Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim for...

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Aikanaro
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Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim for...

Postby Aikanaro » Tue Oct 18, 2011 9:44 pm UTC

So a few weeks ago I started on the Hundred Pushup Challenge and a couple related programs, and they were working out for me, especially since at first I had definite, noticeable strength gains (could do more reps each day than I was physically capable of the previous day). Towards the end of that program, though, the gains started to plateau, so instead I started transferring it over to just using some of the equipment in my (then) apartment complex, trying to do more weight with fewer reps, to get it done faster, going for strength over endurance. A point of note is that I've heard that simply HAVING muscle helps burn fat, so I was aiming more for muscle mass than for straight-up cardio or anything.

Unfortunately, life threw a curveball or two, and now I'm housing with a friend of mine, so I don't have an exercise room within easy walking distance for minor workouts. We got a joint membership at a rec center, but he prefers longer workouts than I'm used to (I would do like 15-20 min on one of the challenges, get bored/tired, play video games for a bit, then do another challenge). Now, the rec center has a lot of equipment, but I don't know of a good starting target to aim for on most of the machines, or good weight numbers to start on, etc., etc.. Today was my first day there, and I used roughly 100 lbs as an initial benchmark, tried out a number of machines for upper body strength (I have knees like Boba Fett's, so I tend to avoid leg workouts), and on most of them I was able to do somewhere between 13 and 20 reps, depending on on the machine, how tired out I was from previous ones, etc.. To give an idea, I'm about 5 ft 7, and weight fluctuates between 155 and 160. Anyone have a general guide to goals I should aim for? I know I tend to do better with definite, measurable targets to try to reach, rather than just trying to see how many reps I can do on a machine each day....

Side note: I'm actually surprised there isn't any kind of sticky on this kind of subject.
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Nath
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Re: Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim fo

Postby Nath » Tue Oct 18, 2011 11:58 pm UTC

The reason there are no goal weights is that the goal is that more strength is always better. It's not like you want to be able to lift 200lb, but 210lb is too much of a good thing; whatever your initial strength level is, there's room to grow.

However, there are guidelines that will tell you how much weight you can realistically expect to move after a certain amount of training:
http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/StrengthStandards.htm

Note that these only exist for compound movements with free weights, because (a) machine exercises are harder to quantify, and (b) machine exercises don't matter much.

One way to determine starting weights is to do several sets of your target rep range (say, 5) on your first day, increasing the weight each set until the bar slows down. That's your first workout. Each workout after that, put a few more pounds on the bar, and do your prescribed sets and reps (e.g. 3 sets of 5). (This protocol is borrowed from the book Starting Strength.)

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Aikanaro
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Re: Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim fo

Postby Aikanaro » Wed Oct 19, 2011 12:34 am UTC

Okay, just so I'm clear, are you suggesting 3 sets of 5 as an initial benchmark? See, I don't even know how many reps I should start with initially, how long I should rest between sets, etc.. I'm pretty much flying blind.....
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Nath
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Re: Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim fo

Postby Nath » Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:13 am UTC

Aikanaro wrote:Okay, just so I'm clear, are you suggesting 3 sets of 5 as an initial benchmark? See, I don't even know how many reps I should start with initially, how long I should rest between sets, etc.. I'm pretty much flying blind.....

I was using 3 sets of 5 as an example, but it is actually a pretty good scheme for general strength training. Like I said, that's the program in Starting Strength, and I recommend that book to anyone new to strength training. Five minutes' rest is reasonable; you can probably get away with less when the weight is light, and may need a little more when the weight is heavy. (Put on a sweatshirt or something to keep your joints warm if necessary.)

Also, I forgot to mention this, but having knee issues makes leg exercises more useful, not less useful. You just need to be cautious of machines that make strange demands on your knees, i.e. Smith Machines, leg extensions, leg presses etc. Free weights are safer.

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philsov
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Re: Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim fo

Postby philsov » Wed Oct 19, 2011 3:33 pm UTC

Speaking of SS, here are the cliff notes:

http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/ ... ength_Wiki

check out the getting started section on the right side. More directly:

The First Workout
During the very first workout a general warm-up performed walking on a treadmill is all that is necessary. The first set of squats begins at 45 lbs (an empty barbell) and a set of five is performed. If this is completed easily with the trainee's best form, ten pounds are added to the bar for the next set. If bar speed does not slow and form does not break down, ten more pounds are added to the bar and another set is performed. This process continues until either form begins to falter or the bar speed slows more than the preceding sets, whichever comes first. This is the trainee's starting weight. Once this occurs the trainee rests and performs two more sets at this weight, for a total of three sets of five reps (3x5) at the starting weight. For the squat, a typical starting weight is in the neighborhood of 85 lbs.


Basically, start light until you find where your cap is, and then progress from there. Always err to the light side when you're determining this sort of stuff. Yes, you'll feel silly benching the bar. Yes, it's worthwhile to do so as opposed to loading it up with 150 pounds and crushing something in the process.

Regarding machines: Nath summarizes the sentiment rather well, but if there is a machine that isolates something you want to work on the same method applies. However, it should be noted that your progress measurement should be less in the ability to do more reps and more in the ability to do more resistance. Machine weight transfers horribly into reality (my cable flies are like... 20 lbs more than my dumbbell flies), but within themselves giving "10 more lbs" is a positive thing. I'm pretty sure this image is from the SS book, but it's useful to consider for whatever your goals are. RM = rep max; you're obviously able to do more with less reps than the opposite.

Image
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Aikanaro
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Re: Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim fo

Postby Aikanaro » Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:32 pm UTC

I....am able to make a LITTLE sense of that chart, but thanks for the other advice, guys!

Managed to survive the exercises listed on that first link, 5 sets of 5 reps each for press, bench press, squats, and dead lift (the power clean looked like madness to me...), and I feel sore, but not crazy-sore, like I imagine I probably should. Any suggestions on other workouts I should do, or are the base 4 others listed probably a good basic workout? Also, should I probably only do it every other day, or is it probably reasonable to do it daily, if I'm not crazy-sore?

Thanks again!
Dear xkcd,

On behalf of my religion, I'm sorry so many of us do dumb shit. Please forgive us.

Love, Aikanaro.

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philsov
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Re: Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim fo

Postby philsov » Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:37 pm UTC

that's the good level of sore. You'll probably encounter DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) when you wake up or about lunch time tomorrow, but those will subside in general. But when you first start they can kinda cripple you.

You should only workout every other day. Once you graduate out of SS and into a more intermediate program, then you'll be going on consectutive days, but even then each muscle group won't be worked back to back. Your body needs time to recover and grow, and doing the same stuff every day is simply not optimum. But once you factor in warmup sets and rest inbetween sets, you still clock in for about an hour with SS. It seems a bit counter-intuitive that the best thing to do is be otherwise sedentary and gym for less than 3 hours a week, but that's the path to the best and quickest gains, complete with the best compound exercises for a full-body outlook.

A common complaint about the program is that it's lower-body intensive, but then again a lot of strength comes from your legs and core, and the name of the program is starting strength... it really shouldn't be that much of a surprise. The only thing I could potentially suggest are tricep dips on A days, but don't do them if doing so will detract even a gram from the real workouts.

Oh, and diet. The creator of SS actually goes so far as to suggest a typical daily diet and then throwing an entire gallon of whole milk on top of that, but really that's only worthwhile on skeletal teenage males. I don't know how fat/muscular you are being at your height and weight, but I'd suggest upping the protein a lot (about 1g per pound of weight), with total calories being high (3k+, wanting strength gains), med (2300-2700, less gains, lose some fat), or low (>2000, even less gains, but more fat loss)
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Nath
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Re: Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim fo

Postby Nath » Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:24 pm UTC

Aikanaro wrote:I....am able to make a LITTLE sense of that chart, but thanks for the other advice, guys!

Managed to survive the exercises listed on that first link, 5 sets of 5 reps each for press, bench press, squats, and dead lift (the power clean looked like madness to me...), and I feel sore, but not crazy-sore, like I imagine I probably should. Any suggestions on other workouts I should do, or are the base 4 others listed probably a good basic workout? Also, should I probably only do it every other day, or is it probably reasonable to do it daily, if I'm not crazy-sore?

Great. 5 sets of 5 will be too much once you get a bit stronger, particularly for deadlifts. Those four exercises make a pretty balanced program. Chin-ups would be a good thing to add; say, three sets of max reps. Power cleans are for power rather than max strength; they are not as scary as they look, and are explained in great detail in the book.

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Aikanaro
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Re: Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim fo

Postby Aikanaro » Thu Oct 20, 2011 3:17 am UTC

Okies, any suggestions then for alternate exercises to perform on B days? I was going to try and get into the habit of working out every day, to try and keep momentum going.....
Dear xkcd,

On behalf of my religion, I'm sorry so many of us do dumb shit. Please forgive us.

Love, Aikanaro.

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Nath
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Re: Unfamiliar with gym equipment and good targets to aim fo

Postby Nath » Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:01 am UTC

Aikanaro wrote:Okies, any suggestions then for alternate exercises to perform on B days? I was going to try and get into the habit of working out every day, to try and keep momentum going.....

Here's a simple SS-like program:
Squat every workout: 3 sets of 5
Press or bench press (alternate workouts): 3 sets of 5
Deadlift (1 set of 5) or chin-ups (3 max sets): alternate workouts

Add more weight every time.

As you get stronger, this will be too much to do every day. If you want to do additional stuff between workouts to keep the momentum going, maybe do some conditioning. Kettlebell (or dumbbell) swings are simple and quick. Or run or swim if you prefer. Or play a casual sport.


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