Archive for the tag - results

Am I Gaining Fat Or Muscle?

Dear Davey,

I’ve recently started strength training at the gym and eating more calories because I’m trying to build muscle. Over the last two months I’ve gained 12 pounds. How do I know if it’s muscle or just fat?


muscle-mirror-selfie-manHey Shaun,

Congratulations on starting with a strength training program and kudos for sticking with it.

When it comes to exercise, evaluating results against our goals is crucial. Beyond helping us stay motivated, tracking progress lets us know what works - and what doesn’t work. By evaluating results, we can make changes toward a more efficient workout.

In your case, building muscle is the goal. Gaining weight, as you’ve noted, is an incomplete metric to measure against your goal. Excess weight can be indicative of added fat, increased water retention, muscle mass or any combination thereof. This is why it’s important to think beyond the scale.

Though there are fancy body composition tests that you can take and equations that can be utilized, there is a very simple trick for measuring muscle gains versus fat gains. Get a tape measure. Using a tape measure, record the circumference of your biceps, neck, chest, forearms, etc. Every few weeks, mark down your new measurements.

As a general rule, larger muscles and an unchanged waistline means that you’re gaining mostly muscle. If your muscles and waistline are both increasing, it means you’re adding both muscle and fat. And if you’re just noticing an increase around your waistline, then it’s mostly fat.

Taking a picture of yourself under the same lighting conditions (i.e., same time of day) every few weeks can also be helpful in observing changes. You can also notice how your clothes fit differently over time. Or, if you have the resources, take a monthly body composition test and crunch the numbers.


P.S. If you want a guaranteed strategy for adding lean bulk, download Davey Wavey’s Foolproof Guide to Building Muscle!

Why Did I Stop Losing Weight?

Dear Davey,

I started a diet two months ago and was making really good progress, but I haven’t been losing any additional weight for the last three or four weeks. Any idea why? I haven’t changed anything. It just stopped.


Male_weight_lossDear Anna,

For anyone trying to lose weight, your experience is extremely common. Weight always seems to come off quickest at the beginning - but subsequent results  get stalled. So why does this tend to happen?

To lose weight, dieters must create a calorie deficit. In other words, more calories are burned than are taken in through food. To create the calorie deficit, healthier dieters tweak both ends of the equation by increasing physical activity and decreasing daily caloric intake. In other words, less calories in and more calories out.

At first, results are quick and dramatic. As the Mayo Clinic points out:

During the first few weeks of losing weight, a rapid drop is normal. In part this is because when calories from food are reduced, the body gets needed energy by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver. Glycogen holds on to water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it also releases water, resulting in substantial weight loss that’s mostly water.

After the initial weight loss, things tend to slow down. Most often, this is due to a decrease in the body’s metabolism.

Your metabolism is the process by which your body burns calories for energy - and at lower body weights, we burn fewer calories. In other words, even though you’re still exercising and eating the same amount of food, the calorie deficit no longer exists.

To lose additional weight loss, you must again tweak the equation to create a calorie deficit. That may mean fewer calories in (i.e., eating less) or increasing calories out by vamping up your workout program or daily activity. Try adding another 15 minutes to your workout. Or, increase the overall intensity of your workout (i.e., shorter rests, less talking, doing intervals, etc.) so that you burn more calories in the same amount of time.

By re-creating the calorie deficit, you’ll see additional results. That is, until your next plateau. 🙂


Results are the Sum of Small Efforts…

Results are the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.

When it comes to creating a healthier lifestyle or building a stronger body, the little things - repeated over and over again - tend to add up.

Thirty minutes at the gym, for example, is only thirty minutes at the gym. The effect is fairly negligible. But thirty minutes at the gym 4x per week for a year means 6,240 minutes of exercise. That’s huge. The sum total of all those “small” efforts can be pretty dramatic - or even transformational.

It’s helpful to think of your future body as a mosaic mural. It takes a lot of tiles to make a mural. In and of itself, each tile is insignificant. If the mural is missing a few tiles, no one will notice; the image will still be apparent. If the mural is missing a lot of tiles, then that’s a different story.

Each tiny tile is like a single workout, game of tennis, walk in the park or any other small effort. It’s okay to miss a few - but the key is to accumulate as many of those small efforts as you can.

Small efforts, repeated over and over again, lead to big results. It’s the most fundamental law of fitness, health and wellness. So get to the gym, get moving or eat something healthy. Do it today and do it again and again - day in and day out.

Lacking Results in Group Classes.

Hey Davey Wavey,

A couple of years ago, I started attending fitness classes and have increased the amount of classes I do over time. I now do 6-8 classes per week, each at an hour. Some of the classes involve weight training and others are cardio.

While the classes helped me slim down and build some muscle, I’m at a stand-still and am not noticing any changes. Am I doing something wrong?


Hey Peter,

I’m not at all surprised by your situation - and it’s actually very common. Fitness classes are fun, informative and a great way to get started or to add variety to your workout. But because it’s in a group setting, it’s hard to build a class around one person’s specific goals.

Your goal may be to build muscle. The person next to you may be looking to lose weight. Moreover, your ability levels could vary greatly. Ideally, the instructor would be working with the two of you very differently - but, in a class, everyone gets lumped together.

Breaking through fitness plateaus involves taking your workout to the next level - but, since new people are always coming into a class, it’s unlikely that the instructor will increase the intensity of the program. With classes, participants tend to get more of the same, day after day and week after week. If you’re just looking for maintenance, then this is great. But if you’re looking to build on your results, group classes almost always fall short.

If you’re serious about building muscle, then you’ll want to spend some time training with machines and free weights. Because free weight exercises are so specific, take time to setup (i.e., loading the weights, etc.) and require space and equipment, most classes exclude them. You might find a class with light dumbbells, but I’ve yet to see a class that incorporates, for example, the bench press.

It sounds like you’re ready to take your workout to the next level - and, if I were in your shoes, I’d scale back the number of classes that I take in exchange for some individual workout sessions. Ideally, it may make sense to higher a trainer for a week or two to help put together a customized program.

Having said that, group classes are still great for adding variety to a workout, and an effective way for gym newbies to get acclimated to exercise.


Group Fitness Classes Vs. Individual Training.

Dear Davey,

For the last 2 months I have been working out through class exercise groups and have had great results. Currently I do 3 days of spin class for cardio and 3 days of BodyPump for strength training. I love my classes, but I am starting to plateau. Is it time to break away from the class atmosphere and start my own individual workout routine?


Hey Kevin,

As you’ve discovered, group fitness classes are great. I like group classes for a number of reasons:

  1. They are fun!
  2. The instructor pushes you.
  3. You learn new exercises.
  4. You can socialize and make friends.
  5. They’re great at building confidence and skill for beginners.
  6. They hold you to a regular schedule.
  7. The instructor can teach proper technique.

But for more advanced exercisers, it’s often advantageous to focus the bulk of your workout on individual training. I, for example, take a group class or two per week - but most of my training is individual.


As an exerciser, you have individual goals. If you’ve never taken the time to actually articulate and write down those goals, it’s definitely something that I’d recommend. When you’re in a group class, each person in that class also has a set of goals; these goals may or may not be in alignment with what you’re looking to achieve. Moreover, each person is operating from a different level of fitness - and each person has their own set of health issues or complications. Considering all this, the instructor will put together a very general fitness program, but it’s not necessarily the most effective program to deliver on your goals.

The BodyPump class, for example, may be focused on muscle endurance - and you may be looking to build muscle size, specifically in your biceps. It’s very easy to achieve this in an individual setting, but it’s not something you’ll get in a group setting. Or, perhaps, you have a specific muscular imbalance that needs to be addressed. It’s unlikely to be corrected through a group class.

If the transition from group classes to individual training seems scary or overwhelming, I recommend giving yourself the gift of a personal trainer. Even if you book a handful of sessions, the trainer will be able to put together a great workout program for you and show you how proper technique. Or, you can always download my Ultimate Guide to Working Out to create a custom workout program around your goals.

I’m not trying to discount group classes; they can be a wonderful and very effective - especially for beginners. But for more advanced exercisers, focusing on individual training will provide the best results.


How to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau.

Hi Davey,

I’ve been working out regularly for the about two months now (an hour of cardio and about half an hour of strength training 5 days a week), and at first I lost weight. The goal I set for myself was to get down to 195lbs by the end of June. But recently I’ve noticed that I’ve hit a weight plateau at around 206lbs.

Do you have any idea what might be happening?


Congratulations on releasing weight and coming so close to your goal!

First, it’s important to ask yourself: Why 195lbs? It’s always important to reassess our fitness goals. Maybe 206 lbs is a good and healthy weight for you. If it’s not - and if you have the will and motivation to break through the plateau - it comes down to two things: Modifying your diet and/or modifying your fitness plan.

Modifying Diet

Obviously, proper diet is essential to a comprehensive fitness plan. Hitting the gym isn’t everything. Take a critical look at your diet - and compare it to your recommended caloric intake. It’s possible that you may need to further reduce the number of calories you are eating, or even shift the types of foods that you are eating. You may find it advantageous to move away from high-carbohydrate or processed foods and more toward fresh foods and high-protein options.

Modifying Workout

There are a few ways to increase the effectiveness of your workout:

  1. Increase workout duration and frequency. For people exercising for 30 or 45 minutes, it may be advisable to hit the gym for an extra 15 minutes. Since you’re already exercising for 90 minutes, working out longer won’t help. In fact, long workouts tend to backfire. 90 minutes is enough and, for weight loss, I’d recommend splitting your time evenly between cardio and strength training. In addition, exercisers may see enhanced results from adding another workout day into their schedule if such a commitment is sustainable. Remember to take off at least one day per week.
  2. Increase intensity. Just being at the gym isn’t enough. Workouts aren’t just about quantity - they’re really about quality. How you use your time is critically important. If you want to break through a plateau, you may need to add some gusto to your workout. Instead of doing conventional cardio workouts, for example, try some gut-busting interval training. For strength training, adjust your rest times so that you are taking shorter breaks. Increase the amount of resistance that you are using. In short, put your workout in high gear.
  3. Try new exercises. Sometimes introducing new exercises can help move your workout forward. Our bodies grow accustomed to the same old routine, so don’t be afraid to change things up. You can find a number of great, effective and challenging exercises online. Or, you could even join a class or hire a personal trainer. Even as a certified personal trainer, I still occasionally hire another trainer to help introduce new workouts into my vernacular.

If your weight loss goal seems necessary and achievable, these tips should help you break through your plateau and take your results to the next level.


Part II: Frustrated By Lack of Results? Create a Better Game Plan.

If you are frustrated by a lack of results, it’s probably one of two things. Either it’s an issue with your goals, or you need a better game plan. Yesterday, in part I, we discussed the importance of creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. Today, in part II, I’ll show you how to connect your workout routine to your fitness goals.

How to Create a Workout Plan that Achieves Your Goals

You have a goal or set of goals. It seems intuitive, but virtually everything that you do at the gym must be connected to those goals. Some people think that going to the gym and doing whatever is a means to achieving their fitness goals - but it’s not.

If your goals involve bigger muscles, for example, your workout must be intentionally structured around that. To get bigger muscles, you’ll want to stick with free weight exercises that involve either dumbbells or barbells. Moreover, you’ll be doing a low number of repetitions (probably between 4 - 8 reps) at a heavy amount of weight. You’ll want your muscles to be fatigued when you perform your last set, and you’ll need to constantly be progressing to heavier and heavier amounts of resistance. Most likely you’ll do different muscle groups on different days, and your cardio will probably come in the form of jogging, running or sprinting in intervals on the treadmill.

If you’re looking to maintain muscles, then your workout must be structured around that, too. When it comes to strength training, don’t increase the amount of resistance for those muscles you are looking to maintain. And, you’ll probably perform 10 or more reps since the weight will be only moderately heavy.

If you’re looking to lose weight, it’s important to build a well-balanced workout schedule that includes cardio and strength training (many people forget about the importance of strength training when trying to lose weight). Intervals are also great for releasing weight, and you’ll probably spend a higher percentage of your time doing cardio than your muscle-building counterparts.

Everyone’s goals are specific, and it’s beyond the scope of this blog post to create a personal workout routine for you (that’s what my Ultimate Guide to Working Out is for), but the point is this: Going to the gym and just doing whatever is not enough - each rep of each set of each exercise of each day at the gym must be intentionally connected to your goal or goals. Know what it takes to get where you want to go - and then do it!

How to Feel Confident at the Gym.

Is he sexy? Sure. Should you compare yourself to him? Probably not.

With the exception of a handful of Olympians, there will always be someone faster, higher or stronger than most of us. But when it comes to the gym, many people expel a great deal of energy comparing themselves to the men and women around them.

At my gym, there’s a new member that is working hard to get into shape. Not a day passes where he doesn’t ask me how fast I run on the treadmill, or how much weight I’m able to do on a given exercise. He then pits my level of fitness against his own, and perhaps - to some extent - uses it as motivation.

But comparing yourself to others is a dangerous game that doesn’t always yield healthy results. Because of his age and health conditions, it’s unlikely that the aforementioned individual will be able to run at my 11.3 MPH treadmill pace. And if he tries - which he has - he’s likely to injure himself (though he hasn’t yet). Moreover, over time, the process can be physiologically defeating and take the wind out of any workout’s sails.

Comparing yourself to yourself, however, can be much more effective. When you hit the gym, it’s not about how much resistance or weight the man next to you is able to move - it’s about how much weight you are able to move relative to your own goals. What the people around you are doing is irrelevant - each of those individuals has a different health history, age, goals, etc. than you. What you are doing, on the other hand, is very relevant.

If you are looking to increase the amount of weight you bench press, for example, then your point of comparison is your last few chest workouts (and not the bodybuilder lifting next to you). If you’re looking to maintain muscle mass, then look no further than the mirror, your BMI and fitness history.

My point is this: Whatever your goals, use yourself (and not other people) as a reference point. It’s safer, healthier and far more effective.

Do you compare yourself to others at the gym? Why or why not?

What is Progressive Overload?

Many fitness enthusiasts are fairly committed to the gym and working out, but often perform the same routines with the same weights over and over again. They don’t see any changes in their bodies or increases in strength, and often excuse their lack of results with the mistaken belief that it takes many years to see any real changes.

As it turns out, the human body doesn’t change unless it is forced to do so. If your body doesn’t need to adapt by getting bigger or stronger, then it won’t.

Enter a concept known as progressive overload. Developed by Thomas Delorme, M.D. to help rehabilitating World War II soldiers, progressive overload is the the gradual increase of stress placed on the body during exercise training.

The concept is beautifully simply and scientifically proven: In order for a muscle to grow, it must be overloaded. Doing so activates the natural adaptive processes of the human body, which develops to cope with the new demands placed on it. In addition to stronger and larger muscles, stronger and denser bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilage are all resulted through progressive overloads.

There are 7 techniques to incorporate progressive overloads into your workout:

  1. Increase resistance. This means lifting more weight. If you normally do 8 repetitions, but are now able to do 9, it may be time to increase the weight. If you are new to working out, you may be able to increase weight by 5% - 10%. If you are more advanced, 2% - 5% may be more appropriate.
  2. Increase repetitions. If you normally do 6 repetitions of an exercise, try for the 7th rep. Once you can do the 7th rep, try for the 8th.
  3. Increase the sets. If you normally do 2 sets, try for a 3rd set. While the first set will get you a majority of the results and benefits, there are some additional benefits that can be yielded from additional sets. I generally don’t do more than 4 sets.
  4. Increase frequency. If you train your legs every 10 days, perhaps you can train them more often. It’s generally unwise to train a muscle that is still sore from a previous workout, but there may be an opportunity to hit certain muscle groups - especially those that are lagging - more frequently.
  5. Increase intensity and effort. Instead of going through your workout like a zombie, really crank up the effort. Sometimes working with a good partner or trainer can be a big help. Push yourself - or find someone that can do the pushing for you!
  6. Increase exercises. Maybe you do 3 different exercises for your biceps, or any other muscle group. Try introducing a 4th or 5th exercise to yield increased results.
  7. Decrease rest time. By doing more exercises in the same amount of time, your body will have to work harder and more efficiently.

You’ll need to map these 7 techniques to your exercise goals. For example, increasing the resistance is great for people that want larger muscles. Increasing the repetitions or decreasing rest time may be better suited for people that want increased definition or endurance training.

Whatever your goals, make this powerful time-tested technique work for you.

Change Your Workout for Better Results.

As I mentioned, I spent much of my weekend in New York City. To my delight, the gym in our hotel was covered in inspirational fitness quotes - and there are few things that I love more than inspiration fitness quotes (though the fitness model at right is one of them). In fact, I even designed a gym bag covered in uplifting quotes. The best of the best was a quote that read as follows:

“Focusing on results won’t change anything.
Focusing on change will give you results.”

The quote resonated with me, and I’ll tell you why.

We’ve all heard people say, “I wish my _______ was flatter/more defined/more muscular/thinner/thicker.” In fact, most of us have probably said it ourselves. It’s pretty easy to look toward the results that we want, but it’s much wiser (and a bit harder) to look at the changes in our routines that those results necessitate.

Many people get in a rut at the gym. It’s common to fall into a repetitive routine. But if your current routine isn’t creating the results you want, it’s time to make changes.

Often times, the changes don’t mean spending more time at the gym - or even necessarily working out harder (though this is sometimes the case). For many people, it’s really about exercising smarter. It’s about making use of the methods, techniques and exercises that are connected with the results you want.

But where do you start? Learn about exercise, and then apply what you learn to your routine - make the changes that will give you the results you want. Reading this blog is a great start. Signing up for these blog posts by email is even better. And stay tuned for Dec. 29 - I’ll be releasing a downloadable fitness program that will essentially make me your personal trainer. I’ll simultaneously hold your hand while kicking your workout’s butt. Great stuff.

The bottom line: Make a commitment to educate yourself about fitness, and then make the changes that your workout needs. More of the same will just bring you more of the same.