Fitness Friday: Make your workouts as simple as possible -- but not simpler

Andreas Rentz

That's a variation of a quote from Albert Einstein, but you don't have to be a genius to get in shape. You just have to have a smart approach to your workouts.

Welcome back to another edition of Fitness Friday, fight fans, and since we don't have a UFC event to monopolize our time this weekend, why not get to work on the body of your dreams?

Yes, yours.

Having a fit, toned body is like driving a nice car. Even if you're not showing off, people will notice you. Often times, your body will become a conversation piece and it's not uncommon for some folks to ask me, "Hey, what's your secret?"

Man, I can't believe in this day and age that anyone really believes that being in good shape is a secret, as if I call my buddies on a secure line and arrange a late night meeting at the gym to compare notes under dim lights and hushed voices.

Pffffft.

I've been involved in the fitness industry for the better part of 20 years and if you can name an exercise fad, I've probably tried it. When I picked up my first dumbbell at age 15, it was in my parent's living room while watching Alyssa Milano's "Teen Steam" workout video.

Then I graduated to Tony Little a few years later (lolz).

I got pretty good results using those programs, just as I've known people who've dropped weight by "Sweatin' to the Oldies." You want to know what the real "secret" of the fitness industry is? Everything works. It doesn't matter how you package it, the formula is still the same.

Eat right and get off your ass.

You probably wouldn't sell too many DVDs with that type of approach to getting in shape, which is why you'll see popular infomercials selling you on "marketing muscle confusion," which according to its overbearing huckster, is "revolutionary."

Really?

When I was playing high school football back in 1989, my coach would always tell me to avoid getting married to a particular move or machine, because I'd probably plateau after awhile and stop making gains. Was my crusty old coach ahead of his time?

Hardly.

But I've seen a large percentage of people try to lose weight or get in shape, only to fail miserably. It's not because they don't have the will to succeed (or the willpower to put their forks down), but rather because they've immersed themselves into a lifestyle that is not sustainable.

Work hard, but keep it simple.

Earlier this week, I had a guy at the gym giving me unsolicited advice on training arms. He was rambling on about his diet, dropping words like "macros" before explaining something about "andipose tissue." It was hurting my brain. Once he started grilling me on my methods, I just looked at him and said, "My man ... I ain't training for the Olympics."

Working out is simple. Why complicate the process?

--Make compound exercises the foundation of your routine
--Follow the 40:20 rule
--Try changing your grip before changing your weight
--Try changing your incline before changing your speed (cardio)

If you're a pro athlete and need to shave 3/4 of a second off your time on the track, or a competitive powerlifter who won't medal without breaking through that sticking point on the bench, then you need to live a life dedicated to strict nutrition and countless hours in the gym.

Most of us just want to look good when we hit the beach.

I won't be breaking any records in the gym, nor can I run the Boston marathon. Ready for the punchline? I look like I can, but only have to put in half the work. That holds true for just about anyone willing to keep it simple. The results don't come from "shock" diets or lifting heavy metal.

They come from a commitment to better living, which takes a wee bit longer.

That's why most folks fail. Trying to be one of those "fit" people is stressful, worrying every second about how many calories you ate before noon, whether or not you got enough protein after lifting, or if you had 72 glasses of water like you're supposed to.

It's exhausting and enough to break most of us (myself included).

That's why I keep it simple. Something I can do comfortably day in and day out. When I go to the gym, I do my business and get the hell out. Let those other guys stay on the bench for an hour, I got shit to do. And I'm not an elephant at the circus, so I don't need to be balancing on one of those big rubber balls with a barbell on my nose.

The only thing I want to balance is my diet.

Slamming a ViSalus shake when I get out of the gym is about as simple as it gets. I already knew that ViSalus was one of the top names in weight loss, so when they told me about their "Fit Kit" designed for athletic performance that helps support lean muscle mass (see it here), it was a no-brainer.

In last week's column (read it here), abdominal muscles were a recurring theme in the comments section.

Like a lot of folks, I had trouble drawing them out at first. I wasn't keeping it simple. Some schmoe told me the other day that "abs were built in the kitchen," as he rattled off a dozen tasteless recipes before banging out 100 crunches. I'm sure his core is strong and his abs tight, but you won't be seeing them anytime soon.

Would you expect to see your biceps popping out of your t-shirt if you could easily bang out 100 curls using two-pound dumbbells?

Probably not.

The abs are a muscle group, just like any other. You want them to stick out and get noticed? Make 'em bigger. Lower your reps and increase your weight. Don't worry, unless you're on the stuff (or do zero cardio), you're in no danger of having fat abs or a bloated midsection.

One of my favorite exercises is the incline bench sit-up.

If I lock my fingers behind my head in the traditional seated position, I can do a few dozen. Not only does it take longer to do all those reps (resulting in more time in the gym), it doesn't leave them jumping for joy when I disrobe at the pool. To counter that, a lot of guys will grab a medicine ball and hold it in front of them to add resistance.

Don't waste your time.

Instead, grab a weighted ball with handles, starting with a six-pounder, and hold it behind your head, so the curve of the ball fits comfortably in the space under the base of your skull and above your shoulder blades. Decline slowly until the small of your back meets the bench, then lurch forward, pulling with your elbows until you completely close the distance.

Rinse and repeat.

You should only be able to do 12-15 reps per set, so up the weight until you find your zone. I like to alternate with "twists" using a 45-pound plate (held like a steering wheel) employing the same bench, 12-15 reps per side. Look for more of that (with pics) in a future column. My goal is to convince an attractive fitness model to demonstrate, instead of subjecting you to a brooding bald guy in a ratty tank top.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, let's get some feedback from the fitness gallery. I know a lot of people are just the opposite and can only succeed if they become a slave to their routine and need that cloud hanging over them to keep the momentum going.

Are you one of them?

Fitness Friday is sponsored by ViSalus. Opinions expressed are solely of the author. For more information on the ViSalus line of products click here.

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