Workout Rules for Safe and Efficient gains

Everyone who uses a gym has a goal.  Some are looking to build huge muscles, others want to be as cut as possible, but most just want to improve their health.  This post is for anyone who wants to know how to make consistent progress using weights and cardio-vascular exercise.

Workout 2 gives a good idea of what exercises to focus on.  This post is about how to continue making gains in the gym after the first few weeks have been conquered.

Cardio doesn’t really ever change

The rules for cardio are solid.  As a personal trainer I would recommend no more than 30 minutes 5 days a week.  Use a treadmill, bike, run, do a few cardio classes, but do not get carried away. Too much cardio will put a definite hold on your progress.  It cuts down on your ability to recover and also burns muscle if over done.

Weight training is the most important

Your metabolism is completely dependent on the amount of muscle you have compared to fat.  Because of this fact, if you are not lifting weights you are not taking advantage your body’s greatest asset, your muscles.

Where do you start? 

If you are trying to increase your metabolism, the best place to start is 12 rep sets.  So a typical exercise should look something like:

  • 4 Sets for 12 Repetitions each
  • Try to find a weight where you can barely finish the 12th rep
  • Stick with a routine for 2 to 3 weeks
  • After 2 to 3 weeks change the exercises or attempt to do a little more weight

Bottom line

Slowly, every 2 to 3 weeks, increase weight used for gains in muscle and tone. Cardio is also important, but if you do too much it will halt your progress.


Next Time: Workout 3, New Exercises

See you then…


Myth 3: The More I Work Out, The More Progress I Am Making

The Law of Diminishing Returns: “tendency for a continuing application of effort or skill toward a particular project or goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved,” according to The Free Dictionary. In the workout world this is known as overtraining. Rice University’s Mark Jenkins, MD, describes overtraining syndrome as what happens when an athlete works too hard or does not take enough rest time between workouts. He says:

“If sufficient rest is not included in a training program then regeneration cannot occur and performance plateaus. If this imbalance between excess training and inadequate rest persists then performance will decline. Overtraining can best be defined as the state where the athlete has been repeatedly stressed by training to the point where rest is no longer adequate to allow for recovery. The “overtraining syndrome” is the name given to the collection of emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms due to overtraining that has persisted for weeks to months. Athletes and coaches also know it as “burnout” or “staleness.” This is different from the day to day variation in performance and post exercise tiredness that is common in conditioned athletes. Overtraining is marked by cumulative exhaustion that persists even after recovery periods.”

How does this apply to a “normal” individual?

Whether you have worked out before or not, there is a tendency in the gym to keep up with “the other guys.” It is easy to look around at your fellow gym rats and begin pushing to keep up with them. Another saying, “You are your own worst enemy,” applies very well here.  The issue is not keeping up with someone else or even with who you used to be. Rather, the issue is controlling yourself and making progress based on where you are now.

Bottomline: there is a way to increase performance by increasing workout stress and frequency. But if you are not careful and increase too quickly you can actually do more harm than good. It is about doing something everyday at YOUR CURRENT LEVEL!

Next time: Workout Rules for Safe and Efficient Gains

Check out this guy!

Workout 2: Easy Guide to Working Out with Weights for Guys or Gals

If you have never used weights, stepping into a weight room can be scary.  Similarly, if you have been away from working out for a while, figuring out where to start can also be a daunting task.  Today, I will give you a simple workout for getting started.

There are a few things you need to know before starting a good workout routine.  Correct form, muscle reaction, intervals, and rest periods are key parts to being successful in the weight room.  How these four things will fit into your routine depend on the goal you are reaching for, but a general knowledge will help you get started.

Correct form is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can learn.  Crossfit Athletic Center says proper form will help you “prevent injuries, use your energy effectively, use the right muscles, and make sure your workout is effective.”  For the workout this week there will be three exercises:

The videos for the exercises give a pretty good idea how to correctly perform each exercise.  The guys in the video are using some serious weight but this is not for everyone.  Start with a weight you can handle.

Muscle Reaction is about getting your muscles to react the way you want.  If your goal is not to get bigger, but to slim down and tone up, then there is a specific type of weight and number of reps you should be performing.  A quick guide:

  • To tone muscle and burn fat, aim for 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps.  Make sure the weight is enough that completely finishing set 3 is difficult.
  • To add muscle size, aim for 4 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps.  Again, make sure the weight is enough that the last set is difficult to completely finish.
  • To add strength, aim for 6 sets of 5 or less reps.  One more time, make sure the weight is enough that the last set is difficult to finish.
  • Last note:  do your best to make sure your form is correct!

Intervals are another very important part to reaching your goals.  Myth 1 is about not doing too much cardio.  In that post I show that using cardio in conjunction with weights is the best solution.  Intervals are one way to add cardio back to your workout.  So what are intervals?

There are many different choices: shadowboxing, jogging in place, hitting a punching bag, ab exercises, treadmill etc.  These intervals are meant to be something that involves very light or no weight.  They get your heart rate up and keep your body in a state of flux.  How do you use them in your workout?

You will see an example in the workout at the end, but they get placed in the workout between each set or group of sets.

Rest Periods are also very important.  Your muscles will not be able to push through a workout for 30 minutes without short rest periods.  For most workouts these should be limited to no more than 60 seconds between sets.  The purpose is to give muscles a chance to recover between sets. explains that for each type of athlete the rest necessary between sets can vary.  For strength athletes they recommend 3 to 5 minutes.  For muscle growth and endurance athletes they recommend 30 to 60 seconds.  Again, it all depends on the goal you are trying to reach.

The Workout:


  • Bench Press 3 sets x 15 reps, or 4 sets x 10 reps, or 6 sets  x 4 reps depending on goal.
  • Between each set use a cardio interval like shadowboxing.
  • If you don’t know, shadowboxing is punching at the air or your shadow on the wall.  Don’t actually punch the wall.  Do it for 30 seconds each time.


  • 30 minutes of cardio.
  • Get outside and walk, go for a jog, or get on a bike or treadmill at the gym.


  • Squat 3 sets x 15 reps, or 4 sets x 10 reps, or 6 sets  x 4 reps depending on goal.
  • Use a cardio interval between each set like an ab exercise.  Go for 30 reps each set.


  • 30 minutes of cardio.
  • Get outside and walk, go for a jog, or get on a bike or treadmill at the gym.


  • Deadlift 3 sets x 15 reps, or 4 sets x 10 reps, or 6 sets  x 4 reps depending on goal.
  • Use a cardio interval between each set like jogging in place.  Do it for 30 seconds each set.

Saturday and Sunday:

  • Rest

Next Time: Myth 3, The More I Workout, The More Progress I Am Making

Workout 1: Keep it simple.

This workout is for anyone.  It is simple to do, simple to remember and simple to figure out even if you have not exercised on a regular basis before.  It focuses on 3 exercises: the push-up, body-weight squat, and good morning.

The Push-up:

This exercise is simple and probably not unknown to you.  The main thing I want you to get from this exercise is modification.

Modification means to change the exercise to a form you are capable of accomplishing.  This is important because not everyone can complete a military style push-up.  So what do you do when you cannot do one?  You change the style of your pushup.

  • Wall Push-ups are the easiest ones to actually do.  You put both feet on the floor 1-2 feet away from the wall.  Place your hands on the wall just below your shoulder.  Slowly lean toward the wall and slowly push back to standing.  That is 1!
  • Incline Push-ups are your medium difficulty modification.  You put both feet on the floor and place both hands on something higher than the ground.  Examples of objects to use are your bed, stairs, a kitchen counter etc.
  • Military Push-ups  are the 2nd hardest to pull off.  They are picture for you to the right.  You place both hands and both feet on the floor and slowly push up and slowly let back down.
  • Decline Push-ups are the most difficult.  These involve placing your hands on the floor and your feet on something elevated.

Major muscles exercised are your pectoralis major or chest, and triceps.

The Body-weight Squat:

This is another exercise that you may already know.  Ace Fitness has a great body-weight sqaut picture demonstration.  Modification is not so much necessary with this exercise, but if it is too difficult to go all the way down as suggested then only go half way.

Major muscles exercised are quadriceps, front of upper thigh, butt and Calf.

The Good Morning:

This exercise is very simple as well.  You stand up straight, slowly bend at the waist until your upper body is parallel to the ground.  After a few seconds you slowly return to your starting position.

Major muscles exercised are your erectors in your lower back and your hamstrings.

The Workout:


  • Pick a modification if necessary that works for you.
  • Then start with Push-ups.
  •  The goal is 3 sets of 10 reps.
  •  This means doing 10 push-ups in a row and resting.  Then doing another 10 and resting.  And then doing 10 one more time for a total 3 sets.


  • Still going for 3 sets of 10 reps, but today the exercises are good mornings and body-weight squats.
  •  This means you will be doing six sets total.  Three sets should be completed for each exercise.


  • 3 Sets for 10 reps is the norm for this week and we are back to push-ups.


  • Repeat Tuesday’s workout.


  • Repeat Monday and Wednesday’s workouts to finish out your week.

The Weekend: 

  • Rest is a vital part of an exercise routine.  Without adequate rest your body will not recover as it should.
  • Lack of rest increases the possibility of injury and can take away from your future workouts.
  •  So rest, hang out with your family or friends and take a load off.

One Last Note:

If you EVER feel pain more severe than muscles aching during exercise, STOP.  The last thing anyone want is to get hurt.  If you experience this kind of pain it is a good idea to see a doctor before you continue exercise to make sure there is not a problem.

Myth 1: You can never do too much cardio.

Too much cardio can definitely be a bad thing.

One of the things I have encountered most in training has been the idea that “cardio is king.”  Many times I have had a long conversation about the dangers of over-training and the injuries and metabolism slowing effects too much cardiovascular exercise can have.

Issues too much cardio can create:

  • While cardio does burn fat, it also burns muscle.
  • If you burn too much muscle, you can actually slow your metabolism.
  • Too much cardio can actually prevent you from reaching your goals at the gym.

I am not saying you should stay away from cardio; far from it.  I am however saying doing cardio for an hour a day by itself is not necessarily the best way to reach your fitness or weight-lifting goals.  Livestrong suggests cardio should not exceed 150 minutes for an entire week.  QBX Fitness says too much cardio is definitely a bad thing.  They even say that too much cardio can actually cause you to start GAINING fat.

Bottom line: keep your cardio a bit shorter and add some muscle-toning weight training.

Next time: Myth 2, lifting weights will turn you into this guy.Just kidding.  That’s steroids and over supplementation.