# The Math: Sets and Reps Explained

January 29, 2010 by · 1 Comment

One of the mysteries for beginners, and even some old timers, is the math of sets and reps. In this article, I will explain it, the answer may surprise you.

When you see a workout routine written in sets and reps, the basics are easy, one set is equal to one group of repetitions for one exercise, and the weight used for that set, like this.

Week one – three  Bench Press

1 x 12-15 x 95lb

Sounds pretty simple so far, but what is meant by 12-15 reps? Is it just putting any weight on there, then doing 12-15 repetitions? No! When you write out your routine, you need to know how many reps you can do, MAXIMUM, for that weight. Lets assume that I can do only twelve repetitions of that 95 pounds, in that case, my goal is to do more than my maximum, that is how you get stronger, and you know when to add more weight.

The first week, all I can do is 12 reps, the second week, I should do 13 or 14, the third week I should do 14 or 15, then, for weeks four to six I would add weight, not reps. In the above illustration, 95 pounds, which is the bar, 45 pounds, and two 25 pound plates, for a total of 95 pounds. So, in the second week, I would use two 35 pound plates, for a total of 115 pounds, like this.

Week four – six Bench Press

1×12-15x135lb

Now, why is it I added 20lbs? Simple, if you can do 15 reps of 95, you should be able to do 12 of 115, even if you can only do 11, don’t worry about it, that is your goal, it is not supposed to be easy. As far as I am concerned, those little bitty plates, less than 25lbs, are useless, unless maybe for a keychain or something.

In this example I am using a standard 12-15 reps, this is a general fitness type of set, if you want to do more, for endurance, thats ok, just remember, it is the maximum weight for X repetitions, but in any case, I don’t recommend doing more than 15 if you want to get stronger, and then, I would use 15 as a warm up. A typical Bench Press routine would look something like this.

Week one -three Bench Press

• 1x15x45 (empty bar)
• 1×12-15×95
• 1×10-12×115
• 1×4-10×135

Week four -six Bench Press

• 1x15x45 (empty bar)
• 1×12-15×115
• 1×10-12×135
• 1×4-10×155

Of course you have to know what numbers to plug into this, if all you can bench is the empty bar for a few reps, thats ok, go from there. This is just an example for an average person, in average shape, your specific needs may vary, and as always, make sure you are healthy enough, talk to your doctor before beginning anything new.

# Free Weights vs Machines, what works best?

January 29, 2010 by · 1 Comment

Free Weights and Machines both have a purpose, and even though I am seriously biased, whatever works for you is a good thing.

Having this said, there is a difference, a factual one that cannot be denied, no matter what your opinion says, they are different. I am an IronHead, and for me, Free Weights will always make up the biggest part of my training, but, I do use machines for some things, but, what is the difference?

When you are doing a Bench Press with free weights, there are many tiny muscles that are used to stabilize the weight, with a machine, the machine does the stabilizing for you. If you want to throw those rubber-band gizmos into the mix, it is basically the same as any machine, but, it pulls in its own direction, not just that of gravity, which is straight down. That pretty much covers it, but I will get into more detail below.

Free Weights

Take a look at the picture of the Weight Rack, what is wrong with it? Notice how the different sized plates are all mixed up? That is just wrong! That rack is designed for three sizes, and should be so, because those little bitty things are of no use when you train, properly, something I will get into in detail in another article.

When using Free Weight, the first indicator should be the name itself, free weight, no, that is not the price, it simply means that weight is free to go where gravity pulls it. No matter which exercise, if it can be done with Free weights, you will get more out of it, because there are so many more muscles involved, free weights do not isolate a specific muscle, but an entire group of muscles. With free weights, you use different benches for different angles to hit the entire muscle group, not different machines. Do this test, if you are a regular machine lover, just try doing the same weight as the machine, with free weights, you will immediately notice the difference.

The downside to Free Weights is that when you get to the heavier weights, it is good to have a spotter, something not needed with a machine.

Weight Machines

The good side to weight machines, like the one in the picture, is that you can get a full body workout in no time, almost like circuit training, but take a peek at the weight stack, a beginner should be able to max out the machine in just a few months, then what?

Machines come in several types for different purposes, some for home use, which is another advantage over free weights, a machine takes up less space, but, in some cases cost more than a total set-up with Free weights. At the gym, you will see the machines set up in groups, and can be very beneficial for everyone, they do have a purpose. Many people get taught as a beginner on the machines only, and then tend to just stick with them, which is ok, if that is your thing, but, if you want to get strong, Free Weights are a must.

Now, I am going to talk about the biggest joke in the fitness world as far as I’m concerned, but yes, they do have a purpose. The rubber-band gizmos, are fine for those that just want to do something to make them sweat. I don’t care who the “expert” is that they hire to do a commercial, they are useless if you want to gain any mass or strength. These gizmos, will give you a good workout if you have to skip the gym one day, but, even if you buy the expensive ones, that have up to 400lbs of resistance, the movement is unnatural, and does not give you the best bang for your buck, if you really want to train right, and get bigger or stronger, but, they are kinda cute.

Free Weights and Machines, even the rubber-band gizmos, can all give you a workout, it is up to you to decide which is best, For You, look at what your needs are, what your goals are, then decide. Either way, just move something, control your diet, and stay as active as you can. I know that many veterans have limits that prohibit using certain things, for those of you, use what works for you, just keep it fun, never let it become a chore that you dread, because if it is fun, you will stick with it!

# Now that I am Motivated, what do I do?

January 28, 2010 by · 1 Comment

Once you have made the decision to get up and do something, no matter how “uncomfortable” you may feel, or how much it “hurts”, you want to get in shape, and you want it now, what is the next step?

Is your diet in control? If so, what do you want to do? What activity gives you the most pleasure? Ok, I can hear the replies to that one, but yes, even sex can help you, but, make sure you are healthy enough, and that your partner is ok with it. My point is, if you have a favorite activity, do it! For me, it is the gym and heavy iron, even though I have over three decades of training under my belt, I have to start slow, and so do you, otherwise, you may hurt yourself and have to start all over again.

I don’t know what caused you to get out of shape, I know my reasons, and I know how complicated that subject can get, there are just so many variables involved, like injury, illness, financial, marital, the list goes on an on, but what ever the problems were, if you have now made the decision to get fit, good for you, and yes, you can do it!

If you enjoy winter activities like snow boarding or skiing, you don’t want to just go get on a slope and go, just like any activity, you have to start slow, but, for over-all fitness, regardless of your “target”, like skiing , the gym is a great place to start. Again, start slow, and work your way up.

The main point is, once you are motivated and have made that firm, un-movable decision, without any doubt, just get up and do something! For some people, the swimming pool has been reccomended as a starting point, and that is a great place to start, it can help you get stronger and increase your mobility without putting as much stress on old painful injuries, but unless swimming is your thing, it may get old, once you have gotten all you can get from it. What do I mean by that? Let’s use a dumbbell for an example, like in the picture. Do you see that little bitty one on the top right of the rack? That looks like a two pounder, if you were to use that and do curls with it, how long would it be until it felt like you have nothing in your hand? With the dumbbells, you simply move to the next heavier one, then the next and so on. With a swimming pool, once you have overcome the set resistance of walking, treading water or whatever, there is no place to go, but get faster at those activities, yes, playing games and such can be fun, but unless you do it an awful lot, you will plateau, and your progress will seem to stop. No, I am not saying the pool is bad, but I am saying, that is just one tool, add a few more for even better results.

Just don’t let whatever you like get boring, boredom is probably the worst enemy, so keep it fun! If you do that, you will see the results you are looking for! You can do it, one step, one rep, and one bite at a time!

# Free Weights: The best exercises, the Squat!

January 27, 2010 by · 1 Comment

This is the first article of many about exercises, I am going to cover the basics, something that is most often left out by anyone trying to sell you some sort of magic routine that will do something that no other training method can, if you buy their fancy gizmo and follow their secret plan. Do yourself a favor, ignore those gimmicky junk pedlers, the only one that can benefit from it is them, they get your cash!

In today’s fitness crazed world, where everything is bad for you and you can’t eat anything but rabbit food, always remember the basics, where did these new age gurus come from? How old are they and who taught them what they know?

This article is about the Squat, the most loved and hated exercise ever. Why is it hated? It hurts! Why is it loved? It works! In fact, if you only have 10 minutes, three days a week, you can get a full body workout, with just three exercises, the Squat, Bench-Press, and Dead-Lift, all the other exercises only add to what you can get from the basic three.

The squat is the best exercise, period, regardless of what your training goals are, because it uses every muscle in your body, yes, even your eye muscles are involved, when done properly. I found a great article about the squat, at NerdFitness, and that is where I found the image below.

The main Thing that I need to point out, is the eyes, see how the guy in this pic has them fixed on an invisible object, that only he can see? This is very important, once you learn the proper form, by fixing your eyes, you keep your posture and you body’s position straight, if you look around the room, or up and down, your body will do the same, and this can get you hurt.

The positioning and angle of the feet is also important, you can vary the angle of your feet to put more or less emphasis on different parts of your legs, but that is an issue for those that have a lot of experience, for the beginner, or the old and injured like me, keep the feet almost straight, but slightly pointed outward, you’ll see, find the most comfortable for you.

Keep your back straight, remember the eyes, find a point on the wall in front of you and keep your eyes on it, this helps.

What makes the Squat so special? When you have an injury, you tend to favor that, be it an ankle, hip, knee, whatever, and long after this injury is healed up, it still influences your posture, by doing squats, you re-train your body to be straight, and you work every muscle together, all at the same time, thus strengthening your entire body. When you do something that trains your various body parts to work together, even the little muscles that only help stabilize are put to use, this makes your overall conditioning and even your appearance more balanced.

I know, you are saying, “but I have a bad back”, I do too, I cannot stand for more than a few minutes. My problem is basically arthritis, and bone spurs, I have spikes growing out of my spine that start a chain reaction of problems, and walking, or standing make this worse, but, squats make it feel better! Of course, talk to your doctor before doing squats if you have a back problem, but, if they tell you exercise is ok, squats should be number one on your list, it can help you.

# Where do the images come from?

January 27, 2010 by · 1 Comment

I want to let everybody know, the most all of the images you will find on this site come from various sources, just found doing an image search with Google, should anyone find a picture offensive, or maybe it is a copyrighted image that we have unknowingly found and used, just use the contact form and let us know, and it will either be removed, or the appropriate copyright information will be added, whichever is the appropriate  way to go.

As for the images like this one.

These images are created at an interesting website that I found, Wordl.net, there, you can create images like this of your own. I have to admit, before I found this site, I tried to manually create them myself, but they just never came out right, so, take a look at the site, you may come up with something special!

# Over Weight or Over Fat? Running vs Weight Training?

January 22, 2010 by · 1 Comment

If you served in the military, before 1983, you may not have experienced the first changes that I know of, about weight restrictions. I joined the Army in 1982, and for my height, 5′ 7″, the limit was 205 pounds, I know this, because that is what I weighed and was told that I was at the limit for my height. This was of course after basic, and AIT, was after passing my PT test at my unit in Germany, and was just part of their physical requirement check-up. I was not fat, not even close, but, I was at the max for my height. Within 6 months, when the next evaluation came along, I of course passed my PT test again, but this time, 205 pounds was over weight! The chart used at that time said I was to be no more than 176 pounds, that is now, 29 pounds over weight! I hadn’t changed, the chart did!

From what I have read, the Army is using body fat along with the height/weight/age chart now, that is good news, because I would not wish what I have been through on anybody! (Read This, Click Here)

After being told that I was now fat (over-weight), I was shocked, but that was just the beginning of the embarrassment, they put me in an extra-PT group and we had to do PT twice a day! This by itself was fine, it got me out of the boring, motor pool and do maintainance routine, but there I was, with a bunch of fatties from the head shed, like clerks, secretaries, and such. The spec-5 that was in charge of our PT was so fat he breathed hard just standing there! All of my fellow platoon members, were rolling on the ground laughing, it was awful! We went on a run, around the block, not even a mile, and I was one of maybe four or five that made it all the way, and, it was my first time to be the one calling cadence, because the spec-5 was the firt to fall out, he didn’t make it out of the gate!

The next day, Top called me into his office and put me in charge of the Fat Platoon, that is what they called us, made up of the over weight and failed PT test group,  and I was instructed to get everybody in the group Fit! I said, “Yes!, First Sargent” and walked out to the group. I was an E3, but now, I was in charge of getting about 20 tubbies in shape, so, I marched everybody to the gym! Now, I am loving this extra PT, I get to go to the gym on Army time, not mine! I started the group off with a sort of circuit training, using the limited equipment we had, an old Universal Machine, a stationary bike, a jump-rope or two, and of course Free Weights and a basketball court. We were a bit disorganized at first, but, it worked out pretty good.

After about 2 weeks, my CO, an arrogant, skinny, pencil-neck, geek, was mad, because he never saw us do anything, he wanted to see us running, so, I got called into Top’s office again, where he informed me what the CO wanted, again, I said, “Yes, First Sargent” and walked out to my “trainees” and told them we had to go for a run at least once a week, and I fibbed a bit, and told them that we had to do at least two miles or I was getting replaced, and that the extra PT was going to just be running from now on, when we marched out the gate, I have never heard such a loud group of but maybe 20 soldiers, something was different about them, and me, I was actually proud, not embarrassed!

Once we were about 5 minutes underway, we still had a tight formation, no one was lagging or falling out, we were actually picking up speed! Here we are, the “Fat Platoon”, and we are running! Where we ran, there were only a few options, places where the sidewalk was wide enough, or a street that was not too busy, even to just turn around and go back the way we had come, without stopping, which kills momentum. Since around the block was not allowed this time, we had to do at least a mile, according to Top. Our options on this road were, around the block, one mile, two miles, or the next was just over three. As we got close to the cut-off for one mile, the squad was going strong, and something strange happened, the whole squad wanted to do 2 miles! So, we passed that first turn, there was no turning back, it was either two miles or failure!

As we ran, all the way through the gate, it was now time for the afternoon formation, and everybody, every platoon, every battery, every single soldier at Bismark Kaserne was outside, watching us, all of us, not even one had fallen out, so, instead of just stopping, we make a victory lap, all around the inside of the Kaserne, about a quarter mile rectangle, past every single formation, and all the way back to our unit, which is right at the front gate. As we stopped, I didn’t have to tell them that they had done a great job, they knew it, you could see the look on every single face. I dismissed the squad to their platoons, we were about 5 minutes late to formation.

The next morning was our “Brigade Run”, which meant that everyone from the Kaserne went on one big group run, before formation, Top called me aside and told me to go the Headquarters building and get the Brigade colors, which is a big flag, I was thinking that I was just supposed to bring the flag back to Top, but,as I get there, the harness to help support the thing, was strapped on me, I knew what that meant, I had to run 7 miles with about a 50 pound flag! Whats worse, is that it meant I was running in front of the entire brigade!

The next day, the “Fat Platoon” was given 6 weeks to train as we pleased, then those that had not passed the previous PT test were to take it over, everyone passed! Then came the weigh in, guess what, each one of us had gained weight! Now I am guessing, but I would say that the average for the group, we had lost at least 3-5 inches in the waist, some were a lot more, some were less, but, everyone was in better shape.

After all of this, those of us that were the “over weight” group, had to get a fat test, if we passed great, but, if we failed, we would be barred from re-enlistment, awards, or anything positive, then, would be given another 2 months to lose the rest of the “weight” or get kicked out of the Army, NO ONE FAILED! All of us had room to spare, we were over weight, but not over fat!

By using weight training, we had all gotten stronger, this had made it easier for us to run, do push-ups, and the fat loss had made sit-ups a breeze, so, get in the gym, push some iron, ignore the scale, and get fit!

# Sick Call:The Sick, Lame, and the Lazy!

January 22, 2010 by · 2 Comments

Do you remember what sick call was like? For me, it was a nightmare that I lived through too many times. In Basic Training, the Drill Sargent would always refer to anyone that was hurt or sick, and went on sick call, as the Sick, Lame and the Lazy, and now, society still looks at it that way, if you miss a day of work, get hurt, or anything else, everyone still talks about you.

As much as I hate to, I have to say it, there are a lot of people who do fit in the Lazy group, and, it is probably the same in the VA, but as of yet, I don’t think I have met anyone like that. Military people in general are the hardest working, most team oriented people in the country, but yes, we do tend to party a bit too much, and that has added to our problems later in life, but, if anyone can overcome it, we can.

Anyone that thinks the government should control health Care in this country, needs to go ask a veteran at the VA how it is working for them, the one asking would quickly change their minds, but, I do not blame the doctors, nurses, or most of the people who work there, it is simply the size of the bureaucracy, the red tape, rules and regulations. I know that I appreciate what I get, even if it takes a long time, I am unable to work, have no income, but do not qualify for, nor would I accept, Medicaid, being able to go to the VA is something every veteran has earned, we bought and paid for it by giving our time, and for many, our body parts in service to our country.

Now that I am older, and in the VA system, I see first hand how many of us there must be, that have gotten old and out of shape, but I believe than almost anyone can get healthier with better eating habits, and some form of excersize, even if it is just moving a few feet at a time, yes, age, and health conditions do prohibit many from any serious activity, myself included, but, we can get better. Getting fit, does not mean that you have to pass a PT test, but, losing body fat will help anyone that is “over weight”, I hate that term, because weight is not what matters, it is that we are “over fat”! Remember that, lose fat, which is actually very light in actual weight compared to muscle, but, it adds weight in places that cause our posture to get bad, which by itself can cause injuries to feel worse than they actually are, I am hoping that is the case for me and that by losing fat, and exercising, I will once again be able to walk and stand for extended periods of time, which will add even more fat burning power to what I am able to do now.

If you are considering starting any type of activity, and you have health concerns, always talk to your doctor first, and if you experience any physical problems during exercise, go back and tell your doctor, he or she may be able to give you information that can help prevent injury, so just be safe, but get off your butts and move something!

# Which is your favorite gym or fitness center?

January 21, 2010 by · 1 Comment

I have trained at so many different gyms, I could not even begin to list them, I think there were three where I lived in Germany, and probably twenty to thirty, maybe more, here in Texas, and two in Tampa Florida, needless to say, I am an Iron Head, I believe in heavy weights, and sadly, many gyms no longer offer such a thing and have replaced iron with treadmills and stair steppers and such, which are all useful, but way down on the scale of importance to me, I would rather have 150-200 pound dumbbells!

I am now training (working out) at Gold’s Gym, College Station, Texas, and I have to say, in today’s world of “Fitness Centers”, Gold’s is right at the top, they have dumbbells up to 120 pounds, I think, It will be a while before I am using the heavy ones any way, probably six months or so. Gold’s in College Station, does not have a pool or racquet ball or any of that stuff, and I have no use for that anyway, and it keeps the kids off of my squat rack! Really, those “Fitness Centers” have so many people just going there to play, get a date, or kill time hanging out with friends, they are a distraction, when I am in the Gym, it is me and the iron, nothing else matters.

When it comes to my favorite gym, I would have to say Costa’s, in Houston, before they closed the location where I was training and I had to go to the main one. That gym was tiny, but, had plenty of weight, in racks all over the place, and very few of the “girly” machines that are no good for anything but taking up space, and dumbbells up to 200 pounds. I also trained at a ruthlessly brutal gym in Germany, where almost everybody was so “roided out” it was scary, but I loved it.

I have to drive 45 minutes just to get to a town that has a Gym of any kind, and there are but two choices, Gold’s and Aerofit, and about ten years ago, I got kicked out of Aerofit for breaking the ancient leg press they had then, and probably still do now, by putting too much weight on it, all I did was load it up with maybe 800 pounds and it derailed! Golds has an awesome leg press, back in the day, it was a “Neptune 2000″, I think it is the same machine, but the sticker is gone, anyway, it has four spindles on the sides for weight and in a year or so, I will see if it can still hold 2000 pounds. All of the people who I have talked to there seem very nice and helpful, and the way they have the workout areas set up, it is divided into sections, “girly” machines, circuit training, some kind of aerobics class room (or whatever they call it now), then dumbbells along one wall, with the heavy ones on the end, which is also the area where the good stuff is located, like the squat racks, deadlift platform and leg press and such. I am very happy there, and, they just opened a “Smoothie Bar”, if you like that kind of stuff.

If you are in my area, and need a training partner, let me know, and I will be glad to share what I know and love, Iron!

# Where are you and where are you going?

January 21, 2010 by · 1 Comment

Where you are is only important as long as you let it be, just get off the couch and do something, only then will you will be able to see where you are going!

I have been much like the guy in this picture, proud of the past, feeling like I was still on top, while pushing myself further and further away from it, by guzzling beer and eating anything and everything. I threw my trophies away years ago, and I had boxes of them, I had been the best, and a great baseball player when I was a kid, all the way up to High School, but I quit, because I “grew up” , drinking and girls were more fun than baseball, and getting paid to play a game, never crossed my mind, baseball was for kids, and I was a man.

By the time reality caught up with me, I had stopped working out, and I had my first weight set when I was eleven, weight training was very important to me, baseball wasn’t, but, I had quit both of them! Since I wasn’t a baseball star anymore, the girls went away too, I was too busy working, and really needed a change, so, I joined the Army. Why? Because I knew I needed a good kick in the butt and felt that the Army could give it to me! History repeats itself, if you let it, and I did.

This time, it was not all my fault, I got hurt, to the point I couldn’t stand for more than about five minutes, the pain was and is incredible, I tried to train through it, I was not about to let myself get fat again, but, I did. Now, after signing up with the VA to get some help, and 4 years of CT scans, X-rays, and doctor visits, after being informed that my problem was permanent and would never go away, I had earned it, the neurologist told me. I had raced Mountain Bikes, downhill was my event, I had been a runner, trained at more than marathon distances, and now, I have the spikes growing out of my spine to prove it! The doctor told me that all the crashes, and pounding from running, not to mention the tonnage I had lifted in my life, had given me a spine that normally takes over seventy years to get, and that is a very active, almost crazy like Evil Knievel, kind of active, and had gotten fat on top of it all.

Once I knew my pain would never go away, I gave up hope that I would ever get back in the gym, or compete at anything ever again, I felt like the world had come to an end, all I had left was the glory days, pain pills, my computer, TV, beer and food. When I got hurt, it was stupid, I stubbed my toe, and in the jerking to keep my balance, I had done something, that still is with me, proof that you just never know. At that time, I was in pretty good shape, I am 5′ 7″ and then weighed 275 pounds with a 36″ waist, bench pressing up to 495 pounds, squatting up to 705 pounds, and doing dead-lifts of about 405 pounds, but, that was over, and I now weigh 282 pounds with a 50″ waist.

My biggest frustration, is now, my biggest motivation, every time someone tells me that if I lost weight, my back would feel better, I felt like punching them, because I was really trying, had cut my beer consumption down to almost nothing, a 12 pack a month, eating soup and vegetables and hardly ever any junk, but, I was totally inactive, pain was winning, and I knew that I needed more activity, but walking is my biggest enemy, so, what could I do?

I have decided to just suck it up, and get my fat self back in the gym, no matter how bad it hurts, and how many people look at me funny when I walk in the door! Walking, or even standing for more than a few minutes is out of the question, but, I can sit, and squats only take a couple of minutes per set, then I can sit and wait for the pain to subside before my next set. My doctor had used my anger, and embarrassment to motivate me, and I signed up for the MOVE program, I need to thank him. Now, I know where I am going! I don’t care about weight, I need to lose fat, and I know how to do that, get back to the iron!

# Motivation: Where does it come from?

January 21, 2010 by · 1 Comment

Motivation is one of those things that can come from different places, sometimes, it comes from others, but it is best when it comes from within. Motivation is an energy that is both positive and negative, sometimes at the same time.

Remember when the Drill Sargent got on your case? I do, and in the beginning, getting dropped for 20 push ups was like being told to pick up a car! Then, something happened, it got easier, and I was doing push ups in my spare time to get better!

What happened, was it simply that I was getting in better shape? No, I was motivated! I did not want to look weak in front of the rest of the platoon! I know, some people strive to be the best, some, just don’t want to be embarrassed. I was the latter.

What motivated me? Where did it come from? Initially, from the Drill Sargent, he forged the need to succeed, and the fear of failure within my mind, both were negative energies. Once I no longer was afraid of failing, I wanted to be the best! Now, the energy was coming from me, it was now positive and that is when it is the most powerful.

This website is an instrument to create this positive energy within me, it too is starting as a negative, I am afraid of failing, I do not want to stop my training and stay fat! By writing, and sharing with others, I will get beyond this fear, and be once again motivated by success. I love my workouts, I always have, and during these last 6 years of pain, I wanted more than anything to be the old me again, and I will! Not only will I get stronger and leaner, but I will do everything I can to help others do the same, both here, and within my new group of friends at the VA MOVE program. I look forward to others joining the cause and helping, together, we can do it!