Read an Excerpt
Losing Weight Could Make You Fat
You want to lose weight. You go on a diet. You grit your teeth watching your friend suck down french fries, but you do not give in. You do a little jogging here and there, but mostly you deprive yourself of the food you like. You've thought about tossing around a few weights, but hey, you don't want to bulk up and get bigger, you want to be thin. You become grumpy, and even annoying to be around. Sure, after starving yourself for a couple of weeks you see a difference, but eventually you're too weak to jog. So what do you do? You just keep starving yourself.
Two pleasure-deprived months later, those 10 pounds you lost left a gratification-shaped void in your life that you decide to fill with a big Philly cheese steak, cheese fries, some fried cheese on the side, and then some cheesecake. What the hell! The next thing you know, you've gained back those 10 pounds. Well, now you've blown it, so why bother? You'll never be thin with the world so packed full of delicious cheese snacks. Anyway, you're back to your old weight, which now refuses to pack itself into your old-weight jeans. What's up with that?
Well, to be perfectly and hideously blunt, of the 10 pounds you dropped, some was indeed fat but some of it was also muscle or what we call lean muscle mass. The weight you gained back is, as studies show time after time, mostly fat. You don't recover that lean muscle mass as easily as you lose it. Hence, your "fat" jeans don't fit anymore because, although you're no heavier than your old weight, you're definitely fatter.
So a killer body and a dessert menu are mutually exclusive. But it's allright, there's a detour around denial. Fight weight with weights.
From Pear to Bell Pepper
Believe it or not, strength training is the key to long-term, permanent weight management. This may seem counterintuitive if you've always avoided lifting weights because you didn't want to bulk up.
Aerobic exercise helps burn calories and doesn't cause a decline in valuable muscle tissue (like crash dieting does). However, aerobic exercise doesn't do much to increase or maintain lean body tissue either. It revs up your metabolism some, but not as much as it does when you do it in conjunction with a strength-training program.
Add a couple of strength workouts a week to your weight-loss efforts and the bathroom scale will show the same amount of weight loss as you achieved from dieting alone, with one important difference--you'll have gained lean body tissue and preserved your metabolism. In fact, your metabolism may actually speed up. In practical terms, this means your new, lower weight can be maintained with the same number of calories as your old, higher weight--that is, you can eat what you used to and keep your new shape. Now let's go back to that horrendous scenario earlier, where you gained back all of your poundage despite your best efforts...that was ugly. But if you included strength training as part of your weight-loss regime, you'll maintain and possibly even improve your muscle-to-fat ratio and your metabolism will remain intact.
Building Strategic Bulges
There are other reasons you should strength-train. Though you can't spot-reduce (that is, selectively zap fat off a specific body part), you can spot-shape and, to some extent, redesign your proportions. For instance, working your hips will make them tighter, firmer, and more shapely. Building up your back and shoulders will make your hips appear smaller; your weight may not decrease all that much but you'll suddenly look like a perfectly proportioned, V-shaped, firm, lean bell pepper instead of a bottom-heavy, fleshy, soft pear.
Real-Life Reasons to Lift Weights
Lifting weights isn't just a form of narcissism so you can shape up the soft spots and hopefully trim a few pounds. It's also an incredibly smart thing to do healthwise.
People who don't do any sort of strength training lose 30 to 40 percent of their strength by age 65. By age 74, more than one fourth of men and two thirds of women can't lift an object heavier than 10 pounds. This is not an inevitability. It's the result of neglect--of experiencing life via your La-Z-Boy recliner and the Home Shopping Network. If you don't use your muscles, they shrivel up and decline in power. This gradual slide can begin as early as your mid-twenties if you're a really dedicated couch potato.
Some good news about all of this: It's easier to maintain strength than keep your skin from wrinkling or your eyesight from fading. People can make significant strength gains well into their nineties. Studies done on seniors show they can at least double if not triple their muscle power by lifting weights on a regular basis.
Besides sustaining strength, lifting weights also helps keep your bones healthy by preserving bone density. The more weight you can lift, the more stress you can put on your bones; this stress is what stimulates them. If you never tax your bones, they have no incentive to stay strong and dense.
Bone density, by the way, refers to how thick your bones are. Think of strong, dense bones as poles of steel; as you lose density, they become more porous and fragile, like chalk. Roughly 25 million Americans have osteoporosis, a disease of severe bone loss that causes 1.5 million fractures a year, mostly of the back, hip, and wrist. When a bone is extremely weak, you don't even need to fall to break it. Simply bumping into the kitchen table can cause a really fragile bone to snap in two. In addition to fractures, bone loss also can cause extremely poor posture.
Men get osteoporosis less often than women because their bones are denser, but as more men live longer, it will become a widespread problem for them too. At around age 35, most women begin to lose about 0.5 to 1 percent of their bone each year. By lifting weights on a regular basis, you can slow your rate of bone loss significantly--by about 50 percent; if you've already lost a lot of bone, you may even be able to build some of it back. Strength training alone can't stop bone loss--you need sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D in your diet too--but it can play a big role.
There's yet another real-life reason to lift weights: It's a good way to prevent injuries. When your muscles are strong, they're also less injury-prone. This may not seem like such a big deal, especially if you're not that active, but if you've ever stepped off a curb and twisted your ankle, you know what we mean. If your ankle muscles were strong, your ankle might not have been wrenched so severely. Strong hip and thigh muscles might have prevented you from taking that misstep in the first place. You'll also reduce the chances of injuring yourself as you get in shape. Runners who weight-train have fewer knee injuries; weight-lifting walkers have fewer ankle injuries.
Many people have no idea what changes to expect when they begin lifting weights. Or they're afraid to start lifting because they have so many misconceptions. For instance, a lot of people think that once they stop lifting, their newly minted muscle will turn to fat. This is simply not true. Fat and muscle are two distinctly different substances; one does not "turn into" the other. If you stop lifting weights, your muscles will simply "atrophy" (a fancy word for shrink).
A lot of people also don't lift weights because they think it takes forever to get results. Actually, you may be able to lift more weight after just one workout. This isn't because you've built up more muscle; it's mainly because your weight-training skills improve. You improve because, in a way, your muscles have memory. They're smarter than they look. Your nerves, the pathways that link your brain and muscles, learn how to carry information more quickly because they know the way, kind of like how you can get from point A to point B more quickly if you've traveled the route many times already.
After the first six weeks of training, your muscles begin to grow; that is, the size of your muscle fibers increases, you don't actually grow more muscle cells. Most people can increase their strength between 7 and 40 percent after about 10 weeks of training each muscle group twice a week.
Yeah, but how long will it take to see some improvements? You'll probably begin to see changes after 6 weeks, but everyone is different. Results vary, depending on your body type, where you're starting from, and the amount of time and effort you devote to lifting weights. In general, those who have the furthest to go make the most dramatic changes.
Also, while working with weights will help shape your body, you'll never see definition--the outline of your muscles underneath your skin--if you have a thick layer of fat covering your muscles. You begin to see a hint of definition when your body fat (the ratio of fat to muscle) dips into the 20 to 22 percent range. You'll be really "ripped," as bodybuilders like to say, when your body fat reaches around 15 percent.
Resistance Training, Not Resisting Training
So now that we've convinced you that strength training isn't just for he-men and she-men and that it's really a good thing, we'll teach you how to do it so you can become a lean hot chili pepper ASAP. First a little background. Then we'll give you play-by-play instructions on the proper way to pump iron.
A muscle will increase in tone, shape, and strength if it is made to resist a weight heavy enough to overload it beyond its normal limits. For this reason, strength training is often referred to as resistance training. Gravity and your body weight may provide enough resistance for some exercises; other movements may require the use of an external resistance such as a dumbbell or an exercise rubber band.
The basic element of resistance training is a repetition, or one complete movement of an exercise. A set is a group of repetitions. For repetition to act as the chisel that will sculpt your body, you'll need to do a small number of repetitions (reps) per set--between eight and fifteen--using reasonably heavy weights.
Do between one and three sets of each exercise. This is high-intensity training and it brings about the biggest gains in muscle and the largest losses in fat.
Get used to the idea of using heavier weights and doing fewer reps; don't worry about waking up one morning looking like the captain of a Russian shotput team. Even people with a genetic predisposition toward muscularity must spend hours a day pumping up to achieve Schwarzeneggerian proportions.
At the end of this chapter you're going to find three different weight-training routines. A routine is a group of exercises that should be done in order for a complete workout--one that exercises all the major muscle groups we'll be talking about shortly. The first routine takes a real meat-and-potatoes, traditional-type approach to weight training; you'll use dumbbells and a weight bench and do basic exercises. The second routine uses exercise bands and tubes and you move from exercise to exercise at a fast pace. It's for those who want their weight lifting on the aerobic side. For the last routine, you'll lift stuff you find around the house, like a bag of frozen corn or a pair of Rollerblades. You can substitute weights or bands if you want to.
One routine isn't better than the other; each just takes a different spin on the art of weight training. It's a good idea to review "Meet Yer Muscles" (below) before any real live weight meets yer muscles. Then go directly to our 12-Step Approach to Strength Training and commit it to memory. Be sure to read the section at the beginning of every weight-training routine too. It's just not weight therapy without a good 12-step program.
Meet Yer Muscles
There are about 650 muscles in your body, and with one exercise per muscle ideally you should be spending 18-22 hours each day in the gym. Not really. There are fifteen or so of what we call "major muscle groups." If you hit each of these a couple of times a week, you'll get a complete strength workout and see definite overall improvements in shape, strength, and tone.
We think it's important to be familiar with your major muscle groups. You know, have a general idea of where each is located, what its job is, and why you should bother devoting an exercise or two to it. If you understand all this, you'll probably get better results from your workout program. You'll know, for instance, which exercises work your biceps muscles, the muscles located in the front of your upper arms. And knowing where your biceps are, you'll realize exactly where you should feel the tension during a biceps exercise.
With many weight-training exercises, it's easy to emphasize the wrong muscle if you don't understand the purpose of the move. If you simply hop on your weight bench and wave your arms around--without knowing which muscle to focus on--you'll be cheating yourself out of a good workout. So let's take a look at those muscles that people will soon be taking a look at. Here's an abbreviated version of everything you ever forgot about anatomy.
This muscle caps the top of your arm and attaches to the upper part of your chest and to your shoulder blade. Raise your arm out in front of you, move it across your chest, and then swing it in a circle--all that movement is your shoulder's doing. In fact, your shoulder muscle is responsible for just about any move you make with your upper arms.
Strengthening your shoulders can help you avoid injuries like shoulder dislocations or muscle tears. Plus you'll look like you have shoulder pads in everything you wear without having shoulder pads in everything you wear. Sexy shoulders are always in style. Since your shoulders assist your chest and back muscles in many movements, keeping them strong will allow you to strengthen these other muscles more efficiently.
The Rotator Cuff
These are the four small muscles beneath your shoulders; together, they're called your rotator cuff. They help hold your arm in its socket. You use these muscles for throwing, catching, and reaching. It seems everyone has a rotator cuff injury these days, especially baseball pitchers and swimmers, but you don't even need to be active to screw up this muscle group. Something as simple as carrying a briefcase or an overstuffed handbag with a straight arm can damage your rotator cuff. Fortunately any shoulder and/or rotator cuff exercises we teach you will help strengthen this Achilles' heel of your upper body.
You'll often hear this fairly large, kite-shaped muscle located in your upper back referred to as simply the "traps." Your traps enable you to shrug your shoulders when you have no idea what's going on. They also aid the shoulder muscles in lifting your arm out to the side, as if you're signaling the start of a drag race. Toned traps add shape to your shoulders and upper back. Strengthening them may also help alleviate neck and shoulder pain--the kind you might get if you sit at a desk all day, or if your phone is a permanent appendage to your ear. You should give this muscle spec