Keep the Winter Weight Off with this 6 Week Workout Plan

Winter is fast approaching and so is the urge to bundle up in a Snuggie and never move from your couch. The only reason you’re salvaging motivation is because the body you want to show off during the summer must be chiseled during these dark, cold months. But how do you know where to begin? What should you do to battle the truckload of stuffing, pumpkin bread, and peppermint bark you’re going to consume during the next few months?

If you’re trying to gain strength, your workouts should focus on lower reps and higher weight on your exercises. If you’re looking to get lean, aim for higher reps and lower weight. It’s always better to try and put on muscle before you try to lean down. That being said, in order to put on muscle you’re going to need to eat. A lot. Don’t be discouraged if your body fat percentage increases when doing a strength training program, since you should be greatly increasing your daily calorie intake to allow you to reach your maximum potential during lifts.

I used to be an advocate of the full body workout. Three times a week I would go to the gym and do the same exact workout each time, hitting virtually every muscle type in my body in one day. The problem with this method was that I was sacrificing each individual muscle group because I did fewer exercises for each.

Now I generally like to spread my week out with four lifting days, two cardio days, and one rest day.

Follow this weekly schedule for six weeks, starting with an amount of weight you can easily perform each exercise with. Each week you should be increasing the weight on every exercise by at least five pounds. Push yourself to reach this goal every week and you’ll gain muscle and strength in just a month and a half.

Sunday: Chest and Triceps

Chest (Sets x Reps)

  • Bench Press (5×5)
  • Incline Press (5×5)
  • Decline Press (5×5)
  • Cable Fly (4×10)

Triceps (Sets x Reps)

  • Dips (4×10)
  • Tricep Extension (4×10)
  • Cable Extension (4×10)

Monday: Cardio

Tuesday: Legs

  • Squat (5×5)
  • Leg Press (5×5)
  • Bulgarian Squat (5×5)
  • Leg Extension (4×10)
  • Standing Calf Raises (3×20)
  • Sitting Calf Raises (3×20)
  • Lying Leg Curl (4×10)

Wednesday: Cardio

Thursday: Shoulders

  • Shoulder press (5×5)
  • Front Lateral Raise (3×10)
  • Side Lateral Raise (3×10)
  • Shrugs (4×10)
  • Arnold Dumbbell Press (5×5)
  • Deltoid Raise (3×10)

Friday: Back and Biceps

Saturday: Snuggie and Couch Potato Day

Don’t stress out if you miss a day or have a sub-par workout. Come back motivated and ready to set the bar higher for your next lift.

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Build a Body That Will Make Your Ex Jealous

Were you that guy or gal that always felt like a lost child whenever some health-nut friend dragged you to the gym? Now you’ve graduated, maybe moved to a new city, and need to stand out among the hordes of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes at the local watering hole. It’s time to step into the gym, my friend. Follow the instructions below and you’ll be kicking ass and taking numbers in no time.

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Training

Before we dive into specifics, it is imperative that you commit to, well, commitment. One of the most common reasons for why novices do not see results is because they do not stick to the program. When your professor told you to study chapter 10, did you stop halfway through and study chapter 12? Of course not, you would see poor results on the test. The same principle applies to training.

The following program will be performed 3 days per week. You are going to focus on major movements that utilize free weights. Keep rest periods to no more than 2 minutes so as to keep your heart rate and energy levels high. Be mindful to choose weights that you can handle safely, and with good form (form videos are hyperlinked).

Monday – International Bench Press Day

Wednesday – Leg Day

  • Check out my previous article on building monster legs, here

Friday – Back

That’s week one. Feel like a beast already? For week two, add a set to every exercise (i.e. 4 x 12). The next week, add another (5 x 12). After that, you’ll raise the weight on every exercise as you see fit, returning to 3 x 12, then 4 x 12, etcetera.

Nutrition

Regardless of your goals, proper nutrition is key to seeing results both at the gym and in the mirror. Because every body is different, here are some general guidelines to build the best you:

  • Avoid refined sugars and junk food. This means soda, candy and anything else you may find in the snack aisle at 7/11.
  • If you are trying to build muscle, aim for 4 balanced meals a day, at least 30 grams of protein each meal.
  • If you are trying to lose weight, stick to 3 balanced meals a day, with a protein-rich snack thrown in between lunch and dinner. Skip dessert.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake. Having a beer at the end of the night won’t kill you, but excess alcohol greatly impairs your body’s ability to build muscle[1].

The final package

Ultimately, ending up with a body that you are proud of is the result of a combination of training hard, eating right, and staying focused. On the tough days, be sure to remind yourself that in order to look better naked tomorrow, you need to put in the work today.

[1] The effect of chronic alcohol ingestion on whole body and muscle protein synthesis — a stable isotope study

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Torch Tuesdays #1: Intense Workout + Playlist

If you’re looking to burn fat, the one word you should be building your workouts around is intensity. Cardio is essential when it comes to leaning down, but most people avoid it at all costs. What if I told you that all you needed was 15 minutes and a good music playlist to revolutionize your opinion of cardiovascular exercise. You’ll be exhausted and satisfied in about the same amount of time it takes your girlfriend to finish applying eyeshadow.

Warmup

Make sure to get your blood flowing before you start the nitty gritty.

The Torch

Debrief: The idea of this workout is to complete as many rounds as you can in 15 minutes. When you are first starting aim for one round a minute but don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t meet your goal. As long as you are focusing on keeping the intensity up, you’ll reap the benefits of this fat-blasting circuit. Although it isn’t the longest workout, if you do it right you shouldn’t be able to stand without getting a little dizzy.

Necessities: This workout can be completed at home with a timer, a little open space, and the addition of a pull-up bar. Pull-ups are essential parts of this workout so don’t overlook them. I use the Iron Gym because it is versatile and easily removed from your doorframe, but you can purchase a cheaper alternative here.

Round 1

Round 2

  • 10 jump squats
  • 5 pull-ups (close-grip)
  • 20 jumping jacks

Round 3

  • 10 pushups
  • 5 pull-ups (chin-ups)
  • 20 high knees1

Repeat

If you find that certain exercises are easier for you than others, push through them as fast as possible. Pace yourself throughout the workout but remember that the key is to feel as uncomfortable as possible for the entire 15 minutes. Good luck, and remember the harder you go the more tacos you can eat tonight.

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Playlist

 

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Common Misconceptions of the Shred Game | Episode 1: Late Night Eating

In today’s digital age, information is right at our fingertips. Unfortunately this means that a lot of times we’re going to be exposed to material that may not be totally accurate. Becoming informed shouldn’t seem like a chore; for you to be successful in your fitness journey over the long-term, you must be passionate enough to want to learn everything about the lifestyle. Be aware of the traps laid out by greedy companies, power hungry trainers, or uneducated friends who believe everything they hear. With that being said, I’m here to get you started on what not to believe.

One of my favorite late night snacks is ground turkey. A little Worchester sauce, a little garlic salt, and some chopped mushrooms are all it takes to make a seemingly boring dish taste absolutely delicious. Not only is it easy to cook, but it doesn’t leave you feeling full or bloated, which is good when you’re close to going to bed. The deliciousness of this dish didn’t stop my roommate from questioning my eating habits and explaining how he read an article about the negative effects of eating before bed and why it was a sure way to put on fat. If I didn’t know any better I would have started going to bed hungry and angry every night. Hanger (hunger + anger)  is real and it’s not enjoyable.

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Webmd.com claims that the U.S Department of Agriculture Weight and Obesity website states, “It does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.”

If you exercise at night, your body needs to replenish its glycogen levels in order for your metabolism to maintain an anabolic, or muscle building, state. Don’t be afraid to have complex carbohydrates after the sun goes down. Complex carbs are also known as polysaccharides because they consist of more than two units of sugars linked together in a chain. Your body releases glucose at a slower pace when digesting these molecules as opposed to simple carbohydrates that don’t consist of as many sugar subunits.

According to livestrong.com, eating complex carbs can help curb your hunger late at night as well. For those of us who have studying to do before bed, eating a bowl of oatmeal or some baked sweet potatoes will give our brain the boost it needs to concentrate.

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Another of my favorite pre-bed meals is cottage cheese. Cottage cheese contains casein protein, which is a milk derivative that is slower digesting than whey. Slow digesting protein will help your muscles remain satisfied while your catch some shut-eye, and is important for recovery because muscle regeneration occurs when you sleep.

A different method for obtaining casein is buying casein protein powder and making a nice shake before hitting the hay. For more on the benefits of casein check out this article from mensfitness.com.

Eating late at night may seem like a bad idea if you’re pounding Oreo Milkshakes and Double-Doubles, but as long as you keep it clean, it’s a necessary habit to develop in order to ensure your body gets the proper fuel needed to build muscle during the night.

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Fix Your Chicken Legs: Embrace Leg Day

I will never forget my uncle ridiculing men at the gym with big torsos and little legs. He called them “dipstick legs.” If this image makes you stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself if you are “that guy,” don’t panic. I’m here to teach you how to do leg day the right way.

Legs are the new abs

Just in case you haven’t heard: chicken legs are out, big thighs are in. I won’t lie to you, you’re in for hard work, but you’re going to come out looking like a Greek god. Here’s what you need to be doing:

Kanye’s new leg day plan

Always start off with a good warm-up. Personally, I recommend 5 minutes of cardio followed by Joe DeFranco’s Agile 8. Now that you’re loose, here are the exercises you will do in this order.

1. Squats

I could spend days discussing proper squat form, but no one wants that. Instead, I highly recommend you watch this video.

The most important thing about squats is that you hit FULL depth.[1]

If you cannot safely hit depth with the weight on your back, it is too heavy. Check your ego and lower the weight.

Credit: http://bit.ly/1QpYkZm

2. Split squats

Set up a bench about 4 feet behind you. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lift up one leg and bring it back so that your toes rest on the bench. Now squat to parallel (watch). Hit your prescribed number of reps (more on that later) on this leg, and then do the other leg. That’s one set.

3. Seated hamstring curls

Hamstring curl machines, found in every gym, specifically target the hamstrings, which make up the bulk of your thigh. Be sure to bring the weight up slowly to accentuate the tension on the hamstring.

4. Hip abduction

Wait, Ben, you mean that machine that’s only used by hot girls in yoga pants? Yes, that one. Strong hips are key to a strong lower body [2]. This is where you put in the work to avoid injury and push through those tough squat sets. Thank me later when you’re dominating your office flag football league.

MRW my little nephews think they're tough and want to switch our football game from flag to tackle.

Progression

I would be remiss if I gave you all of this information and didn’t tell you how to use it correctly. This progression is simple:

  • Week 1 – Find a weight that you can perform correctly and safely for 12 reps. Do 3 sets of 12 reps for each exercise listed above.
  • Week 2 – Add a set to each exercise. That means you are doing 4 sets of 12.
  • Week 3 – Add another set! 5 sets of 12, you are a monster.
  • Week 4 – Add 5 pounds to your squat and bump up the weight as you see fit for the other exercises. Go back to 3 sets of 12. Next week you will do 4 sets of 12, then 5…repeat the process until none of your pants fit.

Putting it all together

Face leg day with these tools at your disposal and you can’t go wrong. Add plenty of protein and carbs to your diet so that your body can build the muscle you need to crack sidewalks. Now get out there and get under the bar!

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Leg Day Schedule 

 

[1] Effect of Squat Depth on Lower-Body Postactivation Potentiation

[2] Core Strength and Lower Extremity Alignment during Single Leg Squats

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Learning Important Basics of Your Workout Routine

Having a routine is crucial to your progress in the iron temple. It’s important to develop a sound base and structure your workouts in a way that will allow you to build strong habits.

Never workout on an empty stomach

I’ve heard plenty of advice on why you should do cardio in the morning before breakfast or why you shouldn’t lift until hours after you eat. But the bottom line is that in order for you to kill your workout, your body needs to be able to readily metabolize glycogen. Going on a light-headed five mile jog in the wee hours of the morning may seem like a good idea, but there is no way to push your limits if you don’t have the fuel to do so.

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If you’re on a cycle where you’re doing both weight training and cardio daily, I suggest lifting in the morning and running at night. Personally I don’t like sacrificing anything in the gym. I would rather have a lighter run than a weaker lift.

Always start with compound exercises

This means exercises that target more than one isolated muscle group. If you’re doing chest, start with bench. If you’re doing legs, start with squats. A lot of lifting is mental, and you’re never going to feel like you’re getting stronger if you’re sacrificing weight on your main lifts because you decided to knock out 10 sets of incline flys beforehand.

Warm up, then stretch

Lots of people think it’s important to stretch before weight training. For most of us stretching first thing in the morning is like trying to jump rope with uncooked pasta. The key is to warm up with an exercise that will get blood flowing throughout your entire body so you’re ready to attack your workout from the very first rep. Try doing dumbbell step ups, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, or burpees for two to three minutes before hitting the weights.

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90 minute rule

Another good rule of thumb that will lock you into a routine and force you to hold yourself accountable is the 90-minute rule. If you spend more than an hour and a half in the gym, you’re wasting time and your body is most likely going catabolic (essentially breaking down muscle for energy). It’s good to rest between sets, but focus on keeping your heart rate up. I have an unorthodox habit of walking to my water bottle or water fountain and taking a few sips after each exercise. This keeps my body moving and my breaks short and sweet. Limiting your time in the gym will keep you from losing focus and intensity.

And when you’re waiting in line for a rack or platform to open up, get in the habit of asking how many sets the person in front of you has left so you don’t end up standing there awkwardly with your hands in your pockets for thirty minutes. Ultimate workout buzzkill.

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Gainz, bro

A good workout always leaves you feeling some type of way, but don’t forget to finish it off with some type of whey. Get some protein into your system immediately so you can begin recovering and follow it up with a balanced meal such as chicken breast, vegetables, and a complex carb like sweet potato.

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Don’t let your routine become static

Staying consistent and organized within a routine is essential for your success, but there comes a time when your best friend will become your greatest adversary. Letting your routine become static is the number one reason you will stop seeing improvements, which is depressing and aesthetically demoralizing. Be opportunistic at the gym and know the overall scheme of your workout so if it’s crowded you can do your exercises in any order. This is also helpful because it keeps your body guessing. Whether you realize it or not, your muscles remember whether you always follow up leg press with leg extensions. When you feel yourself losing motivation and plateauing in strength, switch your program.

The most important part of any workout plan is staying dynamic within your routine. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

 

Feel the Burn: Soul Cycle for Beginners

Close your eyes. Okay don’t, but pretend to close your eyes. Imagine 100 hot, sweaty, cramped, dehydrated, overworked, Millennials thrusting to music, screaming into a dark abyss that’s playing a new Ellie Goulding remix back at them. Now where are you? No you’re not at Mad Decent Block Party (Praise Diplo), you’re at Soul Cycle, the intense full body fitness workout on a stationary bike that gets middle aged women hotter than Sunday brunch.

 

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So what makes this experience so surreal?

The Class

Think of it like a crossover between spin class and EDC. You’re going to get your ass kicked by a Grecian goddess you only see on Instagram but not going to hate it that much because loud music drowns out just about everything. You don’t even have to know where you are; and I think that’s a significant part of the brand ethos. You’re paying $30 a class, yeah that’s right, to escape and get outside your comfort zone while also making you feel really comfortable doing it.

For those of you who haven’t taken a spin class before, it’s a cardio-focused stationary cycling class with resistances that are self-adjusted (under the directions of the instructor) by a small knob located in the center of the lower handle section of the bike.  Spin & Soul Cycle alike both focus on the BPM (beats per minute also known as speed of music) to make sure you stay on beat while you pedal.

The main notable difference is that in a Soul Cycle class, the instructor dims the ceiling lights, letting the soft glow of the faux candles scattered around the front of the room create this relaxing ambiance. Being 1 foot away from my neighbor, I noticed this helps you maintain focus as you are less aware of others in the class, but are more fixated on your movement as well as the teacher. However, don’t be surprised when the leader flips on some of the lights located at the front of the room to dramatize the intense pedaling and motivate your spinning when the beat drops.

Another key difference is near the end of the class, Soul Cycle uses light dumbbell weights to tone those arms. Throughout the class, the instructor is constantly feeding you stimulating phrases – for example: “Instead of thinking that you need to keep working harder, can you relax your body and just go deeper?”

Cost

Being a Soul Cyclist can be pretty expensive, especially if you’re fresh out of college with an entry-level job and on a budget.  First time riders get a discount ($20) for their first class but after that, it’s $30 per session.  Alternatively, you can order bundle packages of classes for lower rates.  Here’s the caveat though – there is an expiration date for when the classes are to be used by, generally ranging from 30-45 days.  There is also a “hidden” fee for shoe-rentals, around $3 per rental, but you also have the alternative to commit to the lifestyle and buy a pair for yourself. Another additive cost is the $2 for a “Smart Water” bottle so just remember to bring your own!

The Amenities

Ok, real talk, the amenities at Soul Cycle are SUPER nice. It’s like the Equinox of spin classes. The studio provides nice decent-sized lockers for you with built-in security locks.  The bathrooms are what really impressed me though.  Although I can’t vouch for the men’s, they have definitely got the women’s bathroom down.  In addition to a shower, they provide towels, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair spray, a blowdryer, lotion, ear buds, deodorant, disposable shavers and tampons (and not the cheap kind, but an actual brand name – ladies, we all know how crucial this is). Only downfall is that the number of showers are limited at the studios so good luck clamoring your way to claim one right after class.

Thoughts

I will admit that I got a great workout that day and the instructor’s energy helped boost the intensity of my workout but as a budget-conscious young adult, it’s quite steep to implement the classes into my weekly routine.

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Diving into Beginner Yoga

Life can be physically and mentally taxing, which is why _______ exists. Most people I know would fill in that blank with an array of illicit substances. But yoga allows you to feel good without the consequences of partying like an animal. Like many other cultish activities, yoga is ridden with stereotypes. So before you go and find out for yourself, it must be known (especially for all you dudes) that there is more to yoga than the pants. Yoga is a 5,000 year old Indian practice that involves effort from both the mind and body. It is a transcendental meditation that requires you to synchronize the breath with movement for maximum benefits. Each practice has the power to tune out the external world and let yourself tune into your most internal needs and desires. So here are some tips for anyone interested in taking their well-being to the next level with yoga:

Start with Beginner Vinyasa

Vinyasa flow is a great place to start as it incorporates basic movements such as sun salutation and downward dog. Once you have perfected this series, move up to an Ashtanga class where the poses and flexibility levels are more challenging.

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Guided Sun Salutation chart courtesy of yogaanonymous.com

Breath is everything

Yoga requires you to be conscious of each inhale and exhale. Each breath sends energy to wherever your mind tells it to go and can allow for a deeper stretch. The deeper the stretch, the better you feel.

Be mindful of your intention

Yoga is a powerful tool for release and breaking down mental/emotional barriers. If you go into class with a positive intention, you will come out with a positive perspective. If you enter your practice with anger, chances are you might come out angrier. Over time you may find this very healing because it brings neglected or hidden feelings to the surface.

Yoga is not a competition (unless Russel Brand steals your girl)

There will be difficult poses that others might be doing effortlessly, but it is important to understand that everyone is at a different level in their practice. In this sense, yoga can be interpreted as a metaphor for life. It is so easy to compare our lives to others and suddenly not feel as accomplished or content. But once you realize that everyone is on their own unique journey you can relax and enjoy each breath you’ve been given.

It doesn’t have to be expensive

You can sign up for a free week or month trial at most yoga studios to see how you like it. And if you’re a student, they usually will offer a discounted membership. If you’re not looking for any commitment, check out local donation-based studios, which suggest a minimum of $10-15 per class.

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Eventually you will become more in tune with your body’s needs, whether that may be a quick stretch or what you want to eat. Stress levels will become much easier to manage as you start to integrate yogic breathing techniques and meditation into your life. For whatever reason you decide to start practicing yoga, remember that it is an internal workout rather than external. Listen to your breath and let your troubles drip down your nose and onto your yoga mat forever. Your body will thank you for each practice.
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Credit: thesimplegym

How to Run When You Really Don’t Want to

If you are anything like me, you may have developed some unhealthy habits in your 20s. Whether this is staring at a screen all day and night (we all know you Netflix more than you chill), drinking and smoking, or binge-eating at Chipotle, you may have slipped into a millennial abyss that is seriously lacking exercise. I may not be an expert on all things health but I played lacrosse in college and know a thing or two about getting back in shape against all odds. Today, I am going to give you a few tips on how to start running.

Running is many things: cheap, accessible, exhilarating, great cardio, etc. Running can also be a total b*tch. If you are new to running or are trying to get back into the habit, here are my five main pieces of advice to you:

Figure out why you are running

Are you trying to lose weight? Are you trying to get back in shape? Are you taking this on as a new hobby? You need to figure out what motivates you to get lace up your sneaks and get outside or on the treadmill. 1

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Start slow

You are not going to be rookie of the year on your first week of running, shoot for “most improved” and take things day by day. Run and walk at a pace so that you can still carry on a conversation. Start off by walking for 30 minutes a few times a week. Try alternating between jogging for a minute then walking for a minute. Work your way up to running 2-3 times a week then 3-4 times a week. Your eventual goal should be to run for 30 minutes without stopping.

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Invest in your running

I know I said running is cheap, but there is extra motivation if you spend a little cash on your exercise. Sign up for a 5k  or buy a flashy new pair of running shoes. The 5k will give you something to work towards and the running shoes will give you something to show off. I recommend Asics or Brooks.None animated GIF

Find a running partner

Misery loves company. Find a friend or coworker who is in the same boat as you or maybe has some more running experience and wisdom they would be gracious enough to share with you. Hate this idea? Make a dope running playlist to keep you company instead.

Beat the heat

Do NOT run when it is freezing or when it is hot as balls. As a new runner, both of these conditions are frustrating and will create even more of a challenge physically and mentally. Stay hydrated and schedule your runs accordingly.

There are many more important things to know as a runner but this is a good place to start. Use this as an opportunity to explore your city, get away from screens, and, for fuck’s sake, try and enjoy yourself. E-mail me with questions, concerns, success stories, not-success stories and other suggestions! Remember, “can’t” is the real c-word.

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