Archive for August, 2013

As I have mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, the definition of fitness can be different for different people. Someone may want to be able to run faster, jump higher, run a marathon or lift heavy weights. My own definition of fitness keeps evolving overtime. Until now I was following Mehdi’s Stronglifts 5X5 program religiously. I like the lifts so much that I thought I could do it for life. But unless you’re a beginner starting out with light weights, squatting near maximal weights for 3 times a week doesn’t do much good. I used this website  to calculate my 1-rep maxes for the big lifts. And then I used this website to find where I stand.

Squat – Shy of Intermediate by 4lbs

Bench – Shy of Intermediate by 1lbs

Overhead Press – Shy of Intermediate by 6lbs

Deadlift – Between Intermediate and Advanced

This post is about my chronicles in the gym and some interesting conversations.

We all are familiar with the Bro’s of the gym. You can see one in the picture above. You’d find them benching 225 and then curling in the squat rack. But look at those fine legs. They are so fine, you can barely see them. I once saw such a guy in my college gym. All he got from us were bewildered looks and chuckles. Never do this to yourself, you wouldn’t look attractive. For more details refer to my post – Shut Up and Squat.

Talking of the squat, you’d see a lot of people who’d be in the squat rack. Heck my gym had 8 of them and they were all full in the peak hours. But many of these racks are occupied by people who will tell you “You’re going to bust your knees if you go deep.” And that is the point when I stop listening to them. There was this guy at the gym next to my rack who was squatting 300+lbs with depth less than a couple inches. I don’t even know what to call it as it was shallower than a quarter squat. He cranks up the weight to 500lbs (maybe he saw a girl in the crowd he wanted to impress). And proceeds to unrack the weight. He then tries to crank out a rep of his shallow 2 inch deep squat but fails. Fortunately he had the safety bars at about shoulder level which prevented the aftermath which wouldn’t have been pretty at all.

Strength and size are not necessarily the same thing. You can watch this video if you don’t believe me. So I was once deadlifting in the rack (I know it’s lame but I do it nevertheless). And there were a couple guys next to my rack deadlifting. They were twice my size if i was being conservative in describing them. If you saw them and if you saw me, you’d think I have never touched a weight in my life and they are professionals. My work set that day was to be 5 reps of 285lbs. I proceeded with my warm up sets and loaded my work weight on the bar. Just before I was about to start my work set, I turned to my right and saw that all of them were struggling with 225lbs. They couldn’t manage anything more than a couple reps with that weight. You cannot imagine the feeling of satisfaction I got. I did not feel jealous that they looked bigger than me. I was content that I was the stronger guy without having to look like the hulk.

The gym I used to go to recently had only 1 squat rack and 1 power rack. Thankfully the gym had more bro’s than folks who trained legitimately. So I’d have the squat rack all to myself pretty much all the time. There used to be this guy who used to box squat 300+ lbs. If you know the mechanics of the box squat, it is supposed to be performed with half of your max weight on the regular squat. So his max regular squat could have been anywhere from 500-600lbs. I was squatting a measly 185lbs one day with him doing his thing next to my rack. While resting between sets, he says “You’re the only one in this gym I’ve seen squat properly”. To that I said, “Well, I have the internet.” It’s true, you can find any resources on the internet these days if you want to train seriously. However, you want to make sure you’re not following people who just talk the talk and don’t walk the walk.

I like to do Kroc Rows at the end of my deadlift workout. I usually try and pick up a dumbbell heavier than 55lbs to do them. This particular day, I was to do Kroc rows with a 60lb dumbbell. In the middle of my set, a guy comes up to the dumbbell stand. He looks confused so I ask him if he needs help with something. He says he was looking for a 40lb dumbbell. I point it out to him. He picks it up and looks at the weight I am using. He puts it down, proceeds to pick up the second 60lb dumbbell and says “Let’s crank up the weight a little bit”. He then proceeds to struggle doing a couple of reps with that weight. Now just because I don’t look like I lift weights doesn’t mean I can’t does it? The best thing is the looks which I get when I load up the bar for a 100+kg deadlift. I love them deadlifts. It makes me feel powerful.

So I’ve decided to combine body weight training with my usual weightlifting which means the intensity has to go down. But then who doesn’t want to do one arm push ups, pull ups and one legged squats? 🙂

By now you have made sure you know what you’re doing in the gym. You’ve figured out your goals, challenged the PT’s routine and are doing what it takes to build muscle and burn fat. But the question is, what are you eating and when are you eating it? After I started this blog, a few people asked me for fat loss tips. It turns out, you can get stronger that’s not the hard part. The hard part is to lose the family pack that you’ve developed over the years sitting on your backside without even starting a family yet. This post is going to help anyone lose fat fast.

A lot of people crib about how difficult it is to have the coveted beach body look with the six pack abs flashing. The first thing to keep in mind is that everyone is not a bodybuilder. Bodybuilding is a sport and a tough one. In order to get ripped and shredded and look fabulous on stage with no fat on their bodies at all bodybuilders have to go through a tough time and it certainly isn’t easy, so quit cribbing. Another fact about 6 pack abs is that not everyone has the required genes to sport a 6 pack. One can be as lean as 10% body fat and still not have a 6 pack. I know it sounds demotivating but let me tell you about myself. I used to have one goal – 6 pack abs. And it never happened. I have long stopped thinking about it or even working towards it. My goal is to be fit and strong. As I have pointed out in the previous blog post celebrities are able to flaunt their beach bodies with certain photographic aids. Hence it is pointless to try to emulate them.

Coming to point now, this post is about fasting. Don’t close the window just yet, I am not talking religion here although someone must have unknowingly included the fasting ritual in religion for health benefits.

I have been doing intermittent fasting for about close to a year now. I eat the first meal of the day after 12 PM, sometimes as late as 3 PM. And I eat the last meal of the day before 9 or 10 PM. This enables me to eat in a window of about 8-9 hours. Now I can imagine a lot of you would be thinking that it is unhealthy to starve for such a long period of time; in my case 14-16 hours a day. After all, the fitness and nutrition experts of the world want you to eat 6 or even 8 meals a day! And they are dead wrong. And why would one miss the most important meal of the day – breakfast. Please see below my progress photos just 3 weeks apart. The one on the left is right before I started fasting and the one on the right is 3 weeks after.

leangains

The difference in fat from before to after is very clear. Now I have been doing this for a year, so my strength would have gone down right? Because I am skipping the legendary breakfast. To give you some perspective, I started out on Stronglifts 5X5 with an empty bar on most lifts in September 2012. My current personal bests are as follows –

Squat – 210lbs (5 sets of 5 reps)

Bench – 155lbs (5 sets of 5 reps)

Deadlift – 315lbs 1 rep max

Overhead Shoulder Press – 105 lbs 2 sets of 5 reps

Pendlay Row – 155lbs 5 sets of 5 reps

When I first started fasting and told my friends I was doing it, some of them laughed; some said I was crazy and I was going to get an ulcer. Let’s go back into the past. When humans were still uncivilized and did not have enough resources to feed themselves 6 times a day, we were still living. Turns out the human body is designed to fast. Quoting from Eat Stop Eat “A lion only hunts when he’s hungry”.

Today the amount of food which surrounds us is tremendous. We eat a meal and 2 hours later we are hungry again and we go snack hunting then. We never actually experience true hunger. True hunger is the feeling when you haven’t eaten anything for days. That is true hunger. However, not eating for a few hours or a day in a week is not hunger and would not lead to starvation. I am living proof of that. To add to that, I am more alert and get more work done in the morning when others are busy satisfying their snack cravings.

If you really want to lose that stubborn belly fat, fasting is the way to go. See this  for more scientific details on fasting. And read the book Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon. Shoot me questions if you have any, I’d be more than happy to help. As I said, stop cribbing and get to work.