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What is your definition of "In shape" and are you training to acheive that?

Discussion in 'General Health/Fitness & Injuries' started by DFS, Mar 16, 2010.

  1. DFS

    DFS Well-Known Member

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    I read an interesting passage in Ross Enamait's book "Never Gymless" that got me thinking:

    Overall, this got me thinking about why we train. I would guess many people train to get "in shape", however I would also guess most people train like bodybuilders or powerlifters - who by my definition are not in shape at all. Bodybuilders are good at pretty much one thing...packing on slabs of muscle in freakish proportions. Powerlifters are good at pretty much one thing...lifting heavy weights. So why is it that the vast majority of us train like bodybuilders and/or powerlifters?

    By no means is my intention to denounce bodybuilding or powerlifting, if that's your end goal then by all means train for it. But at a website like JohnStoneFitness where what I see is the vast majority of people training to get "in shape", I wonder if we have all clearly defined in our own minds what "in shape" means to us?

    I spent a good 3 years training like a bodybuilder, during which time I visited bodybuilding websites, read Arnold's book, and paid SwoleCat on two occasions to create a tailored plan for me. I put myself through ridiculous leg workouts that left me barely able to walk for several days on end. I look back now and wonder why. The fact is I never sorted out in my head what my end goal was. I think back and I can remember wanting a little bit of everything...I wanted to be bigger, I wanted to be more cut, I wanted to be "in shape" (whatever that meant), etc. I had not really considered what it was that I wanted, so I went with the typical gym-goer flow of training like a bodybuilder.

    So have you asked yourself what being "in shape" means to you? Are you an athlete? Do you simply want to look better? Is your desire to be a bodybuilder or powerlifter? Make sure your training aligns with your goals. Too many of us fall in the training-like-a-bodybuilder category, when in fact we do not want to look or be anything like a bodybuilder.

    My goal these days is to have a healthy and useful body. I do not want huge slabs of muscle, nor do I have a desire to be able to pick up my car. I'm after a well balanced mix of maximal strength, explosive strength, speed strength, and strength endurance. So I will train accordingly.

    So my message is be sure to set clearly defined goals and have your definition of "in shape" worked out, and then train accordingly. During your training sessions be sure to be able to answer the following question:

    "Why are you doing that?"
     
    #1 DFS, Mar 16, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2010
  2. needachange

    needachange Active Member

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    This is a very good post :tucool:

    I've said similar things in the past.

    It seems any time a new person signs up on a fitness related forum the first thing people say is eat lots, squat, bench and row. Or assign the Starting Strenght Program.

    I say start out doing what gets you to the gym everyday on a consistent basis and enjoy it. From there if your goals are to achieve a specific thing then do research to find out what will get you to those goals. Better than walking into a gym and trying out squats and deads for the first time and then hating them leaving you to possibly say "this sucks I don't want to do this anymore" therefore not wanting to go to the gym.

    Not everyone signing up for a fitness forum is looking to be a bodybuilder or a strongman. Some just want to be fit enough to look good in clothes not necessarily ripped and also have good overall health.
     
  3. JoeSchmo

    JoeSchmo Well-Known Member

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    True, goals should determine training strategy. It makes no sense to train like a bodybuilder if your goal is to win the tour de france.

    Well, I want to have huge slabs of muscle and be able to pick up a car :D But, pursuing strength and muscularity goals doesn't preclude one from having a "healthy and useful" body. Sure, taken to a drug-fueled extreme it might, but for most of us, it won't.

    Yeah, but usually the people who get this advice are the ones who are either a) skinny and want to add muscle, or b) doing useless exercises, eating like a bird and then complaining that they aren't adding any muscle. Nobody gets this advice if they are complaining that they can't break a 6-minute mile.
     
  4. needachange

    needachange Active Member

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    I still see the same advice day in and day out for those who create threads that start with "How to I look like Brad Pitt"
     
  5. JoeSchmo

    JoeSchmo Well-Known Member

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    Hmmm....maybe we are reading different threads, because I only see this advice given with regard to adding muscle/strength. I can't remember the last time I've seen an "I want to look like Brad Pitt" thread.

    Certainly, if you have no interest in adding muscle and/or strength, then compound exercises and programs like Starting Strength are not for you.
     
  6. needachange

    needachange Active Member

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    In my origional post I said it meaning any fitness type forum not just this one in particular.

    I have plently of interest in gaining muscle and strength but just because I do doesn't mean I have to only do squats, bench, deads and rows (I do but don't HAVE to). I think the Starting Strength Program is great if that's your goals. But it was designed for High School kids to gain strength for football and sports. That program isn't the end all be all. You can still make great gains not doing soley compound lifts.

    My point is if someone is looking to obtain a decent physique and doesn't want to squats and do deadlifts they don't have to. I think someone would be way better off doing a workout program they liked with intensity vs. something they hated and put less effort into.
     
  7. DFS

    DFS Well-Known Member

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    This is true and important to understand. I've heard and said many times that "deads are the one exercise that must be a part of all fitness regimes." It simply is not true...for deads, squats, bench, or any other exercise.


    It runs deeper than this. I've seen and read how many (if not most) people train exclusively like bodybuilders. Unless ones goals are to be a bodybuilder, this is not a good plan.

    Not necessarily, no. But doing so at the expense of the other types of strength and endurance I mentioned means ones body would be "not as useful" so to speak. Further, I feel wholeheartedly that it is unhealthy long-term for certain body types to have too much muscle. I have zero scientific evidence to support that claim, it's just a personal belief. :)

    The point of my random rambling was to stir up this exact kind of discussion. I hope we have more join the conversation. :tu:
     
    #7 DFS, Mar 16, 2010
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2013
  8. JoeSchmo

    JoeSchmo Well-Known Member

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    Well no, but I don't think anyone would say that you have to only do squats, bench, deads, and rows. They just happen to be very effective compounds that are tried and true.

    But again, I don't think anyone would disagree with what you are saying here. While I've recommended SS to some in the past, I've personally never done it, and somehow I've managed to make gains anyway. No program is the "end all and be all".

    Agreed -- but if your goal is to add muscle and strength, these are two excellent exercises that will not only assist in that goal, but will also have more real world carryover than just about any other exercise. I agree that you can certainly improve your physique without them though.
     
  9. JoeSchmo

    JoeSchmo Well-Known Member

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    I've thought the same thing about certain IFBB pros, but I don't think naturals can attain the level of muscularity that would actually compromise health.
     
  10. George

    George Senior Member

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    :nod: I've never seen a natural bodybuilder who looked "too muscular".
     
  11. Mauidude

    Mauidude Active Member

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    All interesting comments so far. There is no right answer. I noticed that those commenting so far are in what I could call the younger category. Goals are different when you're in your 20's and 30's than when you're age 50 and above. When you're younger you've got your whole life ahead of you and for the most part, can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Therefore, your perspective will be different.

    Now that I'm in that "past 50" category, I can tell you my goals are different than when I was younger. Recent studies have shown that men, for a variety of reasons, cannot add significant amounts of muscle mass in their 60's. Basically, what you've got at that point is what you're stuck with, short of taking certain supplements.

    As for me "being in shape" means adding the muscle mass I want now, losing a certain amount of bodyfat, and preparing my body for the aging process in order to keep it as healthy as I can for as long as I can. I enjoy a lot of physical outdoor activities and want to be able to enjoy them as long as I can.

    I can tell you that it is much harder to get and retain the muscle at this age than when I was in my 20's. Our bodies are much more stubborn at this age and doesn't want to change. The sooner you can get your body to a point you are comfortable and then keep it that way, the easier it will be as you age.

    I'm in better shape now then I was say 15 years ago, but I can't lift as heavy weights as I could then. That doesn't bother me anymore as all the weights are doing is stimulating my muscles. I just have to use the proper weight to get the stimulation I want, regardless of how much it weighs. After getting my muscle stimulated, its then up to me to give it the proper nutrition and get the proper rest in order to make that muscle stronger and bigger, as the case may be.

    For me its a lifestyle, not an all consuming one, but an important part of my overall well being. I enjoy working out, seeing progress, I enjoy eating clean and keeping track of what I eat; because all of this leads to a healthier lifestyle and a more active one as I continue down the road of life.
     
  12. Nathan

    Nathan Active Member

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    I think the perspectives presented by the original article and the OP are valuable in many ways. However, the article really seems, to me, to vastly overgeneralize "power lifters". Often, asking them to climb "a few flights of stairs" would result in a ridiculously impressive performance. Some have amazing cardio, and amazing functional athleticism.

    An acquaintance of mine is about 165 lbs, 5'6", and in has deadlifted 606 lbs (probably more by now, that was in 2005). He's awesomely strong. Functional? You betcha. He's not rotund, has visible abs, etc. (Darren Flagg: http://www.usapowerlifting.com/newsletter/ranking/2005/men_dead_all.html) I think it was Big_D from this forum that I saw in a vid hitting a 575 deadlift. Didn't look disproportional or dysfunctional at all. So Darren's hitting 3.6*BW, Big_D about 3*BW. Awesome, and I see no functional issues from their physiques. Hell, I'd love to have them around next time I move :)

    I believe that few people get to the level of performance in power lifting where their training choices begin to seriously hinder their ability to perform other athletic activities. It happens, sure, particularly when people go for sheer numbers rather than bodyweight multiples, and let themselves get huge.

    So let's look at beginners instead (me). Say Stronglifts 5X5 since thats what I'm working on. I should be on it 6-9 months at least, and am not considered even intermediate until I'm working squats 5X5 at BW*1.5. My goal body weight is around 165 (at 177 now) so that puts me working out with about 250 and I might be able to 1RM what, 280 or more?. I think that will be freaking awesome. So awesome I might be totally happy right there and I'll stop loading more plates on the bar and just maintain. For 3 sessions a week at less than an hour each, that's a pretty damn fine deal. I might even cut it down to twice a week or go for fewer sets so I can spend time cross training, cycling, doing more HIIT or work on my half marathon time. Ok, so for a pretty reasonable time commitment I can squat BW*1.5, probably bench at least BW, and deadlift 2*BW. I bet I'll feel pretty fit. And since my core, back, legs, blah blah blah are all stronger, I have a great foundation from which to specialize if I want to. Even if I totally ignore cardio while doing stronglifts, I bet EITHER my 10k time goes down, OR it only takes me a month of running to get it to go down and I'll do so without injuries for once :) Oh yeah, and the added muscle mass will help me control my weight better.

    Are there a thousand other ways to get to that point? Sure. Are there a thousand paths to follow afterwards? Of course.

    I also agree with those saying "whatever keeps you in the gym, do that". But, the statements I've seen border on declaring squats and deadlifts as things people will automatically hate about going to the gym. I offer a counter example and imagine there are many others as well.

    I got my better half doing Stronglifts and she loves it! She hated lifting before that, way too many isolation exercises, too many splits to keep track of, awkward schedule, etc. The simplicity of stronglifts (and similarly, starting strength) made it very attractive for her, and she loves it almost as much as I do. Is it for everyone? No. But it is for some.

    I think we have to keep in mind that for any particular athletic endeavor, at a certain level of performance the "opportunity cost" of increasing your skill for that activity will mean sacrificing some skill in other activities. Example: Many good rock climbers have powerful legs. But, few elite rock climbers can afford to have that much extra mass in a relatively (for climbing) useless body part. So, they give up some power that could be used for cycling, squatting, etc. to increase performance at their chosen activity.

    My thought is that for most of us the differences are less important since we're not choosing to be (or have the chance to be) elite at a certain sport. Therefore, training that is effective in a general sense (and I think squat/dead/bench/row are very effective) is good for us. As long as we do train, we gain, whether we're cyclists, weightlifters, runners, parkour nuts, or MMA fighters. Do we, perhaps as we hit intermediate or advanced fitness levels, tend to specialize? Heck yeah. I'm doing a 10k in May, a triathlon this summer and a half marathon this fall. Will I do cardio? Uh, yeah. But, I'm at an early enough stage that Stronglifts can only help, and I'm smart enough to realize my fitness goals are constantly changing and I'll adjust accordingly.

    Final thought regarding the comments on working out like a bodybuilder. I think that is different than working out like a power lifter. I think power lifter routines work for general fitness more easily than body building routines, since I think more whole-body work is in the former, and more isolation is in the latter. A beginner probably won't get as much from the bodybuilding routines as they can from squat/dead/dip/row/bench routines. This is why Stronglifts and Starting Strength are reasonable recommendations for new people. If someone new instead comes on and says "I wanna be a star tennis player" the answer could still be SL or SS if they're just starting out, but probably not if they are beyond intermediate and want to specialize.

    Sorry to ramble, I like the discussion but am a big proponent of "power lifting" lifts being applied very well to general fitness goals.
     
  13. JoeSchmo

    JoeSchmo Well-Known Member

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    I'll be there in 12 years. :scared:

    Excellent post BTW Mauidude .... much of what you say resonates well with my own thinking. I'm trying to add lots of strength, but I am also thinking down the road .... That I want to be athletic and strong well into my 60's. I will say this though .... don't sell yourself short at 50+. Zen is 50+, and he is squatting 400+ and deadlifting 500+. That is impressive at any age.


    Good point. Layne Norton is another example. Dude is a friggin' beast. Deadlifts ~700 and squats 500 for reps, and he does so while remaining lean and healthy.
     
  14. Mauidude

    Mauidude Active Member

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    Zen amazes me for a guy his age. He's built like a powerlifter but man, at his age, the dude pulls some incredible numbers. Very impressive. A lot of the activities I do require endurance, agility, and strength, and those are just the ones inside the house :D
     
  15. DFS

    DFS Well-Known Member

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    Nathan, since you addressed me, the OP, I'd like to respond. :)

    It seems you missed the message of my original post. Your entire post, for the most part, just reinforced what I was saying. One should train for their goals, needs, and wants at all times and not restrict themselves to one philosophy. I'm not sure where I mentioned that deads, squats, and bench are ineffective and/or hated by most?

    If one trained exclusively for power lifting, then one would only excel in one thing...power lifting. Sure there might be peripheral gains, but marginal at best. You yourself said you don't train only power lifting, but cross training, cycling, running, etc. If you have the typical power lifter run hill sprints or even shadow box for 3 rounds, you better have the puke pail handy. Of course there are always exceptions you can point to, but they are just that...exceptions.

    My original post was to suggest that for many gym goers, one philosophy is not the correct approach long-term, particularly when paralleled with what the typical gym goer's goals tend to be. However, it seems that many gym goers do indeed only follow one philosophy. I myself was victim to that. I thought, like many I presume, that working out = bodybuilding. Many think that working out = power lifting. My original post was to suggest that working out = getting "in shape"...and everyone needs to define that for themselves and train accordingly. :tu:
     
  16. cajunman

    cajunman Well-Known Member

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    DFS, just exactly how many powerlifters do you know? How many powerlifting meets have you been to?
     
  17. PlainGreyT

    PlainGreyT Active Member

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    Yeah because guys like Pete5, Big D and Gaz would suffer heart attacks if asked to do anything other than powerlifting movements :rolleyes:

    The extent to which people over emphasise the relative lack of conditioning of powerlifters as compared with other elite athletes is seriously idiotic
     
  18. DFS

    DFS Well-Known Member

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    I was trained by a power lifter for some time, so that was the only one I knew personally. I have been to zero power lifting meets. How are either of these two questions relevant to the points I was making?

    Who said that?

    I'm not sure where I or anyone else over emphasized anything. And relative to other elite athletes, the exclusive power lifter would lack conditioning when stacked up.

    Please, I'm not understanding why what has been said here is being interpreted as an attack on power lifters or bodybuilders or any other training discipline. Specifically, why the names of people on this board are being brought up as "the attacked" is not clear to me. This is not where I wanted this conversation to go at all. I was hoping people would offer viewpoints, opposing or alike, and share some intelligent thought.
     
  19. BigDog

    BigDog Well-Known Member

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    The underlying question of this thread is great - as are the comments by the posters so far. My 2 cents:

    1. For beginners, step one: Start. Doing. Something. Anything. Cardio. Or Diet. Or weights.

    2. For most beginners, it's really hard to go wrong finding a lifting schedule, and sticking to it. Whether you want to lose fat, or get bigger, or recomposition, it's hard to find someone who could not benefit from lifting.

    3. Then it's decision time: Are you training for a look, or for a specific purpose. If you are training to be a golfer, lots of bench presses probably won't help you as much as they would if your objectie is just to look good. If your goal is a Maximum bench press, then you would be better served by focusing on your chest and back more than you would if you are looking to run a personal best 100m dash.

    4. WIth #3 clearly in mind, there is very little in terms of exercise where the benefits are limited to ONE thing. You have to use your CV system when lifting, and your strength systems when doing cardio - to some extent. Proper form on either cardio or weights also improves flexibility.

    5. As you improve at one thing, you have to make it harder on yourself by progressing with weights or changing your methods. Our bodies are wonderfully adaptive machines. They get good at what they are doing, so you have to change what you are doing, or do it harder. For me, I'm trying to be a good general athlete - I'd rather look like Derek Jeter than a bodybuilder - so I don't life super high weights with lower reps. I play golf semicompetitively, so I work a lot on shoulders and rotation to enhance range of motion, and prevent injury. Simply put, injuries to me are one of the opposites of fitness - that gets to the "useful body" premise. That doesn't mean that if you are injured, that you are by definition someone who is habitually unfit. It means your body is, at least temporarily, a little bit broken.

    6. I think that somewhere in all of the stuff that we do, there is a forgotten notion that the single key aspect of getting and being fit is being able to move a fundamental unit: your bodyweight. Whether you make yourself more mobile by increasing strength, or reducing weight isn't as important as doing something that will improve your ability to move and use your body.
     
  20. DFS

    DFS Well-Known Member

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    Very well said BigDog. The part about preventing injury was awesome. Many people neglect flexibility and range of motion training. A lot of elite athletes who stayed healthy for long careers had very well tailored flexibility routines built into their training regimes.

    I work at a performing arts high school where there are about 100 dancers attending, and I'm also married to a dancer. They stretch and work on flexibility extensively, and suffer very few injuries that plague many traditional athletes. They get their fair share of bumps and bruises sure, but very rarely suffer the major injury that sidelines them for extended periods of time. I might add that male dancers over the long haul develop very powerful and explosive strength and muscularity without any formal weight training, which aligns with the theme of this thread.
     

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