Thursday, March 31, 2011

Building Muscle & Torching Fat with EDT

Burnout! We've all been there at least one time or another....and let me tell you, it SUCKS!! Maybe it was peforming some super complicated workout for weeks, going to the same gym at the same time too often. Maybe it was just time for a change. Once you lose that passion and excitement, you know it’s time to reevaluate what you're doing and take a new course of action.

Long ago I got bored will all the traditional & typical pyramid-type sets of 8-12 reps, chest day & all those other things you find in the fitness & bodybuilding magazines. Fortunately I came across a system that looked and sounded so simple, that it couldn’t get old. To this day I still call it my simplest workout plan for those times & days I just want to go and push/pull stuff around without over analyzing anything. With this plan you great results for building muscle and burning fat!

As we all know the best way to burn fat is to build muscle and get those fat releasing hormones like GH going - along with eating right of course!

What is this plan you ask? Here it is...

Staley’s Escalating Density Training (EDT)

I came across this concept long ago reading an article on Escalating Density Training (EDT) which was created & developed by Charles Staley. The article was about his style of training and how he has had remarkable success with many big name clients with putting on muscle. Staley is very well known & respected within the fitness community, and you'll actually see more things that closely resemble an EDT style of training. Why? Because it works and it's simple. So what exactly is EDT?

According to Staley, he gives some good insight in this interview:

"Now, in my opinion, if you’re interested in growing muscle, that statement contains everything you’ll ever need to know. Muscle is in fact a biological system, and it grows (or atrophies) in direct proportion to the amount of work it is forced to do. Every training principle you’ve ever heard of, plus most of the ones you’ve never heard of, are designed to allow you to do more and more work over the weeks and months. In fact, let me be the first to say that there is absolutely NOTHING new here. The only thing that’s new is the way I’m “framing” or presenting the information. In a sense, the EDT system is just a foolproof way to ensure that you perform more and more work in each workout that you do. EDT involves doing a workout, measuring how much work was done, and then consistently and gradually increasing that amount of work. When you do, muscle will grow, metabolism will increase, and you’ll have a leaner, more muscular body. Now, as it turns out, there’s a paradox at work here. Because good fatigue management strategies allow you to do a lot more work The EDT details."

That’s pretty much the 'nuts & bolts' of how the program works. So how exactly does the EDT program work? Take 2 antagonisitic mucles (a muscle that relaxes while another contracts) for each workout - such as quads & hamstrings. An example could be performing squats and the Romanian Deadlift (RDL's).

The premise behind EDT is to perform squats & RDL's back-to-back for as many sets as you can for a designated time period - say 20-minutes. Staley refers to this time period as a "PR Zone", which stands for "personal record".

Here are some things you may need to know about the EDT system:

In EDT verbiage, the PR Zone specifically refers to the total amount of reps you're able to perform for 2 antagonistic or opposing exercises within a strict-timed frame - about 15-20 minutes per PR Zone.

There are usually 2 “workout” periods Staley likes to call “PR1” & “PR2”; resting 5-min or more between workout A & B. Within each PR , you have exercise "A1" & "A2".

In each workout period you get 2 exercises, usually of opposing muscles (push/pull or upper/lower).

You put on a load that is about 10-12 RM (rep max) of an exercise and use it for all reps/sets.

The goal - get as many reps as you can in the time period (15-20 minutes) alternating between the 2 exercises (for workout period A, you do exercise A1 for x reps, then go to exercise for A2 for x reps, taking a break between sets and going back and forth till time is up).

Try not to go over 5-6 reps per set in the beginning and NEVER take a set to failure - 'fatigue management'. While training to failure should be avoided, feel free to crank out your final sets to the limit in order to achieve as many reps as possible without sacrificing form. Keep the rest intervals between each set short and rest as long as you need. This is where a stopwatch or an interval timer can come in handy - just be make sure you stay on track.

Keep a training journal handy and record the total number of reps for each exercise at the conclusion of each "PR Zone".

Within each workout, you should notice a progression of reps until you get an increase (usually 20% or more) and then add weight for the next workout.

A word of caution - This program can get pretty intense based on the loads and exercises performed. You may be sore for a few days but this is where a great foam roller and flexibility plan come in handy!

The EDT system is about utilizing the most “bang for your buck” exercises. No, I'm not talking about single-joint isolation movements like tricep kickbacks or calf raises. I'm talking about using as many muscles as you can under the heaviest of loads. The beauty about this means less time in the gym and more time getting real world results. Using compounded (multi-joint) movements is a great booster for the hormones if building muscle and burning fat are your goals. Below is a list of compound (multi-joint) exercises - this list doesn't have to be limited to, but can include the following:

  • Squats and Deadlifts

  • Overhead Barbell Press

  • Olympic lifts like Clean or Snatch

  • Bench Press or Weighted Dips

  • Bent-Over Rows or Weighted Pullups

  • Bodyweight movements like lunges, pushups or more

Again, the goal is to pick 2 exercises of opposing muscle groups and then crank out either a specific number of sets or time with the same load. When you see increases in performance, increase the weight and go again. This type of simple progression with the right exercises will be sure to get your muscles stronger!

Is it possible to make your own rules? Sure you can! You don’t have to do it just one way, but you can take the basic concept of EDT and make it your own. You can make endless workouts such as: Doing 3 different exercises which adds variety or focus on strength and endurance.

Here are some 'out of the box' examples:

  • Using bodyweight exercises only

  • Using higher reps and shorter rests for more fat burning/conditioning purposes

  • Using lower reps and longer rests for more strength focused gains

  • Counting Sets and not reps (like 5×5 or 10×2…you up the weight when you can complete the desired set/rep scheme)

  • Only doing one 20min workout (or PR zone) for days you are crunched on time

  • Alternate high and low rep workouts

Here are some examples of EDT workouts with either time or sets your goal:

EDT workout #1 – Strength and Hypertrophy: Workout for 20-min. (rest for 5-min. between workouts A & B)

  • Workout A – Bench Press and Pullups for sets of 4-5 reps max (10RM load)

  • Workout B – Bent Rows (barbell) and Squats for sets of 6-7 rep max (12-15 RM load)

  • On the next workout, switch A & B order and the rep max
EDT Workout #2 – Strength Based: Perform 5 sets X 5 reps
  • Exercise #1: Deadlift

  • Exercise #2: Weighted Dips

  • Exercise #3: Overhead Press

  • Increase the load when you can complete all 5 sets of 5 reps
EDT Workout #3 – Fat Burner: Perform each workout for 15-min. with resistance-based modifications
  • Workout A – Pushups (5 reps), Squat Jumps (10 reps)

  • Workout B – Inverted Rows (angled pullups -5 reps), DB/KB snatch (10 reps alternating R & L sides
My recommedation - Perform some EDT-based exercise at least 2-3x a week (depending on intensity and volume) and reap the benefits of strength & muscle gains while torching body fat! You'll see great & awesome results while enjoying how simple working out can really be.

Train hard & crank it!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Dare To Be Different

Step foot into any "big box" health club and the scene is always the same: bodies trudging along on treadmills & crosstrainers, people immersed in fixed axis machine-based training, the dude in the squat rack cranking out biceps curls and the line of ladies waiting for their turn to "shape" their butt & thighs on the 'seated' inner/outter (abductor/adductor) thigh machine.

As I go about my workout & continue with my non-traditional metabolic resistance training, I start getting these weird looks from the cult followers who've been led to believe for years that machines & split body part training is still the norm in the quest to blast fat and build muscle.

From across the weight room, I see a couple of guys cranking out endless reps on the seated reverse flye machine. Me? I'll pass and crank 'em out a different way - push-up position 1-arm lateral rear flye.

Weird? Maybe!

Does it work? You bet your ass it works! Better than the seated version.

For years, people have been led to believe that endless bouts of steady-state cardio and single-joint isolation/body part training is the only way to see progress and to make physiological changes - weight loss, body fat reduction, increase lean muscle, etc. Nothing could be futher from the truth.

Think about this. How many years have you been going to the same gym & have seen the same people? Of those people who are 'regulars', how many of them have made tremendous changes to their physique? Probably not too many. Why? Cause they do the same thing over & over again - day after day, week after week, month after month.

I know I've said this before but I'll reiterate it again - Do the same, you get the same! The same workouts, activities and classes with the same resistance, intensity and time. It's no wonder they're not seeing results! Because they're in maintenance mode. It's not change!

In order to make progress, you need to give your body a reason to change by incorporating different variables in your training program - reps, sets, loads/resistance, training systems (i.e. density training, Tabatas, timed sets, complexes, hybrids, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), etc.), shorter recovery periods, volume, duration, distances, surfaces, sandbags, TRX suspension trainer, slosh pipes, kettlebells.....the list goes on!

If your goal is to improve athletic performance, increase lean muscle, lose weight/body fat, boost your metabolism & start feeling better, then it's time to take action and time to start doing things differently. When we do the same kind of exercise all the time, we become specifically conditioned to that activity.

Why not dare to be different and try something new - and inspire others to do the same!

After all, you'll never know how good you are at doing something else unless you give it shot!


Quote of the Day

"Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because HE knows what we really are and that is all that matters." - John Wooden, legendary basketball coach - UCLA


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Motivational Workout Tips

The only thing standing between who you are and who you want to be is what you do. You know that when your workout motivation reaches the point of zero, you're in big trouble.

Here are my top 6 tips to help boost your motivation to exercise and get you moving. I guarantee that if you follow them, you'll become a gym-addict!

Workout Motivation Tip #1 – Find & Make Time to Workout

We all need more time in our days to get everything done. However, that can’t be an excuse for cheating on your workout plan. How many times a week do you need to exercise? Maybe 3 or 4? How much time do you need? One hour sounds plenty to me. So if that's the case, you'll need 4 hours a week. Did you know that a week has 168 hours? Do you think you could find those 4 hours out of the 168 to get your workouts in?

Drop something you don’t need – Most people spend 2, 3, maybe 4 hours a day in front of the TV. I consider TV to be the biggest time-eater of our time at home. Maybe you think that sitting on the coach every evening watching your favorite show is the only way to ease the tension from the day? Not true folks! How about going out for a run? Taking the dog out for a brisk walk? It'll take the stress off and reenergize you in the process. Besides TV always goes with food and drinks that are definitely not a part of your 'health & fitness plan'. As I always is too short to spend it on the couch watching reality TV!

Become an early riser - Personally, I enjoy the benefits of rising earlier in the mornings. I wake up and start my day at 4:30 a.m., hit my workouts, get it done and go about the rest of my day. I feel energized, focused and mentally alert and ready to take on any obstacles that come my way. Try it & see for yourself.

Prepare your meals ahead of time - I always like to prep my meals on a Sunday for the week to come. This way it saves me time as all I have to do is grab & go. Plus, I also know that my meals are healthy & prepared by me. Buy in bulk, get yourself a vacuum sealer and save $$ in the process too.

Don’t get caught up in the gym chit chat - Get in, train hard, take care of business, get it done and get out!

Build your personal home gym - It's great to have home gym equipment in the next room - and it doesn't need to be expensive. Consider buying a TRX Suspension Trainer, kettlebells/dumbbells, medicine balls, heavy ropes, ab wheel, Superbands, etc.

Workout Motivation Tip #2 – Start Today

Put it off for a day and 10 days will pass. Don’t wait for the perfect day to come – it won’t. Don’t procrastinate. Start today and make a lifestyle commitment!

Workout Motivation Tip #3 – Make It Fun

Do you look forward to your workouts? Or do you force yourself everyday into exercising? People who don’t like what they're doing will sooner or later quit. Please do yourself a favor & figure out a way to get involved in making your workouts consistent, productive and fun!

Join a group or find a gym buddy - When you know someone is expecting you to do something, you're less likely to skip it. When you have one of those bad days, the level of support you have will definitely will help you get over the hump.

Make your own best/favorite workout music compilation and listen to it during your workouts.

Disguise your exercise – walking the dog, playing catch with the kids, or working in your garden also helps you keep fit.

Workout Motivation Tip #4 – You Gotta Keep It Real

Remember one thing – results take time. It's NOT an overnight process. Don’t expect to lose 10 pounds this week just because you stuck to your workout plan. The same goes when you miss a day. You won’t gain weight back immediately but if that one day turns into ten days or a month, you'll regret your lack of perseverance & steady progress. So work for realistic goals and don’t expect any miracles. As I always say - there are no short cuts, just hard work!

Workout Motivation Tip #5 – Keep A Workout/Activity & Nutrition Log

Make a workout plan - set specific and realistic goals, keep track of the days you workout, activities you performed, what you ate that day & how your feel. Doing this will help you see your moments of weakness and plan ways to overcome them. When you know how certain circumstances make you react, you could try to avoid them or you could work to change your reaction.

When you happen to have one of those bad days that everything seems pointless and you feel like giving up, just take a look in your log to see how far you've managed to come. No one said it would be easy but it will get easier within time.

Workout Motivation Tip #6 – Make It A Habit (A Good One, That Is)

When you do the same thing over and over again for a given time it becomes a habit. You don’t have to think about brushing your teeth, styling your hair or flushing the toilet – all these things have turned into habits. You do them no matter if you're late, if you're sick, if it's raining outside or whatever day of the week it is. The more you do it on a regular basis, it becomes a part of your every day tasks.

Lastly, don't forget to reward yourself. It never ceases to amaze me how hard we are on ourselves when we don’t accomplish, and how hard we are on ourselves when we DO accomplish. Whenever you reach a milestone, have something in mind - like a trip to the day spa, new shoes or clothes. Rewards can be anything - including things that are non-edible.

These are just a few common used techniques to keep up the motivation while working out. If there's a similar technique in your mind, use it and don’t let boredom touch you in between sets.

Be good to yourself, train hard & stick with it!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

METs - Moving Is the Name of the Game

One MET is another name for 'metabolic equivalent', which represents an average person’s resting metabolism or oxygen uptake. More specifically, a single MET is defined as the amount of oxygen a person consumes (or the energy expended) per unit of body weight during 1 minute of rest. It's equal to about 3.5 milliliters (ml) of oxygen consumption per kilogram (kg) of body weight per minute, or 1 kilocalorie (kcal) per kg of body weight per hour.

In other words, how much energy is being expending doing a particular task. The more energy that's required to accomplish a task, the higher the MET rating. The name of the game is to engage in as many high MET tasks daily as possible. As you go through your daily life, most tasks require an energy expenditure that is less than three times resting level, or three METs. METs offer a quick screening measure in evaluating your cardiovascular fitness: a way for you to keep tabs on how much intensity you’re bringing to your workout.

If you don't have access to cardio equipment with a METs calculator, you can estimate your intensity by the activity. For example, walking a 20-minute mile is equivalent to 3.5 METs; walking a 12-minute mile is 8 METs.

What’s the right METs value for you? An easy calculation of target METs is the same regardless of weight, but is adjusted for age.

Women: 14.7 – (0.13 x age in years)
Men: 14.7 – (0.11 x age in years)

  • 62-year-old woman:
    14.7 – 8.06 = 6.64 target METs
  • 42-year-old woman:
    14.7 – 5.46 = 9.24 target METs
  • 22-year-old woman:
    14.7 – 2.86 = 11.84 target METs

When exercising, achieving your METs or higher indicates very good to excellent cardiovascular fitness; achieving less is indicative of diminished fitness.

You can boost your fitness level no matter where you are today by consistently exercising and creating challenges for your body by speeding your heart rate and breathing. As you increase your fitness level, you'll be able to maintain higher MET readings. For example, if during your initial weeks of training you exercise at an output of 4 METs and felt quite winded, after 6-weeks you’ll find that you'll have a more manageable output since your fitness level has increased. It'll be time to train at a higher MET level to continue improving/progressing and to be working hard enough to feel winded.

Remember, the higher the MET rating of a particular activity the less time spent doing that activity is to be expected. High or vigorous intensity MET activities require more energy so the duration will decrease.

The reason working out is so popular these days is because we don’t do enough moderate and vigorous MET rated activities like we did back in the day when we were kids. Nowadays, everything seems to revolve around a computer, desk, email, cell phones, television and commute time. And, if you think a lack of moderate and vigorous rated MET activities is just a matter of losing weight…think again.

In a study conducted at the University of South Carolina, researchers measured MET related movement and activities in men and found that spending more than 23 hours a week in a sitting position increased their chances of sudden death as a result of heart disease by 60%. Ladies, this information applies to you too.

Think about how many hours you spend each day sitting. Commuting, at work in front of your computer, watching television, eating at a table, etc. The hours accumulate very quickly.

The less you move, the more health issues that begin to arise…

  • The more inflexible you become
  • The weaker your muscles get
  • The easier it is to gain weight
  • The harder it is to lose weight
  • The more you struggle with balance, coordination & flexibility
  • The greater the chances of developing a chronic disease
  • The more likely you are to develop and maintain chronic inflammation which can and does lead to arthritis
  • The greater your frustration and subsequent stress levels

.....the list goes on!

Those realities are every reason to get your body moving as much as possible by making it a priority!

When my clients complain about their weight gain or being stuck in a weight loss plateau, maybe their energy levels are less than satisfactory or their mood is throwing them into self-defeating behavior, I tell them this -


That's right.....MOVE!

That doesn’t mean workout more. It simply means getting up off your butt, keep up with your workouts and just move more in general.

Have fun! Go outside & play! Afterall, our bodies were designed for movement - so go do just that.

Get strong, stay strong, MOVE YOUR BODY and CRANK UP THOSE METs!