Exercises

Looking for some new exercises to introduce into your workout? I've got you covered... give these a try!

Can Body Fat Be Too Low?

When it comes to body fat, how low is too low?

When it comes to body fat, how low is too low?

Targeting a lower body fat percentage is a common workout goal. And it’s a great goal to have.

But in the same way that too much of a good thing isn’t good, too little of a bad thing isn’t great either. And the truth is, body fat isn’t entirely bad. It serves many important functions including insulation and serving as an energy source. Your body needs some fat to function properly.

Though these numbers can very slightly from source to source, the following are general guidelines on body fat percentages:

  • Essential fat: 10% – 13% for women, 2% – 5% for men
  • Athletes: 14% – 20% for women, 6% – 13% for men
  • Fitness: 21% – 24% for women, 14% – 17% for men
  • Average: 25% – 31% for women, 18% – 24% for men
  • Obese: 32+% for women, 25+% for men

If you drop below these ranges, you’ll likely experience chronic fatigue, slow workout recovery, nutritional deficiencies, increased risk of infection and so on. For women, low levels of body fat (less than 13% – 17%) result in irregular menstruation. In fact, low body fat levels can even result in infertility.

Believe it or not, some individuals actually have zero percent body fat. It’s a rare and potentially dangerous medical condition in which the body is unable to gain weight. The condition was popularized by Lizzie Velásquez who, because of her striking appearance and the resulting bullying, has given motivation speeches and even a Ted Talk.

While reducing your body fat percentage can be an effective goal, it’s important to be target healthy ranges – and to not take things to an extreme. Having too little fat can be a sign of an eating disorder. In these instances, it’s important to get professional help.

 

 

How Much Should You Be Able to Bench Press?

Bench-Press“How much can you lift, bro?”

We’ve all heard that question. And we’ve all rolled our eyes when it’s asked. Regardless (and for better or worse), the bench press has become the gold standard in comparing levels of physical fitness.

Go to the gym. Enlist the help of a spotter. Add a comfortable amount of resistance to the bench press. Perform one repetition. With a rest in between, keep adding additional resistance until you reach your limit. When you can’t lift anymore, that’s your one rep max. And when someone asks you how much you can lift, you’ll have your answer.

But how much should you be able to lift?

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 11.56.40 AMAccording to data, an untrained 165-pound man can bench press 119 pounds. See chart (at right) for additional data points.

You’ll quickly discover that most untrained or novice exercisers aren’t able to bench press their own bodyweight. Though it’s not necessarily the best measure of physical strength, the ability to press one’s own bodyweight is a common goal for exercisers. Though it doesn’t have a direct implication, it’s a bragging right to which many men and women aspire.

So how much weight should you be able to bench press? There’s no short answer. It depends on your weight, fitness level, goals and a variety of other factors. Though the chart will provide some very guidelines, know that each person is different. And that all of us are at different points on our fitness journey.

The bottom line: If you’re not satisfied with your current level of strength, set a goal and work towards it.

Lifting To Fail: You’re Stronger Than You Think.

strong-smurf-713x534When we talk about failure, it’s usually not a good thing. An important exception is your strength training program. In fact, training until the point of failure is crucial if you’re looking for gains in strength and size.

As I’ve said before, your body is an incredibly efficient machine. It’s not going to build new muscle mass unless it’s really necessary; doing so would be a waste of energy. So… in order to stimulate new muscle growth, you have to prove to your body that you need it.

How do you do that?

By demonstrating that your current muscle mass isn’t enough for the job. When you train to the point of failure, you send a very clear signal to your body that more muscles are needed. Provided other elements – like adequate rest and proper nutrition – are in place, those muscles will grow.

Here’s the problem: Most people don’t train until failure… even though they think they do.

When training for muscle growth, most individuals will target a range of less than 10 – 12 repetitions. On the last rep, you should be completely unable to do another rep without compromising form or reducing the resistance. You might think that you’re doing that and training to failure, but you’re probably not.

Perfect case in point. The other day, I was working out with a friend. We were doing shrugs. He usually uses 75 pound dumbbells for the exercise. I reached for the 90 pound dumbbells and he decided to give them a try. To his surprise, he was able to complete the set. In fact, he probably could have done more.

My point is that you really need to push yourself to find your limits. You’re probably a lot stronger than you think. Opt for heavier weights and more resistance. Give it a try. Sure, it will make your workout harder and more intense. But it will also get you the results you really want.

Lift Before Cardio – Or After?

295_weightlifting-for-fat-loss_flashOne of the most frequently asked and most often debated fitness questions is whether it’s better to lift before or after cardio. And now, a recent study is shedding new light on the discourse.

First things first, we know that it’s important to do both cardio and strength training. Both types of exercise offer unique and complementary benefits. They work hand in hand to help you reach your fitness goals and facilitate improved health and wellness.

But should exercisers lift first or do cardio first? Which order yields the best overall results? That’s the big question.

The Department of Biology of Physical Activity at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland studied nearly 200 men ages 18 – 40 over 24 weeks. The men were broken into two groups of either cardio first or strength training first. Each week, the men performed 2 – 3 workouts.

For the cardio first group, initial findings showed a slower recovery period with reduced levels of testosterone. But this difference dissipated over the course of the study. After 24 weeks, researchers found similar increases in both performance and muscle growth in the two groups.

Based on these findings, researchers concluded that it really doesn’t matter whether you lift before or after cardio. It’s simply a matter of preference.

However, it’s worth noting that the men in this study exercised 2 – 3 times per week. For people that exercise more or less frequently, it’s unclear whether the findings can be extrapolated.

Personally, I find that I have the most energy when I first arrive at the gym. As such, I perform cardio first – as its benefits are more important to me than strength training. If the benefits of strength training are more important to you, then it may make more sense to lift first.

How to Get Abs Like the Movie 300.

Dear Davey,

I’m a big fan of the movie 300 and I’m excited to see the new sequel. I’ve always been really envious of the actors’ bodies and especially their six pack abs, and I was wondering what their secret is?

From,
Ben

2r5ylrkHey Ben,

The chiseled, strong, oiled bodies of the men in 300 are a sight to behold – and can certainly serve as workout motivation and inspiration to the rest of us.

The secret to getting a highly defined body (like those showcased in 300) really isn’t a secret at all. It can be summed up in two steps:

  1. Train hard.
  2. Eat fewer calories than you burn.

The truth is, all of us have abdominal muscles. Training hard means strengthening and developing those muscles. But even highly developed abdominal muscles will remain hidden if they’re covered by a layer of body fat. Eating fewer calories than you burn (while continuing to train hard) is all about leaning down to a lower body fat percentage. As you become leaner, the coveted six pack becomes visible.

Exercise guru Mark Twight worked with the 300 actors to whip them into shape through months of intense training. At the end of the training, the actors were administered the following test. Based on their time, the actors were each given a score.

  • 25 pull-ups
  • 50 deadlifts at 135 pounds
  • 50 push-ups
  • 50 box jumps with a 24-inch box
  • 50 “floor wipers” at 135 pounds
  • 50 “clean and press” at 36 pounds
  • 25 more pull-ups

It’s a grand total of 300 reps (just like the name of the movie) and it’s meant to be performed without any rest. Keep in mind, the ability to punch through this workout test was the result of months of training. If it seems daunting, work up to it over time. Completing the test can be a great fitness goal.

If it all sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Between training and massages and fight classes, many of the actors worked four hours per day to achieve their 300 look. For a lot of people, that might not be realistic – and that’s okay.

At the end of the day, 300 can – at the very least – inspire each of us to build stronger, healthier bodies that are fueled by delicious and nourishing foods. We might not end up looking like Greek gods, but we can certainly make progress toward our health and fitness goals.

Love,
Davey