Fitness Crunch

Published on March 7th, 2013 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles


Finding the Balance for Dramatic Physical Improvement, Part 3 of 4

by Greg Rothman

March 8th. With a full two months of 2013 behind us, and the official beginning of Spring just a few weeks ahead, fitness is on everyone’s mind. Those who didn’t give up their New Year’s resolutions have redoubled their efforts, spending more time in the gym.

If you’re one of them, you have seen the number of people in your gym dwindle by a staggering 78%. That is the number given by many psychologists for the percentage of people who have given up or failed on their resolutions by the end of February. So, if you are one of them, I guess you could say that you are in good company. If you are one of the 22% who have stuck with your plans and are moving forward toward your goals, be proud of yourselves and carry on.

Achieving your fitness goals is not easy, but it is simple. Following the right nutrition program is an essential starting point. If you missed my last article, Part 2 of this 4-part series, which addressed nutrition, please go back and read it.

For most people, a leaner, more toned body is what is desired, the coveted swimmer’s build or gymnast’s body. So, many people want to know the best toning exercises. I want to be very clear and dispel a major myth in the fitness industry here: There is no such thing as a toning exercise. Muscles can only grow or not grow when they are exposed to forces, like lifting weights. Done correctly, strength exercises will make muscles grow. In order for the body to appear leaner, more cut, we need to burn the fat that lies all around the muscle tissue. Bodies with muscle, in the absence of fat, are what we think of as “toned.”

Whether your goal is muscle building, fat loss or both, the first step should always be adding muscle by doing a strength and growth phase. Muscle is metabolically active and adding just a few pounds of muscle to your body will increase your metabolism so that more fat is burned from your body around the clock, even while you sleep. Once we add some strength and muscle to the body, the next step toward that sculpted swimmer’s or gymnast’s build is fat burning, coming up in Part 4 of this series.

In order to add muscle to the body in the most efficient way, there are only a few things that we have to do, but we have to do them very well. Muscle will grow only when subjected to a force (weight) at which the muscle reaches fatigue, also called Momentary Muscle Failure (MMF). So, if we are doing 15 repetitions of an exercise we should choose a weight at which we can complete 15 repetitions with good form but not 16.

When a muscle reaches MMF, a process called Adaptation begins which causes the muscle to grow stronger and larger. This is similar to what happens when we go out into the sun which is at a certain strength for a certain length of time. The Melanin will cause our skin to grow darker in order to protect it from burning. It is much like this with muscle – there are signals which strengthen the muscle so that it is capable of lifting the weight to which it has been subjected.

What happens next? During the time we spend outside the gym between workouts, say 48 hours, the muscles adapt to the last workout by growing stronger and larger. If we were to come back to the gym for our next workout and lift the same weights for the same number of repetitions, no further growth would take place; the muscles are already capable of lifting at that intensity so no further adaptation would occur. This is where the next concept comes into play. In order to continue to grow stronger and larger, the muscles must be subjected to a great force (weight) each time we work out – This is called Progressive Resistance (PR)

From a conceptual standpoint, this is all we really need to know about how to gain strength and size. We just need the nuts and bolts of an exercise program to start the process. It is important to choose some of the best exercises for each part of the body, for each muscle or muscle group. This is the most efficient way to add muscle without spending hours and hours in the gym.

I have put together a program that is very efficient and requires only 3 hours per week in the gym and yields and incredible amount of muscle growth. The body can add muscle aggressively for about 4 weeks for most people. We want to optimize muscle growth in this first phase of the exercise program so adding muscle is our only goal. Fat loss comes later for the reasons discussed above. If you try to add muscle and lose fat at the same time, you will not get very good results for either. The Chinese Proverb applies: ‘He who chases two rabbits catches none.

Before we get to the program, we need one other important tool. As we did with our nutrition, we want to track our exercise program as well. If we do not, we will never know exactly the right weights, sets and repetitions we should be doing to get the best results. So, create a simple workout sheet, bring it to the gym with you and track your numbers so that you will be able to progress from workout to workout and from week to week.

The program starts here in my Fitness Blog. Follow along for the full 4 weeks and you will see a dramatic increase in the amount of muscle on your body. The average 150 pound male gains 6-8 pounds of muscle in these 4 weeks. Your weight on the scale will not change very much because there is an equivalent amount of fat-burning that also takes place during these 4 weeks. If you want to really know exactly how much muscle gain and fat loss is taking place, it will be necessary to know your weight and your body composition (body fat percentage) at the beginning and end of the 4 weeks. One of the best ways to measure body composition is to have a fitness professional take measurements with calipers. If this is not possible, there are also scales and handheld devices which will give you an estimate of these numbers, though they are somewhat less reliable.

Everything you need to know to get optimal results in the program is in my Fitness Blog. Pictures are included so that you can get an idea of the form for each exercise. if you are confused or newer to the gym, you may want to find videos of the movements by using an online search engine or even better by hiring a fitness professional to help you learn the exercises properly.

It is always recommended that you consult a physician before beginning an exercise program in order to ensure your health and safety.

When you have completed the first phase, check back here for Part 4, the last part of the series, for the next phase of the program where we focus on fat loss. We will be changing the exercise program dramatically, as well as adding a new component to the nutrition program.

As we look toward a new year and a new “you”, remember to be thankful for what you have in your life and make a real and conscious effort to make improvements in those areas in which you feel need it. So many things in life are about finding the right balance and I’m looking forward to helping you learn how to do that with your fitness goals this year.


Greg Rothman, MS PT, is a fitness professional, writer and the owner of Empower Fitness Studios in NYC. He received his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Columbia University and has twenty years of experience in the fitness and rehabilitation fields. He believes that absolutely anyone can have the body of their dreams once they understand how to eat and exercise in a way that supports their goals. It is his mission to Empower as many people as possible to do just that. His “Recession-Proof” Fitness Programs are an affordable way to find dramatic physical change over the course of 10 weeks. Greg is happy to hear from you if you have questions about any topic related to fitness or nutrition, and can be found at


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