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.



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).

she hulk

Lets talk a little about why these fears are unfounded.

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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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Bodybuilding: Week 4

(Previous week: 1, 2, 3)

Here after week 3 I’m beginning to wonder if every week is a mixed bag! Some things were great and some things were not. Though perhaps the things that weren’t great were mostly just perception and not reality – holdovers from when I was seriously fat that I haven’t quite shaken yet.

I’ll explain.

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My Bodybuilding Routine

So I’m a little late on this (since I’m a couple weeks in), but I wanted to throw up a post about what my lifting routine is and why I make some of the choices I made. I’ve already described briefly what I think are the building blocks of making a lifting routine, so those rules still control, but here I’ll describe how that actually payed out in my decision making regarding my bodybuilding goals.

I’ll walk through my decision process step by step, then give an outline of the whole routine.

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My Current Fitness Routine

I want to get back to some narrative over the next few days – the narrative really helps frame why I make the decisions I make – but part of this is laying out what my routine and dissecting it for everyone’s benefit; my own most of all. But I also want to give people something useful they can sink their teeth into. The narrative is interesting and it frames the information, but part of what I’m doing here is teaching. I want readers to be able to go through the blog and say they know something useful about overcoming obesity.

So having described in a previous post how my diet was before I began my bodybuilding goal, I’ll describe in greater detail what I’m doing now and why. I’ll also go over the basis of my lifting routine as a followup to this post and this post about exercise.

Eating: Carbohydrate Cycling

I alluded to this before and I’ll be expanding on the science behind it later, but I’ll be doing a carbohydrate cycling regime (married slightly with Intermittent Fasting). Here are the basics.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that refined carbohydrates are the source of most dietary problems. In a range of ways I think that starches and simple sugars are the root of most of the nutritional damage we do to our bodies, and so most of my eating outlines these days will involve limiting starches in some way. Eliminating carbohydrates can be a way to accelerate fat loss since carbohydrate intake (and the resulting insulin reaction) is at the root of why the body stores fats. Our muscles, however, require some amount of sugar in the form of glycogen to power locomotion (in addition to the small amounts required for the brain to function), so some carbohydrates are necessary. One way to get around this obstacle is the Atkins direction: by eliminating carbs almost entirely and relying on the body to make its own sugars (through a process called glyconeogenesis). Another can be versions of The Zone which keep track of the glycemic value of the foods one eats.

Carb cycling takes a different route that appealed to me because of the “cycling” part. Like I said before, I tend to incorporate a cheat day into my eating habits. Well on a carb cycling regimen, what one basically does is drastically restrict carbohydrates for a certain number of days, then “refeed” during a short period to restore the body’s necessary glycogen. In this way you get the fat-torching benefits of a steep carb restriction without the body feeling starved for too long.

I described what my meals would be in the last post, but here is what the food choices look like and the schedule.

Sunday through Friday I eat very cleanly: Chicken, Turkey, Broccoli, Green Beans, Cheddar Cheese, Unsweet Tea, Eggs, Whey Protein Powder, and Spinach. Basically it’s poultry, green vegetables, and cheese. Very simple and very, very low carb.

Saturday strips out the fat somewhat and introduces carbohydrates: Eggs, Oatmeal, Cottage Cheese, Brown Rice, Chicken, Sausage, Sweet Potato, and fruit.

There are different ways to stagger the carb refeeding. You could do just 3 days of no carb, the 3 days of moderate, then 1 carb blowout. Some people respond well to this kind of graduated versions. But the 1 carb day per week system is simple enough for me and we’ll see how effective it is.

(Depending on interest – both in me and in readers – I can produce an actual diet regimen spreadsheet that I’m following. I’m a hyper-organized person and if people are interested I can show exactly which steps I’m going through)

Lifting: 4 Day Split

There is no right way to lift but a thousand wrong ways it seems. I discussed before what it took to design a weight lifting regimen and that’s generally the route I took here. Because I have specific goals – especially with regards to bench press, shoulder press, deadlift, and squat – those feature heavily in the routine. So this is what it looks like. I work out 4 days a week alternating between Workout A and Workout B with a day of rest between each pairing.

Workout A (Legs, Shoulders, Core): Squat, Deadlift, Military Press, Upright Row, Bent Over Lateral Fly, Weighted Situp, Weighted Knee Raise.

Workout B (Chest, Arms, Back): Bench Press, Incline Dumbbell Fly, Preacher Curl, Skull Crushers (tricep), Cable Row, Pullups, Alternating Hammer Curls.

Now in reality, if I were a less experienced lifter than this would be too much work. For instance, if I were just starting out, the Squat, Deadlift, Military Press, and Bench Press would be all I needed. They recruit enough other muscles to be effectively a fully body workout if you’re doing them correctly. But I like doing muscle specific exercises as well for that extra kick!