These love handles are looking less beautiful
August 26, 2006 6:04 PM   Subscribe

FatassFilter: Has anyone ever used one of the weight lifting plans that are in the backs of Mens Fitness or other magazines, or are they a load of crap?

I went to the doctor on Friday and he all but ordered me to lose 40 pounds. I am 26, 5'11", and weigh 210 lbs. and I am in the process of quitting smoking. I work around 50 hours a week but have committed myself to four to five hours a week, four nights a week at the gym and have signed up for FitDay.

However, I cannot afford a trainer on my budget and my doctor is full of platitudes but can't refer me to someone to make a fitness plan. I picked up Men's Fitness magazine at the bookstore today and while sweating to get through it, I came across what seems like a good fitness plan for lean-body building.

BUT: Are these plans any good?

If yes, what's the best way to make them effective?

If not, what the hell do I do now?
posted by parmanparman to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've used them. They're OK. I think the most effective work-out routine for you is one you're going to stick with. So just do whatever you enjoy -- but obviously you're going to have better results with a combo of weight-lifting and cardio.

I've lost about 20 pounds in two months by tracking my calories via FitDay and working out six days/week. Nothing too fancy.

It's fun -- good luck! Check out the MeFi tags "weightloss" and "diet" for more pointers.
posted by bostonkevin at 6:07 PM on August 26, 2006

If your goal is to lose weight, weight training is not your best option; you would be better served by engaging in prolonged aerobic activity using the a treadmill, stair-climber, or exercise bike.
posted by The Confessor at 6:09 PM on August 26, 2006

I got a lot out of them just by following the instructions. They usually have a beginner,intermediate and expert rating (depending on how long and how much you exercise). I did about 10 out of a series of 12 on total body workouts and really saw a difference.
I would say the best way to make them effective is to keep a workout log, so you can see the progress you have been making. It made a difference to me, when I had hit a wall or was getting discouraged.

YMMV of course and IMNAD.
posted by Asbestos McPinto at 6:15 PM on August 26, 2006

Gotta respectfully disagree with Confessor. In my experience (lost 80 pounds, have kept it off for 5 years), weight training should be your first attack, coupled with an improved diet, followed by whatever cardio you have the remaining energy/time for.

The rationale: your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories you burn in a given day just being you - breathing, walking, even digesting your food. The higher your BMR, the more weight you will lose over time.

Muscle is magical because it increases your BMR. For every pound of muscle you add, your body will burn up 50 to 100 extra calories a day. So, by adding ten pounds of muscle, you're shaving 500 to 1,000 calories a day out of your net intake, all other things being equal. Keep in mind that 3,500 calories equals a pound of fat, and you can see how effective muscle can be.

Resistance training has the added benefit of raising your calorie-burn rate after the workout for upwards of 12 hours - whereas with a treadmill workout, you go back to normal surprisingly quickly.

I highly recommend the Abs Diet, a book by Men's Health editor David Zinczenko. Also, keep in mind please that I am not dissing cardio workout - it is important. But I've had great success by emphasizing muscle training and diet. Muscle eats fat far quicker than you can burn it off.
posted by jbickers at 6:20 PM on August 26, 2006

Prescription Exercise is the site you want to go to for anything fitness or weight lifting related. It is really incredible and spend some time going around and getting a feel for the site. They don't have the spin or motivation the men's magazines have and will be incredibly blunt in how effective everything is.
posted by geoff. at 6:21 PM on August 26, 2006

quite honestly, if you are just getting started, quitting smoking and out of shape, pretty much any exercise plan is "good".

the point of making a plan is to provide structure, so that you get exercise and you stick with it; it doesn't matter so much at this point what you do, as long as you do it. that's more important than any considerations of metabolic rate or calorie burning or anything. that's my opinion, anyway.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 6:31 PM on August 26, 2006

Jbickers is correct. Well-developed major muscles turn into calorie-burning machines that are very costly for your body to support, in terms of energy.

Additionally, getting a little muscle on you is a great way to protect your joints while you're doing the aerobic stuff. Get your wrists, knees, and lower back in some kind of shape. A little tone will also stop you from having quite so much "wobble" when you're hopping about aerobically.
posted by adipocere at 6:31 PM on August 26, 2006

Mens Fitness isn't bad, but Flex magazine is clearly the best. Resistance training is the way to go, and jbickers is right on the money. Building muscle is a sound, long term approach to being leaner, stronger and healthier. Make that your number one priority.
posted by raydexter at 6:56 PM on August 26, 2006

Obiously each person is different, but one of the easier ways to lose weight is to cut certain things from your diet. I lost nearly 80 pounds when I started paying attention to what drinks, etc had high fructose corn syrup in them. Seriously. Also consider cutting fatty foods out. Exercise is very important, but as you said you have to find time in your busy schedule for such things. NOT eating bad foods doesn't take as much time. Find time to walk more, eat better and congrats on working to quit smoking. I quit at the same time as I was losing weight, and while being less heavy feels great, not smoking feels even better.

Good luck.
posted by terrapin at 7:02 PM on August 26, 2006

Thanks for all the comments, now I need to leave this cafe and walk the mile home - daily resolution two.
posted by parmanparman at 7:41 PM on August 26, 2006

I find those magazines to be a bit overspecialized. The problem is that they have to put out a new workout every issue.

If you want a magazine workout that isn't subject to editorial pressure, I really like the sound of (but I'm not currently doing) Men's Health's Abs Diet, which despite the awful name is really just a combination of workout routines and nutritional advice for weight loss. (The "Abs" in "Abs Diet" is that one of the goals is to find your abs.) Here's the starting point, in case the index page I linked up above doesn't make it that clear.

(And yes, it's based around resistance training.)
posted by mendel at 8:51 PM on August 26, 2006

I've had some recent success on a program from a trainer, I know you said money was an issue but if you can scrape it up this is really the way to go - I found I had been training my legs wrong - using bad form for quite a while. I think a lot of places it is around $25 a session... I am really kicking myself for not doing it sooner.
posted by Deep Dish at 8:53 PM on August 26, 2006

Heh Parmanparman,

Email me?
posted by effugas at 9:13 PM on August 26, 2006

no, actually adipocere you and jbickers are *not* right, and I'm surprised that so many people still believe that having a larger muscle to fat ratio burns a significant amount of calories at rest. Adding to the fact that a more muscular person will not be burning very many extra calories at rest than a less lean person at the same weight, it's also likely that a person who has better developed musculature will be more efficient during most exercise, and will actually waste fewer calories when, say, walking at the same pace as a person with a higher fat ratio.
Here's an article from a Philly paper that cites some actual numbers:

parmanparman, I think you are wise to incorporate strength training as well as aerobic workouts into your routine in order to build muscle and bone strength, but your concentration should be focussed on the latter in order to have an effect on your weight. Good luck, and it sounds like you are already on track with your wlking.
posted by stagewhisper at 9:34 PM on August 26, 2006

oops, link is here
posted by stagewhisper at 9:36 PM on August 26, 2006

Men's Health will work, but it's not the best. Additionally, they're bad about repeating tired old dogma that used to be conventional wisdom but is now known to be inaccurate. I recommend T-Nation for the most up-to-date information. Start with this beginner's guide to diet and exercise.

I always recommend T-Nation, but I have no affiliation with them.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 9:59 PM on August 26, 2006

Actually, parman's focus should be on what he enjoys over what is technically more efficient. If he gets into lifting and likes it and does it 3 or 4 times a week, he'll do much better then if he forces himself to run since he'll just stop doing it if he doesn't like it. Many studies have also shown that positive changes in diet go along with a successful excercise habit - they form a positive feedback loop. ie: "I've hit the gym four times this week, I don't wanna screw it up by gorging on brownies..." In the end, losing weight is simply about eating less + moving around more, so the type of movement isn't so important as is making it a part of your lifestyle.

Since he's asking about lifting routines, it might be fair to say he has an interest in being stronger and will like lifting. If he does have an unspoken love for running or biking, thats great - priortize that! Do what you love. However, I would argue its easier for an overweight/obese person to get started lifting rather then with strenuous cardio, but thats a debate for another day. As he gets into shape he'll end up doing both, as both cardio and resisitance training have their place.

I highly recommend the following two articles by Lyle McDonald, and everything else on his site. The forums can be a bit daunting for new people, but there are many very smart people there.

Training Secrets the "magical" equation to fitness? "Ass busting work + consistency + time = results."
How Detail Oriented Do I Have to Be?
posted by rsanheim at 10:16 PM on August 26, 2006

raydexter: Are you being sarcastic about Flex? It might be "the best" if you wanna read bodybuilder-porn, but its not the best for your typical, non-drug enhanced trainer. Most of their routines have insane amounts of volume and over-specialization, which might be fine if you are jacked on steroids but will not work for someone like parman.

Mens Fitness and Mens Health also have their share of crazy routines, but I do see decent routines from time to time by people like Alwyn Cosgrove or Eric Cressey. Just avoid any routine that claims to add "2 inches to your biceps!" in 2 weeks, and stick with a basic routine using compound movements.
posted by rsanheim at 10:20 PM on August 26, 2006

Eric Cressy, fyi, has written for T-Nation. I'm with Mr. Gunn, start reading that site.
posted by Loto at 10:38 PM on August 26, 2006

If not, what the hell do I do now?

Don't over think your fitness routines... you can spend hours pouring over books, magazines, websites, etc.

Hit the gym and figure out which cardio machine you like (I prefer the elliptical trainers.) Work yourself up to 45 minute sessions three or four times a week. (More if you have time - work in a few longer intervals, too.)

Eat less, go to bed hungry, and when you do eat try to find stuff that's good for you. Stick to it and you'll be 40bls lighter by New Years.

Once you get the excess pounds off then you can spend time figuring out a training routine to build muscle, etc.
posted by wfrgms at 10:46 PM on August 26, 2006

Seconding jbickers and mendel's Abs Diet recommendation. I was a fairly fit guy when I started it, so it hasn't had the dramatic results it promises for those who are initially out of shape. But it has completely changed the way I eat. It truly is less of a "diet" in the modern-day traditional sense, and more a way of planning to eat healthily all the time. Good stuff.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 6:53 AM on August 27, 2006

(er, uh, I guess that I'd be thirding their recommendations. But yeah.)
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 6:55 AM on August 27, 2006

I'm not talking about muscle that's just sitting there - it'll turn into flab pretty quickly. I'm talking about muscle you maintain. While 50 calories does seem a bit high, I'm pointing at a couple of factors - lack of fatty insulation and the cost to keep that muscle big, as in having to work it. If you get well-developed thighs, let's say, and you just let them sit, they'll be flab rather rapidly. The workouts to keep the well-developed thighs are what will be more of a cost. I probably didn't phrase it very well the first time out.

You can test this by noting the heat that will come off of your large muscles, for many hours after a workout. It was the one thing I found really shocking about working out - I had figured my body would drop back to a metabolic baseline rapidly, but hours later, you could hold your hand away from my legs and feel the heat radiating off. Something about that tells me that I'm losing heat and that my tissues are busy putting things back in order. Since I didn't freeze to death, I'm guessing that will cost me a few calories.
posted by adipocere at 7:51 AM on August 27, 2006

I got "Weight Training for Dummies" and "Fitness for Dummies" at the local library, and was able to draw up a really comprehensive weight training and cardio plan for myself using the info in these books.

Weight loss was never my goal -- I was hoping to get stronger and maybe a little bit buffer. The books definitely helped.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:38 AM on August 27, 2006

I think the key will have to be working between cardio and muscle building to lose weight and not add mass. Plus, I need to change my eating habits to more high-protein meals and veg.
posted by parmanparman at 11:05 AM on August 27, 2006

I haven't done a broad survey of the literature or anything, but Patrick Avon's Boot Camp is a pretty great introduction to the fundamentals of exercise. Plus, the only thing you have to buy is a pair or running shoes.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:58 PM on August 27, 2006

Lifting is great, but for losing weight there really is nothing like consistent and persistent aerobic exercise. Couple it with moderate calorie reduction and you will lose weight.
posted by OmieWise at 6:43 AM on August 28, 2006

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