Okay, this is the first of my series on how I exercise to perfect athletic perfection. Yeah, that works. This has nothing to do with nutrition and dieting, which is critical to my program. I’ve covered those before and may come up with a comprehensive or condensed approach later. This is about getting physical – where the muscle meets the dumbbells. Here goes:
Nothing herein should be considered professional exercise advice. Like my legal education columns, that’s what this is – my experiences in the gym based on what works for me. If and when you get started, first seek out the professional advice of a physician and/or and trainer. Having said that, I was once a certified personal trainer and I used to bodybuild, powerlift, run and do martial arts, so my knowledge is grounded in solid facts. Also, consider that what works for me may not be perfect for you. Modify all my plans according to your requirements.
Generally, I have four daily routines: 1) arms and shoulders; 2) back and chest; 3) legs; and 4) cardio and resting. I vary these up as I feel necessary but I usually keep the rotation the same. Herein, I will outline day one.
Day one, as all days is really divided into five parts. First, there’s the weight session, which I’ll get to (day one wise) in a moment. Second, I work my “core” every day. Core means the muscles of the stomach, the obliques (sides), and the lower back. I usually start with a crunch machine. I do several sets of 20 to 30 repetitions at a modern weight. Next I use a special machine which forces you to use your side in order to twist your lower body. Again, I keep the weight relatively low and strive for higher numbers of twists. This device makes my feel the best or tightest around the waist. I’ve noticed significant firmness has developed both as I’ve burned off 50 pounds of fat while strengthened my core. This has resulted in my dropping nine pants sizes.
After I twist, I do back extensions on a weight machine. Again, it’s more reps and lower weights that provides the right stress for optimal results. The worst thing one can do is overload a body part or group of muscles as this will result in imbalance or, worse, injury. Keep it low, slow, and consistent.
I end the abs work with more crunches (straight and to the sides) on another machine which uses the body’s weight against itself, a similar approach to the lowe back, and crunches while hanging upside down (what a burn!).
The third function is cardiovascular work. For me this means anywhere from ten minutes to an hour on the track or an exercise machine. My favorite is the elliptical machine as it’s easy on the joints and provides an added kick over mere walking or running. Moving increases one’s heart rate. There is a range of heartbeats per minute that ranges from resting (60-80 bpm) to fat burning (80-120 bpm) to aerobic (120-180 bpm) to heart attack (180+ bpm). This range is based, of course, on my age and size.
I start off by jacking up my heart rate to the safest maximum (sometimes right to the edge of comfort). I do this my going as fast as I can against as much resistance as I can stand. I work up from “level” 7 or 8 to level 20 and go as fast as possible. This takes five to ten minutes, burns over 100 calories alone, and makes me sweat and pant profusely. Then, I gradually law off the exertion and lower my bpm (heart beats per minute) back tot he fat burning range. This I sustain for as long as I have time for. At the end I cool off and slow down. This is essential for lowering my heart rate to a level where I don’t get dizzy from hanging upside down.
Inverting is stage four, along with general stretching. Both of these processes easy joint and muscle strain and give a meditation-like clarity of mind. While hanging I contort into all sorts of positions so as to smooth out every strain and ache. Just hanging there does wonders. This sets the stage for part five:
This last phase is the spa treatment, including steaming and a relaxing shower. After all of this I literally skip out feeling 20 years younger.
And, now, the weights:
I start with shoulders on most first days as it requires the use of the arms and other supporting parts. I find it’s better to do this first (not always) before progressing to arms.
The shoulders can be divided roughly into two main sections: the trapezius and subclavical muscles (those descending from the neck) and the deltoids (the muscles over the arms). All of these are worked over while doing exercises for other body parts.
For the trapezius class I start most days with standing or seated shrugs. This involves shrugging the shoulders upwards towards the ears as far as comfort and range of motion allows. This can be accomplished either with free weights like dumbbells or the use of a machine which pivots. As with core work, I do 3 or 4 sets of repetitions at a moderate weight. For added work I progress the weights heavier with each progressive set.
(Shoulder shrugs. A little light for Perrin – ha!. Google.)
Next I do some sort of movement that requires lifting a weight from the waist up to the chin area by bending the arms outwards. This works all muscles in the front and back of the shoulders as well as the deltoids.
For deltoids and an overall push I do shoulder presses or “military” presses: lifting a weight overhead. I also isolate the delts using free weights raised in various positions – front, sides, and rear – for overall effect.
(Side Deltoid Raises. Google.)
The triceps are the “u” shaped muscles (3-parts, thus “tri”) in the back of the upper arm. These are generally worked by extending the arms downwards, upwards, or backwards while standing or on a bench and by pressing down on a fixed weight. The same rules of sets, reps, and resistance applies here.
(Downward tricept extentions with cable weight. Google.)
(Tricep presses or push down on machine. Google Images.)
My arms are stronger than average. Thus, when doing presses like the one pictured here I have run into the odd problem of being able to press or lift more than my bodyweight at the end of the cycle. I can generally do this for 10 to 12 reps – once I contort and force the weight and my body down into a seated position.
The biceps are the tow-part muscles on the front of the upper arm. These are the “guns” that everyone flexes to show how strong they are. Biceps are toned by curling a weight up from a straight armed position to a fully bent arm with the weight on the level of one’s eyes.
I mix up a combination of free weights (both single dumbbells and a single bar) and seated machines which use either one or both arms.
(This dude is doing single arm curls with dumbbells. Google.)
(Seated “preacher” curls (over a pulpit) on machine. Google.)
I love the curls in the above picture. Again, I can use more than my own weight here. This one impresses the ladies and frightens off fellow males like no other. Ha!!!
One note I need to interject at this point is how to lift any weight. There are three parts to a lift: concentric, eccentric, and excentric movements. This, in layman’s terms means: 1) slowing lifting the weight to begin with; 2) holding a flex at the “top” of the lift; and 3) slowly lower the weight and stretching the muscle(s) worked. It is advisable breathe out while raising the weight and inhale while lifting.
The forearms are often neglected by many people. They do get flexed while doing a variety of upper-body routines but they benefit tremendously from isolated exercise. Large, powerful forearms give a manly look to the body. They can be worked with dumbbells during the curl routine. This is accomplished by rolling the weight up or to either side while holding the arm down and straight.
There is also a machine which holds weight plates. One sits behind the plates and squeezes a set of handles together with the hands. This is similar to the old-fashioned spring grip gadget. The maneuver is usually overhanded but sometimes I use a lighter weight with my palms facing up to burn each forearm individually. However you do it, it’s important to work the entire arm all the way around. Doing so will provide added stability for other exercises and strengthens the wrists and hands. The next time some jerk tries to crush your hand in a handshake you can crush back with confidence.
After all these, I do the core and other ancillary work. Sometimes I will add in an exercise for another part if I feel I didn’t hit it sufficiently the last time. Again, there is no set formula, just a general routine which benefits from the occasional shakeup.
Alright, turn the computer off and hit the gym. You’ll thank me later!