Pimp my exercise regime (long)

I just moved into a new apartment building, which has a complimentary gym in the basement. Off to get my new body, thinks I. Since I’m a beginner at this I’m going to ask the bright bulbs of the Dope for advice.

For the first few days, I ran the following schedule.

Every other day is arms-and-pecs day, every other day is abs-back-and-legs day. Each session I start off with ten minutes on the exercise bike to work up a sweat, and I end each session with a five minute spurt on the bike.

On arms-shoulders-and-pecs day, after the ten minute bike ride, I start with ten minutes on the pull-a-bar machine; five minutes of triceps and five minutes of biceps. Then I do ten minutes on the pec machine where you grab handles on your sides and bring them together in front of you. Then ten minutes of shoulder exercises. Then ten minutes on the pec machine where you pull a chain from your lower left to your upper right and reverse. I finish with the bike spurt, so the whole session is 55 minutes.

On abs-back-and-legs day, I start off with ten minutes on the leg machine where you sit down, put your feet on a vertical plate and push it back. Then I do ten minutes of ab work by sitting down, holding weighted straps in my hands and bending forward, kind of like a reverse situp. Then ten minutes of leg work where you bend your legs backwards to lift weights. Then ten minutes of back exercises. Then ten more minutes of ab work, and the bike spurt brings it to 55 minutes.

Throughout the sessions, I use low resistance and do many reps. I keep the resistance so low that it is never actually difficult to finish a five or ten minute session. I have to work at it, but I never have to quit because I can’t go on.

By working out every day but switching muscle groups I hoped to let the muscles I wasn’t training that day grow while I was training the other muscles.

In short, this regime was too tough to start with. After a few days, my triceps hurt so badly I couldn’t use them, and my elbows were aching. That’s leaving now, but either way it seems I started off too hard.

My goal is to slim down, get healthier, and get stronger. I like the way my arms look (which is why I spent so little time training them), but I would like some extra strength (I recently moved house and noticed how pathetically weak I’ve become). It is the pec-and-abs area that needs visual improvement, and I have back problems so I’d like to develop my back muscles. I also have about 20 or 30 extra pounds to work off.

I don’t want bulging muscles and I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder. I want to look lean and fit. My dream body would be Brad Pitt in Fight Club, but I know I’m never going to get there. That guy does like six trillion situps a day. I’d like to get as close as possible.

Should I start out with shorter sessions or keep the sessions the same length and only work out every other day? Is my regime suitable for my goals? Should I do jumprope instead of the initial bike ride (I’ve heard that jumprope is great for working off baby fat)? Am I doing any glaring mistakes?

Basically, how do you think I should work out, and how fast can I expect visual results? The motivation would be nice.

Thanks for any help you can give.

Split your workouts into five sections:





If you’re working biceps and triceps (or any opposing muscles) on the same day, you’re not going to have the full strength in those muscles when it comes time for them to be used as complementary or stabilizing muscles to another group you’re working.
For example, if you work biceps and triceps on the same day, and then chest the next day, your ches exercise will suffer because your triceps muscles are complemenatary/stabilizing to many chest exercises, primarily presses. After a little while, you will look disproportionate, and you will not be able to reach true max potential in strength or aesthetics, both of which seem important to you.
I highly recommend Arnold’s book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. It has excellent drawings, competent explanations of exercises and workout regimes, and the multitude of pictures of gigantic dudes warming up with my max serves to intimidate me into going to the gym when I feel lazy. It’s a great guide for anyone who wants to gain strength or look good.

Working out a muscle group for 10 minutes at a low resistance will definately tone that muscle and the cardio implications of it will help you lose weight however I don’t know if it will help you to “build” those muscles. In order to build muscle you not only have to work it to the ‘fatigue’ point but you also have to break it down with heavier weight.
Try this for a set or two instead of the 10 minute set you do:
(You will need a watch or clock with a second hand)
It will take you 7 minutes compared to your 10.
Example- Chest, on the pec machine you talked about complete a set of 12 reps at a starting weight of say 90lbs. This should take you about 30 seconds.
Now rest for 60 seconds.
Up the weight to 100lbs. Complete a set of 10 reps.
Rest for 60 seconds.
Up the weight to 110lbs. Complete a set of 8 reps.
Rest for 60 seconds.
Up the weight to 120lbs. Complete a set of 6 reps.
Rest for 60 seconds.
Drop the weight back down to 110lbs. Try to complete a set of 12 reps.
No rest.
Pick another pec exercise like a press and complete 12 reps with a weight that makes it very difficult to complete the 12.

That’s it. It looks like a lot but you can actually complete it in 7 minutes.
It make take a few trys to find the correct starting weight for each exercise so keep a mental log or write it down. You should be at a point where those last 12 reps of the initial exercise are so difficult that you can only do about 6 reps.
Once you build up to the point where you can complete those last 12 reps you need to up the starting weight by 10lbs.
If you can keep up with this pace and even time yourself to a rest of 2 minutes between exercises (switching from pecs to shoulders) you still keep all the benefits of the cardio.

Roughly 60% of the muscle in your body is in your lower back and legs. Why does that get less than 60% of your training time?

I’m not entirely sure how you could be doing legs three, four times a week. I don’t even train very hard compared to some of my training partners and I’m at least sore for two days after a leg workout.

I second Pup’s book recommendation, but would like to add that German Volume Training is not a good idea without steroids and at the beginning of an exercise regimen. You might want to look into Blood and Guts, by Dorian Yates, or one of Mike Mentzer’s books, that advocate HIT, a rather different way of training.

You aren’t going to look like a bodybuilder if you don’t put the kind of work into lifting that bodybuilders do - and by work, I mean mostly a proper high-protein diet. Throw yourself full swing into it, and grow a little. Take a good look at yourself after a couple of months and ask yourself if you’d like to continue. There’s hardly any danger of “getting too big”.

Hampshire - there is no such thing as toning. There is aerobic weightlifting, which can be somewhat lipolytic and gives an illusion of harder, more defined muscles.

Consider also an opposites split: Chest/back, biceps/triceps, etc. Can be fun; if you get a good pump going, you’ll look and feel huge after the workout, which is always good motivation.

There seems to be a misunderstanding. I specifically don’t want to look like a bodybuilder. I just want to look slim and toned.

Read what he said again. You have roughly the same chance of looking like a bodybuilder unintentionally as you have of flying to the moon by flapping your arms really hard.

To get that big you have to eat like a monster, train hard, diet off the fat you just gained, wash, rinse and repeat for years on end. Or take heavy medication. Or be a genetic mutant.

In other words, you’re not going to wake up huge some morning and have it be a big shock to you. :slight_smile: Even if you do, dieting off muscle is the easiest thing in the world. Seriously. You get too big, just eat a bit less and stop training that muscle group so hard. It’ll go away so fast it’ll leave you kinda dizzy.

I recommend just going somewhere to get the basics (like stumptuous.com–ignore the girly bits–it pretty much is the best/most clearly written intro to weights out there), maybe get some of your myths debunked. Do a bit of reading to get started, pick one of the full body routines, do that 3 days a week with at least one day of rest in between each workout, get lots of water, eat at least a gram of protein per 1 lbs (or so) of lean body mass you have and have at eat. Not exactly rocket science.

This is, of course, crazy moon language for “have at it”. Argh.

I second the plug for stumptuous.com, and you might want to give John Stone’s site a look-over.

I had to get up to date on exercise stuff about a year ago when I wanted to get rid of the weight I’d gained from being injured and subsequently becoming a lazy bastard. I’d never been really out of shape before, so coming back was a challenge since my mind and body had very different ideas about what I could do.

Most sources agreed on a few things, and with exercise anything that several sources agree is true is pretty darn likely to be true. Fitness stuff is like economics; most of the time the experts can’t agree on anything.

[li]If you can do more than 15 repetitions, the weight is too light to increase strength or muscle mass much, if at all. If you’re lifting a weight that is light enough for you to finish more than 15 repetitions, you might as well be doing aerobic exercise instead of wasting your time on the weight machine.[/li][li]If you want to get big and boost your strength a lot, you have to go for heavy weight and low reps, like between 4-8 reps. If you’re going more for an endurance/strength balance, a higher rep range, like 8-12, is better.[/li][li]If you can finish all your repetitions for all sets, it’s time to put on more weight. Increase the weight slightly for your next exercise session.[/li][li]Doing your aerobics at a different time from your weight lifting gets better results for both aerobic fitness and muscle building. Separate the two kinds of workouts by 8-12 hours, if at all possible.[/li][li]Working out too hard is almost as counterproductive as working out too little. You need rest days to recover from any kind of exercise and you need rest time between sets when you’re doing weight lifting.[/li][li]Multi-joint movements are better than isolation exercises. Nothing works as well for building your chest as the basic bench press. Nothing builds your legs like squats. In addition, some isolation exercises increase your risk of injury as well as being relatively ineffective compared to compound movements. The pectoral flies you’ve been doing for your chest are basically worthless.[/li][li]If you want to increase muscle mass, you have to eat enough calories to support new muscle growth. That means you need enough protein. You can’t make protein out of carbohydrates or fats.[/li][li]Your legs have the biggest muscles in your body. If you want to lose fat, you must train your legs.[/ul][/li]
What slortar said is absolutely right. Just doing regular weight training won’t make you look like a weightlifter. That slim toned look that you want is attained by building your muscles, and losing fat. You’d have to train lots and eat lots to get the weightlifter look. If you’re doing aerobics for more than 20-30 minutes, and you’re doing that more than 3-4 days a week, you will literally not be able to get too big. And, like others have said, you’ll lose muscle in absolutely no time if you stop training as hard or cut your calories a little. Your body fights to keep every last bit of fat on your body but gets rid of muscle at the slightest opportunity.

I’ve been working out regularly for a year, doing mainly weight lifting and deliberately trying to increase my muscle mass. I’ve gained back much of what I had before in the way of muscle, and I’ve lost almost all my extra fat. The result is that I look slim and hard. I want to get bigger, not to the point of a weightlifter, but bigger than a regular in-shape guy. It’s going to take a couple of years of hard work to get that. There is basically no danger of you getting “too big” even if you do heavy weights and low reps. I’m living proof. (Dammit.)

I’ve been meaning to bring up protein supplementation here for some time. I eat plenty of meat, but most of the stuff I’ve read disputes any claim that you get more than enough protein in a balanced diet and don’t need supplementation if you want to get bigger.

I’ve been strength training for a couple of years now, much of that time in a half-assed way and not training to failure. (I’ve since changed my ways.) While I’m definitely bigger, it seems something’s keeping me from getting to where I want to be, and I suspect that protein supplementation would help.

I do use creatine, and I definitely notice a difference when I forget to take it. I just don’t get that sudden, bionic-like burst of energy when I lift unless I’ve been supplementing with creatine.

So, should I start drinking protein shakes? Have any of you noticed a marked difference in results once you’ve started supplementing? I’ve never had one, so which ones taste OK? I don’t want to buy a big tub of something that tastes disgusting.

Sleel and slortar both make very good points and should be listened to. I just wanted to add a couple points.

Most strength coaches advise against low reps and heavy weight for beginners. At that point, the important thing is to learn to do the movements properly, and that’s best served with a higher volume.

The coaches I respect as knowledgeable have opinions on training to failure that range from “It’s not good” to “It’s bad like letting your kid stay overnight at Neverland”. You may want to reconsider.

As far as protein shakes go, they’re inherently inferior to real food, but can help out. As far as results go, protein is protein, no matter where you get it from. Don’t buy into the ad hype that there’s something magic about protein when it comes from a powder.

I wholeheartedly recommend Biotest’s protein powder because it’s high-quality, cheap, and tastes so good that it’s reasonable to serve for dessert. It’s only available through their website.

I shouldn’t have used the word “failure.” What I meant, really, was fewer reps and sets, but at a higher weight – one that requires effort. I’ve gotten bigger faster training this way than when I was doing countless reps and sets at a flaky weight. No real effort there.

It’s not that I think powder is somehow magic; it just seems they might be potentially more tasty than scarfing can after can of tuna. Like mixing vanilla protein powder into orange juice (in a blender) to get a Creamsicle kind of shake, especially if the vanilla powder doesn’t taste great with milk.

I don’t want a powder with sugar, though. There are quite a few out there that are sweetened with acesulfame-K and/or sucralose.

Thanks – I’ll look into that.

Here’s a quick question.

I usually go straight from work to the gym. Three times a week (lately with my work schedule it’s only two times)

Now this usually means I am working out on a relatively empty stomach.
Is this all right? Or should I stop at home first and eat something?

Good point. When I started working out again I was doing a rep range of 12-15 to get all the connective tissues used to doing something. After a couple of weeks, I dropped into a lower rep range (8-12) and only after another 4 weeks or so did I start doing heavier lifting in the 6-10 range. It took over two months for me to really start lifting heavy. It should probably take a quarterly cycle to move from light weights, high reps to heavy weight, low reps.

I had done weight training and other heavy exercise before, so I wasn’t a complete beginner, just a lazy bastard. Older or less experienced people will definitely have to take their time and not rush things at the beginning. Even I pushed things too hard at first, since what I remembered I could do was very different from what my body could do at the time.

Try eating something first and see if that makes things better.