Between Facebook, Twitter, blogging, teaching, coaching, and just being at the gym lifting, I get asked a LOT of questions. This is my attempt to multi-task and answer SEVERAL while bringing you your conditioning workout for tomorrow as well. A warning–some of my tips are research based, some of it’s scientifically proven, and some of it is my opinion because it works for me. Everyone is different. These are just MY thoughts based on MY experiences and MY research. I don’t want to claim this is the be-all-end-all, I mean just a couple years ago my number one tip for fat loss was “make sure you’re eating breakfast.” Science changes. This is just what I know right NOW.
First up, WORKOUT TIPS:
- Lift heavy ass weight. Seriously. If you’re not, start. If you think you are, lift heavier. Lifting heavy weights builds muscle and muscle burns fat and keeps you alive longer. Period. And if you’re not growing? Change your routine. Make SURE you’re progressively adding more weights.
- Follow a workout plan. Between myself and the thousands of other websites out there, you will be able to find one that suits your goals. Want to get stronger? Research Jim Wendler or Dan John on t-nation.com. Want to bodybuild? Go to bodybuilding.com. Want to do CrossFit? Go to crossfit.com. Want to CrossFit better? Go to barbellshrugged.com. Want me to tell you what to do? Scroll towards the bottom–I have added a strength training plan for beginners.
- ALWAYS USE CORRECT TECHNIQUE. I really hope there is someone at your gym you can ask if you have questions on form. If you can’t, send me a video of your lifts. If I can’t fix you, I’ll find people who can.
- Don’t do steady-state cardio. Well, at least not too much of it. SSC is bad for the joints, screws up your hormones–both women and men–and it makes you keep/store/add belly fat! SSC burns your muscle instead of fat, and makes you look “skinny fat.” I know I’ll probably piss some people off over this because I know the “runners high” has addicted more people to the cardio train than kool-aid has to the CrossFit wagon, but seriously, YOU CAN FIND THE SAME RUNNER’S HIGH when you exercise with INTENSITY! Trust me, there’s an article on it…somewhere…I read it a month ago….no clue where to find it…but you can reach the same runner’s high sensation through intense exercise like intervals and typically you can reach the feeling faster. That’s one reason I can’t stop doing CrossFit. My body is built for powerlifting, but I cannot stop being in love with that feeling I get when the intense interval style workout is over. When I can add that conditioning into my lifting program…OMG I love that sensation!!! AND THAT IS WHAT STRENGTHENS MY HEART! I’m not saying don’t do cardio, we need healthy hearts. Lungs. Everything, really. And contrary to what it sounds like, I don’t hate running. In fact, when done correctly, I believe it’s great for you, for multiple reasons. Make sure you definitely check out this piece on how to run most effectively: “Running Doesn’t Suck.” So when it comes down to it, building lean muscle mass and conditioning the body through interval work is what gets the job done, BEST. Sure–go on a long jog every now and then. Hop on the elliptical to whittle away a few more calories if you’re competing in a bodybuilding show. I’m not saying “don’t ever do it,” I’m just saying that I think you can save your joints, your muscle mass, and your hormones if you switch it up a bit. And just in case I need to defend myself with this one, before you argue with me, read this by Rachel Cosgrove: The Final Nail in the Cardio Coffin. And check out the pics of Rachel as a runner vs. a lifter.
- Ok, so you hate interval cardio? I know, it’s hard work and it sucks. Lucky for you, I publish THREE interval workouts each week. They’re all here. Subscribe to the website if you’d like them emailed to you each time they are published. PS–in case you missed it, interval work is HARD. You really don’t even have to do it more than a few times each week.
- When you lift, use free weights as much as possible and use machines only when you have to–i.e. injury/age/an auxiliary lift, etc. You’ll use more stabilizing muscles, it works your core more, you’ll get stronger/leaner/more powerful…it’s just better, ok?
- What about “WHEN” to lift? I’ve gotten this question a few times too. Lift in the evenings. Your body will be in a much better state than the wee hours of the morning when the joints are stiff and nothing is lubricated yet. I know some schedules make that impossible and I love working out in the morning and I’ve worked out with some of the most badass people I’ve ever met, all early in the morning. But the human body seems to handle heavy weight lifting better in the evening.
- BUT, if you want to, you can actually do your interval cardio work in the morning. Especially if you want to work on extra fat loss! Fasted interval cardio for very short amounts of time (I’m talking 5 rounds of 30 second max effort work) is GREAT for increasing insulin sensitivity and revving up that metabolism again.
- Get 8 hours of sleep each night or your body will never be able to recover properly. I need to work on this myself.
- Give yourself enough rest days between heavy lift sessions or between muscle groups. The best advice I ever got in any of my trainings was “Rest before you need to.” Editor’s Note: Steph needs to work on this too.
- Do something different. Complete a Spartan obstacle course race, enter a lifting or bodybuilding competition, whatever. Give yourself a goal and something to look forward to. Your training will become much more meaningful.
Next, NUTRITION TIPS:
- Eat to fuel your workouts, not your hormones or your boredom.
- If you are doing early morning fasted cardio: you don’t have to eat before hand if fat loss is a goal. Your intervals should be short and you should be working at 100% maximum effort. Have some lean protein and fruit/berries/etc after. Think protein + carbs follow any type of heavy training that taxes your muscles. Avoid “fat” post workout.
- What about when you’re lifting heavy weight? EAT something before you lift! Proper Peri-Nutrition is an actual science. I’m not great at science but I know a few things and I’ve read even more. 45 minutes to an hour before lifting, eat carbs to restore glycogen in your muscles. 15 minutes prior to lifting, have a scoop of protein.
- During your workouts: sip on BCAAs (this is my favorite during workout drink) and another scoop of protein.
- Post workout: Have carbs and protein on a 2:1 ratio. 2 grams of carbs per every 1 gram of protein.
- Don’t eat “fat” up to two hours after training. Fat slows down the absorption of protein into your muscles. The carbs, btw, transport the protein to the muscles.
- If fat loss is a goal, eat protein and good fats together, with vegetables, at every meal. (Except after your workout–no fat then. Substitute the fat with carbs around your workout window.)
- Unless you’re trying to gain weight, don’t ever mix carbs and fats. Carbs + fat makes people fat. Carbs plus protein does not, and neither does protein plus fat. Chicken and broccoli and avocado = great! Chicken on a bun with cheese, is not.
- Want to gain weight? EAT and eat often! Eat up to 6-7 meals per day and aim for 500 calories over what you would typically eat. Eat plenty of carbs with every meal. Eat nut butters like it’s your job (all natural with nothing added). Keep trail mix on hand. Eat dried fruit.
- If you want to lose fat, don’t do any of the above bullet. Ok, eat 6 meals, but make them smaller, protein and veggie based.
- Drink more water. Everyone. No matter what your goal, your body will do it better with more water. Aim for a minimum of half your body weight in ounces.
- Don’t be fooled by “As seen on TV” diets, fads, or foods labeled “low-fat.” Low fat foods are typically filled with extra sugar. Besides, “low fat” was just a stupid trend that lasted WAY too long. Contrary to years of belief and crappy nutritionists, fat burns fat. Many fats are good for you. Trans-fats are the ones that are dangerous. You know what else is dangerous? Sugars, grains, starchy foods. Unless timed appropriately after a workout, these actually cause most heart disease and clogged arteries. Hyperinsulinemia, which leads to diabetes, stems from too much insulin (sugar/carbs/starch) and causes insulin sensitivities, obesity, and then worse: Deadly diseases.
- Why the clause “Unless timed appropriately after a workout?” Because the only time you can actually get away with eating “crap-food” is after a workout. Your body will take in what you give it post workout and use it to refuel the muscles. Take advice from DH Kiefer and have bowl of Reese’s PB Puffs post workout. It’s not something you HAVE to do, but you COULD do it and get away with it. Editor’s Note: the work out needs to be intense and breakdown muscle, this does not work for your elliptical workout.
- Supplementation is important. Add these to your cabinet: fish oils (actually put your fish oil in the fridge), glucosamine, vitamin D3, B-vitamins, multi-vitamin, vitamin E, Calcium, Magnesium. This is why. Plus, a GOOD protein powder isn’t a supplement. It’s a necessity and part of good nutrition.
A simple weight-lifting plan for those beginning their weight lifting journey.
Here are SEVERAL exercises. There are three charts below. Pick the exercises you want or are able to do, depending on your gym/accessibility, and then follow the guidelines for sets and repetitions. Once you’ve mastered the basics, to advance your lifting, make the weight heavier and the repetitions lower.
- Leg Press
- Leg Curl
- Leg Extension
- Goblet Squat
- Stability Squat
- Non-Weighted Lunge
- Back Squats
- Front Squats
- Bicep Curls
- Triceps: Kickbacks, Overhead extensions, Push-downs
- Shoulder Press
- Bench Press (dumbbell and/or barbell)
Chest and Back:
- Chest Press Machine or Bench Press
- Barbell Rows
- Dumbbell Rows
- Rows (Neutral grip, wide rows, dumbbell rows, upright rows…)
Core (Abs/Back/Posterior Chain):
- Side Planks
- Paloff Holds
- Hollow Rocks
- Half Get-Ups
- Turkish Get-Ups
- Knees to chest, elbows, or toes to bar
*Choose from the list above
|Easy Cardio Choice|
|Easy Cardio Choice|
|Core 1:||2-3||*||*Max effort|
|Core 2:||2-3||*||*Max effort|
|Easy Cardio Choice|
Follow this plan for 4-8 weeks, even for up to 12 weeks if you need the extra confidence boost.
Sample Cardio/Conditioning Workouts for Beginners
Interval style cardio is great for boosting heart health, weight loss–fat loss specifically–and makes you stronger, leaner, overall more conditioned. Interval cardio can be done on any piece of cardio machine or outdoors, or even with some weight equipment. For the sake of these workouts, these are being described with a treadmill or track in mind; however, with slight adaptations, these conditioning exercises can be done with most anything, even a jump rope, kettlebell swings, anything!
1. 30 Minute Walk
2. 30 Minute Incline Walk
3. Intervals: 2 minutes zero incline walking, 1 minute slight incline walk. Repeat for 20-30 minutes total.
4. Intervals: Light jog/run for 1 minute, walk for 3 minutes. Repeat for 15-30 minutes.
SFCW for Tuesday 9/9/14
NOW, the main point of the article–your Strong Figure Conditioning Workout–which, by the way, is always interval based cardio in which I advise you use as a supplement to your heavy lifting plan. Ever notice that? 😉
15 minutes–as many rounds as possible:
- 5 Thrusters (1-2 Kettlebells or 1-2 dumbbelsl, or a barbell)
- 10 Wall Balls
- 15 Kettlebell Swings
- 20 Double Unders (or 60 singles)
If you don’t have equipment, sub burpees for the thrusters, 10 squats + 10 pushups for the wall balls, 15 single leg squats OR glute raises (each leg) for the swings, and 20 mountain climbers for the jump rope.
For the single leg squats, AKA Pistol Squats, use a wall, table, or chair for support if needed. If this is too advanced, try the glute raises. Lay on the floor in a bridge position, and cross your right foot over the left knee. Keep your arms at your side lift those glutes off the floor! Squeeze at the top, return to the bottom and do it again for 14 more reps. Then switch legs.
Jenny Hansbrough says
Talk more about sugar… Cutting it out. Helpful tips
Hey Jenny! I posted this a long time ago about my battles with sugar…you might be able to sympathize: https://strongfigure.com/Fuk-sugar/. In this post I explain why sugar is bad but I don’t really talk about ways to overcome sugar addictions or even just “saying no” to sugar. I will write more about that this week…in fact I’ll make it my goal for Wednesday night’s post! Great idea!!!!
– essentially peanut butter mixed with carbs is awful for you “carbs+fat=bad” ?
– WHEN do you have carbs + fats then?
– what is your take on 5-15 minutes of cardio? Like a warm up for the muscles, with some “go as hard as you can” moments added in?
– free weights for the win ALWAYS 🙂
I am curious to ask about the ability to BUILD muscle with lower weights and higher reps, a lot of my injuries don’t allow me to lift heavier (I’ve tried, it hurts, not worth the pain) so I have been using low weight high rep method, and it seems to be working, but I wonder if science backs this or not !
Stephanie Wimer says
Thanks Amber!! Ok, so I’m going to attempt answering all your ?s with what I know…
1. PB + an apple is an awesome tasting snack, but I first read not to do this if fat loss is a goal from famous bodybuilder and figure competitor Jamie Eason. Google her. She’s one of my heroes. Granted, she only follows this rule when being really strict. I say if you want an apple an PB, eat it. Where it really matters is when you have that big juicy burger on a bun, or bacon along side your waffles. I know you have to avoid gluten so chances are that you’re not eating buns and burgers, but there’s still the risk of eating too much fat paired with too many carbs. Simply, it just slows down the fat burning process.
That said, eating a well balanced meal of chicken breast and broccoli and avocado isn’t going to harm a thing. Carbs from veggies are not going to stop fat burning!
2. I honestly try to avoid carbs+fat as much as possible. I can’t avoid it when I have ice cream or birthday cake but let’s look at desserts for a second. They are carbs + fat. And desserts make us gain weight! That’s one of your reasons. If you count veggies as your carb source, then you can have fat with those. Fats + veggies + protein will not make you gain weight.
3. I think 5-15 min of intervals is perfect. Spend 5 minutes warming up and then do ten rounds of :30 on :30 off. Go 100%. Rest 100%. And I would either do this early in the morning OR after your weightlifting.
4. Most people will say you have to lift heavy to build muscle. I have a theory based on my own experiences in which I believe women can actually build muscle with high repetition but that’s because most women have better muscle endurance. I did a 20-wk program of low rep and heavy weight (it did make me a LOT stronger) but now I’m doing things like 4 sets of 9 back squat (instead of 3 sets of 3) at a slightly lower weight. If you’re prone to injury, I think you should focus on a slow and steady incline of weights. Start with 4 sets of 12 for four weeks and then 3 sets of 10 for four weeks but increase the weight slightly. Then 2 sets of 6-8 a little bit heavier. I think you have the capacity for lifting heavier but maybe shouldn’t jump right into it. I wear a lot of gear (belts, knee braces, wrist wraps) that protect against injury. I can’t squat super heavy without knee protection. In fact, last night doing my 4×9 at 180, I didn’t put on my knee wraps b/c I didn’t think I needed them for that weight. I didn’t take into consideration I was doing higher reps than normal and my knee bothered me for a bit after. So maybe look into some protective gear to help you lift heavier. If you are interested, email me and I’ll send you some links to what I use.
5. Does this make sense? Did it help? Anyone else have advice?
6. PS–one of my favorite meals is a couple pieces of bacon, an egg, some egg whites, cauliflower, and 1/2 a sweet potato. Combining the sweet potato with bacon and eggs mixes carbs and fats. But I DON’T CARE because I freaking love this meal. 😀
Thank you for posting!! I read your tips from before and incorporated them on my last grocery trip, I just haven’t had a chance to comment back. I started eating my fruits with my protein before working out, which I think helped my overall energy.
Your article helped me better grasp the concept of “fats” (not just the candy bars and cookies) but to include other dairy and “fat” foods. Looking back, seeing how much I like fats and carbs, my paring them together is probably one of the main reasons as to why my body is being stubborn and not losing more weight and building more muscle. As much as I <3 cheese (and carbs) I will try to cut it back.
I'm also guilty of drinking recovery protein after a workout instead of before, but I try to catch it in that 30 minute post-workout window. Drinking too much before/during a workout (depending on the workout) doesn’t settle too well with my digestive system. Does switching the protein to a post-workout drink slow down the metabolism and fat loss / muscle gain process?
Stephanie Wimer says
Hey Jess! First–I’m so glad that this is helping you! You have definitely grasped the right concept of how to better eat fats and carbs. As far as the protein, one of the most important times you need protein is after a workout. If you are satisfied with your fruit and protein before working out–and it seems like it’s really working–then definitely stick with that. Then after your workout, I’d have the same thing again–a scoop of protein and a piece of fruit. You need both carbs and protein after your workout because the carbs will transport the protein to your muscles and help build them back up after you tear them down. The result is more lean muscle which burns that stubborn fat. So definitely do your carb+protein both before and after.
And because you love cheese so much (who doesn’t?!) one snack I’ve recently become addicted to is sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. It’s a great pick-me-up in the afternoon! I throw some pepper and a splash of apple cider vinegar in my dish and I love it! Let me know if you have more questions!
I love all the advice you gave and I understand that SSC is bad for you joints (even my chiro hubby tells me so) however….aside from form, if a runner is also using functional fitness exercises like I do as part of their training program for conditioning and also strength training (I never use machines, btw) what are you thoughts as far as that goes? Do you think if done properly you can combine both methods of exercise into a workout schedule?
Stephanie Wimer says
I absolutely think so. I just think it should be done minimally. If you’re training with high intensity/functional fitness style at least 3 days per week and using heavy lifting to strengthen your muscles (I also assume about 3 xs per week), I’m thinking 1-2 longer cardio sessions are all you would need! I know a lot of people who stopped SSC, turned to interval training, then signed up for marathons and half marathons (very nervous since they stopped training for them) and then PR’d like CRAZY! It’s a lot to think about but I’m super happy I made the switch several years ago. 😀