What Sort Of Fitness
Plan Should I Embark On?
Before embarking on any voyage, you must assess
your present position before you can chart a course for new horizons. In
bodybuilding terms, this means that you must evaluate your present physical condition before starting a workout
plan. Poor planning usually translates into poor performance.
MEASURING YOUR RESTING HEART RATE
Your resting heart rate is an important measuring stick of your overall
fitness. The only time to get an accurate reading is first thing in the
morning, BEFORE you leave your bed. The best way to get your heart rate would be to use a monitor.
But, if you do not have access to one, then all you have to do is to
count the number of heart beats in 10 seconds and multiply that by 6. Your next question probably
is "what is normal?" and "what do I want my heart rate to be?"
If your resting heart rate is ABOVE these numbers, then your health may
be at risk, and your first priority should be to lower your resting
heart rate. If your resting heart rate is BELOW these numbers, you already have a head start, and can only
improve. If you're a goal-oriented person, and we know you are, here is
a list of possible goals in regard to resting heart rates.
1st goal--60-65 BPM (above average)
2nd goal--55-59 BPM (good)
3rd goal--50-54 BPM (very good)
4th goal--40-49 BPM (excellent) world-class marathoners
MEASURING YOUR PERCENTAGE OF BODY FAT
Your percentage of body fat is another good measuring stick for your
level of fitness. Unfortunately, people often tend to judge their
fitness level according to what the scale says. We want to break you of this habit. This is very important
because the percentage of your body which is fat is a much better
measurement of your fitness level than the above mentioned scale.
The most accurate and expensive method of measuring body fat is
hydrostatic emersion. This method can only be done in a laboratory by a
clinician. The second most accurate method is near infa red made by
Intimex , this is by far the easiest method but expensive to
buy the top of the range model which is needed to test athletes on.. Another method uses electrical impedance. But you need a special machine and a trained
staff. The most affordable and accessible method is to use skin-fold calipers. All you need is a friend willing to pinch you a couple of times (remember to be
consistent with the sites measured). This form of measurement (if done
correctly and consistently) will give you a quality guide for determining lean body mass vs. fat.
BODY FAT MEASUREMENTS (U.S.)
Men 26% Women 36% ----> OBESE
Men 24% Women 34% ----> AVERAGE
Men 18% Women 20% ----> GOOD
Men 14% Women 16% ----> ATHLETIC
Men 10% Women 12% ----> EXCELLENT
Men 06% Women 10% ---> BODYBUILDERS
SETTING BODY FAT GOALS
Even though society tries to impose an ideal body type on people,
everyone has unique genetic determinants. Therefore your body fat
percentage goals will be specific to you. Be advised that certain body fat levels have risks. For
example, if you fall into the obese category, you are open to
respiratory difficulties, high blood pressure, diabetes, hardening of the arteries, coronary disease and
failure, digestive diseases and kidney problems.
Once you have determined your current percent body fat, you should set a
realistic short-term goal that will allow you to show small, and
continuous improvement. For example, if you fall into the Obese category, set a short-term goal of
losing enough fat to qualify as Average. If you are presently Average,
your immediate goal will be Good. Get the idea? Set yourself up to succeed with small, attainable,
A word of caution is needed if your body fat falls below a certain
level: 4% for men and 10% for women--it may cause health complications.
For men they are minor, but for women they may include cessation of menstrual activity and the
inability to conceive. These problems will reverse themselves when fat
levels return to "healthy" levels.
SPECIAL HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS
Your own special physical limitations (such as asthma or diabetes, any
current or nagging injuries as well as handicaps) must be taken into
account before starting an exercise program. If you are currently taking any medications, often
this may affect your ability to exercise. And always consult a physician
before beginning any exercise program.
MUSCLES GROW WITH REST AND NUTRITION
Poor nutrition, insufficient sleep, and excessive stress are
counterproductive to your exercise program. All the weight training in
the world won't result in a muscular body if you don't eat right and sleep enough so your body can recover and grow
EVALUATING YOUR PHYSIQUE
Use a mirror to evaluate your physique at regularly scheduled intervals.
Try not to be too hard on yourself; progress takes time. On the other
hand, try not to become too narcissistic because you'll lose all your friends. When you judge your
physique, try to be objective and make an accurate assessment. Pick
specific body parts (and after making sure you will be able to reproduce a same-site measurement)
and record circumference measurements at regularly scheduled intervals.
You may even want to take photographs of yourself periodically to chronicle your
A SAFE WAY TO DETERMINE YOUR ONE REP MAX
If you need to see how much weight you can lift one time, we recommend
starting with a weight that you know you can perform correctly without
strain for 6 repetitions.
Slowly increase the weight until you arrive at your one rep max.
The key element in goal setting is to set goals that are realistic,
attainable and measurable. Such as lowering your heart rate, or reducing
your body fat percentage as previously discussed. What constitutes short term vs. long term? A
short-term time frame would be considered 4 to 6 weeks. An intermediate
step would be 2 to 6 months.
A long term would be 1 year to a lifetime.
HOW FAR SHOULD YOU GO?
Only you can answer this question. It depends on how hard you are
willing to work. How far do you want to go? At a minimum, you should
strive to reach your ideal bodyweight (based on % body fat), lower your heart rate to an acceptable
level, and develop sufficient muscle tone to perform everyday tasks
easily and have the energy to enjoy life to its fullest.
SHORT TERM GOALS
As you start to reach your short-term goals, you should see differences
in the way your clothing fits, your energy level, and even in your
reflection in the mirror. Your decreased resting heart rate and body fat percentage, as well as your
increased stamina, lean body mass and muscular strength, will motivate
you to continue your progress!
Your intermediate goals (6 month-1 year) will be a continuation of your
short-term goals. Always with an eye and emphasis on progression. When
you are in the intermediate phase, you will continue to progress (although not
necessarily in a linear fashion).
LONG TERM GOALS
Long term goals (1 year to a lifetime) will be either a continuation of
your intermediate phase, a set of new goals (more challenging), or a
program of maintenance. It's up to you. Be aware that as you become more fit, it becomes more difficult
to affect dramatic changes in your appearance. But don't be discouraged.
By changing your workouts and exercises and repetition you will be able to force your
body to continue to adapt.
There will be times when you will reach a plateau or a temporary
sticking point. To break out of a plateau, you must vary your exercises
and techniques. Only by hard work, proper planning, good nutritional practices, adequate rest and
awareness of life's demands, will you be able to coax, abuse and cajole
your body into continuous adaptation.
NUTRITION AND REST ARE ESSENTIAL TO GROW MUSCLE
A good diet is essential for muscle growth. You must also consider
whether you are under an inordinate amount of
stress (you must make allowances for this when setting up your exercise
program). And finally, never work out a body part if it still hasn't
recovered from a previous workout. A famous person once said, "Never put off 'till tomorrow what
you can do today." This person was obviously an unhealthy pencil neck.
Your muscles only grow (or adapt) during rest. So when they are tired or sore, it is their way
of saying "We need more time to recover!"