Archive for October, 2015

Sept2015 019

These old fixed barbells come in different weights for a reason. The user is taught a particular exercise using a lighter barbell. He then progresses to using heavier ones as he/she develops strength and proficiency.

A few weeks ago, you made a decision to improve your life. Not in a very dramatic way. It is more in a subtle but positive way. You are now maintaining a healthy exercise habit and you feel it is easier already. You like it, and now you want to become better in what you do. Its time to progress to training. You are looking for a chart that you can follow. There are many complicated charts used by weightlifters who have trained most of their life in their sport. If you are a new lifter or will still start to train with weights, you do not need those complicated tables. They were designed to be used by seasoned lifters whose abilities are well beyond that of Mr. Newbie. They are not applicable to you since your ability to tolerate the volume and intensity is not yet developed, but with patience and persistence, you will be able to improve. The good thing is that during the first year, your progress would be relatively very fast. The best way is to take advantage of this is not to try to train like the world champions, but train appropriately and intelligently. What we should do is to understand the basic overload principle then gradually expound as you progress towards your goal. Understand and apply the basic principles so that you can later adapt it to your situation. Here is an example which may be applicable to most individuals and is flexible enough to be adjusted for your own goals:

Example: General goal is to improve health by improving cardiovascular fitness. You started with jogging, now you want to progress and be able to run faster. You can do this by improving leg strength. Mode is weight training using the squat as primary exercise.

Squat: Week 1 Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
Tuesday BW x 10 reps 10-15kg x 8 reps 15-20kg x 8 reps 15-20kg x 8 reps 15-20kg x 8 reps
Thursday BW x 10 reps 10-15kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps

BW means body weight. You are not using any equipment except your body. The first two sets are warm-up sets. Set 3 to 5 are the actual working sets. You may adjust the weight to that which you can safely handle. The idea is to lift a load that you can control yet it challenges you. Rest period is 1 to 2 minutes in between sets.

Week 2 Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
Tuesday 10-15kg x 8 reps 15-20kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps
Thursday 10-15kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps 22.5kg-25kg x 8 reps 22.5kg-25kg x 8 reps 22.5kg-25kg x 8 reps
Week 3
Tuesday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps
Thursday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps
Week 4 If everything is going well, you can add 3-5 kg on set 3 to 5 for week 4 as compared to week 3.
Tuesday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps
Thursday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps
Week 5 If everything is going well, you can add 3-5 kg on set 3 to 5 for week 5 as compared to week 4 but do lighter load on Thursday.
Tuesday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps
Thursday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps
Week 6 Do lighter load on Tuesday.  Do heavier load x 5 reps this Thursday. It should be the heaviest load for the entire 6 weeks
Tuesday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps
Thursday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Quite heavy x 5 reps Quite heavy x 5 reps Quite heavy x 5 reps

You may be asking, “Why only squat?” The above is only a sample template. You can add other exercises as well but better start with something short but would be implemented. If you can do it for a few weeks then by all means you should progress. (see future posts). The squat is the example used since it involves a lot of joints, and it has a lot of carry over to function. A heavy squat also stimulates the release of more testosterone which in turn would help in overall muscular development. The biceps curl involves only one joint and has a lot less muscle involvement compared to the squat. Training should be done with good and useful goals in mind. Train with function in mind and not only aesthetics. Aesthetics will surely follow after you train for function. That is training intelligently.

This program can also be added with the general conditioning (Click here for previous post) depending on one’s goal and ability to recover. They serve as examples on how the progressive overload principle is used. It should be gradual, done consistently, and done long enough to be able to elicit change. Train Better!, Live Better!

Val Ramos Jr.

A man has to be strong. Strong in body, stronger in mind, strives to be undefeatable in spirit. A man does not need to be very massive to be one. But he needs to be strong for people who depend on him. Here are 6 things that a real man would do about training in the weights room:

  1.  Acknowledge your weakness.


Everyone has his weakness. Even Superman has a weakess. Training is a form of acknowleging a weakness and working to lessen that weakness. In the bodybuilding weights room, the guy who has enormous arms, mountainous shoulders and hulking chest but with twig like thighs is an example of someone who has not acknowledged his weak areas. Men shoud accept negative comments and learn from them. If you have no weakness, there is no need to train. And that’s boring.

2.  Train as a gentleman.

A real man puts the weight plates, dumbells, and other toys back where they should be. I am assigned perpetually on the late shift in the gym where I work. I took it as a man and tried not to moan about it… I said tried. Other guys might be too scared to see the beings that appear on the gym walls at night anyway. There was a time when the cleaners were told to clean up the gym in the evening. When I got back to the gym after my dinner break, there was this old lady cleaner trying to tidy up the floor. She was attempting to put the 45 & 35 lb plates back to the plate rack. They were strewn across the floor by the supposedly big and strong guys who used the bench press and on the smith machine an hour earlier. They left a big mess. The lady could be my mother. Since I can’t speak her language, I just motioned to her not to bother with the plates and dumbells. It is not her responsibility in the first place. It took some time of re-educating those university guys about gym ethics. Sad to say, the mess still happens, but not as much. Real men train hard to make this world a better place, not to make a mess. We desperately need good examples. So be one!

3.  Train like you mean it.

bp spotMake pretend training does not make you stronger or better. If you do this, do not get your strength coach involved either. He can also play make pretend and pretend he is spotting you on the bench press when he is actually pushing the bar down to your neck. And he can mean it.

4.  Use that strength or you lose it.

farmer's walk valstrengthtraining

Exercise aficionados call this exercise the Farmer’s Walk. In here it is called “Don’t wait for the facilities department to refill the water dispenser, just do it yourself walk.” exercise.

Training for aesthetics is great. But better back up all those bulging muscles with useful work. If you don’t use what you have, it will be just for display, then it will fade away. So take the stairs, refill that water dispenser, and be more useful. If you were on a farm, you can train all day. Do some farmer’s walk with those grocery bags.

5. Train to prepare but prepare to train.

“Be prepared!” I love the Scouting movement and this is what I learned from it. It taught us, as young boys then, a lot of skills and we had great adventures. Training in the gym is preparing for life’s challenges. But then how can you train when you forgot to bring your training clothes? There was a time when one of the kids I was training forgot his pair of shorts for training. He was asking me if I have a spare one. I told him to go home and get his. I wanted him to learn his lesson and to take accountability. But then this colleague of mine lent him his shorts! He probably would lend his toothbrush too. The supposedly golden opportunity for the athlete to learn suddenly disappeared. Anyway, the lesson will always present itself until learnt. Going back, forget about your smartphone, or gloves. You can train better without them. But this what you should do. The night before your training session, put in your bag a clean training shirt, a pair of training shorts or pants, socks, training shoes, a towel, a water bottle with water, your gym access card if there is and if you are required upon entry. Optional would be some snacks. Your phone better stay in your bag. If you have those apps for training, it is your choice if you would use them. On your training day, you just grab your bag and you are ready. Serious lifters bring their own lifting belt, wraps, and straps. But they do not need this reminder. This is more for those who still did not develop the habit or lifestyle of incorporating training in their schedule.

6. Train for others first, for yourself second.

valstrengthtraining coastguardTraining for yourself is easy. But remember, others depend on you. Train to keep your body strong so it can withstand the challenges that life brings, be it physical or otherwise. Majority of the fittest people in the world may not be professional athletes, but fitness is a big requirement in their calling. They are enduring challenging conditions. They are doing what they do in order for other people to live comfortably. They are the farmers, construction workers, manual labourers, coastguards, soldiers, firemen, security guards, policemen, EMT’s, miners, fishermen, and many others. Many cannot afford to train in gyms but they get fit because of what they do on a daily basis. Some have to have extra training since failing in their task means other people’s lives are affected. So dedicate your training to those around you. Remember, when you train for others, you train with honor, you Train Better, Live Better!

Val Ramos Jr.

The circumstances in life is different for everybody. Some are born with genetic predisposition to be obese, some with bulging calves, and other perceived “imperfections”. The further away our predisposition is from our “model”, the harder it would be to attain what we want. People are naturally drawn to what is beautiful.
The media can influence our minds into what to think as “beautiful”. But what is beautiful? It can be anything. So we should strive to bring out what is beautiful in us rather than trying to attain a certain standard of “beauty”. It is refreshing to see the fashion and modeling industry come up with “plus size” models and outfits. It is time that we realize that beauty comes in different forms.

plus size beauty

Photo courtesy of google.

Since people come in all sizes and shapes, training programs come in an infinite variety too. We just need to choose what works best for us in achieving what we want. We take into consideration our circumstances and be pragmatic rather idealist.lady athletes body types


Keep in mind that we are in a consumer oriented society. Facts can be twisted by businesses to sell. If you ask “experts”, you may get conflicting advice. Google has too many experts for you to choose from. Try facebook! Almost everyone there is an expert. Most probably you would listen to the one who will tell you what you want to hear. But most likely, that may be different from what you need to hear. That is why coaches who know how to train an individual to reach his/her maximum potential may not have much clients. Being honest sometimes is not appreciated. Probably clients want their Personal Trainers to bend to their whims.  If they refuse to “dance to the music”, clients would leave and go to the trainer who knows how to talk and to please the clients, but not necessarily train. The clients may
have stated their goals but their expectations are different. Or the coach may not have listened well and is imposing what he wants that the client does not need.

To get straight to the point, ask yourself what is your goal. Better write it down. Then ask yourself WHY many times over. Most, if not all, would lead to the most basic answer “because I want to be happy…”. To be healthy makes you happy, to be sexy, to be attractive… What makes you into such? You have many options. You can take some pills, go under the knife, or have an expensive wardrobe. Some would do the old fashioned way- they train, and avoid eating too much oily and creamy stuff or too much of any food. They rest well. It takes discipline and perseverance. It is not easy for some.

So what does this have to do with fitness? If you think being healthier open & honestand fit makes
you happy, that’s great! If you think a personal trainer or coach can help you, that’s correct. But choose very well. Some are good in talking and entertaining their clients. If you are happy just to chat with someone while you pretend to train, that’s entirely up to you. Some are coaches and they would train you, and probably chit chat is not what is in their minds. They may not be very good in entertaining. But that is how they produce tangible results. If actual results are what you are after, you would be better off with this type. You know that each session may not be easy but that is how you can improve. The final say is up to you. You walk your own path. There are many out there who can show you how to get to your intended destination.
Ask how they intend to train you, who they trained, and other stuff. A mentor commented that teaching and coaching is about relationships. That’s true. There are many technically good coaches but may not work well with particular personalities. If the trainee and the coach or fitness professional respect and listen to each other, the training program is easier to design and implement. So have a clear goal and be honest to yourself and to your coach. That way you would be happy to Train Better! Live Better!

Val Ramos Jr.

You have decided to do something about your health. You know that engaging in regular physical activities would be very beneficial. You understand that it is like medicine, but instead of swallowing it like a pill, you simply do it. And like medicine that has required doses, exercise too, has to be done regularly in the right volume and intensity so it will take effect. The person who you can rely on to help you with programming the exercise volume, intensity, as well as mode of your exercise would be your qualified and experienced fitness professional like a strength and conditioning coach. Not everybody may have access to one. But with or without them, it helps a lot if you understand the Progressive Overload Principle. Along with your specific goal, this principle forms the basis of determining the load (intensity), volume, rest, and mode of your training. Chances are, you are reading this because you want to train but may not have the guidance of a Strength coach. The concept of progressive overload will guide you along the way. Remember also that all physical activities have inherent risks. Common sense as well as application of the knowledge of fundamental training concepts like progressive overload minimizes these risks. You also assume all responsibilities when training by yourself.


Overload is different from over-overload. In training, increase the usual load from that which you are used to to stimulate adaptation. But not too much that you are not able to safely execute the movements.

The progressive overload principle is a concept which stresses that in order for improvement to occur, the workload and intensity during training, should be increased as the body also adapts to the new stress. Once the body is able to tolerate a certain amount of training stress, it will not adapt anymore not unless it is challenged again by increasing the previous load or volume or difficulty. In short do more than the previous or simply “overload”. But it has to be progressive otherwise the body won’t be able to cope and injuries may happen. Progressive means it is spread out over a period of many training sessions. It is closely associated with the General Adaptation Syndrome. Here is a story about GAS, a very important concept in Training.

Read about 6 principles that will surely improve your fitness.

Below is an example and template of how the Progressive Overload Principle is applied. It is a very good starting point if you want to start a regular physical activity. No fees to pay. You just have to pay with your sweat in order for results to happen. Tears not necessary. Oh, you would need a good pair of running shoes if you don’t have one.

Example: The goal is to improve general fitness to be able to perform daily activities without being overly tired. Mode is running.

Easy and moderate is relative for each individual. This describes the intensity. The volume here is described by time and we use a realistic target of 15 minutes. Not that hard to do and not that hard to insert into your schedule. It usually takes around two weeks for the body to adapt to new stresses so we use the first two weeks for “general conditioning”. It is also a sort of introduction. You would make necessary adjustments like what time of day you would do it. Make sure that it is in your schedule. You might also break in your running shoes or scout around for a good pair of running shoes during this period.

Period Monday Wednesday Friday
Week 1 15 minutes easy jog 15 minutes moderate jog 20 minutes easy  jog
Week 2 15 minutes moderate jog 20 minutes easy jog 20 minutes moderate jog

The next four weeks now have distances instead of time. Record how fast you can finish those distances. Do not to sprint the whole time but think of just being able to finish the distance and enjoy the experience. Record your time for week 3. Aim to improve your time each week. We use 5km for this period since it is do-able by majority of the population. You can also register for the next 5km fun run! It would give you a more exciting objective that you can look forward to. It opens up a lot of possibilities.

Period Monday Wednesday Friday
Week 3 2km jog 3km jog 5km jog-walk
Week 4 3km jog 4km jog 5km jog-walk
Week 5 3.5km run 5km jog-walk 5km jog
Week 6 3.5km run 3.5km jog 5km run

It is highly recommended that you do a warm-up and cool down activity before and after each session. Click here for a suggested routine. It is also a good practice to bring 500ml to 1 liter of water. You should drink anytime you wish, especially after training even if you are not thirsty. See future posts on how to progress from this program to include more fitness components like strength.

Here is a recommended warm-up routine.

Remember, the progressive overload principle needs time to work. The example given here is 6 weeks in duration which is just enough time to try and long enough to feel some results as long as there is progressive overload. Use it to Train Better! Live Better!