Hanners' New and Improved Workout

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studyinserendipity
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Hanners' New and Improved Workout

Postby studyinserendipity » Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:39 am UTC

Hi everyone! I've been thinking about how to diversify my exercise regime by adding some weightlifting to my copious amounts of cardio and would appreciate advice.

I've been doing tae-kwando for about 4 years and do mostly cardio stuff during class besides the occasional push-ups or burpees and yoga that I do on the side. Recently my hip was bothering me, so instead of going to class, I'd stretch and check out the (extremely modest) weight room at the dojang. There's a rowing machine, a stationary bike, a bench, and lots of free weights (or hand weights? the ones that you hold in your hands, no bars here.) I ran through some basic arm exercises that I knew - bicep curls and seated bench press and that tricep thing where you put the weight over your head. Now that my hip is feeling better, I can go back to class, but I can tell the weightlifting is making my punches stronger and I can tell I'm gaining muscle, even after only a week. I don't want to lose that.

Here's the hard part: I still need to go to the classes, which I do about 5 times a week. I'm training for my black belt, so I need to practice my forms and sparring. I think I can give up one of those days a week to focus solely on lifting, but I can't give up more than that or add an extra gym day. My thought is that I have one 'big' lifting day, when I don't go to class and instead do three full sets of each exercise, then have a 'small set' that I can do after a class that will run me through a single set of all the lifts on a higher weight. I'm hoping it will add maybe 15 or 20 minutes to my usual gym time, which is something I can spare.

Is this a sound plan? Also, I know lots of people here champion compound exercises, but I'm not sure how many of those I can do given the space (it's kind of like being in a bathroom with all the fixtures removed) and the lack of a bar. Are there ones you can do with free weights? Or should I alternate upper body/back and lower body/abs?

Thanks so much for helping me out. I'm glad we have such a supportive and knowledgeable community here! ~ Hanners ~
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Nath
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Re: Hanners' New and Improved Workout

Postby Nath » Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:11 am UTC

The 'big day' (higher volume) and 'little day' (higher intensity) thing is actually a pretty tried-and-true system for intermediate lifters. I don't think it makes sense for small exercises like bicep and tricep stuff -- they cause negligible systemic fatigue, so you can just do three sets of those even on tae-kwando days. Or even just do them once a week. Or skip them all together, as described below.

For the compound lifts, that sort of plan seems OK. I'd bump the volume day up to five sets of five, since it has to provide the stimulus for the whole week. Dumbbells are a little inconvenient for heavy lifting, but you can still bench, overhead press (standing is best), row (I like bent-over rows, with one side at a time), goblet squat (look up Dan John's articles and videos), and do unilateral leg exercises like split squats and step ups. I'd program one pressing exercise (alternate between bench and overhead), one squat or unilateral variant, and one upper body pull (rows or chin ups, if you can do them). This should cover all basis reasonably well; you can skip the ab work and arm isolation stuff if you work these exercises hard, increasing the weight as often as possible. The goal on the intensity day is to set a new personal best every week.

I'm trying to avoid throwing out too much information at once, but I can clarify or elaborate on any of this if needed.

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Re: Hanners' New and Improved Workout

Postby Tounx » Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:31 pm UTC

My advice to you, if you are only going to train with weights once a week, make sure you take a set, or two to absolute failure. Get a spotter if possible. I wouldn't recommend this if you were training more often, but since you are not, it makes sense.

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Re: Hanners' New and Improved Workout

Postby studyinserendipity » Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:35 pm UTC

Thanks for the input. I spent an hour yesterday doing some of lifts Nath suggested, working on getting the correct form on a low weight and then seeing how high I could go with the weight so I have a good baseline. The goblet squats are terrific, we do similar squats as stretches for tae-kwando but I never thought to put weight on them. I'm assuming that I aim for fatigue at the end of the set, no matter how few reps I'm doing? But then, wouldn't I do a heavier weight on the volume days, since I'm only doing 5 reps? Also, how long should I wait between sets? I feel like someone at some point in my life told me 2 minutes, but that seems like a long time.
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Re: Hanners' New and Improved Workout

Postby philsov » Fri Nov 16, 2012 2:38 pm UTC

I'm assuming that I aim for fatigue at the end of the set, no matter how few reps I'm doing?


It's usually better to aim for just before fatigue. You get the same effect for muscle growth/stimulation, but it's less injury prone and safer in general.

What you did is very good, however. It's excellent to get form down first, then try the heavier stuff. A betterbaseline would be a prior to the fatigue point, though. As per the starting strength wiki, you start super light, and progressively add resistance until your lifting speed is significantly reduced or your form begins to suffer. Given how aggressive you can add weight during the newbie period, you'll be hitting your fatigue point soon enough.

As for rest, it varies depending on your goals. Starting Strength recommends anywhere from 2 to 7 minutes (ie, as long as necessary to complete the next set). Personally I'm in the 2-3 minute range. With too little rest what'll end up happening is either your first set is too easy or your final set is too hard. I... bring my phone to the gym and play scrabble inbetween sets. The phone doubles as a timer.

Edit: It turns out that link also discusses why you shouldn't train to failure. Ctrl+F does wonders.
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Re: Hanners' New and Improved Workout

Postby Nath » Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:38 pm UTC

studyinserendipity wrote:But then, wouldn't I do a heavier weight on the volume days, since I'm only doing 5 reps? Also, how long should I wait between sets? I feel like someone at some point in my life told me 2 minutes, but that seems like a long time.

Well, usually people do 5 reps or fewer on the intensity day as well, for a single heavy set. Although thinking about it, it's probably going to be impractical to do this with goblet squats, just because you probably can (or shortly will be able to) squat well over your bodyweight, and it's kind of hard to hold that much weight in position for goblet squats. See how it goes when the weight gets heavier -- if necessary, you can either bump up the rep count a little, or explore other variations. Unilateral exercises require less weight to be challenging, but I don't love the idea of a limit set of Bulgarian split squats either.

As for how long to rest, that depends on your goals. For muscle growth, the goal is to fatigue your muscles as completely as possible, which is why bodybuilders like short breaks and lots of reps and training to failure. That's where a lot of the conventional weight training wisdom comes from. But you're doing strength training, and you want to complete your prescribed reps using as much weight as possible, so you should take as much time as you need between sets. When the weight gets heavy, 5 minutes is perfectly reasonable. Shorter breaks are fine when you're using lighter weights to familiarize yourself with the form, but you never want to be in a position where you fail a lift that you would have made if you'd taken a longer break. Except on lower intensity accessory work, if you're doing any, since accessory work is often done for hypertrophy (growth).

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Re: Hanners' New and Improved Workout

Postby studyinserendipity » Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:19 am UTC

I did a volume workout yesterday. 5 sets of 5 reps for overhead presses, split squats, and bent-over rows.

Overhead Presses: 20 lbs. each hand
Split Squats: 15 lbs. (I could probably do more, but I'm recovering from a hip issue and want to be careful)
Bent-over Rows: 30 lbs.

I was very proud of the bent-over rows and the overhead presses. I had done both of these exercises before, but never with more than 15 and 10 lbs. respectively. My hands and wrists were pretty sore afterwards - my wrists are fairly tiny, hopefully they will bulk up as I lift more. I really wish I could try some chin-ups, but we don't have a bar. Well, some people use a random clear arm on the weight machines, but I feel iffy about that. There's lots of stuff below it and you need to kind of jump to get the bar. Maybe when I feel more adventurous.

Haha, philsov I like your scrabble idea. Too bad I don't have a smart phone! I ended up just lightly going through one of the forms I need to know for my black belt test in between sets. They take about 2 minutes. I think I am too antsy to be standing still :)
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studyinserendipity
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Re: Hanners' New and Improved Workout

Postby studyinserendipity » Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:21 am UTC

I did a chin-up! Well, a partial chin-up. I can't bring myself up from a dead hang yet. I'd do sets of 3 partials (all the way up but only partially down). But I got over my fear of hanging on a random bar in front of everyone at the gym, so I can hopefully I can get some real ones going soon.
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Re: Hanners' New and Improved Workout

Postby studyinserendipity » Sun Dec 02, 2012 3:55 pm UTC

Hmm, I have hit a wall re: bench presses. I can bench press 30 lbs (15 lb. weights in each hand) but the next step up is 40 lbs (20 each). That's... lots more weight. Should I just up my reps on the 30 until I can manage the 40? I also haven't been using a spotter, so I think I need to start asking my husband to help me out if he's around, and just not bench on days he's not there.
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Re: Hanners' New and Improved Workout

Postby Nath » Sun Dec 02, 2012 10:55 pm UTC

This is one of the limitations of dumbbells -- they usually force you to make excessively large jumps. Yes, increasing your reps is probably the way to go, though it's not ideal. A better solution is to try and improvise a way to make the dumbbells slightly heavier -- ankle weights, a bit of chain and a carabiner, and so on.

A spotter can be useful, but isn't usually essential. This video explains how to get in and out of position with heavy dumbbells (start at 12:00).


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