|Weight training for busy people
||[Sep. 12th, 2010|07:05 pm]
About four years ago, when I started seriously trying to gain mass, I bought into the "cycling" concept, which says you should split your year into a "gaining cycle" and a "cutting cycle." During the former, you weight train and stuff yourself like a pig, gaining both muscle and fat in the process; during the latter, you do cardio and watch your calories, shedding the extra fat.
Unfortunately, lifting is a lot more fun for me than cardio, and is easier in other ways as well — for example, I can show up at the office after lifting if I need to, which I can't do after cardio without a shower. As a result, I never quite got around to the cutting cycle in years and years, except for brief, halfhearted periods. A few months ago, I forced myself to face the fact that I'd gained about 15 pounds of fat, of which I needed to lose about 10 (yes, there was a time when I had too little fat (-: ).
Time for a new plan. Examining the logic behind cycling, I realized that it's yet another of those weight training techniques that makes perfect sense for professional bodybuilders, since they're stretching their bodies almost past physical limits. Unfortunately, these techniques have been packaged and sold to beginners who follow them ritualistically.
Here are the facts:
The trick is in the definition of "at a time." The period doesn't have to be months. The microtrauma involved in weight training takes 48-72 hours to heal, which means that you can comfortably cycle between lifting and cardio on a weekly basis.
- You can gain muscle only when you overeat, and lose fat only when you undereat.
- Obviously, you can only do one of these at a time.
Here's what my new exercise schedule looks like:
This has also allowed me to solve a bunch of other problems I had:
- Two-day split (upper/lower body) instead of three-day (chest&back / arms&shoulders / legs)
- Lifting days: Saturday and Sunday
- Rock climbing: Tuesday
- Cardio: Thursday or Friday (yes, only one day; see below)
- Overeating: Saturday-Tuesday; undereating: Wednesday-Friday.
Another unexpected benefit of the new schedule is that the increased metabolism carries me through most of the week and lets me get away with only one day of cardio. Overall, the results have been satisfactory — I've definitely not gained any more fat in the last few months, and possibly lost a little bit.
- Lifting takes too much time out of work (a luxury I had as a grad student, but not any more)
- I need a pre-lift nap, which isn't easy on week days
- Benches and squat cages are always too crowded during the week
- A prolonged cutting period leaves me with diminished energy levels during the day
One thing that hasn't changed is the need to force-feed myself during gaining periods. For example, my late-night meal yesterday wasn't quite heavy enough, and I woke up hungry after four hours of sleep. This would be my one piece of advice for beginning weight trainers: you're always going to underestimate how much you need to eat. If you stop when you're full, you're not eating enough.