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Cool exercise: the weighted roll-out

Monday, July 27th, 2009

This exercise works a number of muscles, including both the upper and lower abdominals, the lower back and the triceps.

To perform this exercise you will need a small barbell or a dumbbell set with the nuts loosened a bit so that the weight plates move freely. Then it’s simply a matter of:

  1. standing on your knees,
  2. putting both hands on to the barbell or dumbbells,
  3. keeping your elbows locked, and
  4. pushing forwards, letting yourself roll forward until you can’t go any further.

Finally, reverse the movement until you are back where you started.

Here’s a video I found that illustrates the exercise quite well. It’s a lot harder than it looks!

You can add a weight plate on your back as you do this to increase resistance.

Cool exercise: the reverse crunch

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

In order to turn a paunch into a six-pack, the main thing you need is weight loss. However, coming in at number two are the abdominal strengthening exercises.

The most common of these are sit-ups and crunches. Unfortunately sit-ups are bad for a whole host of reasons (back problems, neck problems, not effectively isolating the abs, largely missing the lower abs). Crunches are good because they avoid the back and neck problems of sit-ups, but they still really only work out the upper abdominal muscles.

For a while my main abdonimal exercise had been crunches, holding a 5kg weight plate behind my head. This added resistance so I could do fewer, harder reps, which is better for building muscle. I could certainly feel the burn in my upper abs but my lower abs were getting off scot-free.

I found what I was after was the reverse crunch. You basically lie on the floor and stablise yourself by holding on to some weights with your hands, bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor, then use your abs to lift your legs and lower back up so your knees are near your head, then go back down again. The best place I have found describing it with a demo video and a good explanation of the advantages and common mistakes is at stronglifts.com.

The biggest thing to watch out for is using your hips too much. These need to be used as little as possible.

After doing it the first time, my abs were wrecked. I had never felt burn in my lower abs before, so it was awesome. I highly recommend anyone doing sit-ups switch to reverse crunches if possible (or at least just crunches). It will save your back, posture and be a better use of your time.

The right tools for the job

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

There are a number of tools I’m using in my quest to flatten my paunch. The main point of most of these tools is to help maintain motivation, but some also help with actual weight loss, avoiding injury and generally being healthy. Here’s a brief summary of all the tools I’m currently using:

Items

While a gym membership would probably be ideal, the convenience of having everything I need at or around my home lowers my ‘minimum motivation level’ required for me to take action.

Dumbbells

I’ve found that doing weights has been incredibly important. There’s nothing more motivating than seeing muscle definition in the mirror. It has also helped my confidence and self esteem — feeling strong is very empowering.

My dumbbell set was originally 20kg: each dummbell bar (including the nuts) weigh 2kg and they came with enough 1.5kg and 2.5kg plates to make each bell 10kg. I got it from Rebel Sport for $50 (on sale, of course). For Christmas I received 4x5kg plates, making it a 40kg set.

Scales

My girlfriend bought me some digital weight scales so I can see how heavy I am. While checking the scales every day is a bad idea due to weight fluctuations from fluid retention, clothing, etc. it’s good to have an idea of how much I weigh for BMI calculation and measurement of progress.

These scales also try to measure my body fat percentage and other things but I don’t think it’s very accurate so I just ignore them.

Tape Measure

I picked up a tailor’s tape measure for $1.89 at Kmart. This has let me measure things like my chest, waist, hips and thigh. The ratios of some of these dimensions can indicate health problems, but I mainly just record it to track my progress for motivational purposes.

Running Shoes

Running is hard work. Deciding to go for a run is even harder. Removing as many excuses as possible has helped me run more often. The biggest help for this has come from getting a good pair of running shoes.

I went into The Athletes Foot and got my tread pattern analysed and my measurements taken. I ended up with a pair of snug-fitting Brooks shoes that are very comfortable to run in. They put a spring in my step reduce the strain my feet are subject to from running on pavement.

Web Sites

There are a number of web sites listed in the ‘resources’ section that I use. Here’s a brief run-down of them.

Scooby’s Workshop

Since I don’t have a gym membership I have had to learn how to make the most out of my dummbells. The best resource I have found to do this is Scoobys Home Bodybuilding Workouts.

Scooby is built like a tank after half a lifetime of honest weight lifting. On his site he shares a lot of his experience, with particular emphasis on DIY setups for people who don’t go to a gym. His videos are very motivating and he’s always careful to show how to do the routines with good form to avoid injury. He has a wealth of information on there aside from lifting routines, including workout plans, nutrition advice and myth-busting.

Joe’s Goals

Before I started using this site, I didn’t realise how little exercise I was actually doing. Time goes by so quickly and it’s hard to fit exercise into the day.

This site lets me track my activities throughout the week so I can see how long it’s been since I went on a run or did some weight lifting. You can assign different points to different activities, but 3F">the points don’t matter — they just make me feel good. For example, I assign 5 points for a run, since a run requires a lot more motivation than just doing a few sets of curls (1 point).

You can also produce a graph of your points to put on your web site. You should be able to see mine over on the right. The higher that green line is, the better I have been 😉

CalorieKing

This is your one-stop site for tracking how much energy you put into your body as well as how your body changes over time.

It has a comprehensive food database that allows you to record what you’ve eaten each day. It can also take into account the exercise you’ve done, your target weight and other stats to calculate your calorie target.

It also has weekly check-ins, where you record your weight and measurements and can see pretty graphs showing how they change over time. It’s very motivating seeing the negative gradients on those lines!

Limes & Lycopene

While not as active as it used to be, this blog of Sydney nutritionist Kathryn Elliott is filled with useful information about, well, nutrition. She also talks about what foods are in season and meal ideas.

Good nutrition is something that I find quite difficult, but it’s a vital piece of the puzzle. This blog has helped open my mind about deciding what foods to put into my mouth. Sneaking in the recommended five servings of vegies every day is very hard, but this site has helped me get closer.

Director, what’s my motivation?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Motivation is the most powerful weapon against the Paunch. Without it, my only hope would be poverty or an addiction to some kind of strenuous activity (maybe both together would be required).

Now, I know that I want to ditch the Paunch and I have many reasons for wanting to do so, but this in itself does not motivate me to take the necessary actions. I’m not going to feel like going for a run just because I know it will cause me to lose 0.01 kg. I need more motivation!

If you’re playing along at home, find some things that work for you. It’s absolutely vital to stay motivated, particularly in the early stages before you have a number of habits formed. Here are some ideas that work for me:

Visualisation

Pin up pictures of a body-builder (e.g. Arnie, Scooby), a hero (e.g. Spider-man, Goku) or others who have a good body. I find this is very motivating, but I’m not sure why yet. Perhaps it’s inspiring or sparks some kind of envy inside of me. Either way it’s very effective! Here’s some photos of the examples I gave:

Incidentally, Spider-man has similar stats to myself, 5’10”, 165 lbs, brown hair and hazel eyes. Yeap, I am actually Spider-man.

External Encouragement

Ask your partner to give reminders and encouragement related to your Paunch-busting, e.g. how much hotter you’re looking. Also, try to organise a gym buddy or someone else who can join you in your exercise — or at least have someone who knows about your mission and is prepared to critically evaluate you. This works for me because I don’t like letting other people down.

Measure Success

Use metrics to measure your progress. Record weight and tape measurements over time as well as what kind of exercises you are doing. It’s encouraging to see your weight dropping as well as the amount and intensity of exercise you do increasing. I’ll post more on this topic later.

It’s very imporant to maintain high levels of motivation. The longer I remain unmotivated, the harder it is for me return to where I was before. Instead of sabotaging myself before I really get started, I’m going to make sure I have the best chance possible. Kind of like making sure I have enough plutonium to get me back from 1955 before I leave.