Category Archives: Fitness

How Do You Know What To Do For Your Workout?

I’ve been asked this question quite a few times so it’s time to get some answers:

“What exercises should I do?”

I put this post together to help people find a little bit of direction when they’re trying to figure out, what they actually need to be doing to get where the want to go.



The tricky part in all of this, is that, depending on what you want to accomplish, the path to take is different, and while I can’t cover every possible exercise or routine that would work for everyone, I can give you some ideas on how you can build your own fitness plan that meets your unique situation and needs.

Advertisements

The best place to start, is in getting a solid understanding of what you want to accomplish. Some people just want to ‘lose weight‘ or ‘gain muscle mass‘ but the problem with that is that it’s not a very clear goal, and vague goals lead to vague results.

Vague goals, lead to vague results.

Wanting to just ‘gain muscle‘ is really a fairly general goal and I think it leads to this hang up on what you actually need to do to reach your goal. Instead, we should aim for goals that are a little more specific.

If you want to ‘lose weight‘ where do you want to lose it from? Some people want to focus on the mid-section, or their arms, maybe the lower body, or maybe all three places. It’s okay to want to improve in multiple areas but you need to be specific on what you want to accomplish.

If you want to ‘gain muscle mass‘ where do you want that muscle mass at? Are you looking for broader shoulders, a bigger chest, maybe bigger arms, or possibly all three? It’s better to have 3 specific goals you want to accomplish than 1 general goal.

Advertisements

Knowing what you want, in a very specific manner, is exactly where you want to start. And it’s important to understand that if you want to target multiple areas, you should do it in phases. What I mean is, don’t try to ‘gain muscle‘ in every single area of your body all at once. That’s going to lead you to burnout, which means eventually you’ll quit, and what good does that do?

Instead we need to focus on playing the long game. Start small, add as we go, and give our bodies a chance to adjust. Once you’ve got a good idea of what our goal is, and we’ve narrowed it down to something specific, the next thing you’ll want to do is identify a single exercise that works towards that goal.

For example, if you want to work on your mid-section. Start by adding crunches to your routine. Do 1 more crunch, than you did the day before, for 7 days straight. Don’t miss a single day.

If you want to build a bigger chest. Start by adding pushups to your routine. Do 1 more pushup, than you did the day before, for 7 days straight. Don’t miss a single day.

Advertisements

When you get to day 7, take 5 minutes and Google, “core exercises” or “body weight chest exercises” and click on the first article. Look for an exercise that looks interesting and add it to your routine. This is exactly how I’ve built every single one of my routines, ever. You start small, you research what you need, and you build into your routine.

This is exactly how I’ve built every single one of my routines, ever.

Now on day 8 you should have 2 exercises in your routine. Maybe you have crunches and heel touches, or maybe you have pushups and decline pushups. Your count for the first exercise should be up to 8 repetitions and for your new exercise it should start at 1. Do this for another week, and then add 1 more additional exercise that you’ve researched and are interested in.

Do this for about 5 weeks. This will give you 5 different exercises, all focusing on the goal you want to accomplish, but allowing your body to build up to it, and adapt to the increased challenge of the routine. When you get to week 6, look and see if you can change your routine by swapping out an exercise or adding additional sets.

Advertisements

This is enough information to get you started on any workout routine. What you’ll find is that building the routine isn’t all that hard, it’s starting it and sticking to it day-after-day that most people fail at. If you struggle in these areas I have plenty of tips on how to overcome those challenges.

Be sure to reach out to me on what is most challenging for you and follow below for more tips!

If you want more tips read: 3 Tips to Stick Your Workout


Fitness Invention Ab Rollers & Row Handles

I’ve recently obtained some new workout equipment (yay Christmas) from Fitness Invention and wanted to provide a follow up on the equipment, it’s quality, and my experience using it. You can catch the unboxing video on my Instagram account:

Let’s start with the Row Handles:

Fitness Invention Double D Handle Cable Attachment + 2 Gym Handles + 3 Snap Hooks – V Bar Cable Attachment – Close Grip Row Handle – V Handle Cable Attachment – Cable Machine Attachments for Gym

The Row Handles set comes with a great quality D Handle. It’s extremely solid and has some good weight to it. The grips are durable and help to maintain my hold on the bar when I’m mid workout, and starting to pick up a sweat. I really love the D Handle bar itself because it forces you to keep your form and hands tight to your chest on your pulls.

Advertisements

The Gym Handles are also really great quality. I’ve been using them for over a month, multiple times a week, and the material has held strong. The grips are softer and easier to squeeze, but mostly I’m impressed the material does so well when I get into my higher weight rows.

As a little extra, the set comes with some Carabiner clips that are some of the toughest I’ve used. My previous set would start the bend as I went up in weight. This set is solid. I think I could max out my pull machine with these clips and they’d still hold strong. The set comes with three clips, two medium and one large.

Now on to the Ab Roller:

Fitness Invention Ab Roller Wheel – 3-IN-1 Ab Wheel Roller with Knee Mat and Jump Rope – Ab Roller Wheel for Abdominal Exercise – Ab Workout – Home Workout Equipment – Abs Wheel Roller – Abs Roller

For starters, the great part about this Ab Roller is that it comes with some extra toys. You get the Jump Rope and Knee Pad as a bonus. When you consider what you’re paying and what you’re getting, this is already a steal.

When it comes to the Ab Roller itself. I love it and am using it every week. Assembly was incredible easy (see the Instagram video above). You just slide the two handles through the center and you’re done!

Advertisements

The quality of the roller is top notch as well. I’m weighing in at 190 lbs and the roller has no problem rolling with my weight. The foam handles are comfortable to grip and the way the roller is designed, it’s easy to roll to the left and right sides and target the obliques.

I highly recommend not just this Ab Roller but anything Fitness Invention. I’ve been scooping up more and more of their gear and every item has been top quality (plus the extra jump rope and knee pad you get)! Looking forward to trying out more and adding to my collection.

How To Get Past A Plateau

Everyone reaches a plateau eventually. It’s a normal part of the growing process, and not just physically, but in the world around us also. When we attempt to achieve or push towards a new goal and begin to rise, we inevitably hit a plateau moment.

And there’s a key a difference in people that continue their growth pattern and those that level off and settle on the plateau.

Identify when you’ve plateaued



The first piece to overcoming that plateau is really recognizing when you’ve hit it. In our exercise or our fitness routines it can be really easy to recognize when we’ve hit our plateau.

All you have to do is check if you’ve improved in the last couple of weeks. If you’ve noticed that your run times haven’t improved or you noticed that you’re no longer increasing your weight week-after-week, you’ve plateaued.

A plateau is a normal part of the the process

Advertisements

It’s important to understand that plateauing is a normal part of any process. It’s the result of our bodies and our minds adapting to the current situation to have a better chance of continuing to survive in that situation. The problem becomes when our goal isn’t to just survive but to grow, and our bodies and minds don’t quite follow that pattern naturally.

However what’s really important is how quickly we recognize that we are plateauing so that we can pivot as quickly as possible. I’ll talk more about pivoting in just a bit but the important piece right now is understanding that we want to know as soon as possible when we have leveled off. The sooner we recognize that we have slowed our growth, the faster we can change direction and get back on track.

It can be extremely tricky to identify when we’ve plateaued outside of fitness. How do you know when you’ve plateaued at your job? How do you know you’ve plateaued as a parent? How do you know you’ve plateaued at your hobby? The answer to these questions is the same way you know you’ve plateaued in your workouts. By measuring.

Track your efforts like you do your workouts

The only way we can really make a good decision that isn’t based on emotion or bias is to use quantifiable data. In our workouts we do this by recording time or our weights. In other life aspects this can be more complicated but we can still help give ourselves an idea of if we are on the right track.

You can do this by identifying a metric that you feel closely represents (not exactly) where you are getting your value from, and recording it every week just like you do your workouts.

Advertisements

Is your goal to learn to play the piano? Write down how many minutes you practice for every day. Is your goal to write a book? Write down how many words you write every day. Is your goal to be a better parent? Write down the number of times you do something you feel makes you a better parent.

By capturing this information and reviewing it each day, just like you do in a workout program, you can identify when you are improving and when you have plateaued.

Now, to actually get past the plateau…

Remember, our bodies and minds try to adapt to the particular situation we are putting them in and then from there they will level off when they feel good about that adaptation. To overcome this, we simply need to throw a wrench in the current routine.

Pivot your routine into something different

In exercise, when we are doing pushups and we get to a point where we just can’t seem to do any more day-after-day, we should switch to a different style of push up. We should purposefully do something that is similar, but slightly different. That’s the trick to over-coming a plateau.

Advertisements

So if you’re having trouble improving your long distance run times, try spiriting short distances. Having trouble improving swimming laps? Go ride a bike. Is your bowling game falling off? Try bowling left-handed. Struggling to think about what content to create for your next blog? Go off on a new topic.

Find ways to create change in your routines.

Don’t use the same tools and the same strategies every day!


Team USA!

The USA Weightlifting team is holding a sponsor giveaway!

They are giving away a ton of great gear that would be perfect for anyone that is looking to get some extra equipment to start the New Year. Entering to win is as easy as following this link and putting in your email address!

Click Here to Enter to Win USAW Equipment

They are giving away Backpack’s, Weightlifting Belts, Lifting Straps, Wrist Wraps, Protein Powders, Shaker Bottles, Protein Bars, and more.

It’s all free stuff and the purpose of the event is to raise awareness!

If you’re not familiar with Team USA they represent and host some of the USA’s greatest Olympic Athletes, which represents the US in a variety of competitive world events.

I’ve recently started competing in their online hosted weightlifting events. You can checkout my last month’s submission on my Instagram page:

If you’re interested in getting some new gear before the new year click the link! New Gear for the New Year!

If you’re interested in competing in the events or setting a new years resolution to get in shape, contact me at Howard.Joshua.R@gmail.com and I would be more than happy to help!

Carabiner Clips, Weightlifting Belts, & Posture Correctors

What a hefty title for a post…

I wanted to take a minute to post about some of the more recent equipment I’ve picked up in the last month and share some updates on it’s usage, quality, and how I’ve felt about it so far.



The first item on the list is the Fitness Invention: Rope & Handles kit.

Tricep Rope Cable Attachment 35 Inch with 2 Exercise Handles + 3 Carabiner Clips – Cable Machine Attachments – Tricep Pull Down Rope – Cable Attachments for Gym, Home Gym Accessories

I was actually only looking for a new Carabiner Clip, because the one I had currently was getting bent, when I stumbled across this kit. I had found a couple of others online but then I came across this nice little kit and at the time it was on sale so I went ahead and picked it up. I’ve made use out of it every week so far and it’s been really sturdy. The extra clips meant I didn’t have to move a single clip from the top of my machine back to the bottom or vice-versa, which was nice.

Advertisements

The handles and rope are both of a nice quality and I’ve been putting them to use with roughly 150+ lbs on the machine. I haven’t noticed any wear or tear and the products look like they will last quite a while. If you’re in the market for handles, a rope, or clips, this is a great set!

Next up on the list is the classic Weight Lifters Belt by RitFit:

RitFit Weight Lifting Belt – Great for Squats, Clean, Lunges, Deadlift, Thrusters – Men and Women – 6 Inch – Multiple Color Choices – Firm & Comfortable Lumbar Support

As I started adding deadlifts to me routine my lower back was giving me issues. I particularly noticed I would have more pain as I was coming off the rack with the weight for calf raises, so I wanted to get something that would help me get a little more support. Before I made my purchase I did a little research into just what belt would be the right fit.

I had used weightlifting belts for most of my high school sports career but I never really, fully grasped how they should be used. While looking into what belt would be best I learned that you actually want to inhale and really push your stomach into the belt to create pressure in your mid section, which gives you a stronger trunk when you lift heavy.

Advertisements

With that in mind I opted for this RitFit cloth belt as opposed to a leather one and I’ve been extremely satisfied with it. The cloth material is very comfortable and very easy to get around the mid-section. I feel like I can get a very deep inhale and really fill up the belt and push my stomach into it, which gives me really great support for squats. With this belt and a little bit of core work my lower back has already started feeling better.

And last but not least is the Snoky Posture Corrector:

Snoky Posture Corrector for Women and Men, Back Support Straightener, Shoulder Lumbar Adjustable Breathable and Posture Corrector for Improve Posture, for Neck, Back and Shoulder Pain Relie

I picked this item up because I’m a classic desk jockey spending a lot of time behind the keyboard. I wanted to grab something that would help give me some extra support so I could try and improve some of my lower back pain I was experiencing.

I’m not as in love with this item as the previous two. While it does provide good support and does help you try and keep your posture right, it’s a little inconvenient to take on and off. The extra belt across the mid-section is nice but also not easy to slip on-and-off between video meetings.

Advertisements

Overall I do think this is a decent product I just think I would have been better off, personally, getting something that is a little quicker to throw on. The material is very nice but I noticed I would get a little hot or sweaty from the mid-section belt which means it’s probably not great to wear all day long under your clothes.

I would highly recommend the Fitness Invention Handles & Rope Kit and the RitFit Weightlifter’s Belt if you’re looking for any type of similar item. You might like the Snoky Posture Corrector if you don’t need to take it on or off many times a day. If there’s an interest in more reviews on this type of equipment let me know and I’ll keep sharing items I pick up as I build my home gym!


How To Gain Mass By Eating Right On Pennies (Part II)

Read Part I Here



In Part I, we covered some of the early stages of getting on the right track to gain mass. Starting small and working towards a bigger goal is always ideal so long as you continue to make progress. After going from skipping most meals to starting to eat breakfast I shifted my focus towards lunch.

Now again, historically, I wasn’t a lunch eater. Really my biggest hang up with lunch was two-fold. Having the time to eat it, and then not letting lunch put me into a food coma by the early afternoon. I wanted to really avoid grains and greasy foods as much as possible since these tended to put me in that food coma.

I started by making my lunches consist of either a small $3 steak or frozen fish. I always went with one or the other and used it as a way to gain some variety in my meals. I also consistently switched up the type of fish I was eating just to keep things from being too boring. In all honesty, the lack of complexity in the meals really did make things easier.

Advertisements

In addition to the main protein I added in some brown rice and cottage cheese. Getting enough fiber in any diet can be extremely difficult so the brown rice was a good supplement for that. The cottage cheese was just an additional boost of protein but ultimately I ended up swapping it out for a can of beans to avoid the dairy intake. Here is my rice of choice:

Minute Instant Brown Rice, 14 oz

Now that I had breakfast and lunch covered I started to iterate over my meal plan. As the weeks went on I adjusted and added in things or took things out. Once I was consistently hitting my breakfast goal I started adding in eggs. Eggs are very cheap and a great source of protein. The only problem was… I learned I had an egg allergy.

This forced me to substitute out the eggs but I didn’t want to lose the protein gain that I was getting from them so I opted to go with some slightly more expensive protein waffles and I smothered them in peanut butter. The ‘Kashi GO’ brand of waffle is pretty good for the price. The real winner here though is peanut butter. Any brand of peanut butter will do and the cheaper the better. I typically just go with a knock off store brand.

Amazon Brand – Happy Belly Creamy Peanut Butter, 16 Ounce

Lunch was the next target to iterate on. Dairy has always been a love-hate relationship type of thing for me and the cottage cheese was starting to get more expensive than I preferred. Again, protein was the name of the game so I wanted to swap it out with something that would keep the protein count high.

Canned beans for the win! You can grab a can of beans at any local grocery store and depending on what brand, they can easily fall under $1. There’s also an enormous amount of options when it comes to beans so you’ll get some extra variety there too. Bush’s tends to be a good one to go with.

Bush’s Best black beans Frijoles Negros – 15 Ounce (12)

At this point I felt like my meals were pretty set, as far as breakfast and lunch. I still ate whatever the rest of the family ate for dinner and because I was slowly building into this meal plan a bit each week I was able to keep it going steadily forward increasing my protein and calorie intake without spending a lot of cash.

I had two more spots that I wanted to add into my meal plan though to really help me top off my protein intake and also get some more variety into my diet like fruits and vegetables. For my morning snack I went with a 12-Grain bread made by Lewis. I couldn’t find this one on Amazon but these types of specialty breads tend to be cheaper than regular bread. You’ll also benefit from the extra fiber of a whole grain bread. PS… smother that bad boy in peanut butter too!

For my afternoon snack I focused on getting my veggie and fruit intake. A protein smoothie is ideal here. You can really get creative when it comes to your smoothies so I would go with whatever you think will work and do some experimentation.

I typically go with some sort of a milk or almond milk along with a Greek yogurt or frozen yogurt. I use store brands for all of these. I’ll then add in frozen spinach or kale and frozen strawberries or pineapple, which ever is cheaper at the store that week, along with a banana. Add in a scoop of peanut butter and some protein powder and you’re set.

Advertisements

This has been my diet for the last 3 months and I expect it to continue to be for a while. Meal planning always failed me in the past and trying to do all that work to create these outlandish meals for the week never worked out. Keeping things as simple as possible and as cheap as possible has been what really worked!

And if you’re thinking it sound boring to eat the same meals day-after-day it really hasn’t been. Instead of trying to figure out what I’m going to eat and then misstepping and eating something that really didn’t give me any energy was a bigger problem than getting bored.

It’s so much easier to just know what you’re going to have and have it, so you can get back to your day. Besides, I still have dinner to throw in some variety and because I ate pretty healthy all day, I don’t feel as guilty to go ham on some tacos at night.

If you’ve found some cheap and healthy alternatives in your diet let me know! I’m always looking for ways to add something new in or swap something out that might be better!


How To Gain Mass By Eating Right On Pennies (Part I)

Historically… I’ve been the skinny nerd type most of my life. Sure I played plenty of sports, but I have always been thin with low muscle mass. Anytime I tried to bulk up and put on weight, I would fail miserably.



I tried weight gainer shakes in my early twenties, I tried various bulking diets in my late twenties, and by my thirties I’d pretty much given up on ever having any real size

That all changed for me in the last 3 months. I went from 165 lbs at 6 foot tall, to a wild 195 lbs, gaining 30 lbs of weight. I want to share how that changed for me and what steps I took to finally increase my size for anyone else out there that has been naturally thin and wants to put on a little bulk.

Advertisements

The first thing I really had to do was figure out what other people were doing to gain mass and by other people, I don’t mean some guy on the internet writing a blog (like me… lol) no I mean like how the big dogs like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne Johnson were doing it.

I didn’t want to just take advice from someone who had only been going too the gym for a while (which is also what you’re doing by reading this… lol) I wanted to get it straight from the horses mouth so I basically just sat down and started reading up on what they were doing. What were they eating, how were they lifting, and what their strategy was. Once I had that, I pretty much had the blueprint for what I needed to do to reach my goal.

If you’re curious, their strategies are basically just to eat a shit ton of food and then go hit the weights a shit ton. That’s pretty much what I’ve done except I took that blue print and applied it to my own life. Do I do it exactly like they do? No way, not even close, but I did take that blueprint and used it as my guide.

Once I had a game plan I started by identifying areas I was already failing in or weak in. I started with what I was doing wrong instead of starting with what I needed to do. In most cases, I think we always know what we need to do, that’s typically not the problem. The problem to achieving most of our goals is knowing how to remove the hurdles that prevent us from reaching them. So that’s what I did.

Advertisements

I was a 10+ year smoker, I stayed up late every night, and slept in most weekends. I skipped breakfast and most of the time fasted through lunch. It wasn’t until about dinner time that I would eat and then it was junk food from there on out. Oh also I didn’t actually workout.

So those were all of the things I needed to change… easy right?

Next I planned out what I needed to start doing that I wasn’t doing before, so that I could get to where I wanted to go. I knew I needed to eat more so I plotted out 4 meals in my day. These 4 meals would be the same, every single day (which really just made it easy) and dinner would be whatever.

I added in a morning workout instead of an evening one and then I plotted out what was going to push me to do all of this. I’ve previously written about how to find a motivator in my prior post: Find You Why. Repeat Your Why and have gone into deeper detail to what motivated me personally.

Next steps were just to simply execute.

I started out by quitting smoking cold turkey and just replacing that with my meals. I don’t want to pass this off as something I did easily. It wasn’t easy and I was challenged every day by it. Powerful Why’s will take you far. Read the two links above if you want to read more on how I quit smoking.

Breakfast started out really small, I mean like really small. With just a bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal is cheap and a great source of nutrition you just have to be careful to watch out for some of the name brands as they can be loaded with sugar. I like Better Oats and the apple version is top notch.

Here’s the link on Amazon:

Better Oats Bundle: (1) Apples & Cinnamon 9.8oz, (1) Maple and Brown Sugar 9.8oz (2 Boxes Total)

It comes out to just under a dollar for breakfast every day. Not bad.

After breakfast I would head to the gym and get my workout out in. I would always have a glass of water with me and I went ahead and ordered creatine to mix into it to help give me an extra boost. I was basically looking to give myself every edge I could.

I go with this one because it’s fairly cheap and nothing fancy:

BulkSupplements Creatine HCL Powder (100 Grams)

After a couple of days I decided to add another wrinkle to my plan and include a slice of toast with peanut butter shortly after my workout. I can’t stress enough how much you have to learn to fall in love with peanut butter. I am not a fan of peanut butter. I’m still not. BUT you get a lot of bang for your buck with peanut butter. It’s cheap and can go on just about anything.

I also doubled up and included a protein shake. There are a lot of different flavors out there and some of them are miserable. You just kind of have to shop around to find something you like but I highly recommend Banana if you can find it.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder, Extreme Milk Chocolate, 2 Pound (Packaging May Vary)

I’ve got quite a bit more to cover so I will follow up with a Part II in the next couple of days.

I will leave you with this little bit of advice, start small. Don’t try to make all of your changes in one day. Find a blue print (someone else who has done it) and use that as your guide BUT I say start small because you need to be able to adjust and modify your plan to fit your life. If you try to take someone else’s plan and just paste it into your life there’s good chance you’ll fail.

Let me know if you have any questions so far and I’ll cover them in Part II!

Read Part II Here