Saturday, June 30, 2012


The day I hit the benchmark allowing me to add more exercises was a happy day for me. My core was getting stronger and I could see and feel it. I added in a few other abdominal exercises and continued with them until I had fulfilled the same rule as before: fifty reps in four sets. I was at a place in my workouts where I felt comfortable moving to tasks that focused more of my extremities. This is where I started to implement the second aspect of my strategy. There are a lot of different ways to work out. Everyone has different names for these methods. In my own words and understanding, I would place them into five categories: cardio, circuit training, mass building, toning, and endurance.

Each of these categories has a general overlying process as well as a specific goal. The goal of cardio is to elevate your heart rate (to keep your heart and circulatory strong), to lose weight, and to lose fat in certain areas, i.e. love handles. Any activity that raises your standing heart rate 30% or more can fall into this category. (This number will change depending on where you look and all that really matters is that you elevate your heart a bit over your standing rate for around thirty minutes.) I knew I would have to incorporate some cardio in to my workouts for the sake of my heart, but the last thing I wanted to do was lose a lot of weight.

Circuit training is the easiest method and requires the least amount of thought. A series of machines (a circuit) is arranged and you follow from point one to the end; and you perform between ten to twelve reps at each machine. It focuses on a few large muscles and purports to be a full-body workout to keep you in shape. It is the fast food of workouts and works to fatigue your muscles, but rarely will one ever push to failure. From this point, I will reference weight as a percentage of capacity. Your maximum capacity is the greatest amount of weight you can lift in one rep. So if you can lift 100lbs one time before failure, that is your maximum capacity at the moment. If you can do two reps at 100lbs, you would need to increase the weight slightly to find your maximum capacity.

Those that follow a mass building regime are trying to build as large a muscle as they can. They do this by focusing on the strength of primary muscles through the use of very high weight added weight (75%-95% of capacity), between three to eight reps, and always pushing to failure. This breaks down the muscles rapidly and with proper attention they rebuild stronger. This was not a good strategy for me. My muscles were weak and I was not one to heal quickly for multiple reasons. Beyond building mass, there is toning. Toning is used to build definition in the muscles by wearing out primary muscles for the purpose of working on secondary muscles. Those people that have a very "cut" physique usually have a toning regime that they follow. With toning, one uses a low to mid weight added weight (40%-70% of capacity), between fifteen to thirty reps, and usually pushing more for muscle fatigue than muscle failure. I could see myself using a toning regime with some modifications, but after trying it I found that the weights were still too heavy for my current strength.

I finally came to endurance training in my search. This method of training uses the lowest added weight (0% - 30% of capacity), the number of reps is usually over forty, and you are pushing your muscles to the point of critical failure. Like toning, with endurance the primary muscles are fatigued to the point where secondary muscles take a more prominent role. Additionally, the secondary muscles are fatigued to the point where tertiary muscles come into play (when present). The purpose of endurance training is to help someone increase their body's overall efficiency and to increase the base energy levels resulting in a change in the muscle's fatigue, failure, and critical failure levels to allow for longer usage of the muscle. It also has a mental component that allows one to push beyond failure and while learning to stop just short of critical failure.

As I pushed into my endurance regime, I found that I was able to keep up with it with no added weight. I figured that I would be able to do fifty reps of any movement without any added weight and I was wrong. In some cases I was able to get to twenty reps, but on average I was only able to get to fifteen reps of any given movement. Since I had already set four sets of fifty reps for my core exercises, I decided to remain consistent. Using common exercises minus the weight, I set out on my next task.