My High Intensity 100s Routine

I’ve received several requests from people on facebook about my current routine, which I’ve been calling 100s but I’m sure has a more appropriate name that someone actually in kinesiology can generate (my PhD is in English, thanks. I’ll leave this fancy “science” stuff to others).

The premise of this regime is that 1) I hate cardio, 2) I want to maximize the value of my time, and 3) HIIT is a really effective way to burn fat. It also came about because, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, my goals just weren’t being met by lifting the way I was lifting (weird huh? Lifting slow and heavy like a bodybuilder made me gain weight. There goes that science™ stuff again). What this program does is combines HIIT with weight lifting so that I get my strength training in, but overlap it with my cardio in a way that doesn’t feel like cardio and thus I don’t hate it. It’s not designed to bulk, but my strength is better… significantly better. This kind of workout is unusual enough that the muscles will definitely respond to the stimulus and you’ll make some gains in both strength and endurance.

So here it is. My 100s routine.

The basic outline is that for each muscle group, you do 1 main motion in the 100s patters: 10 sets of 10. You follow up this main motion with 2 secondary motions that follow a different pattern: 3 sets to failure. For the 100s, you want to pick a weight that is about 60% of your regular 10 rep weight to make sure you get through the whole routine. For the 3TF sets, go with the weight you’d normally used for 10 reps (Important caveat: you won’t, or shouldn’t, get 10 reps out of the weight even though you normally would expect to. Keep in mind, you just did 100 reps on bench… don’t be mad if you can’t jam out your regular on incline bench).

The routine lasts 6-8 weeks, but here’s the trick, and where the HIIT part comes in: you aren’t paying attention to weight for this routine like you would for a regular workout. You’re paying attention to rest periods. For the 100s, on week 1 you begin with 60 seconds of rest between sets. Every week you should shave off 10 seconds of rest – you’ll notice this will keep your heart rate elevated and you in the cardio/fat burning range. On the 7th week of this routine, you’ll be jamming through a set of 100 reps with no rest… That’s a lot of increased stamina! And you’ll get your cardio at the same time.

Some caveats apply that I’ll explain at the end.

Workout 1: Bench Press (10×10), Dumbbell Incline Press (3TF), Low Chest Cable Cross (3TF). Lat Pulldown (10×10), Cable Row (3TF), Barbell Pullover (3TF). Crunch (10×20)

Workout 2: Squat (10×10), Hack Squat (3TF), Leg Extension (3TF), Leg Curl (3TF). Tricep Press (10×10), Reverse Grip Tricep Press (3TF), Forearm Curls (10×20).

Workout 3: Barbell Shoulder Press (10×10), Upright Row (3TF), Bent Over Shoulder Fly (3TF). Standing Barbell Curls (10×10… I use the Bicep Blaster accessory for this), Seated Incline Curls (3TF), Hammer Curls (3TF). Calf Presses (10×20).

Workout 4: Bench Press (10×10), Incline Barbell Press (3TF), Incline Fly (3TF). Lat Pulldown (10×10), 1 Arm Row (3TF), 1 Arm Pulldown (TF). Decline Crunch (10×20).

Workout 5: Squats (10×10), Static Lunges (3TF), Leg Extension (3TF), Glute Machine Kickback (3TF). Tricep Press (10×10), Rope Press (3TF). Forearm Curl (10×20), Forearm Extension (10×20).

Workout 6: Shoulder Press (10×10), Bent Over Shoulder Fly (3TF), Reverse Pec Deck (3TF), Shrugs (10×10). Dumbbell Curls (10×10). Calf Press (10×20).

Caveats: You’ll notice that the pairings are fairly random. That’s fine. Go with it. You’ll also notice that you do muscle groups twice a week and that the pairings make for a very difficult second round sometimes. That’s fine. Remember: weight doesn’t matter as much as volume (reps) and rest periods. So if you’re weaker on Workout 4 because you killed shoulders on Workout 3, just go with it. Get your reps in and take your rests short. Pre-exhaustion of that muscle is actually really helpful! Finally, you will notice that core, calf, and forearm exercises are listed as 10×20… This is because those areas need much, much more volume than normal muscles in order to respond. Half the reason guys have tiny little calves is because they don’t realize that calves need a ton more work as a rule because they are a support muscle.

Enjoy! It’s really working for me so far… Which is nice because God knows it’s rough for me to cut, even at the best of times.

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Pyramids and Bridges: My Lean-Bulking Spring Workout

Part of this blog is a meandering discussion of body image and all that, but part of it is fitness based because a great many people ask me for fitness advice: either specific to their own bodies or just curious to know what I do myself. So I thought I’d describe my current routine for Spring.

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Do I Really Need Weights?

I was contacted recently by more than one person asking about weight loss. They were now as I had been years ago: very overweight and searching for solutions to their obesity. A question that keeps coming up for people – men usually contact me, but it’s also especially prevalent among women trying to lose weight – is whether or not they should even be lifting weights. For women, there is this fear that lifting weights will turn her into She Hulk in no time, and for both men and women there is a fear that somehow lifting weights will be a waste of time inasmuch as it distracts from the person’s primary goal of losing weight (presumably through a few hours of mind-killing cardio).

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Lets talk a little about why these fears are unfounded.

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Those First 10

I sometimes wonder about the focus of fitness magazines as I’m walking through the store and see them on the rack. I’ve mentioned before that I think the industry misses the mark a lot of the time with regards to overweight people, and the lines of fitness magazines on the rack at the grocery store are a good example of just how. A lot of the articles you’ll see are about that last 10 or 15 pounds, or how to “finally” shed that belly fat… But what about the guy who is just getting started? It seems to me as if fitness magazines will be one of the first resources that a fat guy picks up when he wants to lose weight – it was the first thing I picked up, after all. They’re visible, they’re accessible, and they’re relatively low-investment… but they also tend to focus on guys near the top of their game. Which is fine, in some ways: that’s part of the mission of Men’s Health and their declared readership. But I think fitness magazines – men’s magazines in particular, since I think women’s mags do a slightly better job of this – would be well served to push the border a little and try to rope in the casual or even beginning health nut. What if someone is just “interested” but not a committed follower?

In a world obsessed with losing that last 10 pounds to finally see that washboard stomach for beach season, what’s a guy to do if his problem is tackling that first ten pounds?

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Self-Selecting Beautiful People

I was thinking about this the other day in connection with my last post about Cheat Days, but also because I had been browsing the magazine rack at the grocery store and saw Adam Levine on the cover of Men’s Health and got irritated that the feature article was about torching fat. The fitness industry, like many groups and professional spheres, has a pretty steep selection and confirmation bias. Which normally wouldn’t be a big deal except that in fitness, this bias will keep people who need the most help from getting it. Let’s walk through what I mean.

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For Everything a Season

I was talking recently to a friend of mine who wanted some advice about supplements to take. Actually, about 4 friends asked me in the span of a couple days the same kind of question about supplementation. So while I do want to talk some more about supplementation and specifically what I do and why – and some of the science behind it – but first a kind of general overview of how I’ve come to see fitness in general: from supplementation to weight training to eating and everything surrounding those. In short: the body craves variety.

My friends’ questions usually had something to do with them being dissatisfied with their current supplements – in most cases a pre-workout – and they wanted advice about what to change to. When I get this kind of question, my answer is usually that what you change to is not as important as that you change to something. The idea behind the question is that they must be using the wrong product or an inferior product. Well that could be true – there’s nothing to say that all pre-workout supplements are always effective for everyone or are even very good as a rule – but sometimes they just need to change products.

The secret of the body is that it is very efficient at not doing much work. The scientific description of this is “the body is always moving toward equilibrium” but that’s a fancy way of saying that the body gets bored and stops changing. This is true for a wide range of stimuli.

Have you ever noticed that as you sit wherever you are sitting reading this that you aren’t “hearing” every sound that goes on around you? You may only hear the humm of your computer or the click of your mouse. But if you stop you can probably pick out the whirr of appliances, the subtle buzz of light bulbs, the creak of the building, your own breathing and heartbeat. All these stimuli get filtered out, though, and you only really register unusual sounds. For a long list of sensations, the body has a way of pushing them to the background and only responding to the new.

Now my friends all were using different kinds of pre-workout supplements (a pre-workout, for those who don’t know, is basically a stimulant to give you more energy to work out, though some of them have other effects as well) but in most cases they had been using them for a few months. After a while, though, the body can get used to a regular diet of supplements like these. They lose their effectiveness as the body begins to expect, then ignore, the stimulant. Any of you coffee drinkers may recognize this from your daily coffee. It’s always best the first time! So when people ask about a pre-workout supplement I’ll give my own recommendation (I have favorites for reasons I’ll discuss elsewhere) but also say that they can’t really go too wrong by just switching. They’ve become immune to the effect and need to cycle to something else.

gym-workoutThis is just like what I said about weight lifting. In order to be growing, you have to have variety at every level. People lifting weights will hit a plateau usually because they have been doing the same thing for too long. The body gets used to it, expects it, then ignores it. It’s why I always change what I’m doing in some way every 6-8 weeks. Longer than that and the body just stops working.

So if you find yourself sitting in place but working incredibly hard – be it with supplements or with weight training or even with eating – you may ask yourself how long you have been doing things the same way. Usually if you’ve been at it more than 2 months, then your body has adapted. Changing – almost in any direction, honestly – will jar the body out of its stasis and get it growing again.

3 Exercises You’re Doing Wrong (And Why)

A friend and former student of mine was asking me a question today that dovetails with something I’ve been thinking about for a while. He contacted me through facebook and told me that he had strained his neck doing lat pulldowns and wanted to know 1) how he had done that and 2) how he could avoid doing that in the future. Basically I suggested that he was probably doing the exercise wrong, but wrong for reasons that he (and most people) aren’t aware of.

When someone is doing an exercise incorrectly, there are only a few reasons why that might be the case. The first is that they simply don’t know how the exercise is done. For some motions, like Deadlift or Squat, this can be both an easy mistake and a very dangerous one. The form for both of these motions is deceptively specific, as it should be, since failing to do this motion correctly can lead to serious and long term lower back injuries. The second (though not necessarily mutually exclusive) reason is that the wrong way of doing it is just easier and lets you do more weight and feel like you’re doing something impressive. But the reason it is easier – and the reason that way is wrong – may be surprising. And it ties in with how my friend hurt his neck.

I told him, “If you strained your neck, you may have been using too much weight. When you strain a muscle that doesn’t seem to be used for a given motion, it means that your body is recruiting secondary muscles to get through that motion (because the primary ones aren’t up to the job). It’s gonna hurt for a minute, but it’ll get better in a week or so. In the future, watch your weight and make sure your form is flawless. If you have good form in a motion, then your body can’t recruit other muscles (and if you can’t do a motion with good form, lighten the weight!)”

So let’s look at three different exercises that a lot of people are doing wrong and why they’re wrong.

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