12 days of fitness, Day 9

From the mailbag…

Today, I want to answer a question about the “3-Exercise Workout” yesterday.

Here’s the email I received:


“How many of each?
What is a good starting weight?”


[Note: this is asking how many reps/sets of each exercise, and what weight to start lifting on the exercises.]

My reply:

Great questions!

And, interestingly, getting clarity about the first gives most of the answer to the second. Let me explain and break down exactly how to do this…

“How many?” vs. “How much?”

To answer, “How many of each?”, we first need to change that to, “How much of each?”

Here’s why…

The traditional method of counting repetitions we perform is a sloppy and problematic way to measure what we are accomplishing. As you attempt to perform more repetitions, your speed of movement can vary widely–by more than 100%. Because of this, counting ten repetitions on two different occasions can result drastically different amounts of exercise performed. See the problem?

Therefore, it’s better to use a stopwatch and track the total duration of time your muscles are working during the exercise. This is called Time Under Load, or TUL. And before I can get to the ideal time under load–the “how much,” we need to consider….

How much what?

Supposing you’re now just looking at the total duration your exercises last, there’s another problem we need to solve. Erratic movement and pauses during an exercise can create momentum and various kinds of muscular rest during. An exercise of a given duration could include a range of anywhere from 0% to 80% of rest time–when your muscles are basically at rest. Yeah, I’ve seen exercise sets that were seriously 80% rest time.

So, you need to standardize your movement speed and technique. And as long as you’re going to standardize these, you might as well make it as optimal as possible; a speed of about 10 seconds lifting and 10 seconds lowering the weight. Separately, it’s important to have completely smooth turn-arounds at both ends. Doing this will largely remove all momentum (and rest) from your exercise.

Now, if you try this you might notice how helpful can be to have someone else observing you and giving you good feedback to keep you doing this right…especially as the exercise becomes challenging.

And the magic target time is…

Okay, NOW, you’re in a place where what your doing is objective and standardized enough that I can answer the question of “How much.”

Begin by aiming to complete around three minutes of continuous exercise. And during this entire three minutes, you must maintain the standardized reps as described above–without pausing to take a break. If you this correctly, there is no need for a second or third set. Notice: after three minutes you’ve already spent far more time doing this exercise than most people who perform 3-5 sets. And those people rest between sets; you’re not!

What’s a good starting weight?

The answer to this question is now easy…

Select your starting weight to allow you to perform the exercise for 3:00 with perfect technique.

The first couple of times you do it you should consider more practice than exercise. Then, as you become confident with the exercise and your technique, raise the weight so that you CANNOT go beyond three minutes.

At first not being able to continue means that your form would deteriorate in an attempting to go beyond 3:00.

Eventually, this should mean that as you reach 3:00, you can no longer move the weight no matter how hard you try–and that you are sincerely trying with all your effort. Here, you stop thinking in terms of a cutoff time at 3:00, and just focus on getting to this point where you cannot budge the weight. Your times will now be things like 2:48 or 3:12, or whatever. After each workout you’ll just adjust the weight for your next workout to keep you in the 3:00 range.

Once you’re at this point, there will be additional options to consider; but this is a great path to get started.

To Summarize:

    1. Start with a weight you can lift for 3:00 with perfect technique (form, pacing, breathing, etc.)

    2. Increase the weight to find a weight where you CANNOT continue past around 3:00.

    3. Continue challenging yourself and getting in stronger, better shape!

I hope this helps!

More questions? Comments? Let me know below, or here: facebook.com/myogenicsfitness

To health and life,

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