A driving force behind L365 is that your health acts as a catalyst that helps you to create more possibilities in your life. I want to help you become stronger so that you can perform routine tasks with ease. I want to help you become faster so that you can run away from your wife when she asks you to go to Nordstrom Rack with her…. I mean so that you can chase after you kids at the park. I want you help you improve your energy so that you can tackle that epic hike on your bucket list.
There are over 300 articles on this site that aim to do just that. But there’s not a one that tackles some of your most common workout questions.
Next week I’ll be sending you an article about the most common nutrition questions, but for today lets talk weights, working out, and training.
LIMITLESS WORKOUT FAQ’S
Most of the articles on this site are very detailed breakdowns of one particular topic. Today we won’t be getting as specific. This article is all about answering the question, “just tell me what to do so I can do it.” Not a lot of science and references – just some straight up answers.
I’ve gone through some old emails and notes that I’ve saved in Evernote and have complied a list of some of the most frequently asked questions I get about working out.
In no particular order, here we go!
HOW MANY REPS SHOULD I BE DOING?
I actually wrote a more detailed article about this here but these are some general rules when deciding how many reps you should do for a workout.
1-5 Reps, Strength: Typical used for maximal strength gains. 1-5 reps is usually around 85% of your 1 rep maximum (1RM) in any given lift. So a good approach before starting any training routine may be to test yourself in a few of the basic movements in order to have some “NERD ALERT” data to work with. If you are a novice lifter I would not suggest training in this rep range until your form is on point ya dig?
Great for power lifts such as: Cleans, Snatch’s, Jerks and the big 5 – Squat, Deadlift, Bench, Overhead Press, Weighted Pull-ups.
6-8 Reps, Strength/Hypertrophy: It is a pretty standard rep range for most fellas to follow because it elicits a pretty nice balance between strength and muscular gains. 6-8 reps usually falls at about 79-84% of your 1RM. So if you have not already, think about testing those 1RM’s.
WOMEN, you will not get bulky working in this rep range. Please do not stay away from it like the plague. Mix it in every once in a while. The fact is that your body does not have enough natural testosterone to make you bulky from moving heavy weights.
Great for most exercises although the olympic lifts should usually stay in the 1 to 5 range.
9-12 Reps, Hypertrophy: This is the rep range that the majority of trainees use. However, they train in this range with not much intensity. By that I mean moving a weight for 12 reps when they could have done 20. This rep range will usually be around 70-78% of your 1RM. This rep range will allow for optimal muscular development. If you are looking for serious body composition changes… aka… looking good naked then think about dabbling in this pool.
Great for most exercises and the beginner to intermediate trainee as it will allow them to work on form.
13+ Reps, Muscular Endurance: This is usually anything under 70% of your 1RM. Most novice lifters can experience tremendous gains when working with these higher rep ranges. This is also an excellent rep range for beginners in order develop proper form and control of the movements. Body weight movements will allow for rep ranges in the range. If you’re a noob to all of this think about starting with a body weight routine until you develop some muscular strength, coordination, and confidence.
Great for bodyweight workouts and beginners looking to improve form
HOW MANY SETS SHOULD I BE DOING?
You can refer to this post again for a more detailed description.
A general rule is the more reps the fewer the sets. Your muscles need to perform a certain amount of work to see results. Lifting a super heavy weight 2 times for 1 set is not going to do you much good. You also want to make sure you don’t train a muscle too much. 15 reps of a bench press done with 15 sets is just not smart. You’re most likely just over-training a muscle group. When we look back at the rep ranges provided above a good protocol to follow can be seen here.
- 1-5 reps: 4-6 sets
- 6-8 reps: 3-5 sets
- 9-12 reps: 3-4 sets
- 13+ reps: 2-3 sets (depending on training maybe 4)
I WANT TO GET STRONG LIKE BULL. WHAT DO I DO?
You’ll definitely have to step up your game at the dining table. To get strong you really need to eat! You need enough calories to help muscle growth and to get stronger. But we’ll talk more about that next week in the most frequently asked nutrition questions.
1 – Focus on compound movements: Lower body movements like squats, lunges, and deadlifts. Upper body movements like bench presses, dips, overhead presses, pull-ups, and bent over rows – yup, that’s the 80/20 version of it. No curls for the girls – just multiple joint movements that work large muscle groups.
2 – Get the reps right: Keep it in the 3 to 8 range to maximize strength but also don’t be afraid to go below 3 every once in a while
3 – Get the sets right: 3 to 6 sets of each exercise
4 – Get the rest right: 1 to 4 minutes of rest in-between each set or exercise. 2 to 3 minutes is a sweet spot for allowing yourself to recover enough to lift heavy weights again but also not too much time so you’re in the gym forever. Weight train 3 to 4 days per week if strength is your goal.
5 – Get better each week: Try and increase the weights that you lifted a bit each training session. This is called progressive overload.; You’re body and muscles need to be challenged in order to get stronger. A 1 to 5% increase in weight for each lift might be all that you need. Record each workout so that you know exactly what you were able to accomplish. If you hit your repetition number in the workout before than it’s time to bump it up.
Optional – Think about using tempo’s: If you’re a beginner looking to get stronger this will not be as important. For those of your that are intermediate to advanced trainees using tempo’s will dramatically increase your strength. See this article and this one for how to incorporate tempo’s into your training.
For a detailed article on how to start resistance training, check out this article.
WHAT’S THE BEST WORKOUT TO LOSE FAT?
I hate this question. I’m sorry but I do. The best workout for fat loss is the one that involves your brain, hand, and how you move a fork to your mouth. In all seriousness, the best way to lose fat is by making healthier food choices.
You just booed me didn’t you?
There really are thousands upon thousands for great workouts you could follow. I’m just going to cover a few of mine.
1 – The one that you’re not currently doing: Yup, if you’re not currently being active then the best way to lose fat is to start. It doesn’t have to be some P90x, guns blazing, all out sweat fest. If you haven’t started being more active just start.
- 10 minute workouts (5 if that’s too much)
- Dance classes
- Walking the stairs every hour while at work (or during breaks)
- Basketball league
What ever will get your booty moving more than it is.
2 – Strength circuits: These are bodyweight or resistance training workouts that have you complete a variety of strength training exercises with minimal rest. I like to do full body routines 4 to 5 times per week.
- 24 walking dumbbell lunges
- 12 to 15 push-ups
- 12 to 15 pull-ups or inverted rows
- 12 to 15 overhead presses
- 15 kettlebell swings
- 10 box jumps
Rest as little as possible between each exercise but rest 1 to 2 minutes after the box jumps. This is 1 circuit. Complete 3 to 5 circuits. Feel free to adjust the rep range and exercises.
3 – Do the right kind of cardio: I wrote a very detailed article found here about what cardio is and how to use it for fat loss and performance. With out getting too long-winded, high intensity interval training still seems to be king when it comes to cardio for fat loss, maintaining lean muscle, and performance. You could add a bit of this in-between resistance training days.
4 – Measure your progress: If you’re not assessing what you’re doing than you’re just guessing. Use the scale once per week, take girth measurements bi-weekly, and snap before and after photos every 30 days. Also, pay attention to how your clothes are fitting, how you feel, and any comments people are making about your appearance, skin, etc…
I’m just going to repeat this for good measure. When it comes to fat loss nutrition is king. You can’t out train a terrible diet.
WHAT ARE THE BEST EXERCISES TO DO?
The big 5 – Squat, deadlift, bench press, pull-up/bent over row, and overhead presses. I know, I know, I’m really beating a dead horse with this. Check out the LimitlessEXERCISE library here for video descriptions.
If you want to save time in the gym and get the most bang for your buck than building your fitness around those 5 movements is in your best interest. They recruit the most muscle fibers, work both large and small muscle groups, and help activate the hormones necessary for fat loss, strength, and building muscle.
Here’s a pretty classic routine you could use to build strength and muscle.
Workout A – Squat, pull-ups or assisted, bent over rows. 5 sets of 5 reps of each exercise resting 2 minutes in-between each set
Workout B – Deadlift, bench press, overhead press, 5 sets of 5 reps of each exercise resting 2 minutes in-between each set.
Do workout A on Monday and Thursday. Get workout B in on Tuesday and Friday.
Using the same lifts to create a fat loss routine you could rock it like this.
Workout A – Squat, pull-ups or assisted, overhead press. 3 to 5 circuits of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise. Resting as little as possible between exercises.
Workout B – Deadlift, bench press, bent over rows. 3 to 5 circuits of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise. Resting as little as possible between exercises.
For those of you that are a little more advanced the olympic lifts would also go on this list. Clean, Snatch, and Jerk.
HOW DO I START WORKING OUT?
When most folks want to start working out what do they do? Pick up a fitness magazine, google the best workout, ask buddy of theirs for a routine, or maybe create your own? Often, these workouts are too long, too boring, too intricate, and too difficult. 2 weeks go by and you’re either too sore to go train, can’t find the time to get to the gym and do a 60+ minute workout, or simply don’t want to do it.
Start small: Make getting started so easy that it’s nearly impossible not to. If all you can do is commit 10 minutes one day per week than do that. If that’s too difficult, go smaller.
Change your environment: Make getting started easier by creating an environment that promotes more health in your life.
- Wake up a bit earlier to get in a run or try this, this, or these bodyweight workouts you can do at home.
- Pick up some used dumbbells so that you can lift at home.
- Eat at your desk and use lunch breaks for exercise.
- Leave some equipment at the office.
- Use post it notes all over the house to serve as reminders to workout today.
Find what you like to do and do that: Like to run than run. Like to lift than lift. Like to box than box. Like to dance than dance. Like yoga than do yoga. Just get started with something you enjoy and build on that momentum.
Take advice from these people: Some of the L365 success stories have great tips for helping you to get started.
Don’t over think this. To get started you just need to start. It doesn’t need to be the perfect plan or an elaborate routine. It just needs to be something you feel confident you can do and stick with.
WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE TO WORKOUT?
Everyone knows they should work out. But to be honest, it can be boring, difficult, and painful. I don’t know a lot of people who want to do things that combine those 3 characteristics.
However, I’m willing to bet you already do some stuff you don’t like to do – so sorry, not sorry – but just because you “don’t like to do it” is not a valid excuse.
See above, but again find ways you like to be active and start with that. If that doesn’t work than exercise more by accident.
- Walk the dogs (or your significant other)
- Rock climb
- Play basketball or join other rec leagues
- Throw the football with your kids
- Take the stairs
- Go on bike rides
- Play more
- Take more classes. Crossfit, bootcamp, spin.
Working out isn’t always going to be an enjoyable experience. Use your noodle and try new things or discover ways to make it more fun.
We like to do things that we’re good at. Get better at working out. Work on your form or practice new lifts, gymnastics, double-udders, handstand push-ups.
What’s a skill you’ve always wanted to learn?
I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WORKOUT. WHAT CAN I DO?
You’re never going to find the time to workout, you’re going to have to create it. Take a look at your schedule and decide what days you have the least commitments and are less likely to miss a workout. Schedule them in your calendar and set a reminder – these are now appointments with yourself and they do not get canceled.
Not having time to workout just means you are prioritizing other things over your health right now. There’s nothing wrong with this, just don’t use time as a scape goat.
- 10 minute workout examples
- Noobie bodyweight routine you can do at home
- Incredible hulk bodyweight training you can do at home
- 10 bodyweight workouts to spice up any routine
- 6 levels of bodyweight workouts
- 4 minute fitness: Tabata workouts
- 12 Minute Athlete
Still don’t have time? Start with 10 minutes one day per week and go from there? Just keep this up until you are able to create more time.
I know what you’re thinking. Will 10 minutes per day one day a week do anything? YES! It gets you started. Now go!
I’M NOT SEEING PROGRESS. WHAT CAN I DO?
How do you know you’re not seeing progress? This is the first questions I ask someone when I get this email. I want to know how they’re measuring it.
1 – Measure your progress:
- Are you taking body measurements? Weight, scale, before and after photos, body fat tests?
- Did you have blood work done?
- Are you tracking your workouts to see how consistent you’ve been with them?
- Are you logging your workouts and recording weights used, reps, sets, and making other notes?
- Are you practicing healthy nutrition habits and measuring how consistently you’re practicing them?
- Are you using a food log
I say it all the time and I know it’s annoying as all getup – but I’m going to say it again anyway. If you’re not assessing what you’re doing than you’re just guessing if what you’re doing is working or not.
2 – Embrace the plateau: Use this as an opportunity to relax. You don’t need to stop working out or forget about eating healthier. It’s pretty tough to go 100mph all the time – you’ll burn out. Your body may thank you later for the much needed relaxation.
3 – Shake things up: If you’ve been doing the same routine, lifting the same weight, running at the same pace, eating the same foods – it may be time to switch things up. A little variety might be just what you need.
4 – Progress is not linear: We like to think that progress happens in this nice linear line – That once we get started we just keep getting better or we just keep making improvements. But in reality progress happens much like the way the tazmanian devil moves – All over the freakin place! But if you stay with it and stay persistent and consistent, you will keep improving.
5 – Focus on tiny wins: Are you getting little stronger, feeling more energetic, did someone tell you how great you look today? Those are wins.
DO I NEED TO TAKE SUPPLEMENTS?
No. You don’t need to take supplements despite what every magazine and supplement company is telling you.
If you want to know if you should be taking supplements I suggest getting some blood work done so you actually know what you need more of.
You can also visit the good folks over at Examine. They are the most trust worthy source of information on vitamins, minerals, supplements, what works, what doesn’t, what you may need, and what you may not.
Examine answers your questions about some of the most popular supplements like:
- BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
- D-Aspartic Acid
- Fish Oil
- L-Carnitine & ALCAR
- Testosterone Boosters
- Vitamin D
- Whey Protein
You can drop fat, get strong, add muscle, and become healthier by moving more and eating real food. Supplements should supplement your nutrition and exercise not become a staple of them.
Well, that’s it for today. Do you want to get an answer to a question not included in this article? Submit it to the comments below.
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