Ask Scott: home work-outs, abdominal results and getting started
Top rugby coach Scott Pearson answers your health and fitness questions...
Hi Scott, a friend and I have recently started working out at home. We have a bench to do things like bench press, etc and a few dumbbells. I just want to know, in our current program, where we are aiming to build muscle; we do exercises focused purely on chest and triceps on the one day, the next day biceps and shoulders, then the day after that legs. Do the muscles work that way or do the exercises clash? Should we change the grouping so that say triceps and biceps are together or does it not matter?
Although it uses scientific principles, planning physical training is an art. There is no right or wrong and you must do is plan something that you enjoy and that you will adhere to. What you have described seems perfectly reasonable to me: chest & triceps go well together an many chest exercises (such as bench press) also combine the triceps as prime movers during the exercise. Having said that you don’t seem to be doing any training for your back. Given that you are doing a lot of training for your chest and shoulders you could be leaving yourself prone to muscle imbalances, which could lead to injury.
In addition to this I would also include some cardio work. I know your aim is to build muscle but not all cardio work leads to “weight loss” and if done right it can really boost your metabolism which will help your body burn calories and therefore more fat! I would recommend doing some really intense anaerobic intervals or circuits. A really simple example session on the rower is below but you can use the same principles with anything – you can even to repeated sprints on a local field or even up a hill:
Row 300m (aim for a time under 1 minute)
1 minute rest
Repeat x 10
This whole session only takes 20 minutes (plus a warm up) and will get your heart rate rocketing.
Here is how I would plan my training week:
- MONDAY: Upper Body Weights (even weeks concentrate on chest & triceps. Odd weeks concentrate on shoulders & triceps)
- TUESDAY: Lower Body Weights (I would also think about including some core and abdominal work)
- WEDNESDAY: Rest day & stretch
- THURSDAY: Upper Body Weights (back & biceps)
- FRIDAY: Cardio (mix it up by using different equipment – rower, sprints, hill sprints, sleds, bike, swimming, etc, etc, etc)
- SATURDAY: Rest day & stretch
- SUNDAY: Rest day & stretch
Continue on with this plan for 6-8 weeks and then change it by either changing the sessions you are doing, or by changing the order in which you do them. Your body will get used to the sessions you do as it adapts to the stimulus; so make sure you keep it thinking by changing it up.
How long should it take to see results on abdominals if exercising every day?
This is quite a difficult question to answer as there are many things I don’t really know about your situation. What are you doing every day? What condition are you already in? How long have you been doing it for?
When placed in a new environment your body will begin to adapt to the varying stimuli that it finds itself under. For example, if you were to go to the North Pole you would obviously find it extremely cold but over time your bodily functions would adapt as you get used to the temperature (assuming you don’t die from exposure before this happens!) A similar process happens when you exercise.
Every time you move you place your body under a certain amount of physiological stress (exercise sessions are designed to increase the level of this stress). As a natural consequence of this process your body will produce waste products (such as lactic acid) and undergo some wear and tear. After this the body naturally heals itself (usually during the hours of ROM or deep sleep), using protein; it will repair itself to its previous state, plus a little bit more for good measure. If you continue to regularly place your body under similar stress it will gradually adapt to it, becoming more and more accustomed to that particular stimulus.
Different systems of the body adapt at different rates, so when doing something new (sit ups, for example), you will probably see an improvement in your performance pretty quickly, then after a few weeks your performance will tend to plateau off. This is because your neural system can adapt much faster than other bodily systems; so after you perform a new skill or movement, you will quickly learn to do it better and more efficiently and therefore your performance will rise sharply. Once this has happened you may find that the rest of your body lags a bit behind and any further improvement is slower, however this is when you will see changes in your body’s appearance. You will normally see physical changes in around 6-8 weeks (depending on what you are doing).
I am 21 years old, and just graduated from college. I have four months off, and I wish to devote them to my fitness and health. I am 5'9 or 5'10, but only 120 pounds, which renders me underweight. I feel awkward about my body, and my body type is ectomorph. It's not that I don't eat, but I can't get in as much quantity as most of my other male friends. I used to go to the gym infrequently because of studies. I can go now, but I would much prefer in-home exercises, for obvious reasons of avoiding embarrassment. I also don't think I should have a girlfriend until I am well-shaped. Please advise me on how I can improve my body. It will save me from a lot of tension, and I will be most grateful to you.
The first thing to do when starting a new exercise programme is firstly to decide why you want to do it (in your case it seems that you want to increase your lean weight and improve your appearance). Once you have done this set some specific goals for yourself (see my previous article how to keep your eyes on the prize about how to do this); setting specific ‘SMARTER’ goals means that you are far more likely to continue on with the programme and you have much more of an idea of how you are progressing.
When you have set the goals and targets you are happy with think about what you need to do to achieve them; take time to plan things you need to do as well as things you like to do, that way you will follow a more balanced and thorough programme. Think about the bigger picture; you can’t train at 100% all the time, so plan for rest as well as work. I usually use a step loading method, where I gradually increase the volume and intensity each week for three weeks, then take a rest (or very light) week and start again. I find that this helps keep my body fresh as well as keeping me motivated much, much longer.
When you have decided the intensities you are going to train at think about how you will plan your training week (see the question above). Although you are keen to build size and muscle remember not to neglect cardio work, as I talk about in one of the questions above you can modify it so that you will still get the desired hormonal and physiological response (by doing high intensity, intermittent cardio work; such as hill sprints, etc), and you will keep your heart and lungs healthier, as well as boosting fat burning. Balance sessions out so that you let muscle groups rest while you work other ones, for example work chest on day one and back on day two.
If you have read any of my previous articles you will know that I am certainly not into buying expensive gym memberships and using fancy machines, I think you can get excellent workouts using very little equipment and the weight of your own body. Look at my article called 18 Exercises every man should know for some really good examples.
Finally, I feel I have to mention what you say at the end of your question...namely that you don’t think you should have a girlfriend until you are well shaped. Don’t be silly! I have plenty of friends who certainly are not well shaped but they manage to get a girlfriend. I understand that if you have insecurities about your body image you will feel less confident; especially around the opposite sex, but that is no reason to say that you shouldn’t have a girlfriend at all! It’s a massive cliché but women are more attracted to personality, confidence and self assurance that to looks alone, so if you are yourself then you will be more attractive. As a bonus physical exercise makes you feel good (after you have finished feeling stiff and sore!) and if you feel good you will be more confident and hence, more attractive.
I really hope this answer helps you, good luck for the future.
Page created on June 22nd, 2010
Page updated on June 22nd, 2010