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Bodyweight weight loss plan
December 18, 2010 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Having received much excellent and helpful advice on how to improve myself in my last question, I then set out to improve myself. Now that I've decided on my goals (and suffered/learned from some mistakes) I present to you my current cardio/weight loss/bodyweight plan, and hope for any advice/additional tips/corrections, and pose some questions that would be nice to have answers to.

About two weeks ago, I posed a question on how to increase my stamina and improve my cardiovascular system. I received some really awesome answers, which helped me a lot. (Thanks guys!)

From there I went on to formulate a personal cardio/weight loss/bodyweight training plan, in order to meet the following goals:

1. Lose weight, all the way down to 65kg (roughly 143 pounds). (I am now 85kg, roughly 187 pounds.) I'll be honest here: vanity does play a role in this weight loss goal, but the weight loss is also necessary because I'd like to compete in Kyokushin karate competitions; if I stay at my current weight, I'll be fighting super heavyweights who are often 6' foot and above guys, and though I'm not scared of the fights, I don't want to get into unnecessary injuries because of their immense length and reach over me as a 5'7 guy. At least if I get down to 65kg, then more often than not I'll be fighting people around my height.)

2. Improve my cardio fitness, to the extent that I can run continuously for 30 minutes at a good consistent running pace without my feet locking up due to lactate buildup, and without getting too tired to fight properly.

3. To gain strength, only by bodyweight exercises, and without lifting or gym equipments.



My cardio/weight loss/bodyweight training plan basically revolves around these iTunes apps I downloaded, whose set programs I've religiously followed in the past 2+ weeks (and will continue to follow until they end):

1. Couch to 5K, now in Week 2, Day 3.
2. 100 Pushups, now in Week 2, Day 2.
3. 200 Situps, now in Week 2, Day 2.
4. 200 Squats, now (and probably for a couple of months more, for reasons explained below) in Week 1, Day 2.
5. Nike+ GPS.
6. Tabata Timer.
7. Heart Rate Monitor.

(In addition, I registered with DailyBurn, and started noting down my calorie intake and exercises in a somewhat detailed fashion. Been maintaining at least a 500 calorie deficit per day, and I try to overstate my calorie intake where possible at that so hopefully I'm burning off more calories with exercise than is actually recorded there.)

Here are some things that I like about the above apps:

1. I don't have to think about what to do. The apps, like 100 Pushups/200 Situps/Couch to 5K set me a program based on my current abilities, and tell me to do it, and I do it. No excuses. In the absence of an instructor, the apps replace his role to let me know what I should do and when, which is exactly what I needed. (E.g. Even if I'm tired from running, if the Couch to 5K voice says "Run", then I'll force myself to do it until I hear the bell that signals 'stop'; I try not to cheat myself.)

2. There's hard data on what and how much I'm doing. I absolutely love this. With Nike+ GPS, for instance, I get to see my speed, pace, calories burned, mileage, etc and even after 6-7 runs I can start comparing graphs and figures, and I can see some interesting improvements already. Great stuff.

Now, the bad parts:

1. 100 Squats. Before I started running with Couch to 5K, I did 100 Squats. I went to my limits to get my current squat level (about 90+ squats over 5 reps), as the program suggested, and lo and behold, I couldn't walk properly for 4-5 days thereafter. I should have expected that, of course, but I learned two things from this: 1) Squatting can be a real damper to my Couch to 5K goals (but since these were just muscle, not joint injuries, I ran through the pain even though it hurt; and I was careful with my footing and made sure not to strike with the heels), and 2) Never ever do crazy reps for squats again, at least until you've trained for it.

2. Couch to 5K feels like murder sometimes, and I don't know why my legs haven't yet improved. (Surprisingly, I'm breathing better now that I'm in the second week and don't get wheezed out so quickly, but my legs still get tired from the lactate buildup pretty quickly; i.e. by the 3rd to 4th 90 second running interval, I have to force myself to carry my foot and put another step forward. Also, my pace gets really messy.)



So, in summary, these are the entirety of exercises that I've been doing and rotating throughout the past two weeks:

1. Pushups.
2. Situps.
3. Skip rope.
4. Pullups. (Well, I'm trying to do this, but it's hard to find any bars around here; there's a big bar near my balcony, but it's way too squarish and large and kind of hard to grip, so I wonder if there are any alternatives to pullups that still exercise the same kind of muscles as it does.)
5. Stairs.
6. Running.
7. Walking.

(I also got myself a copy of Convict Conditioning, and though I think it's awesome, I'm still confused about which programs to start with.)


So, my questions:

1. Are the above bodyweight exercises alone enough to lose weight? I fear that adding more exercises would confuse me. (In addition, I have no money to join a gym, and do not wish to join one if possible.)

2. Are the above bodyweight exercises enough to gain strength? The guy from Convict Conditioning makes a lot of cool claims, and though I fully trust him I wonder what the fellows here have to say of it.

3. What sort of intensity should I keep up with? For example, in running up and down the stairs, at what speed should I be doing that, and what heartbeat rate should I be always aiming for? (Also, if I stay in the "aerobic"/"anaerobic" zone, does that mean I won't be burning fat compared to staying always in the fat loss zone? What advantages are there of staying in the anaerobic my-hearts-beating-so-fast zone, compared to the aerobic/fat loss zone, both in the short term and long term?)

4. How much skipping should I do per day? Twice or so? How long per session? Would skipping help me lose weight? (I note also that when I skipped with Tabata, I could barely breath at the end of it, and my body was sweating so hard that I continued sweating even after a bath.) Also, the balls of my foot and calves somewhat hurt after the skipping, though I suspect it's only because I'm not used to it -- but is there anyway to prevent this? How do I properly land with a skip? The YouTube videos teach how to skip and skipping moves, but I haven't found any which goes into the mechanics of properly hitting down your foot when skipping.

5. How do stairs measure on the cardio/strength workout scale? Does it train your thighs or some other muscles? What benefits are there to it, and how long should I do it ideally per day?

6. I have, interestingly, thunder thighs, but I've noticed that packed underneath all that fat are some very, very solid muscles. I understand that there's no such thing as spot reduction, but if I use my legs a lot more (running/skipping/stairs) would it be possible for the fat there to be removed and/or 'overtaken' by the muscle growth in the area?

7. Should I reserve my squat programmes only to begin once I've completed Couch to 5K? Or should I do the squat stuff now? Or is there an alternative to doing squats now? The problem is that since I can't walk properly after intense squats, this completely counters my Couch to 5K plans. I've been told that squats are one of the ultimate bodyweight exercises, so it's disappointing that I have to wait until after Couch to 5K, unless there's some squatting exercise out there that doesn't paralyze you so much to prevent you from running.



I have some other questions, but I can't recall them right now, but I'll try to post them later if I remember. Thanks for reading!

(Note: If possible, I'd like to focus only on bodyweight exercises; I've been doing my reading and I understand that bodyweight exercises are more natural as they exercise compound muscles, thence giving more functional applicability in real life. (Note: I'm not insulting lifters, it's just that this is what I understand, which may or may not be wrong.) I aim for real strength, and I do not mind if my muscles don't bulge or seem that large so long as there's some real strength inside.)
posted by wz to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Others may disagree, but what I see is that you are doing a shitload of exercise and will inevitably improve your fitness and lose weight, unless you hurt yourself first. I wouldn't hassle it, just keep going with what you enjoy. Do fewer squats, work your way up slowly. Not every pre-packaged program is going to fit everyone. You're so amped up that I'm more concerned with potential overtraining than with not improving fast enough. I'd take a couple of days off every week, and take every 4th or 5th week off entirely.
posted by facetious at 9:09 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


For me, squats stop being crippling after about two weeks if I do them regularly. They still cause soreness, but the soreness isn't nearly as intense and doesn't last as long.

That being said, your quads are probably getting a fair amount of work in karate, and they're probably something you can bump to a lower priority right now while you get everything else ramped up. Yeah, yeah, they're the super exercise and everything, but spending an hour in zen stance or horse stance is pretty decent too.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:46 AM on December 18, 2010


Congratulations! You're well on your way to becoming much more fit than anyone I know, including myself and my gym-going friends. Also, I think you methodology is awesome -- using the internet and technology you already have access to, bodyweight exercises, and basic, compound movements. Awesome.

1. Are the above bodyweight exercises alone enough to lose weight?
Absolutely. Just remember that you're going to gain muscle as well, so just looking at the scale might frustrate you at some points. Take some naked or mostly naked pics from different angles and in different flexing poses. Take some today and some every week -- it's much easier to make honest evaluations using pics than it is looking in the mirror.


2. Are the above bodyweight exercises enough to gain strength?
I lift weights for specific muscle groups that are hard to hit otherwise (like delts). But bodyweight exercises are really the key to strength that too many people ignore when their just starting out. It's much easier to do some curls than it is to do pull-ups, but the pull-ups are SO MUCH BETTER for development.

5. How do stairs measure on the cardio/strength workout scale? Does it train your thighs or some other muscles? What benefits are there to it, and how long should I do it ideally per day?
I hate cardio, but I do stairs when I'm getting ready for backpacking trips. They train thighs and glutes, and you can also use them to really hammer your calves by pushing up onto your toes with each step.

7. Should I reserve my squat programmes only to begin once I've completed Couch to 5K? Or should I do the squat stuff now? Or is there an alternative to doing squats now?
Some people are born to run; I'm not one of them. There's no way I could start a squat routine and a running routine at the same time -- the DOMS would kill me.

Since weight loss rather than muscle gain is your more immediate goal, I would stick with the running and stairs, and hold off on the squats. If you really want more leg work, do some lunges, but EASE INTO THEM. Otherwise you'll have the same soreness problem. (I prefer lunges to squats because I've had knee surgery and lunges hurt less.)

The only other thing I would add (maybe not right away, since you have your hands full already!) are dips. Along with pull-ups, I've found those the most beneficial bodyweight exercise. They also have the added benefit of being much, much easier than pull-ups.

Finally, once you reach your pull-up/push-up goals, get a little bookbag and put 20 pounds or so in it so you can do weighted exercises.

Good luck! And thanks for inspiring me to go work out -- I've been slacking way to much for the past few months.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:05 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree that I'd be a little worried about overtraining and DOMS with your current program. I'd stick with more stairs and fewer squats, especially as you're more interested in weight loss than muscle gain (and it sounds like your quads are pretty strong already).

For example, in running up and down the stairs, at what speed should I be doing that, and what heartbeat rate should I be always aiming for? (Also, if I stay in the "aerobic"/"anaerobic" zone, does that mean I won't be burning fat compared to staying always in the fat loss zone?

The fat loss zone isn't as helpful to you because it burns calories more slowly, and you're mostly looking to burn calories - burn calories and you will burn fat (unless you don't eat 15 g of carbs before and after workouts - then you could start burning muscle, but!). Stairs are great, and I've come to love them with my trainer, but the important reminders are to go hard on the way up - get up into that aerobic and anaerobic zone - but then Slow Down on the way back down. This gives you more interval-type training, which is amazing stuff, and helps protect your joints, which are more likely to be injured on the way down than up. Jump rope is also great, and I find it's pretty easy to train into it, but I still never want to do it for more than a few minutes at time to help ease the sore feet and calves. Sometimes he has us do squats Up the stairs, which is brutal but gets both in there.

Lastly, reading all of your items: stretch! Stretch a lot! As others here have said, you're doing a Lot, so you need to protect and stretch those sore muscles so that they can contract even farther/better another day.
posted by ldthomps at 12:49 PM on December 18, 2010


Yeah, I would also be a little concerned with overtraining- listen to your body!

To attack sore muscles, do the stretching thing to a point, but be careful with that too. Something that I have been far more successful with is getting and regularly using a foam roller- it is like a deep tissue massage, but you can afford to do it twice a day! Google foam roller exercises for more.

On the app front- You might consider getting True Weight. Losing weight is a long term process- and 3-5 pound daily changes can be common. True weight uses a 28-day moving average to even out those fluctuations. It's nice.
posted by rockindata at 3:00 PM on December 18, 2010


Thanks for the response guys! I have to note something though: I'm not doing all of the exercises simultaneously. I rotate like this, to help prevent DOMS and to ensure that I still get a workout everyday:

1. Running, every 2 days (according to my Couch to 5K plan).
2. Pushups/situps, every 2 days, usually on alternate days to running.
3. Skipping, every 2-3 days, depending on when my calves/feet stop being sore.
4. Stairs, every 2 days, on alternate days to running.
5. Pullups, every 3 days.
6. Walking, every non-running, non-exercise day. (I try to use a pleasant walking pace for an hour or so on rest days, so that I don't get too complacent. )
7. Karate, every Tuesday and Thursday nights (and because of the intensity of this training, I only run for a bit during the mornings, which is enough because the training will be heavier).



@ facetious: You're so amped up that I'm more concerned with potential overtraining than with not improving fast enough. I'd take a couple of days off every week, and take every 4th or 5th week off entirely.

Yeah, I am kinda amped up, which is why I don't want to stop :) (That does sound like a stupid excuse and it is a recipe for injury, I know, but I try my best to keep myself from harm. I've had no painful injuries yet, except for a temporary slight pain in the left side of my hips from situps, so I don't think that I've been overtraining.) I'm just afraid that I'll start slipping if I stop -- also, I'm trying to loss the weight by April 2011, consistently, through proper nutrition and workout, so there's a time goal that I'm trying to meet as well.

@ restless_nomad: For me, squats stop being crippling after about two weeks if I do them regularly. They still cause soreness, but the soreness isn't nearly as intense and doesn't last as long. That being said, your quads are probably getting a fair amount of work in karate, and they're probably something you can bump to a lower priority right now while you get everything else ramped up.

That actually makes sense about the quads and zen/horse stance thing. I forgot about that, thanks for pointing it out. And yeah, probably squats are a lower priority right now, because I'm aiming for overall fitness first.

@ coolguymichael: Thanks for the advice on lunges and dips! I'll try to incorporate them into my workouts. And hope you start back out on your workouts too!

@ ldthomps: I read a couple of interesting articles that mentioned how stretches are good for flexibility, but not for warming up purposes. (Apparently, warming up should constitute a low-intensity version of the main exercise.) All these years I've been using stretches for warming up though, and since I don't know how accurate the articles are, I continue to do stretches before the main exercise.

@ rockindata: The foam roller exercises look interesting, never heard of them before. Will try it out!
posted by wz at 5:10 PM on December 18, 2010


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