Pimp my workout. From Weekend Warrior to all-around Athlete?
January 23, 2010 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Pimp my workout. From Weekend Warrior to all-around Athlete? I want to be in all-around great shape; I want to improve my cardio ability and improve my strength.

I want to be in all-around great shape; I want to improve my cardio ability and improve my strength. Specifically, I would really like to improve my trail running to the point that I can run a trail half marathon and finish in the first quarter of finishers. I want to drastically improve my strength as well and get back into good rock climbing shape (it has been 10 years since I have climbed consistently). I am a 34 year old guy…6’4” and 207#.

Resources: I go to a gym that has all the normal stuff: free weights, weight machines, cardio machines, space to stretch, swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna and steam room. I’m in Denver, Colorado so it can be cold during the winter but I can often get out for longer runs on the weekends (on trails or roads). I have a lot of time currently in the evenings and on weekends.

Recent history: up until a few weeks ago, I had been doing a weights circuit (mostly machines but squats, bench press and some body weight exercises) two or three times a week for the last 9 months. I was also trying to do some cardio in-between but wasn’t consistent. The last year has been helpful though since I have been exercising more regularly than I have for many years and I have lost about 30 pounds.

Current plan: I’ve worked a little with a personal trainer recently. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to work with a trainer consistently. The strength workout that the trainer put together is 3 days a week alternating workout A and workout B below:

Workout A (3 sets of each):
Dumbbell Squat Press (15#, 10 reps)
Dumbbell Press (on fit ball) (25#, 12 reps)
Ball Planks (40 second reps)
Assisted Pull-ups (10 reps)
Dumbbell Rows on bench (30#, 10 reps)
Hip Raises (15 reps)
Barbell Overhead Forward Lunge (12 reps)
Barbell Curl (30#, 12 reps)
Assisted Dips (10 reps)
Squat Thrust on Bosu (8 reps)

Workout B (3 Sets for all)
Curtsy Squats (Weight 15#, Reps 8-10)
Dumbbell Step-up Curl (20#, 10 reps)
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Raises (20#, 10 reps)
Dumbbell Lateral Raises on Bosu (10#, 10 reps)
T-Bars (bodyweight exercise)
Bosu Superman (6 seconds)
Alternating 1 Arm Chest Press (20#, 12 reps)
Dumbbell Kickbacks (10#, 12 reps)

I am also very interested in doing something like Stronglifts 5x5:

Workout A
Squat 5x5
Bench Press 5x5
Inverted Rows 3xF
Push-ups 3xF
Reverse Crunch 3x12

Workout B
Squat 5x5
Overhead Press 5x5
Deadlift 1x5
Pull-ups/Chin-ups 3xF
Prone Bridges 3x30sec

Diet: please don’t talk to me about diet. I know it is super important and I am working on improving it – I’m still consistently losing weight so I think I have a handle on this. I don’t need help in this area right now.

Cardio: I’m planning on doing cardio 3-4 days a week on non-strength training days. One of these will be a long run. The other days will be intervals or medium distance runs. I’ll mix in using the elliptical here as well.

Stretching: I’ll stretch everyday after working out. On Wednesday nights I do a yoga class.

Question: With all of the above in mind what is my best training plan? Should I use the trainer’s strength workout? Should I use Stronglifts 5x5? Is there a way to integrate the two? How do I best improve my cardio (ie running) when I also want to improve my strength? Is there any way to use the steam room, sauna, whirlpool best to aid recovery? (Thanks in advance)
posted by fieldtrip to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you start lifting free weights you may find that you stop losing weight and instead put on weight in the form of muscle. Likely not a bad thing but somethig to keep in mind in order that you don get discouraged.

207 pounds for a 6'4" guy sounds pretty healthy.
posted by dfriedman at 12:45 PM on January 23, 2010


Oh, and weight machines won't do much. You want to lift free weights.
posted by dfriedman at 12:45 PM on January 23, 2010


I think the 5x5 looks better, you don't need to be doing a whole bunch of stuff each workout if you're doing the big lifts (squats, deads, bench) and concentrating on those will probably give you the most benefit at the level you are at. Make sure you're doing full range of motion on your squats, a lot of people seem to think going down a few inches is good enough. You should go at least to where your thighs are parallel to the ground.

I know you don't want to hear about diet but I think the biggest thing for improving both cardio and strength at the same time is that you're going to need to eat a lot and you should try to get a lot of protein, like 1g per lb of bodyweight or more per day.

All that said, the best way for you to improve your trail running is to run more. Consider following a plan like one of Hal Higdon's , I find that the structure helps me stick with it a little.
posted by ghharr at 2:08 PM on January 23, 2010


I KNOW someone on here will mention it so I will step up and be the first. Have you looked into crossfit yet? http://www.crossfit.com/.

I have been doing variations of it for awhile now after spending years going the more traditional route of 4 days a week bodybuilding type workouts with cardio at the end of my workout. I have to say it has really changed my outlook when it comes to working out in general. The workouts are intense and focus a lot on compound movements and speed. The interesting thing about them is that traditional cardio is not a major component of the workouts but the lifts are so intense that you get a cardio workout at the same time. Anyway when I am doing them regularly for a few months I feel great, better than I ever felt following a traditional routine.

It isn't for everybody and some of the concepts are a bit too much but with some variations they offer some pretty fun and intense workouts.
posted by WickedPissah at 2:15 PM on January 23, 2010


Should I use the trainer’s strength workout?

No, that is an absolutely terrible strength routine. You'll waste your time and look silly doing it.

Should I use Stronglifts 5x5?

No, if you're going to do that just do Starting Strength, which is what stronglifts bastardizes.

Is there a way to integrate the two? How do I best improve my cardio (ie running) when I also want to improve my strength?

You should do the Crossfit Wichita falls program, which blends barbell strength programming with short Crossfit-style conditioning workouts. Regular Crossfit programming is lacking in strength work. See my comment here.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:37 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you for the responses thus far.
drfriedman: I think I’ll probably continue to burn some fat for awhile and see my weight drop a little. If I end up putting on muscle and gaining a little weight I would be okay with that. I am leaning towards only using free weights from here on out.
ghharr: I have considered just doing the 5x5 but am wondering if there is value in integrating the trainer’s program, too. I’ve heard mixed things on how much protein to eat…I may end up increasing it. I do need to run more and I will look at Higdon’s advice again. Trail running is a little different than road running so I would take any advice on how to improve my uphill running (I know to train running uphill) and balance.
WickedPissah: I have looked into CrossFit. I was considering joining an affiliate until I saw what the rates are. I’m just not sure that I can figure out what they are doing to do the workout of the day on my own. I have a friend (a fairly serious climber who says that he was in the best shape of his life when he was doing CrossFit daily….so, it is something for me to think about)
ludwig_van: I’d love to know why you think it is such a terrible strength routine. The trainer has a degree in this shit and a number of years working in the field so I’d like to think he knows something. (But, I'm certainly open to hearing otherwise which is why I posted the question). I’d also like to know why you think Starting Strength is better than Stronglifts 5x5.
Also, I’m trying to follow your previous comment that you linked to which has a link to this:
Monday — Squat, Press, Power Clean
Tuesday — Chin-ups, Conditioning
Wednesday — OFF
Thursday — Squat, Bench, Deadlift
Friday — Conditioning
From here http://70sbig.com/?p=999
- Is that what you were sending me towards?

I do appreciate everyone’s help.
posted by fieldtrip at 4:02 PM on January 23, 2010


Fieldtrip, I was going to suggest Crossfit too, so instead I'll just tell you that I've been doing Crossfit at home for about a year and a half, no affiliate membership necessary! I do sub for workouts that involve lifts or other heavy weight work, but if you have gym access you can do those. Crossfit.com posts all the workouts online daily, for free, and the videos that demo exercises are really helpful if you're not sure how to do one. You can get suggested scaled versions at the Crossfit Brand X forum. I've shaved at least 30 seconds off my minute per mile time without even trying (I used to just run, before I started Crossfit), and I'm much stronger than I used to be. It's been plenty of strength training for me, but I'm a small woman who's not looking to be a bodybuilder, just in good shape.
posted by min at 5:40 PM on January 23, 2010


I’d love to know why you think it is such a terrible strength routine.

Well, I can try to explain, but it's difficult to try and get across all of the fundamental concepts in a clear and concise way in this format. Can you explain why you think it's a good program or what it's supposed to accomplish, and tell me how much stronger have you gotten doing it? I suspect that the answers are you can't and not very much, if you're really not lifting anything heavier than 45 pounds.

Anyhow, if you want to get a grounding in strength training, I'd recommend doing some reading , specifically Starting Strength and Practical Programming by Mark Rippetoe (who, incidentally, was affiliated with Crossfit until he split with them late last year). For an introduction you could start with some of the articles he's posted online -- Incremental Increases and The Novice Effect.

But anyhow, some basic ideas -- strength training is based on progressive overload. When you lift weights you induce stress in your body, and provided proper rest and nutrition between workouts, your body responds to that stress by adapting, i.e. becoming stronger. Having adapted, your body will now require a larger stress to be induced in order to produce another adaptation. As a beginner, your ability to recover exceeds your ability to induce stress -- i.e., you're not strong enough to induce a stress so great that you can't recover from it by your next workout. So a beginner can progress very quickly (again, provided proper rest and nutrition -- this is where most people fail) by increasing the weight lifted every single workout. If you're not starting out by lifting more weight each time you go to the gym, you're not doing an effective program.

In terms of exercise selection, a beginner strength trainee wants to choose exercises that allow him to use the most muscle mass to lift the largest weight over the greatest range of motion. These types of movement have the potential to make him the strongest the quickest, for lots of reasons which I won't get into right now. A beginner strength program requires very few exercises, but those exercises should be done heavy if strength is the goal. The barbell squat is the exercise that uses the most muscle mass to move the heaviest weight over the longest range of motion, and so it is the basis of most effective strength programs. The exercises in your program are all accessory movements, or lightweight variations on the main movements which you aren't doing at all. They involve tiny weights which don't have much potential for inducing stress and adaptation.

Per the bit about progressive overload, we also need to be able to finely scale the resistance of a movement. This is why we use barbells -- we can increase the load by as little as 1 lb. at a time in order to spur continued progress, but we can also safely use extremely heavy loads. You can't squat 400 lbs. with dumbbells.

Finally, different repetition ranges have different training effects. 10-12 reps is often called the hypertrophy range, in that it will tend to have more effect on the size of a muscle than the strength, which is why it's popular with bodybuilders. Strength trainees tend to do most of their work in lower rep ranges with heavier weights. Sets of 5 are usually recommended for strength.

I started out with stronglifts 5x5. Like I said, it's pretty much just a watered-down versio of the Starting Strength program. I don't think it offers any improvements over the original template. I could go into detail about why I don't think it's as effective, but I think it'd be obvious to you if you read the book. I switched over to the real deal after I read it, and while stronglifts is basically a decent program, I think I would've been better off getting it right from the beginning.

Yes, that's the program I was sending you to. The Wichita Falls Crossfit program was developed at Mark Rippetoe's gym, and it's a way of blending a beginner strength program with conditioning work. The conditioning workouts are basically short Crossfit workouts, and the strength days are basically Starting Strength. Crossfit can be great, but it's not a true strength program, and the many Crossfit variations with added strength work that have been developed are a testament to that fact.

Personally, I think you'd be best served by focusing solely on getting your strength levels up before you worry about your conditioning. Strength is a general attribute -- being stronger will make you better-prepared to improve any other aspect of your performance. And beginners can make strength gains very quickly. But mixing strength with some conditioning as in the above program can work too, you just won't get strong as quickly. And I'd warn you not to worry about losing weight if you're trying to get stronger. 6'4" 207# is light, and you'll need to eat plenty in order to recover from your workouts.

Other folks have different approaches, but I think this is the most effective way to get strong.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:59 PM on January 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


ludwig_van: thanks for the lengthy and complete reply. I greatly appreciate it. A couple of points of clarification: I'm not convinced that the trainer's program is good which is why I'm asking about it. I just started doing his program a week ago so no gains as of yet to report.

What I don't understand is why, if his program is so bad, would he make it? There is no incentive for a trainer to have their clients fail as far as I can tell.

I will order Starting Strength and read it. It has been recommended enough here and other places that I need to read it.

I appreciate you taking the time to respond.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:57 PM on January 23, 2010


I cannot recommend highly enough exrx.net, which has just about as much information on exercise of all types as a novice to intermediate level athlete will ever need.

Perhaps most important, it has extremely detailed and straightforward instructions for designing a workout.

When I was first starting out, I too was a bit intimidated by all the different people offering all sorts of different, often conflicting advice. What I appreciate about exrx is that they not only clearly state why they offer particular advice, but go so far as to footnote with scientific studies that support their claims. The world of workouts seems to me to be so full of snake-oil that I truly value exrx for its clear, straightforward, and scientifically valid advice.

I've read Starting Stregnth. I've read almost all of exrx. Basically my takeaways were this:

1) Train each major muscle group in the body.
2) Take at least a day, preferably two days, before working out that same muscle again.
3) Pick one exercise per muscle to do each workout. Maybe two for larger muscles. More than that is mostly wasted effort.
4) Exactly which exercise you pick isn't the most important thing in the world (this is where I was getting hung up) but in general shoot for: a) using gravity for resistance b) large ranges of motion (usually therefore calling upon multiple muscle groups and a natural transfer of load between them) c) natural transfer of the weight from support by muscle to support on bone.
4a) Several exercises are basically max out the above three criteria and should be included in your workout no matter what. These are squats for the legs, dead lifts for the back, bench press for the chest and arms, and presses for the shoulders and arms. All the other exercises you pick are in some sense secondary to these. They are either axillary exercises meant to focus on particular muscle subsets of the major lifts (for instance: incline presses that focus on the upper pectorals specifically, in support of the general pectoral recruitment of the bench press) or focus on those muscles not fully recruited in any of the major lifts (calves, forearms, neck, etc.)
5) Pick a weight that you can do for 8-12 reps, usually about 80% of your one rep max (1RM). Do reps until full volitional failure (this is very important). Once you can do 12 reps of a weight before volitional failure, increase the weight. [Note: this is a novice guideline. Later on you may want to change to a hi/lo intensity program, include periodization, etc. But for now, 8-12 until failure, and then at 12 up the weight.]
6) Anything more than two sets of this is mostly wasted effort. And even two sets is, at best, a very modest gain over the benefits of one set.
posted by ChasFile at 12:38 AM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't believe I'm one of the only people around here who asks this, but then again I'm not trying to sell you on my favorite cool aid. WHAT IS YOUR GOAL? Why are you working out? You are going to have to narrow it down and pick one. Here's a secret, all workouts work! Machines are fine, core exercises are fine, and anyone who tells you different usually doesn't have the experience to tell you why so they discount them. Look, the reason you do an exercise is to do that exercise "better". Better in this context could mean all different kinds of things. If you do the Bench Press in a specific goal oriented matter you will become better at dong the bench press. Same goes for Push ups, and the same for sprinting, and the same goes for climbing mountains. For some reason a people have the idea that because the general usage term weight lifting is swapped out with strength lifting that all lifting is, or, must be strength oriented. Not true. All exercises have a specific reason and the volume amount* with which you do them dictates the workout, and thus the workouts are geared towards a specific purpose. Why did your trainer give you this workout, did you talk to him specifically what you wanted? So what it is your goal? All around athlete? Crossfit is a General Physical Preparedness (GPP) workout much loved by Military and public service workers, such as Firemen, who need to be in great all around shape. Do you want to be really strong and do some Powerlifting? Great, here's a FREE wiki to get you started on Starting Strength. Do you want to be a Trail-Runner and/or Rock Climber? I'm posting pictures with the questions because you should see something that you should already know, there is a distinct difference between what these people look like depending on the goals they have. That doesn't necessarily mean you need to or will end up looking like them, but it should be informative. Getting “stronger” will absolutely NOT mean you will automatically see improvement in all other activities, BUT if your goal is “I want to be strong” AND you don't want to specifically concentrate on any other goal then you should start in on a strength program.

As far as the workout your trainer gave you? I don't necessarily see anything wrong with it, but *shrug* there are other factors in play into how effective this workout is. Like intensity! On that note

*Listed with first, second, tertiary priorities & effects:

% of Max / Reps / Dur.(in Sec.) / =Effects
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
85-100 / 1-5 / 5-20 /
=1st Strength increase through enhanced neural eff.
=2nd Stimulation of functional muscle hypertrophy
=3rd Increase in muscle density
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
80-85 / 6-8 / 20-40 /
=1st Stimulation in functional muscle hypertrophy
=2nd Strength increase
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
70-80 / 9-12 / 40-60 /
=1st Stimulation of functional & non-functional muscle hypertrophy
=2nd Increase in muscle endurance and lactic acid tolerance
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
50-70 / 13-30 / 60-120 /
=1st Increase in non-functional hypertrophy
=2nd Increase in muscle endurance
=3rd improved capillarization
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
-50 / 30+ / 120+ /
=1st Increase in muscle endurance
=2nd Improved capillarization
=3rd Active recovery
=4th Speeds up recovery from tendon injuries
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you really want to understand and know the science behind this stuff then you really should read these three authors:
Vladimir Zatsiorsky (pretty much should be required reading anyone in a gym), Tudor Bompa (the guy who came up with “Periodization” in the '60s) and Mel Siff.

There you go, you can read three books and you'll know exactly the hows and whys working out, and you'll be able to set up your own effective programs.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:35 AM on January 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


What I don't understand is why, if his program is so bad, would he make it? There is no incentive for a trainer to have their clients fail as far as I can tell.

That's a little difficult to answer. I wouldn't say that he wants to see you fail -- and as you'll see explained in the Novice Effect article I linked above, basically any routine will make a rank novice stronger. When a person is completely unadapted, any stimulus will serve to spur an adaptation. So you would likely see some strength gains from that routine. But the strength gains would taper off very quickly without a properly designed program. I do think, though, that he has an incentive to give you an overly complicated program so that you'll get the impression he knows what he's doing and that you couldn't come up with it without his help. He also has an incentive to give you an easy program filled with dinky little accessory movements (do you really think anyone could get strong doing something called a curtsy squat?!) because lifting needs to be heavy to be effective for strength, and heavy lifting is hard, and lots of folks don't want to do hard things and will quit when confronted with them. But mostly I think he just doesn't know better, like most of the personal trainers in commercial gyms in my experience. It's unfortunate.

8-12 until failure, and then at 12 up the weight

That will make a beginner stronger, but not as quickly as sets of 5 with incrementally increasing loads.

Anything more than two sets of this is mostly wasted effort.

I don't know who actually believes this. I'm aware that there is some research that suggests this, although that exrx page doesn't cite any research, and strength training studies tend to be poorly designed. Training volume has to be sufficient to cause adaptation -- for sustained progress in beginners, 3 sets has been known to work, and intermediates usually need more than that. If one set were as effective, I suspect elite strength athletes would train this way, but they don't. I'd love to see an example of the results of someone who trained this way.

Also as a beginner you won't need to concern yourself with overtraining or periodization -- those will only become important once you're an intermediate or advanced lifter.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:57 AM on January 24, 2010


Sorry to ChasFile, that probably sounded more argumentative than I meant for it to be. The above is just my opinion. Everybody has their approach. Educate yourself and make your own decision, YMMV, etc.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:26 AM on January 24, 2010


ChasFile: Thanks for the link and recommendation of exrx.net. I've seen that website before but have never spent any time with it. I'll do some reading there. I'd love to design my own workout which is sort of what I was hoping to get help with here. I can't follow the instructions for designing a workout on the exrx page that you linked to. I get to this point http://exrx.net/Workouts/Workout1LTA.html and I'm lost. Thanks for your numbered takeaways from Starting Strength and exrx -- I think after I have the opportunity to process all the information everyone is giving me here I'll be closer to where I want to be with making a plan.
P.O.B.: I appreciate your input. My goal is to be in all around great shape. For me this means that I would like to be able to excel at rock climbing and trail running. I hope that is specific enough. I think this is an interesting question (and I hope helpful for others) because these are sort of opposite activities. And, I do understand that maybe the best training I could do is to climb more (but alas I can't stomach climbing gyms) and to run more, especially on trails (but, I can't get to trails in the mountains every day after work--it just isn't possible except for on the weekends). You hit the nail on the head when you ask if I want to be really strong. I don't. I'm not impressed at all by someone who can bench press x amount or squat x hundred pounds (unless maybe they can also run 10 or 20 miles up and down mountains). I want to be stronger because I know that it is a limiting factor in my climbing. I'm afraid I don't understand the chart you posted. I will look into the three authors that you mention -- I'm super fortunate to live a block from a library so I'll check this afternoon whether the collection has any of these.
ludwig_van: Thanks for your response. I have skimmed those articles that you linked. I have wondered if the trainer does have incentive to make build a program that would have gains for a few months then taper -- which would have me coming back to him for more instruction. That makes sense to me. But, I guess some of the value that I see in the trainer's program is that by using the Bosu and fit ball it does force one to work on balance. I'm not sure if squatting and deadlifts do that. And, to answer your question, I do think someone can get stronger doing curtsy squats. Seriously. Anything that is difficult for someone to do then becomes less difficult than easy has made them stronger through that exercise, right? I'm reminded of people I have known who have been in great shape (again what does great shape mean?) who have done much of their work through yoga -- which is all body weight. But, you know doing planks is hard--I can see how it would make someone stronger. To go back to my goals: the strength part is really to make me a better climber....so, a lot of that is hauling my own body weight around (using arms to pull and legs to push) and doing that consecutively and continuously for 30 feet to 1000 feet.
Sincere thanks to everyone.
posted by fieldtrip at 12:20 PM on January 24, 2010


But, I guess some of the value that I see in the trainer's program is that by using the Bosu and fit ball it does force one to work on balance. I'm not sure if squatting and deadlifts do that.

Of course squats and deadlifts require balance, as does the power clean and the press. When you're freely moving a very heavy object through space, balance is crucial. You'll realize this very quickly if you take the time to learn these exercises.

Anything that is difficult for someone to do then becomes less difficult than easy has made them stronger through that exercise, right?

No, this is not right. If I go jogging every day, jogging will get easier, but that doesn't mean I have become stronger. You're stronger when you can move something heavier than what you could move before, or when you can move something more times than you could move it before (within limits).

I'm reminded of people I have known who have been in great shape (again what does great shape mean?) who have done much of their work through yoga -- which is all body weight. But, you know doing planks is hard--I can see how it would make someone stronger.

"Great shape" doesn't mean anything necessarily. As you learn more about how the body responds to training you can begin to refine your own idea of what "great shape" means. As for planks, it's true that everything that makes you stronger is difficult, but it's not true that everything that's difficult will make you stronger. I can do my squats on top of an exercise ball with one arm tied behind my back and a blindfold on, and they'd certainly be more difficult, but they aren't going to make me stronger than regular squats will, because I won't be using heavy weights. To get strong you need to lift heavy weights, and exercises that don't allow you to lift heavy weights are of limited usefulness for getting strong.

Planks can be useful as an assistance movement for a little while, until they become too easy, at which point you can do them weighted -- but it's still an accessory exercise, and you're better off focusing on the main lifts, which provide enough work for the muscles of the abdomen and lower back that accessory exercises for those muscles aren't strictly necessary. This idea is elaborated on in this article.

Anyhow, like I said, it doesn't sound like you want a straight strength program -- I still suggest that a blend of strength work and high-intensity conditioning like what I initially recommended would suit you pretty well. But I think that anyone who wants to participate in a sport that involves strength (which rock climbing does) and has never done a linear strength progression would benefit from doing one.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:55 PM on January 24, 2010


My goal is to be in all around great shape. For me this means that I would like to be able to excel at rock climbing and trail running. I hope that is specific enough. I think this is an interesting question (and I hope helpful for others) because these are sort of opposite activities. And, I do understand that maybe the best training I could do is to climb more (but alas I can't stomach climbing gyms) and to run more

Fantanstic. You know what you want to specifically do, even if you are splitting up activities, and I don't think they necessarily are opposing actvities. Although it would be your best bet to plan your training around the activities; you sure could go ahead and look into any number of GPP programs, such as Crossfit, and start there. Adding in some strength movements would be a great idea, but I would be wary of doing programs consiting of only low reps when you obviously need your "strength" to last all the way up the side of a mountain.

Anything that is difficult for someone to do then becomes less difficult than easy has made them stronger through that exercise, right?

I'm reminded of people I have known who have been in great shape (again what does great shape mean?) who have done much of their work through yoga -- which is all body weight. But, you know doing planks is hard--I can see how it would make someone stronger.


This is where the nitty gritty questions start. If you check out books by most strength coaches they will parse down between many different aspects of neuromuscular abilities. Strength is usually defined as only one out of many, the number will vary depending on who you read. If someone is only talking about strength in athletic endeavors, beyond strength oriented sports i.e. Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting, etc.; than they are seriously missing the larger picture. I'm not going to argue what actually constitutes a core exercises or whether they generalize over to actual athletics; but, again, whatever exercise you do will make you better at doing that exercise as long as it has a program geared towards a specific way it will be done better.

Everyone is going to have their subjective idea of what great shape is, that is outside of the obvious like Olympians, and that is for you to decide.

Are you paying for the personal trainer or is he part of a gym deal? Did you pick him out of a list of personal contractors or does he directly work for the gym? Does he have a degree or does he have a certification, or both? There's a spectrum of great to crappy trainers, and we certainly don't know based on what he's got you doing it, but it would help if you told us how he's got you doing those things? Is he there with you or did he just write up a program? Do you like him and his program?
posted by P.o.B. at 5:44 PM on January 24, 2010


By the way

Is there any way to use the steam room, sauna, whirlpool best to aid recovery

Yes. After your workout do ten minutes in a (freezing) cold shower and then fifteen in the suana. Repeat process.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:50 PM on January 24, 2010


I just wanted to add two more things. The number of sets will usually depend on the volume of the workout. Reps, sets, and exercises will make up the volume. If you go up or down in one of those the others will generally fluctuate to accommodate. Sometimes there are low volume workouts and sometimes high, but you'll find there is a middling that most people follow depending on experience.
The second thing is, the plank is a great exercise. You can vary it up in a couple of ways. Four to two points of contact, and from four different types of contact. One or two Elbows/Hands and one or two Knees/Toes. You can also do side planks. I find it hard to believe that anyone under and advanced athlete would find these easy enough in any variation to not find these as a suitable exercise.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:49 PM on January 24, 2010


Thanks ludwig_van: thanks for your comments and suggestions... lots of food for thought in your replies.

P.o.B.: I got two free training sessions with the trainer with my membership and I hired him for two additional sessions (which we did last week) in which he came up with the program in my question. He has a Bachelor's degree and a certification. He built the program while working with me--but, I definitely got the feeling that he pretty much uses the same exercises for everyone and just swaps them around or makes some small variations. But, I don't think that I'm going to be working with him further so it probably doesn't matter much. I haven't tried the program enough to know if I like it. I have some concerns (like ludwig_van brought up that the weird shit that trainers have people do might not be the most complete work out. But, I tend to think there is some value in it). For example, when I've been through the trainer's routine I feel spanked afterwards so I think my body is doing work and thus getting stronger. I have wanted to mix in some big compound moves (ala Starting Strength/Stronglifts) which is why I originally posted the question. Thanks for responding to my recovery question and for your thoughts on planks and everything else.

Thanks everyone for the feedback.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:10 PM on January 24, 2010


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