Thursday, May 28, 2009

Other Hazards of Leg Training

Not trying to scare anyone off, but its very easy to get seriously injured doing squats and deadlifts if you don't have the right form and try to lift a lot of weight.

So if you are considering doing them, I would recommend that you go light. Actually, scratch that – I would recommend that you do the single leg varieties. Not only is it more “functional”, it gives you the same results while reduction the chances of spinal injuries.

Another thing to watch out for is muscle balance. With me for example, possibly due to my desk job, my quads are more developed than my hamstrings. This has led to instances of me pulling my hamstrings while sprinting.

Happy Lifting.

Thoughts on Training Legs

Personally, my legs respond very well to any sort of weight stimulus. For the last couple of years my workouts consisted of full body exercises and my legs grew a lot faster than the my upper body. For comparison – my legs are 24” at the widest and my waist is ~30”.

I think this is true for most people. Simply because you can lift a lot more on a squat or deadlight than say a bench press.

Over the past couple of months I tried to restrict leg workouts to balance out my physique. I did 1 set of heavy single leg presses followed by 5 or so negatives once a week. My legs grew faster than ever. Right now, I have discontinued all leg workouts.


Over at, Rusty Moore is of the same opinion. He has a similar problem where his legs get too big too fast. He reckons that his High Intensity Interval style cardio is enough of a leg workout.

I now work out the rest of my body in the same manner as I trained my legs previously. It seems to be working, although i don’t have any results to report yet. Hey, I figured if its working so well for the legs why not try it for everything else?

The only thing that concerns me with this approach is that by not recruiting and stressing the muscle fibers in my largest muscle group I maybe limiting my Growth Hormone response (more intense workouts/fibers recruited = more GH released).

I used to ride the bicycle a LOT when growing up. Maybe that's why my legs respond quickly? I wish I did more pushups and pull-ups :)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Is it all about the pump?

For the longest time, I used to workout with high weights for low reps (3-6) and medium sets (4-6) for a total of about 24 reps per exercise. I focused on compound movements and rarely did any isolation exercise.

Recently, thanks to Khalid, I've started focusing on single muscle groups, using lower weights and mostly machines for high reps (10-15) and low sets (1-3). As most of you probably realize by now: this workout goes for "the pump". Many old-school bodybuilders, like Arnold, have been big proponents of the pump.

The funny thing is, I'm seeing better results from 3 weeks of doing this than I did with 2 years of heavy weights. Now, I know its not as macho as lifting some serious heavy sh!t, but why do heavy sh!t when you can get better results with this?

I'm not sure why this works for me. Maybe it was the change of workout style - giving the body a different sort of stress to deal with? Maybe my body type is just more suited to this type of workout?
Maybe its just me? Has anyone else also experienced this? Please share your thoughts and ideas...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What I eat in a day

Ok so I've never really measured how many calories I eat in a day or what my macro-nutrient ratios are. However, there is this website: that makes it really easy to get the breakdowns.
I entered info from the food I had last night (didn't eat anything during the day). Here is my breakdown:

Yup, you read it right - 70% of my calories come from fat. It is delicious, and it helps me stay full. Here is the breakdown of all the food I had:

I would recommend that everyone give a try out for a week. The website also tells you what vitamins you are getting enough of (or not), etc.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

On this day, 3 years ago I made a bet...

Today marks the 3rd year anniversary of my 2nd really serious attempt to get really fit. Its been an up and down journey as you will see. The purpose of this entry is not to show off, but to provide motivation to other people. A lot of people have been asking me what I eat, how I workout, etc., so hopefully this provides some guidance.

During this time, I have treated my body as a piece of lab equipment. I have tried all sorts of things, but I have always kept before and after measurements, logs, impressions, etc. I believe that is the key; try everything - keep what works, throw away what doesn't.

Not everything works for everybody. You have to find what's right for you.

Also, I should add - if I had not discovered low-carb/paleo eating I could have never sustained this.

I made a bet with a friend that in a months time I would be down to 180lbs. When I made the bet I weighed in at 235. Here's a time line of what has happened since then...

April 2006: I start using the elliptical machine at the gym for 30 minutes roughly 5 times a week. I start cooking more stuff at home. I also go "low-fat". Little changes in terms of sugar/carb intake.

May 2006: I ditch fruit juices / chocolate milk, chips, cookies, soft drinks. I'm down to 215lbs

June 2006: I drop the cardio (too much, too tiring and most of all too boring!). No major changes in diet. Down to 208.

July 2006: I find - start lifting weights. I am introduced to This is where I first learned about bread being bad. I try to drop the bread, down to one or two a day. In my opinion this is the key time turning point.

Aug 2006: I start working out using different programs outlined at Chad Waterbury's 10x3 is a big hit.

Oct 2006: With a combination of little bread, more meat and a solid exercise program, I am down to 190.

Nov 2006: I do "Guerilla Cardio" 2-3 times a week for two weeks and I lose 3 belt notches! I also stop going to the gym.

March 2007: I am still low-carbing big time. Have almost cut down all bread and sugar. Although on occasion maybe once a week, I still give in... I start working out again, trying out all sorts of different exercise programs. Weight is down to 180. I am also hiking a lot.

Sept 2007: Diet + easy weight-based workouts lead to a weight of 165. Too skinny. Plus my muscles don't have any definition. On the plus side - I can do about 20 pull-ups in a row now :) I decide to lift harder. Fat consumption is tremendously high at this point - close to 70% of my calories. From a year ago my HDL is up, LDL is the same, body fat is down, triglycerides are not measurable (due to low carb intake)

March 2008: I've gained some muscle, but I have also put on fat (mostly due to a higher carb intake). I'm up to 185. I feel chubby and clothes are getting tighter - there has to be a better way to put on muscle.

April 2008: I discover intermittent fasting. I eat just once a day for one or two days a week. Weight drops back down to 170.

July 2008: I discover that if I fast daily, I can eat WHATEVER I want at night...

Aug 2008: I get serious about weights. Start lifting some monstrous poundage, combined with lots of food and protein. I can see my abs!

Nov 2008: I am up to 185, this time its mostly muscle. Intense, short workouts are the key.

Dec 2008: I go for Hajj - down to 160. I can feel my spinal cord from my stomach, ewww!

Jan 2009 - Mar 2009: Working out really hard, mostly clean diet and fasting regularly. Weight is up to 176. For the first time in my life, I can easily say no to sugar - I have no need for it. Same with bread, rice, etc. The taste no longer appeals to me. I guess I'm finally off the crack.

Currently: I am trying out creatine for a month to see if it can help me gain some clean muscle. My current work out is a mix of super heavy days, combined with fun light upper body workouts.

When I started I was 24% body fat, now I am at 8%. My diet no longer feels restrictive or compulsive. I eat only when I am hungry, and sometimes I just stay hungry - I love being hungry. When I eat, I tend to eat a LOT! (seriously). I plan to start the once a week, big-5 workout from the body by science folks. Most of my workouts are under 25 minutes and I don't spend more than an hour at the gym a week. I plan to cut that further. I walk a lot, for groceries, to bookstores, at work, any chance I get.

If you are interested in learning about my thoughts on exercise and fitness, you can stay up to date at . I also log my workouts (although somewhat irregularly) at .

Saturday, March 21, 2009

High Intensity Training

Over the last few days I have been reading up on HIT. The idea is to perform minimum reps to failure with extremely high intensity and to give sufficient time for recovery between workouts.

Some very famous people have been proponents of this stuff, think Arthur Jones and Ellen Darrington(sp?), etc. However, most of the stuff I am reading is by the ‘Body By Science’ guys. So far, I’m intrigued. I’ll be trying some of this stuff and posting on progress…

Like to stay hungry, Like to eat a lot

Conflict? Hardly.

Staying Hungry. You know the feeling you get when you haven’t eaten anything for a long time – that grumbling in your tummy, the unusually sharp senses, I love it. It makes me happy, it keep keeps me alert and active, if I work out in this state – I can lift heavier than normal. It takes a couple of days of practice before I stop feeling the anxiety and actually start enjoying it.

Eating a Lot. Nothing like a ‘hayooge’ meal. Nothing. Your stomach is full, you feel content and best of all, you sleep like a baby. This feels even better when you have it when you are really hungry and craving food. Which brings us to…

The Conclusion. You can experience the joy of both (eat your cake and not eat it as well). You can also experience all the health benefits of calorie restriction (the fasting period) and the anabolic (that's a fancy word for muscle building) effects of over feeding. Sweet!winwin

Weird Science: Why we get fat…

Some interesting theories on why more people get fat now as opposed to earlier days.freezing

Processed Foods: If you look at the ingredients of some common place food items, you realize that they are full of all sorts of chemicals. Now most of these are not naturally occurring and the body probably doesn't know how to react to them. What it ends up doing is responding to the alien substances by treating them as toxins and storing them fat (most toxins are stored in adipose fat tissue).

Sugar: High fructose content => massive insulin response => storage  of calories as fat.

Wheat: Also a mild toxin for the body. Causes mal-absorption of essential micronutrients. When the body is not getting enough nutrients, it needs to eat more, resulting in a caloric surplus.

Quality of Food: The nutrient content of fruits/vegetables is 50% less then even 30 years ago. Feedlot meat is known to be raised with hormones, anti-biotics and an unnatural diet. What this means is that the nutritional value is not the same and perhaps we have to eat more in order to receive the same quality of nutrition.

Room Temperature: In the modern world most of us are indoors most of the time where the temperature is usually a comfy 23-25 degrees (that's 68F). If the temperature were higher or lower your body have to work harder to cool or heat itself respectively. When we stay indoors and dont expose ourselves to the natural extremes of temperature our bodies expend less energy, resulting in storage and hence fat gain.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is something I've been trying to lean out recently. Amazing results!

I've been following the Fast-5 approach. I eat nothing during the day time, other than a couple of celery sticks some days. At night I go crazy, no hold barred (still little to no bread/rice though). I keep eating till I am not hungry. The first couple of days I ate till I was stuffed, but I think my hunger has been regulated to where I only eat till I need to.

I sleep VERY well. Energy levels were low initially, but they are great now. The most surprising thing is that my workouts have not suffered in the least bit. In fact, I've made some strength gains.

I'm kinda holding on posting the results until I give it a fair run (I want to make sure I don't lose any muscle mass over an extended period), but I am impressed.

If you want to try it out for yourself, look through the Fast-5 website. Their e-book is free for download and contains some really useful information.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How I plan to cut

My plan
- Continue working out 3 days a week.
- Increase weights every 3 workouts instead of every workout.
- Start the fast-5 regimen (don't eat during the day except celery, water, parsley, etc.).
- Eat clean at night.
- Get off the protein powders. I liked the shakes and everything, but my digestive system never felt right with the powder. I'm going to switch to natural unprocessed meat instead.
- Load up on fish oil.

If all goes right, I should be able to keep my hard earned muscle while losing some fat - let's see how this goes...

Bulking Experiment Results

So I went heavy on my workouts this past month and a half. Tried to eat as clean as I could, with a number of exceptions :\

Bodyweight: 170lbs > 180lbs
Deadlifts (for 24 reps): 135 > 225
Dips(for 15 reps): bw +15 > bw +50
DB Bench Press(for 3x15): 65lb dbs > 75lb dbs

Left shoulder got injured during a set of db bench presses

Take Aways
- If your form is going bad discontinue the set right away!
- Working out fasted is awesome in terms of growth. No difference in gains if I didn't have something Post workout...
- Deadlifting barefoot is great, I cant believe I never tried it before.

Whats next?
- Going to cut. Need to lose some flub.
- Work on grip strength. Deadlift weight was being held back by grip giving out.
- Recuperate shoulder. No overhead lifting/dips. Lots of pushups with added weight.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

“The news is always depressing, and it really doesn't affect me”

The above statement (from ‘Dilbert Future’ by Scott Adams) very eloquently describes my views on the TV news.

In an interview a few years ago (sorry don’t have a link), Nassim Taleb (of the Black Swan fame) said something very similar in a blog post. His argument was more along the lines of news companies having no interest in trying to bring you accurate journalism, but rather trying to make money for their parent companies.

When you think about it, the news companies are in it to make money, so they have try to make lots of folks sit in front of the TV and watch their programming. And what’s the most effective way of doing that? You guessed it – make the news seem as sensational and depressing as possible. To achieve this, the news people will report the most unusual (as in never going to happen to you) and depressing (as in they will manipulate the story to make the victim look helpless – even though he may really be an idiot) stories.

Well, I’m making a stand! I have enough stuff to deal with in my own life. I don’t need to hear about unlikely events that don’t really change anything in my life except make me depressed. I don’t need to be fed how I should think. I would much rather get my news from regular people. That way at least I can form my own opinions…

As you can probably tell – I am fairly anti-TV in general, but that's another post (or series of posts…).

One Day at a Time

Here’s an interesting thought: Set a goal for yourself and then promise yourself that everyday you will do at least 1 thing to get closer to accomplishing it. Make sure your goal is very specific and really hold yourself accountable for this 1 thing.

If its weight-loss is your goal, make sure you do one thing every day that will get you to that goal. Go for that walk, skip sugar all day, don’t eat simple carbs.

If its making money, make sure you save a certain amount everyday and put it away in a savings account.

Say your goal is dead-lifting 300lbs – then make sure you go up 2.5lbs every workout.

Sounds simple. I am going to try this. I will set 3 goals for myself and everyday I will make sure I do something that gets me closer to accomplishing them.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Current Workout Regime

Standing behind the neck / military press 3 x 15
Deadlifts or Squats 4 x 6
Dips 3 x 3 (heavy) and pullups 3 x 12 (with 10 pounds)
DB Bench Press 3 x 15 and pullups 3 x 3 (heavy)

45lbs (on each side + bar) for squats and deadlifts.
30lbs + body weight for heavy pullups and dips.
70lb dumbbells for bench
15lbs (on each side + bar) for shoulder presses (yeah my shoulders are very weak - still working on them)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Today's Post Workout Meal

I worked out towards the end of an 18 hour fast - last ate at a friends house around 9pm and then today at 3pm. The meal consisted of Trader Joes' creamed spinach, tuna steak and a protien shake. About 800 calories and 63 grams of protein.

The creamed spinach is very tasty - highly recommended.


Its one of the most effective exercises I know - or at least that's what everyone claims. I have been using this as a part of my program for the last 2 years. However, I always end up with a sore lower back whenever I try to lift more than body weight, no matter how much I work on my form.

Well that all changed today after I tried this technique courtesy of "Double Your Gains". I can't believe they are giving out this information for free.

The key, once again, is to push outwards with your knees, while making sure that the weight is on the heels. This activates the hips and glutes and lets you lift more without putting too much pressure on your lower back. Amazing stuff!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Its easy

Its easy being in reasonable shape, here are some thoughts:

  • Let go of sugar, wheat, rice, potatoes.
  • If you cant pronounce the ingredients, don't eat it.
  • If the package has more than 4 ingredients, don’t eat it.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep.
  • Walk more.
  • Workout twice a week.

If you’ve had a lapse, like I did last March. Here are some ideas for a quick recovery:

  • Eat once a day. Stay hungry the rest of the time. you will get used to it fast. Have non-caloric drinks at other times. (P.S. if you haven’t heard about the ‘Warrior Diet’ yet, you really should read up on it.)
  • Go heavy on weights
  • Find something heavy and move it (i keep a heavy dumbbell around)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I wish I knew this earlier in my life

I first started lifting weights in college. Unfortunately, I was never able to find good guidance anywhere. I did plenty of internet research and read a couple of books – but it was all very confusing. Heck I even talked to a personal trainer at the gym. The routines were too long, complicated and never really produced any good results. Pretty soon I gave up.

I wish I hadn’t, I wish I knew then what I know now. I would be so much further ahead today...

Squats. Dead-lifts. Pull Ups. Dips. That’s it. That all you need to do. The real trick is making sure you progress from one session to the next.

arnold-squats1 If you want to change things up a bit, introduce variations of the stated exercise, or add in a few big compound movements like bench presses, standing military presses and rows.

You don’t need to spend 15 minutes on 6 different curl and triceps variations like I used to.

Sets vs. Reps

There is no magic number here. The key is to make sure that you are getting more reps than the last session or doing more weight. Also, change things up every so often. If it helps, try to aim for 25 total reps for each exercise (less if you are going super heavy).


Again, variety is important. Do an exercise explosively for low reps, but high weight one day. Do it for high reps and moderate weight the next.


In my opinion 2-3 times a week is ideal for me. But that's because I get bored fast. Some people have had good results working out more – I just don't want to spend any more time in the gym then I have to.

What about Cardio?

I used to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill 5 days a week. Not a good idea. Do hard sprints (4-8 100m sprints) a day or two every week on your non-workout days.

Thursday, January 29, 2009



Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (or NEAT for short) is the amount of exercise you get when you are not specifically exercising. Anything that you do that isn’t really part of your exercise routine falls under this. this includes walking, cooking, cleaning, fidgeting, watching TV, sleeping, etc.

hyperactive1The neat thing about NEAT (yeah I know) is that you burn the overwhelming majority of your calories during this time. A little adds up to a lot over the course of the day. For example, studies have shown that people who are more ‘fidgety’ tend to leaner than those who are relatively calmer.

That being said, how can we use this concept to help us getting lean? Well for one, we can all try to take little breathers and walks every few minutes or so. Say you spend 16 hours awake, and you take a 2 minute walking break every 30 minutes. That’s a good hour of walking in a day! And I haven’t even accounted for the calories burned by sitting up and down.

Here are some other ways you can easily incorporate NEAT into your lifestyle:

  1. Stand on one leg when brushing your teeth.
  2. Park your car further from your office
  3. Always take the stairs
  4. Get a 10 minute walk during lunch
  5. Do as many pushups as you can before the morning shower

If you have any ideas to add here, please share :).

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Year “Resolutionists”

gymThe local gym is pretty busy these days. In fact, its always busy this time of the year. There are lines of people waiting for the cardio machines. It takes 20 minutes to find parking (and my gym has a 4-level parking garage!). The changing rooms are crowded.

However, year after year, everything returns to normal and the gym is once again sparsely populated (relatively speaking of course) by the time February rolls around. Its a something my friends have termed “The mystery of the disappearing New Year  Revolutionists”.

Its a very curios thing. I’ve never really understood it. however, I think I have a working theory on why people drop their new year resolutions: The goals we set are too high.GreatWallJinshanlingToSimatai

If you try to work out for an hour everyday at the gym, you will get bored pretty fast. Its not a lack of motivation, its a lack of proper planning.

My advice would be make more realistic resolutions. A good example, if you’ve led a hereto forth sedentary lifestyle, is to promise that you will take a 10 minute walk everyday.

Once you start doing this regularly, not only will you be in better shape, but you will also feel a sense of accomplishment that will motivate you further. At this point you can incrementally increase the amount of exercise you get.

Remember, baby steps. That’s the key.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Healthy Habits - Ditch the Liquid Calories

This month I plan to write a series of posts on simple steps to achieve a healthier fitter you.

Today’s healthy habit is to drop all liquid calories in your diet. This is an easy step but makes a HUGE difference in terms of weight management and body composition. Here’s a comprehensive list of what to drop:

  • All soft drinks (coke, pepsi, sprite, mountain dew, etc)
  • Milk (all sorts)
  • Fruit juices (sweetened, unsweetened, whatever)
  • Tea/Coffee (without sugar is still ok)
  • Energy/Sports drinks (Gatorade, Propel, Red bull, etc.)

no cokeThe amount of calories we get from these is remarkably high. On top of that most of these drinks contain a bunch of sugar (In my later posts I’ll explain why sugar is the major player in fat gain).

Sugary drinks are a major reason behind increasing rates of diabetes, they are also the reason we hear about d iseases like Fatty Liver disease or the metabolic syndrome. Even if you have a healthy body fat ratio, these drinks are still playing havoc with your internal systems.water

When you think about it you are not really sacrificing much. These drinks don’t even really fill you up. However, the benefits of not consuming these and sticking to plain old water are tremendous.

Try this out for a couple of weeks and be amazed at the progress in your fat loss goals.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The most effective form of exercise known to man

Tabata Protocol aka. Guerilla Cardio

What it is: Warm up for a 2-4 minutes. For the next 4 minutes do 8 cycles of 20 seconds and 10 seconds, where you go ALL OUT for 20 seconds and slow down for 10. Cool down for the next 2-4 minutes (if you can still move that is).

Step 1: Read up on the research HERE (pdf) and HERE

Step 2: Pick your poison. Sprinting outdoors is probably the best. Elliptical machines and stationary bikes also work well (in that order). Thrusters (howto) are amazing. Pushups, pullups, squats? Good, good and great. Treadmills/Other sissy stuff? Not so much.

ummm.... NO!

Step 3: Warm up. Jump around for a couple of minutes. Make sure you are nice and loose. No need to stretch. DON'T proceed if you have any sort of niggles/tightness.

Step 4: Get crackin'. This takes all of 4 minutes, so give it all u've got. The 5th and 6th cycles are the toughest. Don't give up.

"You can do eet!"
Step 5: Falling flat on the ground, not moving, breathing heavy, puking, swearing loudly are all acceptable post-tabata behaviors.
"my cat's breath smells like cat food"
Step 6: Do this 2-3 times per week for 2 weeks. Curse me now, thank me later :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to Beat Procrastination

Sometimes you feel lazy (read extremely lazy) and you just can't seem to do stuff that you know you should be doing. It could be the laundry that's piling up, or the dishes, or the walk you promised you'd go for. It could even be a work or school related task. Sometimes you just don't feel like getting started.

I'm sure most of us have been through this. It's the classic combination of laziness and procrastination. Well I'm here to tell you that this is a very easy problem to fix.

The Cause

Before we actually go ahead and remedy the situation, let's look at why we fall into this problem. You see what happens is that your brain looks at any problem as one whole piece. When you look at a problem, you see it as a whole, you don't immediately break it down into smaller tasks. The reason you don't get started on a task is because you look at it and then, on some level, you think to yourself: "Dang! This is a big problem. There's no way I can finish it, so there's no point in starting."

And then you don't. What ends up happening is that you never get around to starting the task until the last minute when it becomes a do or die thing.

The Cure

Now that you know what causes your laziness, here's how to fix it: say to your self that you will only do this task for 5 minutes. In fact, set your kitchen timer (or you can keep a timer in your office) for five minutes. What this does is that it gives your brain the impression that its only a small, easily accomplishable task that you are tackling, so you are more likely to actually get started.

Once you actually start, more often than not you'll find that its very easy to keep going. I've been using this to get a lot of work done lately - stuff that I would normally put off for "later". So give it a shot and tell me how this work for you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rules for eating out

I've been eating out a lot recently; buffets, somali restaurants, all over the map really. Here is a little set of rules to keep that food from showing up on the belly...

The 5 Cardinal Rules (Must NEVER break)
1. No Drinks (water is ok)
1. No Desert
1. No Bread
1. No Rice
2. No Potatoes

Some more guidelines
1. Avoid the oil. Especially true for pakistani-indian restaurants, where they use the-really-bad-for-you vegetable/corn oil. Avoid the oil as much as possible.
2. Load up on veggies. Order a side of broccoli or a salad. Most restaurants are happy to replace the bread with extra salad.
3. Eat up on the meat. Can't go wrong here.

There you go, so simple :)