This article about how to make your fitness program a success comes from longtime friend and fitness expert, Joe Rozs.
Many men, women, and teens embark on a fitness program in order to improve their appearance and/or performance. A relatively small percentage of these people however, experience long term success.
One of the reasons for a lack of long term success is a lack of understanding as to what can be accomplished physically with one’s body. The mind controls what the body does, and in order for the body to do productive exercise, the mind has to have correct information.
Often people attempt to attain physiologically conflicting goals. An example of this is a person who wants to get stronger but does not want larger muscles. This is NOT POSSIBLE! In order for a muscle to get stronger it must first get larger. There is no other way. There are, however, a number of factors that can confuse our understanding of this physiological fact. We may see a small person who can demonstrate more strength than a larger more muscular person. This may be due to one or more of three factors. The apparently stronger, small individual, may have: 1) superior neuromuscular efficiency; 2) superior leverage for the activity used for demonstrating strength; 3) superior skill in the activity used for demonstrating strength. (if you want to understand these factors, ask me for the article “Improving Functional Ability…”) It should be clearly understood that the “small-strong” person will get stronger if his muscles get larger, and will get weaker if his muscles get smaller. This would also be the case with the “larger weak” person. Nothing else is even possible.
However – a person can get stronger without getting larger! No – I’m not contradicting myself. If a person gains 10 pounds of muscle and loses 10 pounds of fat, that person will certainly stronger and just as surely will take up less space, and will fit into smaller clothes and will be much more firm. This is true because a given weight of muscle takes up less space than the same weight of fat does – or worded differently a given volume of muscle weights more than the same volume of fat does. On your next visit to the butcher compare one pound of flank steak (the leanest of all steaks) to one pound of suet (fat).
Another misconception is that if you train like your “Hero”, whether it is Jane Fonda, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cory Everson, or Shaquille O’Neill, that you will end up looking or performing like them. “Ain’t necessarily so”, unless your “Hero” happens to be your identical twin. A genetically gifted individual can train completely “wrong” and look and perform better than a person with poor genetics who is doing everything “right”. …to further add to the confusion, more misinformation is bandied about by so-called “aerobics class experts” who claim that high reps with low weight “tones and firms” while low reps with heavy weight “builds bulk”. Even some bodybuilders claim that you should do high reps for definition. The ridiculous assertions run rampant, such as: “You can get defined but to big on Nautilus” – “You need free-weights to ‘bulk up’”. UTTER HOGWASH! Let me try to clear this up
First of all you need to understand that to change your physical appearance you can do the following: 1) add or lose muscle; 2) add or lose fat – PERIOD. Where you add or lose fat is not under your control. It is genetically predetermined. Women often deposit more fat in the thighs and buttocks, while men tend to deposit more of it in the mid-section – but even this varies on an individual basis.
To lose fat simply employ the immutable laws of thermodynamics – cause your body to burn more calories than it takes in and you will lose body fat – according to your genetic code – not just from those areas that you are concerned about or from those areas that you are working a lot – but from over your entire body in a manner predetermined by your ancestors. But if you cut your caloric intake too low, or if you go too long (skip meals) without eating, your body, anticipating famine, will hold back your energy output, and you will lose body fat more slowly – and the weight that you do lose will be indiscriminate. In other words some of the weight that you do lose may be fat but up to 90% of your weight loss could be muscle. You say “so what, I don’t want to be a muscleman or muscle woman”. Muscle, besides making you stronger, function better, and protecting you from injury, also accounts for most of your basal metabolic rate. What does this mean? A gain of one pound of muscle tissue causes your body to burn 50-100 more calories per day – without any extra effort on your part. Lose one pound of muscle and your body will burn 50-100 less calories per day. In other words the more muscle you have the easier it is to lose fat, and the less muscle you have the harder it is to lose fat, and the easier it is to gain fat back when you go off your diet and often more is gained back because your metabolism is now slower. Age is also the enemy of muscle if you don’t do strength training. From age 20 on the average person loses one half pound of muscle per year – thus gradually slowing down their metabolism year after year.
So, if you want to lose body fat, built,d muscle and follow sensible, moderate eating habit.
How big your muscles can get and in what body parts is also genetically predetermined, but we do have some control over where we build muscle. What is required to build muscle? There first and most important factor under our control is STIMULUS – specifically Hard Work (High Intensity Training), and not a lot of it. It doesn’t matter whether the hard work is done with Nautilus machines, free weights, or a sack of rocks. Your muscles don’t know what kind of equipment you are using. The only thing they know is how hard they are working. One thing should be understood about exercise equipment however. Nautilus exercise equipment was designed with the function of human muscular structures clearly in mind – and designed with one purpose in mind – to make HARDER MUSCULAR WORK POSSIBLE! It is only harder work (not more work) that produces better results. You must also clearly understand that the hard work that I am referring to is not “a hard day in the field” or “a hard day of construction work, or “a hard day at the office”. I am specifically referring to A HIGH INTENSITY OF MUSCULAR CONTRACTION – working a muscle to momentary muscular failure/exhaustion – to a point where you could no longer lift the weight if your life depended on it (100% of momentary ability) – and this level of intensity must be reached within approximately one minute (8-12 repetitions). This works optimally for about 70% of the population (as swell as for everyone initially). About 25% of the population would respond better not intense contraction reached in a shorter or longer period of time (less or more reps) and may vary for different muscle groups. It has to do with your inherited neuromuscular efficiency (distribution of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers). We can test for this. So if you have been training hard for some time and have reached a sticking point in your training progress, you may consider having the Neuromuscular Efficiency (also know as Muscular Endurance) Evaluation done. But don’t jump to conclusions too soon. Sticking points in workout progress are more often reached because a person is doing too many sets, or too many activities too often, and in general are ignoring the second most important controllable factor in getting results from exercise: REST/RECOVERY (ask for the article “Why Work Out?”, which covers the three most important controllable factors for getting results from exercise in more detail).
“That’s all well and fine” I hear from many women, “but I don’t want big muscles, I just want to TONE”. Generally they have also been confused by misinformation and scared to death by seeing high level competitive female bodybuilders on television or in magazines. The women that have succeeded at the levels shown on T.V. fall into one of the two categories: 1) they are genetically “advantaged” in the area of long muscle bellies (necessary to developing larger than average muscles), which characteristic is rare enough among men, and is far more rare among women, plus they have a genetically incurred hormone imbalance – giving them more than average testosterone (the hormone primarily responsible for secondary sex characteristics, including larger muscles, in men). The combination of both of these characteristics occurring naturally in a woman are very rare; 2) The other group of women who are successful in top bodybuilding competitions also have the requisite inherited long muscle bellies, but the “hormone imbalance” is not naturally incurred, but rather self induced. In other words they are using anabolic steroids (synthetic male hormone derivatives).
Since most of the women that I have death with, relative to their workouts, were not interested in taking steroids, and as I assume that most of the women reading this article are also not interested in such pursuits, I will eliminate further discussion of steroids from this article.
Having discussed the specific genetic traits required for success in female bodybuilding, clearly understand that the average woman’s chances of developing the kind of muscles like the kind you’ve seen on T.V. are about as great as winning a medal in gymnastics or figure skating at the next Olympics or winning the Boston Marathon – in other words slim to none. Now back to “tone”. You want tone, but do you even know what tone is? Tone is the pop fitness cultures word for TONUS, which means intramuscular tension or tension between opposing (antagonistic) sets of muscles. Tonus is what gives muscles firmness, and I believe that firmness is something that most women (and men) want. How do you increase the tons and thus the firmness of your muscles? Make them stronger – and yes a little bigger. This will also aid in reducing body fat. And if you paid attention at the beginning of this article you will realize that this can make your measurements smaller. You will be firmer and will look terrific. I have found some photographs that we have taken over the years, of women who have not been afraid of working out hard and building some muscle. These photos are in a looseleaf folder titled “Nautilus – Lifesport is the Possibility…”. It is located on one of the tables in the lounge area of the club. I believe that their results speak for themselves.
So don’t let the “easy results” mentality publicized so frequently keep you from attaining your fitness goals.
Start training harder gradually. Try to increase the number of reps (8-12) or the weight (by 5%) or both on every exercise during each workout while maintaining consistently good form. Get competitive with yourself.
To understand how to implement the principles enumerated in this article read The Nautilus Book by Dr. Ellington Darden so that your mind can start having the knowledge to guide your body to success.
I wish you good health and a great bod.
by Joe Rozs
Fitness Expert and HIT Pioneer
35+ Years Personal Training Experience
Air Force Veteran