Big man workout system?
July 24, 2009 7:44 PM   Subscribe

I need a workout system for a BIG man.

So, I'm 6'8" and about 380lbs. I'm most certainly overweight, but not as much as those numbers would make it seem. The best shape in my life was when I was 18 years old and just 300lbs and I was wrestling and running many miles a day.

I'm looking for a programthat will help transform my fat into muscle. I recently quit smoking, so my cardio is pathetic at the moment. I'm also open to any SAFE supplements.

I have a membership to a very, very nice YMCA with full weight room, nautilus, pool, track, and aerobic center. They also offer pilates, spinning, and step classes.

I've started taking yoga in the mornings to increase my flexibility and core strength. My goal is to see a marked improvement in around 2-3 months. I have a long vacation planned and would really like to see some results.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You've got a lot of things confused here, and so it's hard to tell what you would consider success. Do you want to increase your cardiovascular and respiratory health? Do you want to simply lose weight? Do you want to increase strength? Or do you just want to hit all fronts in an effort to improve your looks? You need to come up with some sort of plan of action before you start wildly flailing about healthwise, especially if you want to see something happen in 2-3 months.

As for what to do in that time - the most visible improvement you could make is probably losing 20 lbs, and the straightforward way to do this is diet, as exercise tends to not make as big a difference to weight loss as people think (although it certainly improves overall health in a way that diet can't). Being a big guy, I'll ballpark that your body naturally burns about 2500 cal/day, and so you should try to eat around 1750 or so calories a day to lose 20 lbs in 3 months. You can shade that a bit with some very regular cardio, but sticking to that number will do it.
posted by TypographicalError at 8:15 PM on July 24, 2009

You're the type of guy weightlifting was made for. I'd go for 45 minutes of solid weightlifting, followed by 15 minutes of cardio. Up the cardio as you're able. I'm sort of time crunched, so I specifically follow ExRx's Low Volume Training philosophies. Works very well for me.

Cardio is great for losing weight, but only goes so far. You won't believe the way a solid month of weight training will reshape your body and make you feel.
posted by sanka at 8:16 PM on July 24, 2009

Try P90x. (I know, it's on tv as a cheesy informercial, but it works.)

I've been doing it, and it kicks my butt pretty good, and I'm seeing results. No need for a gym either on top of that. The major thing is that you need to dedicate an hour a day, everyday, and gotta eat right. I haven't been sticking to the diet, but still seeing results. Do a youtube search on it for inspiration.
posted by blahblah at 9:00 PM on July 24, 2009

a program that will help transform my fat into muscle

You will never find this program. Losing fat has far more to do with diet than it has to do with your exercising. In this recent study it was demonstrated that subjects oxidize (lose/use) fat better on a low carb high fat (LC) diet than on a high carb low fat (HD) diet. Strength and cardio tests were the same between groups.

There was another article I wanted to cite, but can't seem to find now. In it, they split people into 3 different groups and measured their weight loss after 3 months or so (I can't remember the specific length of time). The groups diet-only, cardio /weightlifting 3 times a week for one hour sessions, and diet+cardio / weightlifting. On average, the diet group lost about 17 lbs, the diet+exercise group lost about 18-19 lbs and the exercise only group lost 3-4 lbs. If anyone knows the study I'm talking about feel free to post it up. I thought I had it on my citeulike, but apparently not :(

So, there you go. To lose the fat, diet is more important. Don't eat refined sugar or trans fat. Don't eat processed foods. Avoid wheat if you can. Eat lots of vegetables, nuts, and meats. If you're going organic + grass-fed/free-range, it doesn't matter what type of meat you eat, but otherwise you should stay towards the leaner cuts as grain-fed animals tend to have fairly worthless fat (consumption wise). I strongly suggest you cook for yourself.

As far as strength goes, since you're already a large guy, you're likely quite strong due to the simple fat that you are able to move yourself around. Once you drop some of your own weight, you'll find your one rep max at most other weights will also increase. The best overall strength (force only) lifts are the deadlift and the squat. The best power(force*distance/time) lifts are the Olympic lifts like the clean& jerk and the snatch. This site often has really great workout ideas, but they can be hard to do on your own as the real motivation behind them is the sense of competition you get as you workout. Also, start a personal blog on blogger or something and use it to track your progress. Get in the habit of posting everything about your session immediately after you finish. Sometimes it's good to bring a pen and paper so you remember exactly what you did. If you keep with everything you will find amazing results within your time frame for sure.
posted by scrutiny at 6:46 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I cant recommend the 5x5 system highly enough. It's simple, easy to follow and works. Combined with high intensity interval cardio, you can expect to see some very impressive results in about a month.
posted by Finder at 8:26 AM on July 25, 2009

Agree with the above posts: if your goal is substantial (but reasonably paced) weigh loss, diet is probably more important than exercise.

Obviously, diet and exercise together are better. It seems you're asking which diet and which exercise program metafilter recommends for reasonably paced results with good effort by a man with a large frame.

Diet: I lost more than a few pounds using calorie counting. I adopted this as my approach after reading The Hacker's Diet (highly recommended). Rather than use a notebook or spreadsheet, I used The Daily Plate (now part of to input my foods and it automatically tabulates calorie and nutritional information. GREAT site, highly recommended. When I input my food intake I lose weight consistently. When I forget/neglect to input it, I gain.

Exercise: Others will have better specific advice, but I recommend interval training (i.e., 5 minutes of cardio at normal pace, then 1 minute as fast/hard as you can go, repeat 4-6 times) and dynamic stretching (stretches where you're moving throughout the stretch). Beyond that, it's simply a matter of choosing a reasonable program (like 5x5 mentioned above or the 30 Day Shred or many others) and consistently following it.

Good luck, I'm off to work out!
posted by unclezeb at 9:29 AM on July 25, 2009

You need to clarify your goals. Is losing fat all you care about? Or do you want to be strong, or have good endurance?

How strong are you? The more muscle you have the easier it will be to lose fat. Do you know how to squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, power clean, with a barbell? If not I'd say learning those movements is a great first step, and Starting Strength is the best way to learn them. SS is not a fat-loss program, but you'd probably see your bodyfat percentage go down while following it.

Like I mentioned, your caloric requirements will depend on your amount of lean body mass, i.e. your weight - (bodyfat percentage * weight). 1750 sounds very low to me, way too low to be building any kind of strength.

If you're strong enough, Crossfit is an excellent program for overall physical fitness.

If I were you I wouldn't waste time doing yoga. And I think P90x sounds extremely silly.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:23 AM on July 25, 2009

Response by poster: I would do Starting Strength or the 5x5. You are a big guy and could totally go places with your lifting.

Honesty, the nautilus stuff is shit, get a gym with a squat rack and barbells and free weights and lifting platforms if you can swing it.

Scrutiny is right, if weight loss is your goal diet is the key. Exercise ain't going to do it, but it will make sure what's under the fat is pretty.

Crossfit or P90x are fun programs, but risk repetitive-stress injuries if you are very heavy. You want to stay away from things that involve lots of running, jumping, plyometrics, and things that will launch your body, or parts thereof, into the air and require your joints to absorb the shock. They simply are not going to be able to handle it.
posted by Anonymous at 4:52 PM on July 25, 2009

I would do Starting Strength or the 5x5.

A small nitpick/clarification: I assume you mean the Stronglifts 5x5 beginner program here. There are many programs out there that use 5 sets of 5 reps, or 5x5. Most of them are intermediate programs, and are not to be confused with the Stronglifts beginner program.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:13 PM on July 26, 2009

Do they offer any circuit classes, or do they have a circuit set up? The combination of weight lifting and cardio works really well for me. I started doing the bare minimum for the cardio, but now push myself to a high intensity on every cardio station. I burn about 10 calories a minute.

From listening to Jillian Michaels' podcasts, it sounds like it's hard to both build muscle and lose fat at the same time, because one requires a calorie deficit whilst the other needs an excess. Also, as a big guy, you probably are pretty muscely already - you just can't see it. I mean, everytime you bend down to pick up a piece of paper you are probably squatting as much as many of the guys at the gym. Weights are useful, but mostly to maintain that strength, and maybe to build arm strength.

The fact is that when your starting out, the best exercise is exercise that you will do. It's mostly a mental thing until you get fit enough to enjoy the feeling of pushing yourself. Start with the things that interest you, and if you don't hate them, do them again. As your fitness and confidence increases, you'll feel more able to try new things.
posted by kjs4 at 12:09 AM on July 28, 2009

Response by poster: kjs4--it's worth mentioning that the difficulty building muscle and losing fat does not apply to beginner's. Or more precisely, building strength and losing fat does not apply. People who are new to exercise and lifting (i.e. have not been following a serious, programmed lifting schedule for a year or two) have the magic ability to make massive strength gains and body composition changes as their body becomes adapted to the new thing called "exercise."

Furthermore, while huge dudes will tend to have more muscle on them, that muscle mass is only what the non-exerciser has--which is just enough to maintain their daily activities given their body size and shape, or generally not enough to be fit, healthy, and get all of the benefits of extra muscle mass that comes from lifting, working out, and being active (bone density, etc).
posted by Anonymous at 11:23 AM on July 28, 2009

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