Weightlifting & Exercise/better health bigger gains


QUESTION: Hi Greg, my name is Jeremy and i'm 20 years old. I've been in the military for about a year now. I'm 5'10, and I came into the military at 190 lbs and came out of basic training at about 170. For the last 3 months I have been going to the gym more often. Usually about 3 times a week. Not long after basic training I gained the weight back, I am back at 190. We do physical training every morning for about an hour, usually it's a run or pushups and situps. I go to the gym for about an hour after work. I have had my buddies help me out as far as what lifts to do. I usually always do a biceps and back day, and a tricep and chest day. I'm not to sure what else I can do. I usually have a hard time staying in the gym for more than an hour. I also take pre-workout that seems to help a little bit, and I take whey protein after each workout, and I take animal pak vitamins almost everyday. I'm trying to lose some weight in the gut area and build more muscle mass in my arms. I have pretty broad shoulders but I feel like my arms are not proportional to my whole upper body. I need help figuring out a workout regiment that works best for me, and how I can lose weight at the same time and just look more fit and toned. Also maybe I should change up the protein or pre-workout, I'm not sure. Any help is appreciated. Thank you

ANSWER: Hi Jeremy,

It sounds like from your email you are looking to loose weight and gain muscle mass at the same time.  In order to burn fat, you have to burn calories.  However, in order to build muscle, you need to use calories to build new muscle.  This is difficult to accomplish at the same time, but not entirely impossible.

The first thing I would do is think about what are you doing differently now than when you lost the weight?  Take careful notes and compare the two, in terms of (1) exercises (weights / cardio), (2) frequency of exercising, and (3) diet.  

The second thing I would do is look at your overall diet, not just what you do before and after lifting.  You need to look at how many calories you are taking in.  Sit, and think hard about this, and jot down any difference between these two times.

In order to be able to help more, I would need to have a more complete understanding of what you are doing for exercise, how long you run for, the frequency of runs, and your diet.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Greg. Well when I lost the weight I was in basic training, s o we did a lot of excercise, constantly moving around, and ate 3 meals a day at the same time everyday. As soon as I got out, I went back to my old eating habits of pretty much eating what I want. I try my best to stay away from bad foods, I eat a lot of tuna, pasta, meats, and stuff like that. I find it real hard finding a good diet for me. When I'm hungry I just want to eat, I just wish I knew the rigth foods to eat.

Our morning excercises are hour long sessions. We start by stretching out and then do whatever is on the schedule. Usually Monday is a long run, usually about 5 miles. Tuesday is all pullups, situps, pushups, and dips. Wednesday is either sprints or about a 2 mile run and some pushup pyramids. Thursday is usually abs and Friday is another short run day with pushups and situps. Right now after work I only have two days of the week filled up, and thats biceps and back one day, and triceps and chest the other. And maybe I'll come in and do legs or abs, but I don't know other muscle groups I can designate for a day. I wanna have a workout plan Monday through Friday. I can't seem to find the right way to do it. I want to be able to hit the gym hard everyday and feel good about it.

Hi Jeremy,

Ok, thanks for providing more information.  Clearly there are two elements missing from your current plan: 1. structured exercise, and 2. proper diet.  So let's deal with these in order.

1.  Exercise

Cardio - This will burn a lot of calories, but there are two times in which this works the best.  The first is right in the morning after you wake up and before breakfast.  Your body prefers using carbs as it's main fuel source.  However, since you were sleeping, you weren't eating, and thus, you haven't provided your body with carbs.  Therefore, it will try to use it's next source for energy, which is fat.  This is harder to convert to energy than carbs, so a 45 minute run in the morning will seem harder than in the evening (which is when you will have been eating carbs that day).  Therefore, stick with morning runs when you can as your first choice.  

The second best time to do cardio is right after lifting.  Again, your body prefers carbs as the main fuel source, so that's what will be used first in the lifting.  Since your body will use a lot of carbs during the lifts, it will be lacking them afterwards.  This is a great time to do cardio, as now it will search for another source of fuel, which is fat.

I would pick 4-5 days per week, if you can, to do cardio.  Maybe switch it up, some before breakfast alone, and some days immediately following lifting.  Note that it is generally recommended not to exceed 90 minutes of exercise, so keep your workouts under that.

Weightlifting - When you lift weights properly, your metabolism can be elevated for up to 24 hours after your workout, so a good session will allow you to reap the benefits long after it is over.

It is often recommended to lift about 3 sets, for 8-12 reps (3x 8-12).  When weights become easy to lift in that range, you progress slightly heavier the next time you lift.  The number of reps may vary, but what is important is that you lift with PROPER form.  Many people cheat when they lift, and they think it's ok.  It's not.  It sets you up for injuries because you aren't lifting properly, and swaying or moving your body in directions to make the lift easier.  That is not what you want, so make sure to keep excellent form always.

There are several workouts I could provide, but instead I want you to have a look at this website, and see if there is one which fits your schedule.  On this page, it provides a workout for a 4-day lifting plan.  To be honest, I think 4 days a week, and not 5, is an excellent approach, and will allow your body more time to recover from the lifts if you are lifting hard.  You can use that extra day for some cardio and plyometric training if you like.


The site talks about different workout plans for the same muscle groups, switching them each time.  You don't necessarily have to follow it directly, and you could stick with the same exercise if you wish.  The most important thing is to stick with compound exercises such as the  bench press as opposed to the dumbbell flye.  This is because the former recruits more muscles when you lift.  If you use the basics, and build on them, you'll do just fine.


1.  Do 4-5 days of cardio, either first thing in the morning, or after lifting.  

2.  Do 4 days of lifting.  


For weight loss to occur, you can't just eat whatever you want.  You need to try to eat clean foods.  Eat as natural as you can and avoid overeating.  Try to eat natural foods, such as eggs (preferably egg whites), oatmeal, fruit, lean meats (skinless chicken / turkey), fish (salmon is a great choice), vegetables, brown rice, whole wheat bread.  Avoid refined carbs, like candy, white rice, and white pasta.  Always choose brown rice over white rice, whole wheat over white bread, etc.  The reason is because the white option are simple carbs, and if not used for energy soon, they often are converted into bodyfat more than the brown option.

You don't need to eat all these foods every day, but just pick a few at each meal.  The actual recommendations can be lengthy if this is all new to you, so I would do an internet search on eating healthy, and educate yourself on some of this, and write back if you have any questions.
Learning what is in foods is an excellent way to know what to select to eat.  After a while, you will get the hang of it.  Try to avoid foods with saturate fats and which are fried (steak and, well, fried foods in general).  The more clean you eat, the better you will feel, and your workouts will be better, and you will have more energy.  It won't harm you to cheat every once in a while, but you really need to limit it.

Also remember to drink up to a gallon of water a day.  This will keep you well hydrated, and replenish a lot of the water you loose when you sweat.

One thing I would have to recommend for both the exercises and the diet is to make changes in your schedule slowly.  Don't try to make a sudden start and do everything at once.  It is easier to keep up with things if you make gradual changes.  

Anyhow, Jeremy, I know this is a lot, so if you have any questions, let me know.  Again, I would recommend you taking the time to read up on the internet about diets, and know what is in the foods you are eating.  They are the source of your energy for workouts, so the better the foods, the better you workouts, the better your results.  Note that for real results to occur, it takes about 3 weeks to get into a good pattern, and you should stick to your plan for 2 months to begin to notice real changes.

Hope this helps.


Weightlifting & Exercise

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The following types of questions are fine: overall benefits of exercise, bodyfat reduction / weight loss, interests, training for specific bodyparts, order of exercises and reps/sets, routine suggestions, general questions. The following types of questions I will NOT answer: questions about physical therapy training post-injury, questions about training after medical treatment.


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I have worked with and trained clients of many ages, both teenagers, college students, and adults. Many are just starting out, while others are looking to get in the best shape of their life. I've often seen that it's the one-two combo of exercise and diet which really makes an impact in seeing overall results. Every client needs to make a commitment to the lifestyle in order to see real results.

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