team. Here my nearly 30 year old body could not quite keep up with the teenagers who also played, but it was good fun. I played the next year too and in the meantime worked out at the YMCA. Here I was doing arm curls with 50 pound dumbbells and I first started reading Ironman Magazine. Now my routines were taking a serious note, but I also did stupid things and eventually hurt my knees. A few job changes later and a move to Cincinnati, and I rarely worked out anymore.

I was on ski patrol at Ober Gatlinburg for 5 seasons. In the summer of 2000, I took the Outdoor Emergency Care class again to get on patrol at Perfect North Slopes. Though I did not have to take the class again, it being 10 years since the class the first time, I thought it was a good idea. Over the next few years, I did occasionally worked out and joined the Y on Poole Road for a time. I believed I was in good shape. After all, I did ski every winter and was on patrol.

Then something unexpected happened and I knew I had to change.

I was about 42 years old when one year during the beginning of the ski season I was riding in the sled during training. We came down to the bottom and I went to get up and I couldn’t. I tried several times to basically do a crunch to get to a sitting position. I couldn’t. I couldn’t do a bloody crunch, no matter how much I used my feet to get leverage. Eventually, I rolled out of the sled onto all fours and stood up. That was it, something had to change.

We had a stationary bike in the basement and I started riding it again. Eventually an interesting routine developed: 10 minutes of riding, 5 minutes of arm curls and crunches. Rinse and repeat 4 times. I also started reading Ironman Magazine again and doing some of the routines in it. Set by set, the dumbbells that had been buried in the garage came back out and into use.

After nearly two years, I started to realize I was out growing what I could do in the house. Not have a bench or a rack, it became difficult to do more serious work. I looked at getting the Marcy utility bench (yes, the one with the gorgeous model on the box), but realized I didn’t have the space to put it. There are three gyms near me, so I went by them all. The closest was quite and small and the biggest one (Planet Fitness) was too against serious workouts, so I wasn’t going to join there. I decided to wait.

A bit over a year ago, I looked again. This time I decided to join Stay Fit 24, though it was small. After all, I’m in my forties and my joints don’t need weights too heavy. I got a small booklet to record my weights and I took routines straight out of Steve Holman’s articles from Ironman Magazine.

I made good progress and my body adjusted to workouts again. I had a simple goal then: strength my right knee and get better flexibility. I had the manager Adam help me remember how to do squats and deadlifts again. I started pushing 300 plus pounds on the inclined leg press. I switched routines around when the page filled with recordings. The ski season of 2013-2014 saw me with more leg strength than I had in years and the turns were some much easier. I also skied faster through the crud than I had before. My months of work in the gym paid off.

My diet changed over the months, adding proper carbohydrates and more protein. I dropped simple sugars as much as possible. Breads and pastas were also removed. Gluten became a bad word. My body slimmed and my strength increased. The results were visible when I had my yearly exam for medical insurance as my waist was one inch smaller.

My abs, however, lagging during all this, despite all the crunches. I took the November planking challenge on Facebook. After two weeks of that, my abs woke up and I’ve been planking ever since. Awesome.

I have two current goals: squat and bench my body weight, something I never reached even when I was younger and workout all the time. To achieve the former will require more core strength. To build that, I now do wheel roller ab work and deadlifts. Using the Multi-Year iPhone app, I recently switched to a strength regime by lowering the reps per set. About every two weeks I hit a new personal record on work sets. The most recent record is 145 pounds for 8 reps and 2 sets on deadlifts. A new record on squats is getting close. I’m nearly halfway to my goal on both bench press and squats, and I’m determined to get there.

Why do I keep pushing? Why do I research new supplements and what foods to eat? Why do I choose to not eat certain things or eat at particular times? It is quite simple. Any time I feel like having that second doughnut or napping instead of going to the gym or skipping too many days, I remember that time when I couldn’t get out of the sled. I remember how it felt to not be able to get off the ground. I remember how weak and helpless I felt. I remember and push forward.

Finally Reaching Below Average

Though I’ve been recording my workouts for over a year, it wasn’t until I started using the Multi-Year application on my iPhone that I started to see some more improvements. I installed this application a few weeks ago and have been using the Big 6 program.

Once installed, the Multi-Year asked a few questions: weight, height, age, diameter of the wrist and diameter above the ankle. It uses these various measurements to determine where to start. A long read through the website will tell you want it does with all that information. No worries. Let’s go.

Being 6’5″, 215, and 45 years old, my strength pretty much sucked. For many days, the charts showed be below above average. Not fully sure what that mean (see long website pages for that). I charged my macros, thanks much to My Fitness Pal, and my strength started to climb and my body fat percentage slowly dropped. So did the pounds. Within two weeks, I was done nearly 5 pounds. When the weight started to come back on a bit, it was all muscle. This past week my body fat percentage dropped before 21% for the first time. Excitement.

Having returned to weight lifting more than a year ago, it is quite wonderful to finally be up to below average. My new charts looks like this:

photo photo 2

 

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Tell Me Again About My Metabolism

Fitness
Fitness (Photo credit: JAMES LORD productions)

Growing up, I was the skinny kid. Though I liked to play sports, I was usually the last picked in school games and I hated “shirts v. skins”. Being 6’5″ and 150 pounds soaking wet, I was very self-conscious of my body as a teenager.

After high school, I did gain a little bit of weight over the years. In 1990, as I approached 22, I started to start lighting and learned what I could. I didn’t have much money for supplements, so I ate quite a bit. The first 20 pounds to 190 were easy. After that, I got stronger, but had plateaued in my weight. No worries. For the next several years, I lifted regularly and did ski patrol during the winter. Then we had kids.

I took too many years off and when I finally got back to working out on a regular basis, I was over 200 with a 36 inch waist. I wasn’t in the best of shape and looked forward to gaining some more proper weight. That was about two years ago.

The first year back, I used the 200 pounds of dumbbells I had at home, pulling each heavier set out of the garage when I reached their need. It was humbling to start at 5 pounds, but that is life. During this first year, I noticed I was still gaining in the waist, so I started cutting back on sandwiches and at more salad. It made a small, but noticeable difference.

A year ago I upped the game.

Now all sandwiches are out. Gluten was giving too much weight gain in the gut. I also really started to cut my sugar, fructose in particular. The more research I did on sugar, the more I realized what a poison it is for the human body. Artificial sweetners are not much better. Best to get rid of it. I also cut back on beer, chocolate, pasta, tea. I greatly increased the amount of water I drank in a day to at least 3 liters. More lean protein, brown rice, red potatoes (sometimes sweet as well), more fiber, good fats, nuts.

My workouts also changed. I had been doing many of the workouts Steve Holman gives in his articles in Iron Man Magazine, but now I did them more split. I also started to look at the suggestions and articles of others. I was spending too much time in the gym. I upped the intensity and aimed to finish in an hour, warm up and stretching included. Now sets were 20-30 reps, done in 1 second positive/2 seconds negative caidance. I did hyper-extensions and crunches before every workout.

Then came November and the planking challenge.

The first few days were easy, but once it got to more than a minute, it became tough. I mean very tough. My abs shacked. My shoulders shacked. I had to pause, then go again. The results, however, spoke for itself. My abs started to get tighter. It helped my squats. It helped my dead-lift.

A year later and the result is I went from average 209 pounds to 215, but my waist is now an inch smaller. I went from a 35-36 inch waist to 34-35. Yes, a year to lose an inch. Me. Mister High Metabolism and eat anything. Because, I can’t eat anything I want. My cheat days consists of a single doughnut. No more going crazy over the weekend. The crap food I used to eat now makes me ill. I’ve not gone fully Paleo, but I am headed that way. Eat like the government tells you and you will gain weight. That is a given. Eat like you should and the results will be their own encouragement.

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Blasting The Arms

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 17, 2008) Store K...
English: PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 17, 2008) Store Keeper 2nd Class Rafael Alexander, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, lifts weights using the bicep curl machine in the weight room of the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70). Lake Erie is operating off the coast of Hawaii in preparation for a ship’s Board of Inspection and Survey. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Hight (Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my current round of workouts has my triceps getting hit on two different cycles: on chest day and on arm day. When these days fall one after the other without more than 24 hours of rest, the triceps fail fast and the biceps get bored. Today was such a day.

The chest routine performed yesterday has the following exercises for the triceps at as the last two:

  • Pushdowns 3×10, 8, 6
  • Weighted Dips 3×6-8

Doesn’t seem like much, but coming after flat bench presses, inclined presses, pec-deck, standing military press, upright barbell rows and barbell shrugs, it doesn’t take much to finish off the triceps.

And now, here’s arm day.

The exercises for arm day are meant to compliment the rest of the week. They are here to finish off and stimulate more directly the triceps and biceps. Sometimes the forearms are coaxed to come out and play. Some sets are done in a 1 second positive, 3 second negative cadence. Others are in a more conventional 1 second, 1.5-2 second. After warmup and stretching, the routine is this.

  • Triceps
    • Bar pushdowns 3×30, 20, 15
    • One-arm dumbbell extensions 3×30, 20, 15
    • Rope pushdowns 3×30, 20, 15
  • Biceps
    • Dumbbell Hammer Curl 2×10, 12
    • Rope Hammer Curl 3×30, 20, 15
    • Dumbbell Curl 1×15-20
    • Preacher Curl 1×8-10, 8, 8

There you go. That looks good, doesn’t it? The triceps, being tired from yesterday, didn’t take much to reach lactic acid buildup and fail. Ok, bicep time. Warm up. Stretch. Go. The rope hammer curls were hard. Had to pause a few seconds to get to 30 and 20 reps. Perhaps the 45 pounds is too much. Keep pushing.

Preacher curls are odd for me. With my long arms and short muscle bellies, I have a great deal of bone with no support. The weights are way out there on the lever and the bar plus a total of 30 pounds is more than enough. I squeezed out each rep required. Cool. Done.

But wait. My biceps are not burning. They are not cramped like my tris. They are also not getting hit directly on other days, so they need a burn out set. What to add? What to use as a speed set to really work the biceps and finish them off for the day?

Ah, the bicep curl machine. Yes! I sat down and did two sets of 15 reps, 1.5 seconds for each rep at 40 pounds, keeping form good. Just because a set is done at speed doesn’t mean the form is allowed to be sloppy.

The result? Holy cow, yes! This exercise has been added as the last one for the arms. Can’t wait for next time.

 

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Adding 30 Pounds To Squat

English: weight lifting
English: weight lifting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The need to change workout routines differs between people. Some like to do the same routine for months, sometimes for years. There is debate as to whether the body adjusts and stops responding or not. For me, I get bored, so switching every 6 to 8 weeks is a requirement. It is time to address the leg routine and make some changes. The previous routine served well.

What to do?

Looking through several issues of Iron Man Magazine did yield several interesting ideas. As the previous routine was built on articles by Steve Holman, a different author may provide new insight, new ideas. The May 2013 issue, the one with Samantha Ann Leete on the cover and her awesome interview and pictorial inside, contained the winning routine. I’ll write more about the lovely Samantha later.

The article by Roger Lockridge is titled “30 in 30” and aims to add 30 pounds to your squats in 30 days. That is some tall claim. When I first read the article in April (that’s when the May issue arrived), I was more into Steve’s routines, so there was no impetus to install it into the workouts. The time for change has now come.

The routine is brutal with rest periods of only 1 minute or 90 seconds, depending on the exercises being performed. It is centered around the squat, duh, using the leg press as a method to really burn the leg muscles. Leg curls and extensions are first used to warm the muscles, not as a pre-exhaust, and then as a finishing super set. The calves too get their our exercise at the end.

My gym does not have a seated calf raise, so standing raises are used as a substitute. Here is the routine I’m following every 4 days.

  • Leg extension (warmup) 2×20
  • Seated leg curls (warmup) 2×20
  • Squats (light to heavy to 1 rep max)
    • Light 2×10
    • Heavier 2×5
    • Very Heavy 2×3
    • 1 Rep Max 2×1
  • Super set
    • Leg presses (feet high, close) 3×15,12,10
    • Leg presses (feet low, wide) 3×15,12,10
  • Super set
    • Leg extensions 3×25
    • Leg curls 3×25
  • Calf raises 4×20

Rest for a full minute between warmup sets and 90 seconds between work sets. This isn’t a power lifting routine, so don’t let your heart rate drop.

Time to move some iron.

 

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Changing Up The Chest

Pain is temporary, Failure is forever.
Pain is temporary, Failure is forever. (Photo credit: lta362)

The chest workout log has become filled with seven weeks worth of exercising. Starting weights for the flat bench press rose to 25 pounds a side, but staid there since August 23rd. Declined flyes went down in weight, but the angle of the bench was increased, making the reps harder. Pec deck too saw a decline as the emphasis was set to the reps of 30, 20 and 15 for 3 seconds per rep. Only the machine seated press saw significant increases over the seven weeks. It was time for a change.

Finding a new chest workout is quite easy. A simple search in Google will bring back scores of hits, so it was time to read. As the goals of the previous regime were focused on declines with some flat bench finishing, the idea of flipping around is quite central. Bodybuilding.com had several great workouts. Scanned through the beginner ones and moved to more advanced. Ah, blending several into one focused workout.

The result is a workout with one goal: get the chest to respond and grow. On to the layout.

  • Warmup – 10 minutes. Arms, shoulders, chest. They all need to be warm and stretched.
  • Incline Bench Press – 3×8
  • Smith Machine Barbell Neck Press – 2×15, 1×25
  • Incline Dumbbell Flye – 3×8, 1×25
  • Seated Machine Chest Press – 3×30,20,15

No sets are pyramid style. Rest between sets is 45 seconds, except the neck press which is 2 minutes, including after the 1×25 set. The rep speed should be 1 on positive side and 1.5 on negative. The finishing sets on the machine press are 3 seconds on the negative. For added burn, press 6 second negatives after the last set of 15. Go until fail.

Enjoy.

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Stretching The Chest

English: an exercise of chest
English: an exercise of chest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been 2.5 months since June’s “Time To Move To Heavy” and the updated chest workout. The moving to heavier weights and 45 second rests lead to good gains in size and strength. Eight weeks is long enough for the same workout and it is time to confuse the body with an update.

This time around, it is time to raise the intensity and simplify the routine. This new routine will be a combination of TORQ and 4x, keeping in mind the principles of doing Mid-Range, Stretch and Contraction in a routine. The chest workout, therefore, become three sets of three exercises. No super-sets and no negative only.

Flat bench press

Start with a mid-range movement and do sets in a pyramiding 3×8 still. The first set should be a weight that can be done for twelve reps. The rep cadence is 1 second positive and 2 seconds on the negative. Stop at 8, rest for 40 seconds and add 5 pounds to each side before doing next set.

Declined Flyes

Next is stretch movement is next. Bring the dumbbells up and keep to the 1 second positive/2 seconds negative pass. As the weights finish straight above the chest in a nearly press position, there is very little contraction here. The set is 3×10 with the same weight each time. Finish all three sets? Add weight at the next training session.

Pec Deck

The last exercise brings TORQ into the picture. The 1 second/2 second cadence is still used, but the number of reps increases to 30 for the first set, 20 on the second and 15 on the final. As with the second set, if the number of reps is reached, add weight at the next workout. Be sure to compress at the top of the move and pause for nearly a second there. Getting over 100 seconds in the set time for the first set should easily be reached.

Push this routine for at least 4 weeks and look to change after 6. Here’s a recap:

  • Flat bench presses  3×8 – adding 5 pounds each set
  • Declined Flyes  3×10
  • Pec Deck  3×30,20,15
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Running Through July

Zech on the beach
Zech on the beach (Photo credit: BrainMuffin)

It can scarce be believed that July is nearly over. It seems it was starting a mere few days ago, but alas 20 of them are already gone. August will arrive within two blinks on an eye. Four blinks and it will be Christmas. Time doesn’t fly, we do.

Over the last several weeks there were many topics going through my head. I had thought to write what the race baiters Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton had taught me, but decided against. Everyday there are tragedies. Why some are glamorized for political or personal gain is something I continue to fail to understand. It is also something I wish to never comprehend. Instead of bringing communities together to heal, they tear them apart for money and power. Trayvon Martin was a troubled soul who smoked pot and was dismissed from school twice. He cannot be replaced, but his passing could be used to provide love instead of hate.

This weekend finally saw a return to brewing, albeit with extract. As a learning to move into the pro brewing arena, this recipe will be converted to all grain for a scheduled brewing in two weeks. The idea is to compare the original extract recipe with the all grain. The recipe itself will be provided in another article. Over the next several weeks, a road map will be laid out that will lead to a brewery. It will be a long and frightful journey, but the rewards will be equally as great. My passion for brewing can no longer be contained and it must be pursued.

These electronic pages have also seen mention of workouts. June and July saw big movements in the weights and an increase in eating. Through it all, I’ve been able to get to 210 and maintain it. For a brief time, the scales tipped at 212, but the retreat from there was quite quick. August will see a change toward more core focus to increase the squat. The weight of 105 pounds is a sticking point due to poor lower back and stomach muscles. The legs are willing, but the support structure is not. Research is being conducted to find the best exercises. There is no shortage of opinion on what to do.

Shoulders, on the other hand, are responding well to the 9 week course laid out in Iron Man Magazine. The front is responding best of all, though the back section is lagging a bit. The good news hear is that the shoulder supports the arms on the bench press. August will see a few attempts at maxing the bench press during workout days. The use of declined flyes and dumbbell presses is increasing the pecs quite nicely. It is time to test the waters again.

 

 

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Pressing With The Legs

Using the diagonal sled-type leg press machine.
Using the diagonal sled-type leg press machine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saturday morning. Time for the new leg workout. Will it be good? It is a bit more intense than the old one. Some exercises will see heavier amounts. Some exercises have been removed altogether.

Arrived at the gym a bit later than planned, but still got to it. Warm up. Stretch. Warm up some more. Time for leg extensions.

About 15 years ago, I started pre-exhausting my legs with extensions. I went nuts back then, lifting the whole rack and then some at the YMCA in Marion, Ohio. The soccer moms thought I was absolutely nuts. I’d cinch the seat belt in the Nautilus unit all the way to keep me from arching my back and cheating. Yes, it build great quads, but at the price of my knees.

Today, however, the pre-exhaust method is to use TORQ and move the weight at 3-4 seconds a rep. Coupled to that is 30 reps, so these days the weights are much smaller and less taxing on the knees. The burn is more intense too. Awesome.

Previous leg press routines at Stay Fit 24 had seen the use of the machine leg press that allows the user to push horizontally. It is time now to step back up to the Bigs with the inclined leg press. Hello old friend, it has been a long time. Three set later, it was enjoying the old feelings.

Just over half-way through this routine and I started to really keep my heart rate up. Heck the Smith Machine negatives, I kept sweating. By the end, I was out of breath and sweating. Awesome! I’ve not had this indoors in a long time.

Overall, I liked the results from my Leg workout. I spent less time at the gym, but taxed my legs more. I was able to hit just over 50% body weight on the fifth set of squats, though only hitting 4 reps out of 5. One more session should take care of that and see weights increasing. The pyraminding with the squats started with 10 pounds each side and adding 5 to each after the set. That fifth set saw 105 pounds being pushed from the floor all the way up. Being 6 feet, 5 inches, that quite a long way for a full squat. That may not seem like much, but at nearly 45 years of age, it felt like a huge accomplishment. Boom!

The next task at hand is to work on the deltoids and arms. The former will get Roger Lockridge’s “3-Week Shoulder Smash” from the June 2013 issue of Iron Man. This is a serious shoulder workout that runs for 3 cycles of 3 weeks. My shoulders are not responding as hoped, so it is time to put them on notice. Arms will probably contain the current spider curls, dumbbells and inclines. The new routine reduces the exercises for the deltoids to three, but raises the intensity several notches. Can’t wait.

Keep on lifting.

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That Pain In My Chest

English: Squat lifing
English: Squat lifing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It took two extra days to get to, but it finally happened. The new chest workout given in “Time To Move To Heavy” was finally done. It stretched my chest in new ways. It contracted with higher intensity. Some exercises resulted in same weight as before, some lower. Rest was extended a bit. Negatives were pushed.

Oh the pain in my chest when it was over. That great pain that says a muscle has been worked out, just to the limit, but not so far that it tears. That pain the means your muscles will pull in all the protein you eat afterward. That pain leads to growth afterward. That pain that tells you your body is alive. That glorious pain. Awesome sauce.

The next workout day brings an updated leg workout. So, it is time to review that one.

  • Leg extension (pre-exhaust, TORQ3×30,20,15
  • Squats  5×5 (rest to 1.5 minutes)
  • Leg Press  3×8
  • Leg Curls (TORQ3×30,20,15
  • Feet-forward Smith Machine squat (negative1×9
  • Hyperextensions  3×10
  • Dead lift (pyramid the weight3×5
  • One leg, standing calf raise  3×20
  • Free hand, two leg calf raise (speed, full stroke2×30+

There it is. The leg workout changes. On TORQ, the idea is to get full range of motion over a 4 second rep. Squats are meant to go heavier this time around, but the rep speed should still be 3 seconds. Be sure to warm up all the muscles very well and stretch. For squats only, rest at 1.5 minutes between sets, including the last. All over sets see 40 second rest between.

Feel the burn. Feel the pain. Grow.

 

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