Sunday, July 29, 2012


One of the things that a trainer often has to do is to reframe the way a client thinks about things.  One client, a pretty trim-looking young woman, might come to me and say, "I want to 'tone up my abs."  The next, an overweight man or woman, might come up to me and say, "I want to lose about 50 lbs."  A 3rd, a skinny guy with a little bit of a spare tire, might come up to me and say, "I wanna get RIPPED!!!!"

SO.  As their trainer, what am I going to do?  If you answered, "3 totally different things!"  Well you're right and you're wrong.  Let me lay it out for you like this:

All 3 clients have come to me for what, in their minds, are 3 completely different reasons and they're going to be looking at different things when it comes to gauging their success.  When you think about what they're asking for on a really fundamental level, though, you begin to see that they're all asking for basically the same thing.  They all want more muscle and less fat.

"No!  My arms are already big enough!", I can already hear someone out there say.

That may be true but you know what I'm not afraid of?  My female client turning into Arnold Schwarzenneger.  Most women just don't have the right hormones in the right proportions to put on a huge amount of muscle.  Hell!  Even Schwarzenegger didn't before the steroids!  When you see a woman who looks, "Too buff", odds are she worked really hard to get that way because that's what she wanted to look like.

Look right and you can see what 5 lbs. adipose tissue (fat) 
looks like compared to 5 lbs. muscle tissue.

 So, as a personal trainer, I don't get excited about a person's weight alone.  You could be gaining weight but losing fat and getting smaller.  Again, look at the picture and you'll see why.  On the other hand, I am really keen to analyze a client's body composition periodically.  I love saying, "OK, you've lost 'x' amount of fat and gained 'y' amount of muscle!"

How about the skinny chick who wants to tone up but isn't trying to lose weight?  If your muscles need to be tightened up, there's both subcutaneous fat surrounding those muscles, but under the skin, and there's also fat interspersed throughout the body of the muscle.  Same thing.  Make the muscle bigger and the fat smaller and you'll still end up smaller.

Once in a great while....Wait for it....I'm WRONG!  Yep, you heard right! LOL 

But don't lose heart!  If your genetic makeup dictates that you just put on muscle to a greater extent than you would like, we simply dial that part of the workout back a little and wait for them bad boys to shrink a little while we focus on something else.

"OK, OK, we get it," you say.  "Shrink the fat stuff and grow more of the dense stuff.  But how do we do that?"

To that I say, "Weights and cardio!"

 Actually, you don't necessarily need weights, per se, but you do need to work every major muscle group to exhaustion.  By 'exhaustion' I don't mean until you feel like quitting, I mean contract that muscle through a full range of motion until muscular failure occurs.  As you progress, you can increase the number of sets you do of each exercise.  You should work all your major muscle groups at least once/week.  2 or 3x/week is a good figure to shoot for.

The key to burning fat is to work out at a low intensity for a long duration.  So, get a heart rate monitor, find your target heart zone and work out at that intensity for more than 20 minutes.  This formula will estimate your target heart zone accurately enough for our purposes:

Min. HR = [(220 - Age) - Resting Heart Rate] * .65 - RHR  |  Max HR = [(220 - Age) -RHR] * .75 - RHR  |  Min - Max = Target Heart Zone

Most people like to get on cardio equipment at the gym to do this but, if that's not your style, you can do anything that gets your heart rate up into your target heart zone and keeps it there.  "How long?" you ask?  The short answer (from me) is 45-60 minutes.  Do that twice a week, eat right, and you'll lose fat.

Obviously, this is pretty generic advice (I'm not tackling diet because that's another blog unto itself and really needs to be addressed on an individual basis).  The guy who's trying to bulk up is going to be doing way more intense weight training than the other two clients.  He'll probably be eating a lot more calories as well.  The overweight individual is going to need to watch his/her caloric intake pretty closely, learn strategies for eating differently, and spend more time doing cardio than the other two clients.  The young woman who is already pretty close to her goal won't really have to exert as much effort as the other two.

So what's the take-away message?  Sculpting.  Lift weights, do cardio and be happy.  Your body is an amazingly sophisticated instrument that possesses an innate intelligence.  Give it these two basic forms of stimuli along with moderate portions of wholesome food and it will look good in ways that you hadn't even thought to ask for it to look, you will feel good in ways it hadn't occurred to you that you could, and it will serve you well for the duration of your life.


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