Back in the gym

A few days ago, I had my second workout in what amounts to almost a year off due to my back pain. I recorded a short video after the workout, which you can see below. It feels great to be back in the gym, and even though I still have some recurring and minor back pain, I’m undergoing therapy to address it and cannot hold off on going to the gym any longer. Exercise is vital for me.

Different techniques for weighted pullups and a new lat exercise

In response to multiple requests about my progress with my workouts, I recorded a new video a week and a half ago, where I talked about one of my back workouts.

I’ve been using different techniques for the weighted pullups and chinups and I wanted to share them with you, because they have to do with lower back safety. First, I talked about where it’s good and where it’s not good to attach weights when you do the pullups and also why a popular spotting method for this exercise isn’t such a good idea for the lower back.

Finally, I demonstrated a new lat exercise which I feel works the lat all the way down to its insertion point, developing more of a V-taper. There’s a good chance this exercise isn’t new, but since I figured it out for myself, I’m calling it new — it’s new for me, at any rate.

There’s a second video I made about this exercise, where I show the proper angle of movement. Make sure to watch this one as well:

I hope my advice is helpful to you. Till next time!

A high-rep back workout

I wanted to share a video from a recent back workout with you (it’s from this past Saturday). I know I haven’t posted workout videos in a few months, so that was one of the reasons I made this video. Another was to show you what a high-rep workout looks like. The popular opinion is that you need to lift heavy with fewer reps in order to work the muscle and put on mass, but that’s not true. You can also go for higher reps at 50-60% of your max, focus on form, proper contraction and extension, go for the pump and you’ll still work the muscle beautifully (two days later I’m still sore) and still put on mass.

What happens when you focus on heavy workouts is two things: you run the risk of injuries constantly because when you’re constantly at the limit, you don’t know what’s going to give (a joint, a muscle, a bone) and second, you will over-exert yourself and over-train. Some people say there’s no such thing as over-training. There is. You can recognize the symptoms easily: lack of power, lack of energy, hitting plateaus frequently, extreme fatigue and soreness after workouts, desire to sleep constantly, injuries (small or serious ones) and so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never do heavy workouts. But it pays to alternate, to do a few heavy workouts until you feel you’re reaching your training limits, then step back and focus on lighter workouts at anywhere from 40% to 80% of your 1-2 rep max on each exercise. How do you know when to step back? You need to listen to your body. As long as you’re feeding it and resting it properly, it’ll give you the proper feedback and results.

A third reason I wanted to make this video was to show my progress. I posted this photo a couple of weeks ago but a video shows how far I’ve come much better. If you still can’t see it, you need to look at one of my early workout videos, like this one for example.

Alright, here’s the video and the workout routine is below:

  • 5 sets of pull-ups: as many as you can on each set, start with palms forward, wide-grip, do as many as you can then switch grip to palms toward you, shoulder-width or so and again do as many as you can to finish the set.
  • 4 sets of T-bar rows: 50-60% of your 1-2 rep max, 20-25 reps per set.
  • 4 sets of close-grip pull-ups: use a parallel grip and pull some extra weight for some of the sets, do as many reps as you can on each set.
  • 4 sets of deadlifts: 40-50% of your 1-2 rep max, 20-25 reps per set.
  • 5 sets of standing high cable rows: this is an exercise I’ve adapted from Athlean-x, who does it with dumbbells attached with rubber bands to a power rack. I did it with handles and a chain attached to a cable and pulleys, works just as well.
  • 4 sets of seated wide-grip pull-downs: 40-50% of your 1-2 rep max, 20-25 reps per set.

Hope this helps you!

Killer 8-hour arm workout

I’d like to show you a marathon 8-hour arm workout that is not for the weak of heart (or body). This is for the dedicated few that really want to go the extra mile in order to grow. If you’re thinking of posting a comment complaining that this is too grueling, too taxing, can’t be done without steroids, then this isn’t for you, please go look at photos of kittens.

We all reach certain stages in our workout routines when we need to shock the body and this workout will definitely do the trick — if you can get through it, and most people can’t. I’m thinking of doing it in the near future and will let you know once I get it done.

You’ll understand it best once it’s explained to you in this video featuring Rich Piana. Don’t be fooled by his tattoos and intimidating demeanor, he’s a nice guy who’s been publishing all sorts of informative bodybuilding videos.

Just in case you still haven’t got, I made an infographic, a guide to help you out. Just print it and you’ll be set.

8-hour Arm Workout

Chest and Back Workout

This past weekend, I recorded portions of a chest and back workout I did. It marked an important point in my plan to add muscle mass. During the past month, I’ve started to feel the pump during my workouts. A pump, for those who are uninitiated, is a feeling of well-being, of swollen muscles that occurs during your workout. It’s a great motivator and it helps with the pain one normally feels during the sets. You don’t get a pump unless theres a certain amount of muscle mass on your body. In other words, you could be working out for years and still not get a pump unless your muscle mass grows to a certain point where every time you work out, you start to feel your muscles grip your bones like armor plating. It’s pretty nice. Getting the pump is a mile marker, it means you’re well on your way. So it’s good.

Enjoy the video!

A whole body workout II

This is a second whole body workout I wanted to share with you (here’s my first one). I reached new maxes in this workout on the clean and press, deadlift and t-bar rows. I did the following exercises:

  • Good Mornings
  • Clean and Press
  • Deadlifts
  • T-Bar Rows

New maxes:

  • New max on the clean and press: 60 kg or 135 lbs
  • New max on the deadlift: 130 kg or 290 lbs
  • New max on the t-bar rows: 60 kg or 135 lbs plus barbell

I need to mention that I used unorthodox form on the t-bar rows, which can lead to injuries if you’re not experienced. So don’t do it like I did it unless you know why I did it that way (hint: it has to do with the way the old school bodybuilders did it).

Enjoy the video and I hope it motivates you to push further in your exercises!

A leg workout

During this workout, I trained my legs with the following exercises:

  • Front Squats (5-6 sets)
  • Regular Squats (1-2 sets)
  • Leg Extensions (5-6 sets)
  • Hamstring Curls on the exercise ball (both legs and one leg at a time)
  • Leg Presses (4 sets)
  • Donkey Calf Raises (3 sets)
  • Sitting Calf Raises (2 sets)

I also (unexpectedly) reached new maxes on the front squat, the leg extensions, the leg presses and the donkey calf raises and in the video, I talked about how gains come when you don’t expect them to (as long as you put in the work to get your body ready for them). I also talked about how we perceive weight and how we tend to let pre-conceived notions dictate to us how much weight we can or cannot lift. It’s important to approach each set with only the expectation of getting the most benefit out of it. Don’t pre-program yourself for any specific weight, because who knows how much you can truly lift? Why limit yourself?

Hope you enjoyed the video!

An arms workout

Here’s a recent arms workout I did, filmed by Ligia:

I performed the following exercises:

  • Warmed up with standing dumbbell curls, followed by regular sets of the same,
  • Triceps rope extensions,
  • Standing curls with preacher bar,
  • Dips,
  • Concentration curls,
  • Alternate sets of prone and supine triceps pulldowns and
  • My original variation on one-arm preacher curls: the one-arm cable biceps curls.

It was fun! And afterwards I naturally drank one of my Wonder Smoothies.

A chest workout

Here’s one of my chest workouts, captured on video by Ligia recently. I warmed up with standing cable flyes, followed by the workout, which consisted of incline dumbbell presses, dips, machine chest presses, lying cable flies and incline dumbbell flyes. 

I talked about each exercise in various detail, giving advice gleaned from my experience. At the end of the video, I extended an invitation for bodybuilding-related questions. I’ve got about nine years of intensive experience in the gym, on both animal and vegan diets, and I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t along the way. If you’ve got some questions, I may have the answers.

Till next time!

A whole body workout

Want to see me work out at the gym? Ligia filmed me during a recent workout, the first after taking a 1-month break due to travel and business. It was a whole body workout where I warmed up on the roman chair, then did the clean & press, pull-ups and stiff-legged deadlifts.

In-between the sets, I also talked about form and gym etiquette.

I’ve mentioned this before, but for the benefit of those just tuning into my website, I am a raw foodist, which means I eat mostly uncooked vegan foods, and that’s also how I obtain the protein for building muscle.

I began working out regularly again last fall, in the month of September. I was sidelined for a couple of months due to an ankle injury and my current goals are to: (1) add significant muscle mass and (2) prove that I can do it on raw food, without animal protein.

Some things you shouldn’t do after a workout

I learned these things the hard way. Maybe you won’t have to.

  • Don’t shave!
    It may come naturally to you after a morning workout. You take a shower, then you’ll want to shave, since your hair’s been softened by the hot water. Don’t do it! There’s still plenty of blood right under your skin, thanks to the workout, and your hand muscles, having just lifted heavy weights, will inadvertently exert too much pressure on the skin. These two things will translate into cuts, cuts and more cuts… unless your face is tougher than treated leather.
  • Don’t eat right away.
    Allow your body to relax a bit, for at least 30-60 minutes. You may be tempted to drink a shake, or dig into a steak, wanting to get some proteins and carbs into your body, but it’s not a good idea. You’ve just lifted heavy things or done some strenuous cardio, and your body is still racing. It needs time to relax and get back to normal before you can eat and digest food properly.
  • Don’t go outside in cold weather.
    Sure, you may think you’re tough, because you’ve just bested yourself at the deadlift, leg press or bench press, but if you’ve broken out in sweat, and then you go outside in your workout clothes, or right after a shower, thinking you’ll be just fine for a few minutes, you may discover pneumonia couldn’t care less about your fitness level. Dry yourself thoroughly, get dressed properly, and then head outside.

Flabbier by the day

I used to smirk when I heard the excuses I make now. I used to feel superior. What me, ever get flabby? That’s for losers who can’t find the time to visit the gym, right? Well, here I am, thirty, and getting flabby. Sure, you can’t see it yet. If you saw me, you’d say I still look fit or even thin. But that’s not the picture I see, since I’m privy to more revealing details…

It’s ironic, finding myself in the same situation as the people I used to deride. I went to the gym regularly, obsessively, one could say, from the start of college to my mid-twenties. It was easy. I was driven to get big, and I got big. I wanted strength and muscles, and I got them. Then, complacency set in. That, and the fact that I got tired of homosexuals trying to pick me up during my workouts… I tell you, those were traumatic experiences for me, because I started to associate the gym with being harassed by homosexuals, and how much fun are workouts going to be when that happens? But let me focus on the things I could have changed instead.

About 25, I got a job as a director of IT at a hospital. The responsibilities were huge, and given my young age, the pressure was on to deliver results. I stopped working out as I worked long and longer hours. When I did manage to go to the gym, my mind was on other things. My workouts were sporadic. And as we all know, consistency is key to most things in life, including exercise. I couldn’t exercise consistently, and a trip to the gym here and there wasn’t going to cut it. I’m a naturally thin person, so my muscle mass kept dropping, along with my weight. I’m now somewhere between 155-165 lbs (haven’t weighed myself in a while), and this seems to be my natural weight. My body tends to stay there no matter what I do. At 21, I was 195 lbs at 7% body fat. At 18, I was 135 lbs at 4% body fat. Yes, that’s a big weight difference. No, I did not take steroids. I did eat like a horse though, and worked out a whole lot.

Given that I exercised regularly for such a long time, my body stayed together and looking good for a good while after I stopped. I swam in high school and worked out regularly for seven years, almost every day, so I was in great shape. For the sake of those numerous workouts, I managed to get through the two years in my stressful IT job without showing much damage. Then, I had another computer job for a couple of years, implementing a complex new system for a university. Even though my office was right next to the gym, and even though there were no homosexuals to harass me there, I couldn’t bring myself to go regularly. I always found excuses, usually work-related.

So here I am today, in another computer job full of responsibilities, having turned thirty some months ago, and getting flabbier by the day. After five years of practically neglecting my body, it’s starting to show. It’s amazing I’ve lasted this long, and it only goes to show how resilient the human body really is — but I can see it won’t work anymore. My bones are starting to make cracking sounds when I get up or exert myself. Physical effort tires me out. If I go up two flights of stairs, my breathing will noticeably increase. I get a lot more headaches nowadays. If I don’t consciously tense up my abs, my stomach bulges outwards, just enough to scare my wife. When I sit down, I can grab the fat layer on my abs in my hand. I’m starting to get love handles, and no, there’s nothing love-ly about them. Instead of pectorals, I now sport two soft placeholders, sad reminders of what used to be there. My shoulders have rounded out and my biceps, once the size of baseballs, have turned into golf balls. My strong back muscles, once able to squat and deadlift hundreds of pounds, have now flattened out and gained the consistency and firmness of sponges. My quadriceps, once rock hard all the time, are now soft, and jiggle like jello when I walk. I can feel them doing that, and it’s really sad. I’m ashamed of my calves once more. And of course — the most telling sign — when I wave my hand, what used to be my triceps now flips and flops worse than some current-day politicians. It’s really depressing, so I won’t go on.

Here’s how my typical day goes, and I’m sure it’s like this for many, many people. I get up from bed, where I’ve been lying down, and sit down to have breakfast. Then I sit in the car on the way to work, where I sit in my chair for 8-9 hours, only to walk out and sit in my car on the way home, where I sit down for dinner and sit at my desk for another 3-4 hours, working on consulting and personal projects. When my wife and I relax or visit with friends, we sit on couches. During the weekends, most of our time is spent sitting in church on Saturdays, or at home, with friends, at the movies, in restaurants, etc. There’s always something to do, but most of the time, it involves sitting. And it’s really easy to make excuses for not exercising. After all, there’s always something pressing: a deadline, an email, a project that needs finishing, a movie we’ve really been meaning to see, fatigue from overwork, malaise, etc. The reasons keep coming, they never stop, and that’s just it. We need to stop them! I need to put a stop to them! Because if I don’t, life will go on, and I’ll get flabbier and flabbier, till pretty soon, I’ll be a sorry shadow of what I once was, worn out and exhausted, dysmorphic, continually making excuses for something I could have changed a long time ago.

The point is, I did it to myself. Outside of a couple of things I had no control over, I am responsible for this. And I’m also responsible for turning things around. I can do it, but I need to stop making excuses.

As I write this, my sorry substitutes for pectorals and triceps are sore from a workout I did last night. My abs are still sore from a workout I did two days ago. Yes, it’s sad that it’s taking so long for my muscles to recover, but that’s a hole I dug for myself. I made a promise last night that I’m not going to let myself slip into pudginess and dysmorphism, and by golly, I’m going to keep it! Say it with me people, it’s not cool to be flab-ulous! 🙂 From now on, I’ll push work and personal pursuits aside for the sake of exercise.

The truth is, and it’s taken me a while to realize this, life gets busier as we get older. And if we don’t make time for exercise, if we don’t consider it as important as sleep, food and water, we’ll never be able to do it regularly. And when we don’t do it regularly, we get flabby, fat, overweight, obese, etc.

I’ll post updates from time to time on my progress. And if this inspires any of you out there in the same boat as me to start exercising, that’ll be wonderful!