A quick survey for you:
- Have you been at the same gym for at least six months?
- Do many of the guys who go to your gym at least look familiar by now?
- Do almost all of these guys still have just about the same physique as they did when you first saw them?
- Do you have just about the same physique since the first time they saw you?
Time for a Change
Before answering, I want you to really, really think about these questions. Think about that guy you see almost every night — the one who does a set of heavy bench presses, walks around for ten minutes or so, talks on his cell phone, and then finally does another set.
Also, think about the dude who wears the same freakin’ shirt every time he goes to the gym and does the same freakin’ workout just about every time. As best as you can recall, did these guys’ physiques, six months ago, look identical to the way they looked, say, last night when you saw them at the gym?
I also want you to think about yourself. If you were to look at a photo of yourself from six months ago, would your physique still look the exact same (or, perhaps even worse)?
Now answer the above-stated questions.
I’d be willing to guess that 75% of the people answering these questions answer Yes to all 4. What makes me so self-assured in my presumption? Because up until a year ago, I would have answered Yes to all of them.
So, what has happened since last year, you may be wondering. Unfortunately, most of their physiques have gone unchanged for those other random dudes with whom I share the gym for about an hour a night. As for mine, however, there has been a dramatic decrease in body fat percentage and a marked increase in muscle definition.
For 15 or so years, I followed the traditional split routine; working two or three muscle groups per day, one day per week (or, in some weeks, two times). This muscle-building routine is tried and true, being followed, and championed by some of the greatest bodybuilders in the world.
But, I failed to realize for 15 years that a bodybuilding split routine was not right for me; a guy who simply wanted to get into great shape, not compete on stage in a flex-off. Then, as of last year, I finally listened to advice that I had been giving to so many others that I had worked out with and/or trained, and that was to try a circuit training routine.
Since switching to a circuit routine, I walk out of the gym each day feeling like I actually worked out, rather than simply feeling slightly swollen and pumped. The sweat cascades down the side of my face and soaks its way through my shirt, my muscles feel so challenged that they quiver, and my heart races faster than an Indy car.
The bottom line: It feels right. In less than a year’s time, I have seen my body actually evolve; something that I questioned was even possible after so many years of not achieving my desired results.
Typically, if I had read this very article in the past, I would have dismissed such a workout as being something that may work well for someone else, but it couldn’t possibly challenge someone who has been lifting weights for fifteen years. More or less, that’s why I never bothered to try a circuit training routine — my own hubris stood in the way.
Results Speak Louder Than Words
Now, one year later and with a six-pack that you can actually see, I regret having been such a stubborn fool for so many years prior.
One thing to bear in mind — by no means are the circuit training exercises and workouts to which I refer easy. And, you still lift weights while performing them. Possibly even very heavy weights that you can only lift for 4 to 6 reps.
No matter which circuit you choose to try, the key to the workout itself is to keep your heart rate up from start to finish. To do so, this means that you will not be taking any breaks in between sets (or, at most, you will take 15 seconds). Also, finishing or touching-up exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc. — consider those a thing of the past.
Instead, you will focus on exercises that utilize several major muscle groups, such as the pull-up, bench press, squat, deadlift, and others.
You answered Yes to the survey questions for a reason: you and the people around you at the gym have not seen any significant gains in the past six months because you keep performing the same damn workout. And, chances are, it’s a split routine.
Maybe, just maybe, you can take a chance on something. Try spending the next 3 months performing a resistance-based circuit training workout. Then, go back to my survey questions.
Chances are, you will at least be able to answer No to the question about your own physique. As for the other guys in the gym, that’s up to you if you want to share your secret.
For some examples of circuit training exercises and workouts, check out John’s Personal Daily Workout Log.
Workout Without Weights – ‘macho’ enough?
The first time you walk into a gym, it becomes that you have a long way to go in being perceived as particularly ‘macho’ or even close with your wiry arms. Of course, you might not have been the only one because I’ve also been there.
Well, it wouldn’t matter if you’re John Mayer with that silky smooth guitar picking and strumming style and stunning voice of his… but I’m sure that he won’t be reading this blog between his busy touring schedule or indulging in flings with some of Hollywood’s big names.
But I digress…
So what should you do if you’re not macho yet, and aren’t sure of dealing with weights yet?
Try a workout without weights, yessirree…
Any questions? I’m sure there are…
Reasons why you should Workout without Weights
Well, the first question you might ask is why in the world one would want to try a workout without weights, as it is the best way to gain strength and muscle. But very simply, there are several reasons why you might want to do so…
For one, if you are tired of paying for your gym membership in these times or even weight-phobic, especially as a beginner. Maybe you don’t have the time to head out to the gym or even don’t have the money either… which also rules out the idea of a home gym.
So, no matter what your reason might be, things work out for the best. And if you wonder why I’ve conveniently thrown this cliche in and are on the verge of asking me to validate this statement with something concrete. And so, here goes…
Firstly, the golden age of bodybuilding is over, and unless you are planning to repeat Arnie’s success (which is hardly likely!), you don’t need a costly gym membership or even a home gym to get “toned.”
Secondly, it’s FREE… how about that? Need I say more…
Thirdly, you’ll be using weights but of a different kind – your body and the force of gravity, which your body will not be able to differentiate from normal weights that are used.
Now, with that out of the way, you might wonder where to begin in this mirage of exercises with or without equipment, so without further ado, let’s look at some exercises that you can try as a part of a workout or even if the above doesn’t apply to you, use these exercises as a warm-up before you begin your routine with weights.
Exercises to try without Weight
While you read the list of exercises at this link, you’ll be surprised how often they have come up in conversation, even if you’re not a fitness junkie. Of course, if you’re captivated with the art of building muscle and want to get going without using weights, then you can check this link for the best techniques and exercises that will help you build muscle over a period of time.
And yes, it’s “macho” enough… macho enough to help you move on to the next level, especially if you’re a beginner.
Hot Bikram Yoga
Bikram Chowdhury, who is popularly known as the McYoga guy, is the creator of Hot Bikram Yoga which has come under the scrutiny and criticism of many due to the aggressive steps taken to protect this routine that he has been responsible for putting together.
Like most Bengalis from the State of West Bengal in India, he comes across as an opinionated, strong-willed, forceful, and ego-maniacal personality that you’ll find when you watch or read his interviews with various publications and TV channels late, thanks to the controversy that has been stirred.
But that is just one part of the story, where people try to judge another’s desire to deal with and protect his life’s work realistically, rather than from a super-spiritual and idealistic point-of-view.
And this is in regards to his 26 asanas that he has copyrighted (while suing people who have used his work illegally to make profits) as a part of his teaching of ‘hatha yoga’, which is just one element of the Yoga Sutras as written by Patanjali around 2nd Century BCE. Incidentally, people don’t like this approach of his because they believe that yoga is free, has existed and been taught that way down through the ages.
Now almost any jackass you meet on the street will also tell you that yoga is good for you, and helps stay in good health through the rigor that is involved in practicing such a discipline.
But there’s more than meets the eye here. Here’s why:
Suppose you have studied esoteric philosophy (Hinduism). In that case, you’ll know that there is a distinct connection between one’s mind and the body, and in attaining equilibrium between the two through Yoga, one can attain ‘Moksha’, known as ‘liberation’ from the suffering and limitation of worldly existence. And this is where Raja Yoga (plainly known as ‘Yoga’ today) has achieved prominence in society today.
Although Bikram Yoga (in terms of the ‘asanas’) is very similar to, and is derived from Raja Yoga, yet to the yoga purists in its present form, it only serves as a basic function of promoting good health, and does necessarily achieve the final objective of Raja Yoga, that is to achieve perfection in concentration of the mind or otherwise known as ‘dhyana’.
Why Bikram Chowdhury has insisted on copyrighting his life’s work is because the order of these asanas have been arranged in a particular sequence that have a unique positive impact on one’s health which isn’t the case if they are practiced in a different order.
Another important difference is that, this form of yoga is performed in a room with a temperature at 105 degrees Fahrenheit which helps one’s muscles to loosen up, especially for those with arthritis or experiencing stiffness.
Here’s an interesting interview with Bikram Chowdhury taken by CBS News in June 2005, which will give you the entire picture.
Ironically, this aggressive marketing and copyrighting stance wasn’t a part of his strategy when he came to the U.S at first. One of his students (Shirley Maclaine) insisted that he should take money or else people will not value what he teaches. And since then, he has not looked back in terms of franchising his form of yoga.
Judging from the popularity of his franchise which has expanded to about 600-700 centers in all parts of the world, it looks like the people have embraced his form of yoga as it delivers results. Bikram Chowdhury (love him or hate him) is at the forefront of yoga, and will be known as ‘Yoga’s bad boy’ for years to come.
Barbell Weights and the Golden Age of Bodybuilding
Yes, if you have watched “Pumping Iron”, you’d certainly know who Lou was alright… and you’d also realize the amount of effort that goes into getting a body as chiseled as theirs.
It’s not easy, to say the least… and it takes hours and hours of punishing your body almost every other day if you want to excel at that level. And if there’s anything that’s true of these strong men of our time, it’s been more than just acquainted with barbell weights.
Why Barbell Weights?
Of course, there are several other types of training equipment that can help you build muscle but they all have to bow down to the king of them all – the barbell weights! No matter how many types of dumbbells or kettlebell weights you use or even machines, you’ll find that the barbell helps you build strength like no other.
Yes, if your objective is to “man up”, then the barbell is the way to go… Here begins a new era! Barbell weights and the golden age of bodybuilding.
Perhaps the reason for this is that the more weight you work out with, the easier it becomes to convert fat into muscle and keep it that way. It is the very reason why most instructors will ensure that you do graduate to using barbell weights as soon as you show progress with dumbbells and cardio.
Most of all, it’s mainly to work out with barbell weights as opposed to any other weight training equipment, which is why you’ll see beginners trying their luck with barbells when they should be focusing on the basics first.
What I mean to say that it is a good idea to get into a workout routine for a few months until you take on difficult weight training routines such as that of using different weights with a barbell.
The only disadvantage that you might experience with using barbell weights is the risk of injury just in case proper form is not maintained or God forbid, someone actually drops it without the assistance of a spotter.
If you have been working out for sometime, and now wish to try barbell workouts at home, then here are a couple of workouts that you can try.
The Barbell – Sample Workouts
Sample Workout #1: Considered to be a simple workout for the reason that only one set of 12 to 15 reps are required to finish each exercise. You rest for about 45 seconds and then move on to the next one. Finally, remember to train your body with these exercises three times a week while remembering to have a rest day in between.
So, here are the list of exercises:
#2: Incline Push-up
#3: Bent Over Row
#4: Reverse Curl
#5: Press Crunch
The next sample workout is for 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps for each exercise. You also have to rest for 45 seconds between each set, and do this three times a week with one day of rest after each workout session.
Here are the exercises:
#1: Barbell Squat
#2: Triceps dip
#3: Decline push-up
#4: Biceps curl
#5: Single-arm row
#6: Seated reverse crunch
And if you really want to know more about barbell exercises, you will be able find information at this link.
And if you bought into the rivalry between Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger, think again! It was all a set up…
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