Lift for a goal

I’ve had a lot of questions about weight training and programming from people so I thought I’d try to break it down to the basics. These are just the basics, nothing fancy, however you don’t need fancy to be affective!

What is your goal?

You have to know if you want to build muscle, lose weight, lean out etc. YOU CAN’T DO ALL OF THESE AT ONCE! Yes you will have a body changes happening together but you can’t have 100 goals if you are a beginner. Set a goal, stick to it for at least 4 weeks, (6 weeks if you slack!)


5 Sets of 5 Reps

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Goal: Strength
  • Equipment: Free weights
  • Intensity: At least two reps shy of failure

5×5 is an old-school strength method that works incredibly well for adding pounds to the bar. Low-rep sets of five let you go heavy, but 25 total reps give you enough volume to add some muscle mass, too. For safety’s sake, stop each set shy of failure to maintain proper form. I recommend 2-4 compound exercises, 2-3 times a week with this method. How you feel the following day or two after will determine how many times a week you should train (i.e. your recovery). NEVER (yes it’s all caps for a reason), train the same muscles back-to-back. Meaning two days in a row. If you are performing compound exercises this usually means skip a day or two before you train again. Compound means you are using more than 1 muscle to complete the movement.

1 Set to Failure

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Goal: Muscle gain
  • Equipment: Machines
  • Intensity: Failure

Using a single set to failure can spark quick muscle growth, especially in beginners. Research suggests that experienced lifters need more volume, but rookies can use machines to safely exhaust their muscles. But be careful—this method will leave you sore and tired. Also, I am not a fan of machines. They do not allow your body to work your stabilizer muscles for balance.

4 Sets of 8 Reps

  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Goal: Muscle gain
  • Equipment: Free weights
  • Intensity: One rep shy of failure

Intermediate lifters with more muscle mass need more volume to keep growing. Four sets of eight reps allows for heavier loads to add mechanical stress, while stopping one rep shy of failure adds a solid amount of metabolic stress to force muscle growth. This method is one of my favorites. You can easily use this method with an upper body, lower body split. Meaning you’ll work your upper body muscles one day, then your lower body the next. You can skip a day in-between (or two depending on how many exercises performed), which easily fits into busy schedules! This method also works well for a triple split. No-I’m not referring to giant scoops of ice cream in a plastic boat split, but 2 upper body and 1 lower body workouts. The upper body is split into pushing or pulling exercises performed on separate days with your lower (leg/back) day in the middle.

10 Sets of 3 Reps

  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Goal: Maximal strength
  • Equipment: Free weights
  • Intensity: Two reps shy of failure

Strong athletes can handle more volume with heavy weights. Ten sets of three reps allows for lots of heavy, low-rep sets to build massive strength and keep perfect form. This rep scheme works best with barbell lifts like the Squat, Bench and Deadlift (compound exercises). This method is generally used by body builders and people wanting to gain extreme strength.

Whatever option you choose, keep track of what you’re doing. Write down how much weight you used for each exercise and how many times you completed the exercise (sets and repetitions). Don’t expect to have huge changes in anything either. This can be discouraging to people at first, but you’ll quickly learn 2.5 pounds added to the bench press bar after a few weeks is a great accomplishment. You will never see experienced lifters trying to stack an extra 10 pounds on, because they think they can! This goes for weight loss also. As long as you are losing, you are doing things right. You may have a week go by with no changes. Don’t get discouraged.

So yes there are options, lots, and it can be overwhelming. Just remember these 3 things; pick a goal, keep track of what you do and switch it up every 4-6 weeks.

See you in the gym!

a super hero in training

Image result for funny super hero

Being healthy. What does that mean to you? Is it fitting into a size 2? Running a ultra-marathon? Looking like you should be participating in a body building contest? Everyone has different ideas of what “being healthy” is, but have you ever thought that being health is just simply feeling great? I know a lot of people that look like they stepped out of a magazine but can barely make it out of bed in the morning.  I believe in America today our sense of health has been wrecked by unrealistic images and expectations. We will eat less than 1000 calories a day, run on the treadmill for hours, hate everyone around us (mostly because you’re starving), just trying to look like the models from Abercrombie and Fitch. In reality all this does is break our willpower, damage our metabolism and create a sense of failure. The crazy thing is, we will do this over and over expecting a different result. Why?

In my experience as a personal trainer I’ve witnessed people focusing on the negative to achieve something positive. Sometimes it works, but not for everyone and not long term. Yes, it’s good to learn why you do something damaging (binge eat, smoke etc.), but learning why does not give you the “tools” to move past the problem. I often suggest to people to focus on the positive. Focus on how much steady energy you are going to have if you eat better. Focus on the fantastic day you will have if you get 7-8 hours of sleep. Focus on that accomplished feeling you will have when you squeeze a 30 minute workout into your busy day! These positive rewards build up over time empowering you to continue making better choices. Don’t use the words “ I can’t eat that” say “ I don’t eat that”. Don’t use the excuse “ I don’t have time”. Give yourself the power and say “ I’ll make time “. In an earlier post I discussed the power of choice. The power becomes even stronger when rewarded with something positive. Use this power to influence others when in difficult situations. For example, if you are out with friends having dinner and everyone is ordering deep fried, sugar filled, plates of “I’m gonna hate myself after I eat this”, be the empowered one and order something you know will make you happy after you eat it. Your friends may snicker and make fun of you or they may just change their food choice because you influenced them!

Being healthy shouldn’t just be a number on the scale or a dress size. It should be in how you choose to live. It should be that moment you look in the mirror and say “I feel great”! Let the positive effects from making healthy choices be the power for change. However if you feel so great you decide to wear a super hero costume everywhere you may have missed the point……

Have you heard about this fantastic supplement?!?


Over the past few weeks while working out I couldn’t help but notice all the brightly colored beverages in everyone’s water bottles. Even scrolling through social media I discovered friends promoting and even selling the latest fat loss, muscle gaining, appetite suppressing and anti-aging supplements on the market. Hell, if all I have to do is drink a “special” shake in the morning to lose weight I’m buying the company! I honestly don’t know why people haven’t caught on to all the weight loss scams. If there truly were a supplement to help people lose weight it would be headline news for weeks.

Do you ever wonder what is so special about a particular product? Have you flipped the package over and actually looked at the label? I digress to an earlier post regarding ingredients. My first (of many) issues with these products are the sweeteners used; saccharin, sucralose and aspartame. These sweeteners will disrupt your good gut bacteria. In a study last year conducted by Israeli scientists using mice, they concluded artificial sweeteners changed the population of “good” gut bacteria leading to metabolism changes. These metabolic changes enhanced the way our bodies pull calories from food leading to more fuel from food stored as fat. Yes, this study was performed using mice, however this is just one of hundreds of studies reporting similar findings.

My second (again of many) issues with these big named supplement products are the quality of ingredients. Are the vitamins and minerals contaminated with lead or arsenic? Do you even know what some of the ingredients do when mixed together? Mixing vitamin E and iron results in the destruction of the vitamin E, by the iron. L-carnitine should never be taken with yohimbe as they both cause elevated heart rate. Are you taking a calcium supplement? It shouldn’t be combined with zinc or magnesium as it will block the absorption of both! If you’re taking a prescription please consult a doctor or pharmacist before trying any supplement!

My third (I’ll stop at three), issue with most supplements and weight loss products is the targeting of specific populations. Everyone has specific individual needs, deficiencies, underlying health problems, lifestyles etc. How can one “fat loss” shake possibly help everyone? If you are unusually fatigued or are having brain-fog issues and are having problems losing weight this could an underlying medical issue. Again, there isn’t a magic shake or pill that will fix everyone’s health problems. On the opposite end, the “muscle building, make-your-workout-better” supplements are not formulated for the 210 lb guy AND the 130 lb girl trying to gain muscle and have killer workouts every day!

In conclusion, if you are taking or are considering supplements PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH. Google is fantastic at providing information. Check at least 3 up-to-date sources to get the most definitive information. But remember, don’t believe the manufacturer’s web-site for god’s sake. They aren’t going to tell you why you shouldn’t buy their product, only why you should….

Scientific America, Artificial Sweeteners May Change Our Gut Bacteria in Dangerous Ways, Ellen Ruppel Shell, Mar 2015.