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Exercise for Optimal Health and Fitness

Question: Obviously folks wanting to change body composition (lose fat or gain muscle) or maximize strength gains have to put in a proportionally larger amount of training to reach their goals but my question is this: what if my goals are general health and fitness?  What type of overall training program would you recommend for that?

Answer: While I tend to focus more on the goals of improving body composition, the above comes up enough to address.  Clearly not everybody works out simply to be buffed or, crassly “look better naked.” Some people are simply want basic overall health and wellness.

For that explicit goal, what kind of training is necessary?

General Guidelines for Health and Fitness

And the answer is not much.  The basic American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines are going to be more than sufficient. Their goal is to target the primary factors involved in basic health and fitness which are basic cardiovascular health and muscular strength.  Of course there is more to overall health than just those two factors.  I’ve presented the general ACSM guidelines below.  You might notice that they have guidelines for improving flexibility and ROM.  I won’t address those here.  Honestly, full … Read More

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Combining Metabolic and Tension Training – Q&A

Question: Lyle, I’ve been reading up on your articles covering the pathways of muscle growth while dieting to gain mass, as well as, when dieting to lose fat. With that being said I have some questions on what to do during dieting for fat loss. In some of your articles you’ve said that the tension pathway is the best for gaining or maintaining strength with a rep range between 30-60 reps per muscle group. Also in another article over training while dieting to lose you talked about using the metabolic pathway in order to deplete glycogen and increase metabolic rate, but that it is not the best for maintaining mass. You also talked about combining the two pathways on different days of the week or different body parts on the same day (1 muscle tension/other muscle metabolic). SO my question is can you do heavy tension training and metabolic training of the same muscle group on the same day? Also is the rep range for the metabolic pathway the same 30-60 rep range per muscle group? Or is there an increas e rep range? Sorry if I’m asking a question that you have already answered, if so then please direct … Read More

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Are Upright Rows Safe – Q&A

Question: Are upright rows safe?  Googling yields tons of different results. What is your opinion on that?

Answer: As always, the short answer is that it depends.  Mainly on how they are done and the person doing them.  Frankly, this is truly the only way to analyze if a given exercise is ‘safe’ or not, any exercise can be relatively more safe or unsafe for a given individual for a given set of circumstances.  That said, the upright row does tend to be surrounded by it’s share of ‘unsafe exercise’ beliefs so let’s look at why.

I think the first place I saw it asserted that upright rows were categorically unsafe was in the old 7-Minute Rotator Cuff Solution from Health for Life (a now defunct company that put out a variety of different manuals).  And this was based on the mechanics of the movement.  Specifically, upright rows put the shoulder in an internally rotated and horizontally abducted position.  And this is a potential problem because it puts the shoulder/rotator cuff at risk for impingement.  Hence, to avoid shoulder problems, upright rows became one of the big no-no exercises.

But is this strictly true?  In my opinion, no and much … Read More

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Isolation Exercise to Fix a Compound Exercise Stall – Q&A

Question: I have a question regarding volume and stalling on certain lifts because of one body part. For instance, say that when I bench press, my triceps are the limiting factor in the lift, they give out before my chest does. So because of my triceps I can’t progress it weights.

So to remedy that problem, I always hear the advice to blast the failing body part with more volume, which doesn’t make sense to me because they already ‘burned out’ in that workout. I think it would make more sense to isolate the chest because it wasn’t worked to the point of exhaustion like the triceps were.

So I myself think lowering the triceps volume may be beneficial while others want to increase it. This scenario does lack context and I’m sorry for that, but I’d figure there are reasons to bump up volume and decrease volume to be able to progress.

Answer: There are a couple of different ways to look at this. On the one hand, it does make a certain logical sense that the failing muscle group is getting the largest training stimulus and that extra work would be overkill.   By that argument, your suggestion of … Read More

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What’s the Proper Way to Squat – Q&A

Question: What is the proper way to squat? And could you address the issue of butt-winks at the bottom of the squat and how to correct that?

Answer: It depends.  Simply there is no single proper way to squat despite what many will have you believe or vigorously contend.  At the very least most will define three primary ‘types’ of squats which are:

  1. High-bar/Olympic squat
  2. Generic Power Squat
  3. Geared powerlifting squat

And I’d note that that only begins to scratch the surface of the different types of squats which have been done over the years.  But those general categories tend to encapsulate the three ‘primary’ types of back squats that are done by trainees.  I’ll describe each generally and try to look at some of their various pros and cons below.

The high-bar/Olympic squat is done with the bar held high on the traps and the goal is generally to keep the torso as vertical as possible; this is usually facilitated by wearing shoes with a slight ‘heel’ on them as this lets the lifter get the knees further forward.    The focus is generally more on squatting ‘down’ than ‘back’ in this style of squat and it’s critical to push … Read More