Want to “tone up”? Lift heavy. Why Strong is the new Beautiful

Many people, particularly ladies, have the goal of “toning up” when they hit the gym. Basically, to not have large but rather defined muscles. It’s a common goal and a good one. Thing is, most people also go about this the wrong way as to avoid looking like this:

       or   this  

If your goal is to look like this, more power to you, but this post isn’t really about you.

There is a common misconception out there that this huge, muscular look is achieved by lifting heavy weights over and over again. It’s partially true, but that’s only half of the equation.

As with anything relating to getting fit, there is a basic formula that we follow:

Results = Activity + Nutrition x Consistency

While lifting heavy weights consistently will produce strength and muscle gains, we usually leave nutrition out as a factor, which is a huge oversight. In order to build muscle to this capacity, one must EAT SUBSTANTIALLY to facilitate that level of growth. That generally means eating well beyond basic calorie suggestions, and creating a surplus of calories (basically eat more than you burn throughout the day.) What does this mean for you? YOU WILL NOT GET TREMENDOUSLY HUGE JUST BY LIFTING WEIGHTS. Your nutrition plays a huge role in making these gains, and arguably other supplements at different levels.

“Ok, yeah, I know this, but if I want to tone up, I just need to lift light weights for more reps right?” NO.

What lifting lighter weights for high reps does is help increase your muscular endurance- how long your muscles can work before getting tired. This type of training has its place in a well balanced program, but it alone will not get you “toned”. The bottom line is that the more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn. Period. Muscular endurance training, or “light weight for a lot of reps” doesn’t necessarily lead to much increased muscle size. Strength training does.

Many studies have shown that strength training can lead to more fat loss than traditional cardio alone. This is a great benefit because, aesthetically speaking, when we say “tone up” we really mean lose the layer of fat covering our muscles so that we can see definition. I know, I know, you’re thinking “but I don’t want those huge muscles.” That’s where nutrition comes in. You simply don’t eat for a surplus like a body builder looking to bulk up. Incorporate strategic cardio into your program (more on this next week.) Voila. Not so much huge body builder look, but rather a defined, svelte sexy look.

So there you have it. Basically, more muscle = more fat burn. Nutrition is vital in determining how much muscle you gain, so you won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger just because you lift heavy. Workout to be strong by lifting heavier, because strong is the new beautiful.

Stay tuned for follow up posts later in the week and next week!

To your health and wellness,

Martin Arroyo, CPT

 

 

 

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Slow and steady always wins the race

It’s the beginning of a new year and there are quite a few new faces at the gym I frequent. I go there, but I don’t spend a lot of time IN there. I like my workouts how I like my women, short and sweet! When I workout at the gym, I’m in and out in about an hour. This includes changing in the locker room, warm up and workout, cool down, shower (and brush teeth!). There is a trend that I notice among exercise newbies though – they spend a WHOLE lot of time in the gym. I’m talking 1-2 hours a workout, sometimes 5 days a week. That’s 5-10 hours a week exercising! The more the better though, right? Not necessarily.

Exercise is simply a stressor which stimulates our neuromuscular system. It activates our fight or flight response, which has three phases: the alarm, resistance, and exhaustion phases.

Alarm Phase – In terms of exercise, this is when you’re working out and your heart rate increases, blood vessels expand, and your body starts series of chemical reactions to provide energy for these movements.

Resistance Phase – You’re finished, and you’re a sweaty, stinky mess. Now your heart rate begins to return to normal and you start healing from that workout (i.e. returning to homeostasis.)

Exhaustion phase – You’re feeling sluggish all the time. You’re tired. You feel weak. You’re much more likely to get sick. Your performance in the gym has decreased and you find it hard to want to do it anymore. YOU ARE TOO STRESSED. Welcome to the exhaustion phase. Your body is having a hard time returning to normal, and things are starting to break down. One of two things typically happen here with newbies – they keep pushing to the point of injury, or they stop for a few days to recover and those few days turns into a week and just snowballs from there. Then poof! All those gains are gone and you have to pass go again, but you don’t collect $200.

What you want to do is stay within the first two phases, alarm and resistance. To do that, you have to find a balance. You do that by starting slow and not trying to push yourself too hard at first. Keep it to 40 minutes tops at first (listen to your body, it knows what’s best for you!) For a complete newbie, going from almost no working out to 1 – 2 hours is only giving you a one-way ticket to exhaustion phase. Same holds true if you’re not a newbie, but have been off for a while (more than a month of no activity.)

Don’t buy into the hype that more is better when it comes to exercise. Quality is king. Quantity can make you sick. Ease into things and you’ll have much better results. Promise.

To your health and wellness,

Martin Arroyo, CPT

If you have any questions related to this post or health, wellness and fitness please contact me! I love talking to others about my passion!

Want to shrink your gut? Suck it in! (No joke!)

Just about everyone dreams of having a flat, toned stomach. You may even be thinking about the best way to do it right now. You want results quickly, right? So perhaps you turn to Google and look up “how to get six pack abs” or “how to shrink belly fat”, etc. You’re hit with literally TONS of articles and products claiming to have the answer to shrink your belly fat fast. Those “solutions” might be some magic pill, some fancy new diet, or some weird new exercise or machine that promises to give you what you want for just 4 easy installments of $29.99! (Those body wraps that you see claiming to help you lose inches are a total load of crap by the way.)

Now, when most people think of working their abs the usual exercises that come up are crunches and sit-ups. Some people insist on doing hundreds of these a day in a vain attempt to tighten their stomach and lose fat. Those exercises are pretty ineffective if what you’re looking to do is to tighten up (and doing hundreds every single day doesn’t really help either!)

What many people don’t know is that crunches and sit-ups only work one part of your abdominals. Your abdominal muscles are actually composed of layers of muscle, with the deepest (and arguably most important) being the transverse abdominus (we’ll call it T-abs for short). Your T-abs are essentially your body’s natural girdle. It supports your spine and keeps everything “together” so to speak, of course with the help of the other layers of abdominal muscle.

When you’re doing crunches and sit-ups, you’re primarily working your rectus abdominus, which are only “assisting” the T-abs in holding everything together. Essentially, you’re working the muscles that are merely ASSISTING in providing support and keeping your stomach nice and tight, while pretty much neglecting the main muscle that holds it all together. Doesn’t make much sense, right?

I may sound like I’m bashing crunches and sit-ups, but I’m not. They do have a time and place in a workout routine, but in order to see the results you want AND to make yourself stronger overall, you want to start working your T-abs. How do you do it? Here’s one way, and it’s REALLY simple:

Suck in your gut – Yes. I really just wrote that. It’s an exercise called the abdominal vacuum and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governator himself, used this exercise to help him chisel his famed Mr. Olympia physique. Simply suck in your gut as far as you can and hold for 15-20 seconds at first. It helps to envision bringing your belly button in towards your spine and holding that position. Try going for 3-5 sets of 15-20 seconds each for 3 – 5 days a week for about two weeks. You’ll likely notice that your posture starts improving.

Even better, with a tape measure, measure your waistline. Start doing the abdominal vacuums consistently, increasing the length of your hold by 5-10 seconds per set each week. In 3 weeks time you will likely find that your waist size has decreased anywhere from 1-3 inches.

This exercise is so simple that just about anyone can do it, and you don’t even need a gym! You can do it on the bus, train, in the car, at your desk at work, in bed…the sky’s the limit! Combine it with a solid core training routine and eating right, and you’ll be well on your way to that flat tummy in no time.

Martin Arroyo, CPT

The Scale: Friend or Foe?

 

It was the summer of 2010. I was looking better, getting tons of compliments and feeling pretty good. But I wasn’t satisfied. I had set a goal for myself to drop 100 lbs. I was 10 lbs shy of reaching my goal, but a whole month went by with no movement on the scale. It constantly read between 260 and *gasp* 263! After having experienced consistent weight loss over a period of about 8 months, I finally hit a plateau – the number on the scale would NOT budge. I was still doing everything right – eating well, staying within a reasonable amount of calories for the day, running 3-4 days per week, hydrating, but I wasn’t dropping any more weight. I was starting to get frustrated and a bit depressed. Success started to feel like it was out of reach.

Then I started to think, “Hey, aren’t my clothes fitting better? I’m still getting compliments, and people tell me all the time that I look great. Why am I so worried about a number?” Why? Well, because I used it as the ONLY yardstick to measure my success and progress. No weight loss as per scale = failure. And that wasn’t healthy for my body or my mind.

So when you’re faced with the same issue (and if you’re looking to lose or gain weight, you will likely encounter this) what should you do? Here’s what I did to get the ball rolling again:

Find other metrics – I started using a tape measure to check my waist size and chest size. I found that I was actually trimming down still, but perhaps was retaining lean muscle (a good thing!) I also put more emphasis on how my pants and shirts fit, and how well I was able to do workouts (was I able to increase my reps, intensity? Did it feel a little easier than last week?)

Keep using the scale, but use it consistently – Personally, I weigh myself on my scale EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Yes, I have my scale in the same spot in my room, and I weigh myself there every morning right after I use the bathroom and shower. Here’s the thing: I don’t move the scale from that spot! It’s always there. I don’t weigh myself at other times during the day. Consistency in all aspects of weighing yourself is key, because any deviation can and may lead to a different figure. I also don’t take this number THAT seriously anymore. Understand that IT WILL FLUCTUATE from day to day. I have learned to use it as a guideline, not a test.  Weighing yourself every day like I do may not work for you. Maybe every other day or every week will work better. Find what works, where it works, and what time it works and stick to that. If you forget to do it one day, wait until the next scheduled time to weigh yourself.

In the end, it’s how you feel that matters – Once I started to let go of my intense focus on the number and move towards how I was feeling, I started changing some things up. I felt stronger, so I increased the intensity of my workouts a bit. I was a little hungrier and actually ate a little more. I shook things up because it felt good and I felt good. And guess what? The number started moving again. I reached my goal.

Stepping on to the scale can be a mortifying experience for some people, but just keep in mind that it’s truly just a number – a measurement – and not a test. It doesn’t determine how successful you have been in your efforts or how successful you will be. After all…

Hope this helped ease the anxiety of stepping on the scale and provided some insight on getting past a plateau. I’d love to hear suggestions for future posts, so please comment below and let me know your thoughts.

~Martin Arroyo, CPT

Got 10-20 minutes? It’s all you need for a fit body

Your schedule is jam-packed. You have ten trillion things to do, and nowhere near enough hours in the day to get them done. You’ve been so busy lately that you haven’t even had the chance to think about exercise, and when you do you’re stuck wondering how you can fit it in. “Tomorrow, I’ll get on it and get started” becomes your mantra and many tomorrows come and go, yet no exercise, and your waistline is starting to pay the consequences. Why is that? What if I told you that setting aside ten to twenty minutes a day was all you needed to keep trim and stay healthy?

Many people tend to over-think going to the gym and working out. I constantly hear people telling me “I can’t find the time to spend an hour or more to work out consistently.” For those going to a gym, factor in travel time to and from, getting ready, etc. it can easily turn into a two hour endeavor that leaves you feeling good, but takes a good chunk of your time. Other priorities get in the way and you TALK yourself out of it because you can’t afford to give up those two hours.

The reality is that you don’t really need an hour of time to devote to working out, unless you’re training for a particular event where you need to be able to endure activity for an hour or something specific. The solution is not trying to last an hour because you want to burn fat, often times just walking or lightly jogging on the treadmill. It’s quality over quantity, plain and simple.

I work full-time, and usually have other responsibilities and obligations that limit my free time including school. It gets tricky, but this is why I’m a huge advocate of circuit training. With just 20 minutes I can get my pump and keep in shape. Here’s how it goes:

–        Pick 3-5 exercises that focus on multiple muscle groups at once (pushups, squats, mountain climbers, etc.)

–        Pick a number of reps that you feel that you can sustain comfortably for each one (maybe start with 10 and adjust from there)

–        Do each exercise, back-to-back with little to no rest.

–        Once you’re done with your circuit, rest for 1-2 minutes, then repeat the circuit again 2-5 more times.

It’s as simple as that. It may sound simple, but once you try it I guarantee that you will FEEL it! Altogether, with a quick warm-up and cool-down, this should take you anywhere from 10-25 minutes. You can even do this at home, with no weights. Now how easy is it to fit getting in to shape in your schedule?

Here’s a sample workout that I like to do sometimes:

Warm-up

Jumping jacks for 1 minute

Pushups – 20 reps

Squats -20 reps

Bridge – 30 seconds

Lunges – 20 reps (ten reps each leg)

Single Arm rows – 20 reps (ten reps each arm)

Rest 1:30 between rounds. Complete 3-5 rounds. Total approximate time: 20 minutes

~Martin Arroyo, CPT

It’s official! I’m a Certified Personal Trainer!

When I started this blog about 3 months ago, I was just starting my studies for the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA) Personal Trainer Certification. I’m ecstatic to announce that, after 3 months of studying and learning tons of new things, I’m officially a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)!

NESTA

So I have my flashy, new certification, and some newly acquired knowledge… now what? Well, I’m far from being a guru, but I plan on continuing to expand my knowledge through new certifications, reading, and learning more so I can share with all of you!

I’ll be posting more about my personal training philosophy, policies, rates and everything else fairly soon. Also, keep an eye out for a review of the NESTA certification and exam (especially for those of you looking to get into personal training.)

I am taking suggestions on topics that you would like to read about – absolutely anything related to health and fitness, motivation, losing weight, etc. I ‘d be happy to address – and, if I don’t know the answer I WILL FIND OUT FOR YOU! 

Hit the comment box below with your suggestions and thanks for reading!

-Martin Arroyo, CPT