Today is a cool, crisp Spring day in New York City, but in nine weeks it’s July 4th Weekend and summer will be in full swing. Time to move the jackets and sweaters into the bottom drawers and the backs of closets and move the tank tops and box cuts to center stage. No more hiding under layers of clothes. Time to show some skin and get some sun. And along with all of this comes the immediate desire for dramatic physical change.
At Empower Fitness, we’re busy helping our clients do exactly that – from our fashion models and celebrities, to our “soccer moms” and business executives - everyone’s mindset seems to have shifted to “lets do this NOW”.
I'm here to help. This is the second week of Empowering tips on nutrition and exercise to get you fitting into that tight speedo by the time you’re invited to the first pool party of the summer. Follow the tips I’ll outline here over the next nine weeks and you’ll be ready for the beach - whether your “beach” is pier at Christopher Street, the pool at the Soho House or the white sands of Fire Island Pines.
If you read my post here last week and have started to implement some of the nutrition strategies that I suggested, two things should have already happened. One is very obvious and the other is going on in the background even though you don’t know it.
First, you should have more energy in general. And if you were prone to those mid-afternoon energy crashes, they should be going away, yielding more consistent energy throughout the day.
That enhanced feeling of more energy is symptomatic of the second thing that is happening in your body, though you will not have seen its effects yet. When you think of your body as a furnace and throw in a healthy mix of fuel every three to three-and-a-half hours, your energy levels remain high and consistent because your metabolism is increasing; you are burning calories more efficiently. You are CREATING a faster metabolism, in essence changing your body from a fat-storage machine to a fat-burning machine. When your body is working for you instead of against you, everything becomes much easier.
The next step in building the lean, toned body you desire is to add exercise into the mix.
There are two pieces to this puzzle and I find that most people fail because they focus on only one. First, you need to add lean tissue (muscle) to your body. Then, you need to strip away the excess fat that lies in and around the lean tissue. That’s it. While doing this may not be easy, it is SIMPLE.
For the next three weeks, we are going to start phase one of the exercise program with the goal of adding muscle to the body. Whether your goal is to be bigger and more muscular or to slim down and tone up, the first part of the program is the same. Adding muscle to the body is often desired for it’s own sake, but it also a required first step even if your only goal is fat loss. Muscle is also the only place in your body where fat is burned, in the energy centers (Mitochondria) of each and every muscle cell. So adding muscle to your body also helps you to burn more fat without doing anything else, even while you are sleeping. It’s true.
For more general information on exercise so that you can understand why this will work for you, download my Empowered Fitness Concepts - The password is Metabolism. In this document, you will find many of the terms that will be used as we progress with our exercise program. I think you will find it very helpful.
We are going to start out very simply, with a full-body exercise program to be done three times each week, never two days in a row (so, for example, Monday, Wednesday, Friday). We are going to be doing some of the best exercises for the major muscle groups so that you can experience the most change, in the most efficient way, spending minimal time in the gym for maximal results.
If you don’t have experience with strength training, it might be helpful to hire a personal trainer at first so that you make sure you’re getting the form right and doing the exercises safely. If you feel more confident, you might just Google the exercises and watch a video of the correct form on Youtube. In any case, if you have not been exercising, it is essential to check with your physician before embarking on a new fitness regimen.
Here is the basic program that I give to my beginning exercisers. It is very simple and yet very effective.
Olympic Bar Squat or Dumbbell Squat
Dumbbell Chest Press
Dumbbell One-Arm Row
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press
Standing Dumbbell Biceps Curl
Lying Dumbbell Triceps “French” Press
Physioball Crunch (Video on my Downloads Page)
Before you begin, it is important to warm up for 5-10 minutes by jogging on treadmill, using and elliptical machine or a bicycle. This raises your heart rate, pumping more blood into the muscles so that they literally get warm and ready to safely work hard. Additionally, for the first two exercises in the workout, do a warm-up set with about half the weight you think you can do for twenty repetitions.
This week, we are going to perform one set of twenty repetitions (plus the warm-up set for the first two exercises) of each exercise in the program. It is important to choose a weight that will allow you to JUST complete twenty repetitions with good form. If you can only complete fifteen, the weight is too heavy. If you could have completed twenty-five repetitions, the weight is too light. Don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect the first time - this will quickly correct itself as you move into your next workout and understand more about how strong you are for each movement. Rest for one minute between each set.
In order to improve from workout to workout, it is important to understand the principle of Progressive Resistance; that is, if you complete twenty repetitions at a given weight in your first workout, you should go up to the next weight increment in your next workout. Doing so ensures that you will get stronger and add lean muscle tissue with each and every workout.
A good rule of thumb for progressing your weights, would be ten pound increments for exercise one, five pound increments for exercises two, three and four, and two-and-a-half pound increments for exercises five and six. For exercise seven, once you can complete twenty repetitions, adding just five pounds of weight (as in the video) will make a big difference.
One more extremely helpful tip, something that is so simple yet so often neglected, is to write down each and every set, weight and rep completed. Failing to do this will have a big negative impact on your program because you will not be able to progress correctly if you are guessing what you did in the last workout. I give every single client with whom I work a tracking sheet for their program. I am amazed when I see that more than ninety percent of people (and nearly as many trainers) fail to keep simple records. Trust me when I say that you simply will not remember correctly from workout to workout, especially as the program becomes more complicated and additional sets are added and the order of the exercises changes.
Following your strength training workout this week, I recommend just twelve minutes of cardio, but it is important to do your cardio in a manner that burns the most fat. I always recommend Interval Training. More on this can be found on my download page. Again “Metabolism” is the password.
You will be off to a great start if you follow my program this week. I will updating the workout each week for the duration of this ten-week blog on getting in shape for summer. You will notice that each element builds on the previous one, giving you a complete program, a road-map, for getting from where you are to where you want to be. After we focus the first three weeks on adding some lean tissue to your body and revving up your metabolism, the nutrition and exercise program will change dramatically with a new focus on shedding fat (and weight) as summer approaches. I hope you will stay with me. I am looking forward to hearing about YOUR ten-week success story.
Greg Rothman, MS PT, is a fitness professional, author and the owner of Empower Fitness Studios in NYC. He received his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Columbia University and has twenty years of experience in the fitness and rehabilitation fields. He believes that absolutely anyone can have the body of their dreams once they understand how to eat and exercise in a way that supports their goals. It is his mission to Empower as many people as possible to do just that. Greg is happy to hear from you if you have questions about any topic related to fitness or nutrition, and can be found at www.GetEmpoweredFitness.com.
Greg Rothman, MS PT, is a fitness professional, writer and the owner of Empower Fitness in NYC. He received his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Columbia University and has twenty years of experience in the fitness and rehabilitation fields. He believes that absolutely anyone can have the body of their dreams once they understand how to eat and exercise in a way that supports their goals. It is his mission to Empower as many people as possible to do just that. His “Recession-Proof” Fitness Programs are an affordable way to find dramatic physical change over the course of 10 weeks. Greg is happy to hear from you if you have questions about any topic related to fitness or nutrition, and can be found at www.GetEmpoweredFitness.com.