I've spent a large amount of my blog real estate talking about diet. Partly, that's because I believe the saying, "You can't out exercise a bad diet!" Also, for me the exercise part is the easy part. It's all worked out ahead of time. I know which days I'm going to be at the gym. I know what I'm going to do when I get there. I consistently push myself physically. I log my results. Diet, on the other hand, encompasses a ton of variables including time, stress, availability of healthy/unhealthy foods, socializing, etc. Diet is definitely harder for me to pre-plan and control. At the gym, I walk in the door, take off my hoodie, slip in my headphones and crank up my iPod...everything after that is a blur of activity like a well-oiled machine. I think I'd get some strange looks if I did the same thing every time I sat down to a meal!
All that being said, I wanted to take some time to give you a glimpse at my gym routine from Visual Impact Muscle Building. The general break down is 3 phases of 2 months each. Phase 1 is mass building with light cardio and dieting. Phase 2 is a hybrid of mass building and strength building with slightly more intense cardio and dieting. Phase 3 is pure strength building with very intense cardio and dieting. The idea is to add muscle early, then tighten and compress it throughout the later phases while trimming excess body fat. The result...the lean, toned, athletic look you see on Hollywood actors and many European models. (Don't laugh at me here! Do I want to be a model? No. Would I rather look like a model than a body builder? Yes. When I was young I thought Arnold was the goal...now I realize that Ryan Reynolds looks better in a suit than the Governator, so my goals have shifted.)
What does Phase 1 look like? Basically, I do two workouts that split the body into sets of complementary muscle groups. So, chest, shoulders and triceps (with abs thrown in) get worked on a day full of pushing movements, then the next day back, biceps and forearms get worked with pulling movements. The overall goal is muscle fatigue. This means I'm working each muscle with high repetition sets (12-6 reps) and I try to finish each set at a point where I can barely, shakily, squeeze out the last repetition. I round out the workout with 15 minutes of intervals on a treadmill walking for 90 seconds then running for 30 seconds. I alternate Workout A and Workout B in a 2 days on, 1 day off, then 2 days on, 2 days off schedule for 4 total days in the gym. Right now, that's Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday from 5 to 6 a.m. (crazy, I know, but that's the only time when my 2-year old daughter is not awake!). On my off days, I try to rest or do yoga.
If you've ever seen someone working to complete muscle fatigue, you'll note that it looks very different than most guys in the gym. Most guys pump for a couple of reps, then sit around zoning out, watching TV, chatting with their buddies or hitting on the cute girl at the leg abductor machine. Guys shooting for muscle fatigue are using baby weights and working against the clock, moving quickly from one set to the next with about 35 seconds of rest, and each set ends with what looks like the weakest, sorriest excuse for a strength exercise ever. The secret is that that final repetition is the golden moment when microscopic muscle fibers are being torn to tiny shreds only to be rebuilt over the next few days into bigger, stronger, shirt-tightening crowd pleasers. If you leave the gym feeling like a quivering mass of jell-o, you can bet that you'll come back in a few days looking more muscular than the guys you see throwing up big weight but always looking soft and puffy.
I'll be transitioning into Phase 2 in just a few weeks and I'll pause then to give you a glimpse at that routine. I'm actually excited about it because it involves a regime that I tried once when I was in college that definitely tested my physical limits. For now, though, I'm really enjoying going in 4 times a week to crank out tons of reps on tiny weights and watch the inches increase at my shoulders, chest and arms while they decrease at my waist and hips.