10 Things to Do, lets talk about one of them

10 Things to Do …in the Gym, in the Kitchen, and in Your Head
by Chris Shugart

Okay, so I like the lists of things that other people come up with. They get me thinking about different things and something usually gets stuck in my head.

In this case it was Chris’ explanation for why people choose one calf exercise machine over another:

Guess which one is always being used and which one is gathering dust? Yep, the seated machine is neglected like a broke guy at Scores while a line forms behind the standing machine. Why?

Two reasons. First, the seated machine is plate loaded, and most men need at least four or five 45-pounders. Sad fact is, most people are too lazy to load it up, especially when a selectorized machine is sitting next to it.

Second, not only is the seated machine plate loaded, it’s twenty feet away from the weight tree. You not only have to load it yourself, you have to walk a long way carrying plates to do it.

So, exercise selection for calves, for many people, has nothing to do with soleus vs. gastrocnemius development; it has to do with one machine being easier and more convenient to use.

This goes a long way to explain so much of what is going on in today’s world. Many of us will do only as much as it takes to get something done and not a thing more. I think it’s because many have become very lazy. While it may seem trivial to make an example out of using one machine over another, the fact that someone who choose to ignore proportionate development of the lower leg while working to build muscle mass does seem to be the sign of the times. People don’t want the best results, they want the easiest way to make it seem like they are trying to get the best results.

I often joke at the gym about trap development of people. I can identify the people who use the plated leg press or hack squat machines not by looking at their legs but by looking at their traps. Like Chris said, people with strong legs need a lot of weight to get anything out of these exercises so they have to load 4 or 5 plates on each side. That means loading an unloading between 450 and 540 pounds. Given the position that 45 lb plates have on the weight trees, you’ll be doing a lot of shrugging to load if you want to get a good leg workout. The people who rely on pinned machine don’t have to do anything to set the weight, they just pull and place the pin. My tendency to believe that this machine is less effective than the plate loaded machine is based on the fact that the people who use it tend to be smaller, but maybe they are smaller because they don’t do two sets of shrugs loading and unloading the plates. It may seem like a small thing, but that’s a 1000 pounds of extra work EACH leg day. A 1000 pounds is a lot of work for the traps.

Training legs is only one place I see people cutting corners when it comes to getting the most out of their time in the gym. Pretty much every free weight exercise has a pin machine alternative. The preacher curl bench is almost always empty because people are using the bicep machine. The focus seems to be on getting through a workout and not getting a workout.

And it isn’t just on resistance training that people are cutting corners. They’re doing it with cardio too. For some reason it seems that most people are afraid to break a sweat when they’re burning extra calories. They’ll spend 40 minutes on an elliptical and when they hop off they’re as dry as when they started. They’ll think nothing of drinking a sports drink while burning 300 calories, never doing the math to realize that they would have been better off if they hadn’t even come to the gym.

It seems that people do not like intensity. They come in to do a workout that is X minutes long or burns X amount of calories but never stop to think about what they are really working towards. In most cases, the people want weight loss. There is no rule that says working out for X minutes will make that happen, or that by burning X calories every other day they’ll achieve their ideal weight. No, these goals serve to help you gauge improvement and that is all. If you’re working out with intensity, you should be able to do a workout that keeps getting longer gets longer or burns more and more calories. If you keep doing the same workout the same way, you’re rate of progress is going to be very slow as your body adapts to it. If you really want the weight loss results, you need to increase the intensity and break a sweat.

When you get right down to it, you SHOULD use the plate machine that is far away from the weight tree. You should learn to love carrying those 10 plates over to the machine and back again because that will make you stronger and that is why you are lifting. You should try to run a little faster or burn more calories per hour on the step mill because this will help you lose fat faster. When you’re at the gym, stop looking for shortcuts because these are the very things that are going to cost you time in the long run.

The fastest way to fat loss is higher intensity.

The studies show that if you will get 50% of your energy from fat at workout intensities of less than 65% and only 25% from fat of intensities greater than 65%. So if you want to maximize your fat loss, they tell you to work out at 65% because if you are going to burn 300 calories, you will metabolize 150 calories of fat if you work out at < 65% or 75 calories if you work out at greater intensities.

To burn 150 calories of fat at intensities greater than 65% you will need to burn 600 calories.

In terms of calories we can conclude that it takes twice as many calories at the higher intensity than it does at the lower intensity to burn the same amount of fat.

Now realize that the body becomes marginally less efficient as it is working at higher intensities. So as the intensity increases 300 calories will power your body for less and less time.

For example,
300 calories @65% you get 32 minutes of activity – fat burned 150 cal
300 calories @75% you get 20 minutes of activity – fat burned 75
300 calories @85% you get 16 minutes of activity – fat burned 75

You can see that 32 minutes of 65% or 32 minutes of 85% will allow you to metabolize 150 calories of fat. In this example, the slowest way of burning 150 calories of fat was @75%; it would take 40 minutes to achieve.

Also see in this example that after 32 minutes, you will be burning more fat if you work at an intensity of 85% than at 65%.

This is the math of it and it deals ONLY with the calories metabolized during exercise. It does not factor in the cost of anything after the exercise – energy burned through metabolic increases or muscle repair. In fact, the metabolism has been shown to be elevated for up to 2 hours following exercise at intensities of 85%. High intensity exercise is also more damaging to the body and requires more energy for repair. This means that you will continue to burn energy long after the high intensity exercise has stopped.

The math also only deals with fat calories metabolized. Remember that it takes twice as many calories to metabolize the same amount of fat working at a high intensity. What is the overall impact of this on weight? It is increased fat loss. There is a caloric deficit of 300 calories if you workout for 32 minutes at 85% vs. 65%. This means that at 85% in your 12th workout, you will have burned 3500 more calories. Since each pound contains 3500 calories, you have an extra pound of fat loss.

This is why I recommend high intensity calorie burning activity for people who want to burn fat.

They can’t prove it

The Testosterone Nation regulars lay down 8 training ideas that they think are true, but they can’t prove.

Two in particular got my attention.

In part one, Christian Thibaudeau really got me thinking about the role that childhood activity plays on determining our best body parts for muscle growth later on. When we are young, our play helps us to learn how to contract our muscles more completely. As a consequence, if we don’t use particular muscles when we are younger, we never gain the body awareness that leads to more complete neural firing.

In part two, Chad Waterbury goes out on a limb and endorses high frequency training (working a body part more than 4 times a week) as a fantastic way to increase muscle growth, provided you keep the volume of each workout low.

I think that the increased frequency would dramatically improve the neural coordination for activating the muscles; maybe this could make up for that lethargic childhood?