Mother Nature Providing Sick Gain Conditions

Over the past few weeks Canada has been getting hit with some cold weather, and with that came the snow.  This miserable weather provided us with some heavy disgusting snow, and for many Canadians, it ruined parts of their day.  They had to spend minutes of their day cleaning snow off their cars and wait for them to warm up.  They had to dust off the snow blowers from last year to clear snow off the driveway.  They even had to use their phones to call in to their places of employment and ask to work from home because the commute was so treacherous.  For those of you thinking of us in your prayers, thank-you, we do appreciate it.

But while my countrymen were complaining about these conditions, as a gym bro, I was seeing nothing but potential for some sick gains.  You see, I don’t just go to a gym.  The world is my gym.  You put me anywhere on the planet and I guarantee you I’ll find a way to get a pump.  Some call me crazy for this, but they called Steve Jobs crazy too.

When mother nature gave us this thic white power my heart started racing (snow not cocaine).  Being the visionary I am, I saw potential for several juicy pumps to be had, let me explain them to you.

Triceps Pump: This snow was wet.  It wasn’t that winter wonderland lets have fun with the whole family kinda snow.  It was the gross, I’m all wet, let’s slip on the neighbour’s sidewalk and sue them for all they have kinda snow.  But the wetter the better when it comes to the triceps pump.  Pushing the snow with your shovel activates the triceps.  The action of pushing then lifting the snow works the various branches of the triceps.  Only problem is I’m not coordinated enough to push with my left hand, only the right.  So, my right arm got the pump and my left didn’t.  But it doesn’t bother me being a little lopsided.  I mean I rather be lopsided than small.

Ab Pump:  I don’t even know if this is a thing because I can’t see my abs.  So, I guess you could call it core activation instead.  Pushing the snow, lifting it up on the shovel, and dropping in on the neighbour’s driveway requires tons of core activation.  It was an entire core workout.  Rotating with the snow on my shovel works the oblique and lower and upper abdominals.  Talk about some sick gains.

Bicep Pump: Load the shovel with snow and get to curling.  Curling a shovel with snow on it is like curling in the squat rack.  It’s unnecessary, but I do it anyway.  I’ve often thought the best workouts are the ones you use your whole body for.  And by whole body I mean arms.  Get the bicep pump, then stand back and admire your veins.

Cardio Pump?:  I think it would just be cardio since I guess your blood is always pumping.  Burn some calories and get a sweat going then sleep like a baby knowing you’ve done your one cardio workout for the month.

Good Deed pump: Be a good citizen and shovel your neighbour’s driveway.  You get the gains for yourself, and even if they didn’t ask you to do it, they will owe you one for it.  You can call this chip in whenever you need.  Oh, the boys are “being too loud” and it’s a “Wednesday” night.  Remember that time I shoveled your driveway?  Yah boys the party is still going.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Skipping is the new Jogging

Pound for pound, skipping is one of the best forms of calorie burners.  I haven’t used a skipping rope since I was a little kid.  I figured only boxers and kids 5 and under use the skipping rope but then I started doing research on ways to burn calories and forms of cardio that weren’t the stair climber or running.  Living in Canada, running is great for 8 months of the year, the other 4 is just not something I’m interested in.  I don’t mind running in the cold, but running in -20-degree is just a bit much for this guy.

I stumbled upon a Youtube channel called Jump Rope Dudes, Formerly Zen Dudes Fitness.  These guys know their shit when it comes to skipping.  Their channel teaches you proper form, proper equipment, jump height and various other techniques.  I had some concerns when it came to skipping such as the effect that it would have on my knees and ankles.  These concerns were null when they walked me through proper technique.  Turns out you don’t have to jump a foot off the ground like I was doing when I was a kid.  Just bouncing an inch off the ground is enough and keeping a straight and loose body makes it a low impact form of cardio.

Skipping burns about 15 calories a minute, which is far more than the treadmill and stair climber.  It can be a form of HIIT when you push it and blasts calories and melts that fat like butter on a fire.  I have been looking for a new finisher for my workouts and skipping has been great for the week I’ve been doing it.  I try and keep the rope moving for 5-10 minutes and at the end of that I burn over 100 calories.  Not bad for such a short time.  I was naive when it came to the cardio workout that skipping is.  After 60 seconds, I’m sweating and out of breath.  Not sure if this is because I need to get used to skipping or because I avoid cardio likes it’s Ebola.  At the end of the skip, I feel exhausted and is a great way to end a workout.

My plan for skipping is to build a solid foundation of technique and pace.  5-10 minutes is enough for me right now but as I get more comfortable I can start to add to this.  I must admit I am self-conscious about skipping in front of people.  I am no professional so I am constantly fucking up and getting frustrated.  My gym is great because it has a yoga room so I just go in there and I can skip alone in peace.  After skipping for a week, I am making small improvements, but small improvements lead to big results.  It’s encouraging to look on Youtube and see all the skipping transformation videos.  I will include my favorite at the end of this post.  The results aren’t all because of skipping because diet plays an important role but nonetheless, results are results.  Skipping has become my new jogging, and I don’t have to endure the cold of winter to do so 🙂

Johnny

Soon to be “Johhny Two Plates”

Tips for 2018’s New Gym Crowd

“if I feel I’m making progress then I am making progress”

Were fresh in the year 2018, and the gym has been like a zoo.  Although it sucks waiting for machines, benches and even waiting in line at the water fountain, I love seeing all the new faces in the gym.  It’s important to remember that these people are making an effort to better themselves and achieve their goals.  Everyone has their own story and it’s not my place to judge anyone because lord knows I was in their shoes at some point.  Some of the new faces are first time gym goers trying to live the gym life for the first time in their lives.  Some are those who fell off with their fitness and are trying to get back into it.  These newcomers all seem to have similar looks on their faces.

When you first start at the gym, motivation is high, but confidence is low.  These newcomers share a daunting look that this is going to be a lot harder than they thought.  You look in the mirror after a couple of workouts and there are no results to be seen, and it really is disheartening.  They realize it will take daily work and persistence to reach their goals, and it doesn’t come easy.  But as someone who has gone through it, I can share some tips on how to better go through this period and stick with it for the long haul.

Tip 1: Pump Theory

  • This is a theory that I came up with myself and really has no academic fact to it, it is just a personal philosophy I went to the gym with. When you lift, your muscles fill with blood and it gives you a feeling of a pump.  This pump feeling is what I focused on.  When you get a pump, your making progress, so I chased this with every workout.  You won’t see this in the mirror off the bat, but instead it is something that you can feel, so focus on that.  A tip for getting a nice pump is to do dropsets.  Dropsets will give you a thick and juicy pump feeling.  Hit a dropset for your first few lifts and let this feeling of juiciness motivate you for the rest of the workout.

Tip 2: Stay off the scale

  • New year’s comes with resolutions. How many of us have said this is the year I’m going to lose that 10-20 pounds?  If your stepping on the scale daily waiting to see the number drop you’re going to be discouraged.  The first few days you might see results from dropping water weight but then it will trail off and discouragement sets in.  Instead step on the scale every two weeks or a month, take note of the changes, but don’t make that your sole focus in the gym.  I focus on feel, if I feel I’m making progress then I am making progress.  Body change isn’t some linear perfect line on a graph, it is a staggering and frustrating process that takes time.  Focus on the feel, not the number.

Tip 3: Look at your eyes, not your body

  • When your head is on a swivel in the gym, your focusing on everyone but yourself, even though you’re the reason you’re at the gym. It is tough to see those who are smaller than you lifting twice as much as you, but that’s how it goes in the beginning.  You need to accept and come to terms with this.  I would find myself looking at others, then looking at myself and judging myself.  This lowered my confidence and it would ruin my workouts.  When you put the blinders on in the gym, you are forced to focus on yourself.  I wouldn’t look at my body, I would look at my eyes in the mirror.  This allows you tap into a motivated and focused mind state.  Each set, each rep is yours to progress.  I found myself having fun with myself.  I’d catch myself smiling when I couldn’t get that last rep up, but I knew next time that rep is mine to own.  The mind is your biggest obstacle when it comes to gains, so stay in your zone.  If you can believe you can get there, then that’s half the battle right there.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

Holidays and Comfort

Many people I have been talking to and the blog posts I’ve been reading, have mentioned that they just aren’t active during the holiday season.  With friends, family, booze, food and shopping all becoming distractions this time of year, it is easy to push the gym and physical activity down to the bottom of the list of things to do.

For myself, being from Canada, we have been getting blasted with some severely cold weather.  It has been a challenge for me to stay in the gym putting in the work but I’ve been doing it.  I would love to be curled up by the fire at home all snug and cozy, but I have a goal and only putting in work will get me there.

As I am progressing through this journey I am being more and more confident in how you need to be able to say no to the things that make you comfortable.  Sitting at home and watching a movie with a drink in my hand would make me feel comfortable.  Running outside for 45 minutes in -15-degree weather is not comfortable.  Eating turkey with gravy and finishing a bottle of wine would make me feel comfortable.  Spending 2 hours working legs on Christmas eve is not comfortable.  With this being said, at the end of the day, I can tell myself before I got to bed that I am closer today than I was yesterday.

There is a time to feel cozy and comfortable.  But this doesn’t always propel you towards your goal.  Moderation is key, so is making yourself feel comfortable being uncomfortable.  I still curl up next to the fire and let myself drift off to sleep all snug and cozy, but only after I’ve accomplished what I needed to for the day.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

via Daily Prompt: Cozy

Community Gets You Through Tough Times

The date is December 23rd, 2017.  It has been almost three months since I left my job and new work has yet to find me.  When I left my job, I was ignorant to the affects that it would have on me being out of work for the first time in eight years.

Work for me was a time filler, when you’re doing 40-60 hours a week it gives you a daily activity and sense of purpose.  I had many co-workers that were friendly and engaging, and this gave me a sense of community and a social atmosphere to be around every day.  The problem was, that this job wasn’t pushing me like I wanted it too.  I was too comfortable, and it wasn’t preparing me for where I wanted to go, and what I want to be.

When I left, there was this giant void in my life.  I lost the daily social interaction and sense of purpose when I got up in the morning.  After a month of apply for jobs and not even hearing back, I was frustrated, anxious and depressed at where I was in life.  I had to figure out what make me tick, and what things can I be doing on my own to help with this period.  I turned to fitness and blogging as an outlet, and I couldn’t be happier that I did.

When I first started blogging, I thought it was all about the likes and followers, but there was only one problem.  I wasn’t getting any of either.  This is when I started to engage with the community around me on WordPress.  I started to read the content that others were producing and I learned a few lessons.

  • I’m not the only one struggling, and listening to the struggles and stories of others can put your life into perspective and motivate you. You see what others are doing daily to make their lives better, and that pushed me.
  • WordPress is a communal site. If you think people are going to flock to your blog because write a few paragraphs, you are sadly mistaken.  Engaging with others and being a member of the community of positivity and encouragement is as important as your content.  Be the voice you want to hear when someone talks about your work.
  • The online community is a place to be open and honest. In real life, I find myself living according to the expectations of others, but on my blog, I am myself.  If I am having a shit day I can say so, and I know the community of WordPress can relate and give me the boost I need.  I don’t need to exaggerate the lifting stats for you, just be honest and humble with every view and comment I get.

In closing, the communal effort of WordPress bloggers has gotten me through a tough low in my life.  I put my head down, put on my blinders and spent weeks asking myself where do I want to be, who do I want to be, and what am I right now.  I am still figuring out the answers to these questions but I didn’t do it on my own.  Taking in the experiences of communal bloggers has given me new perspective on life, and that is something that money cannot buy.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

via Daily Prompt: Communal

Day 14: Back Day – Confidence

I walked into the gym feeling confident, which for me is huge.  After my rest day, my body had recovered well and I was feeling strong.  For a lifter looking to make some gains, confidence is huge.  It gives you that extra boost you need to push yourself through obstacles, challenges and setbacks to achieve what you have set out to achieve.  But the reality is that for all things in life, confidence is huge.  There have been stages in my life where my self-confidence is real low, and this affects you outside the gym, but since this is a fitness blog, I’ll stick to talking on confidence within the sanctuary of iron.

There was a time in my life where I was a bigger guy, and I’m not talking about muscle.  During the college days, I skipped the freshmen fifteen and put on the freshmen thirty.  I was considered overweight, had no confidence in my body, and just kept to myself most of the time.  My lowest point was when I stepped on the scale and weighed in at 210 pounds (for reference I’m 160 now).  The feeling I had in that moment of just wanting to break down and cry and hating everything about my body is something I won’t forget.  I would try to go to the gym to workout but that’s where I saw what having no self-confidence can do to you at the gym.

During the periods when I had no confidence in myself, I felt like everyone was watching me.  I thought everyone was looking at me and thinking “he’ so weak for his weight” or “man he’s out of shape.”  I was afraid to work out around other people for fear of judgement, and these were people I didn’t even know.  I would show up to the gym and leave within thirty minutes because I would get anxiety from thinking everyone was watching me in the mirrors.  It kept me from the gym for weeks at a time and it was a tough cycle that kept going for months.

What changed things around for me was when I got a job working nightshift.  I would work out before I went in at midnight, or after work when I got off at 3am depending on the shifts I had.  At this time, the gym is a ghost town, just me and the weights.  This is where I built a foundation of muscle and confidence in my lifting.  I could practice form with low weight without the fear of embarrassing myself around others.  I gained a little strength and saw a little change in my body and the effect that had was astounding.

Eventually I started working out during the day and even thou my confidence was still low, I put my headphones in, put my head down and focused on the work at hand.  This grinding mentality is something that stuck with, and it’s all thanks to the gym.  I had to realize that every guy in that gym started somewhere too, and that through consistency, I could make positive changes, but only if I stuck with it.

Now, it’s easy for me to spot someone at the gym who has no confidence in themselves.  They try to do workouts but don’t know how.  They try to lift weights they think they can lift, but they can’t do it.  They show up and leave shortly after, and when they leave they have a look of defeat on their face.  This is why encouragement in the gym is something that we need more of.  If I ever see someone struggling, or fail on a lift and I can see they are struggling with confidence, a pat on the back can go a long way.  Telling them “you’ll get it next time” or “keep at it, it will come” can make a huge difference for that person.  How do I know? Because I’ve been where they are.  I had guy’s show me technique when I was struggling, I’ve had guys motivate me by encouragement.  Guys I didn’t even know, but they encouraged me instead of judging me, and that little nudge they gave me pushed me through the tough times.

At the end of the day, the only person you’re competing with at the gym is the one you see in the mirror.  So, if you’re reading this, next time you’re in the gym I challenge you to drop the ego and judgement and create a positive community that other can feed off of.

Warmup:

  • Stair climber for 5 minutes
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Shoulder stretches

Workout:

  • Deadlifts (pyramid up and down): 135 for 12, 155 for 12, 185 for 10 for 3 sets, 205 for 10, 225 for 6 for 2 sets, 245 for 4 for 2 sets, 265 for 2, 285 for 1 for 2 sets, 155 for 6, 135 for 10
  • Lat Pull Down: 115 for 10 for 2 sets, 130 for 6 for 2 sets
  • V Bar Pull Down:  115 for 8 for 3 sets
  • Lat Pull Machine (drop sets to 40 after till failure): 50 for 12, 60 for 8, 70 for 8, 80 for 4 for 3 sets
  • Bent over row (barbell) 65 for 15, 85 for 12, 105 for 8, 125 for 4, 105 for 6, 85 for 10, 65 for 10
  • Aussie Pullups: 15, 15, 15, 15
  • Lower Back Extension Machine: 205 for 12 for 4 sets
  • Superman: 3 sets of 10
  • Shoulder shrugs: 45’s for 15, 55’s for 12 for 3 sets

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 11: Shoulders

After three good days in the gym, my body was just not ready to go for this workout.  Each weight felt like it had ten pounds added onto it.  I was fighting everything but that’s how it goes in the gym on some days.  The important thing is to get in there, spend some time, and rep out every set that you can.  It’s not going to be easy, and you’ll constantly be thinking about quitting, but getting through to the end is a small accomplishment that can fill you with pride.  Knowing your one workout closer to achieving your vision is what keeps you going.

Warmup:

  • 5 minutes on the stair climber.
  • Static stretching to loosen up shoulders

Workout:

  • Shoulder Press / Arnold Press Superset – Warm up by climbing to max weight 3 sets. 4 sets at 60lbs/25lbs with reps of 5/10
  • Military Press / Chin Ups Superset – 4 Sets at 95lbs/ as many chin ups as you can get
  • Cable Lateral Raises 3 Angles Consecutive – 7.5lbs for 10 at each angle
  • Lateral Raises Front and Side –  3 sets at 15lbs.  10 Reps front, 10 reps side
  • Shoulder shrugs 45’s for 20

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 6: Legs – Getting Under the Bar

“I can’t wait to go to the gym and work legs today” – No one ever

I’ve been told that legs make up around half of the body.  I’m not a doctor, or good at math, so I’m not sure if this is exactly true or not.  What I can tell you is the truth is that I DON’T LIKE LEG DAY.  Squats are my least favourite exercise, and if they weren’t such an effective compound movement, I would never do that exercise again.

When I first started working out, I had one of those hour-long fitness consultations with a trainer and he asked me to do a body squat (no weights) so he could coach my form.  I couldn’t even do one.  I was embarrassed, I felt like everyone in the personal training section was judging me.  For a couple months after that I never touched my legs in the gym.  I figured that just avoiding my weaknesses was fine.  But once you start working out for a while you get hungry for growth.  You want to push yourself, you want to grow, and I mean both mentally and physically.

So, after a couple months I finally got under the bar, tried a squat with no weight and made a fool of myself.  I couldn’t get to depth and was doing those quarter squats that you see newbies doing, and I couldn’t get my left shoulder behind the bar so I was squatting on an angle.  Long story short, I dropped the bar in the rack, it made a huge noise, and everyone looked at me.  Just because I the will to do a squat, doesn’t mean I was going to be able to do one.  I wasn’t prepared, and I learned the body and mind must work in unison.

This might have deterred me from squatting a couple months prior, but at the time it got me angry.  I did my homework.  I used youtube to learn proper form, how to build a strong foundation, and learned how to make progression.  I read fitness blogs on leg workouts for beginners.  I watch people in the gym to see what their form was like.  And every week I kept getting under the bar, and every week I got better.  I could squat the bar, then 10’s, then 25’s, then 35’s then 45’s, but then I trailed off.  I got comfortable with the exercise, but with that comfort came complacency.  I thought it was good enough that I got to a level where I could throw a 45 on each side and get down to depth for 10.  But it’s been almost three years now and I’ve been squatting within the same 50lbs range for years.  I realize I had lost all hunger and drive for growth, and I was fine being in the same place today as I was yesterday.

When I set this goal to bench 225, it came from the idea that I need to start pushing myself harder in the gym and bring it every single time I walk in.  Although I haven’t set a goal for my lower body, i’m bringing a stronger mentality with me when I get under the bar.  The mentality to push harder every day and through this, the physical and mental growth that I’m craving will come.

Warmup:

  • 5-minute stair climb
  • Foam Roll my legs.  Acting confident as I roll, as I’m pretending to know what I’m doing.

Workout:

  • Squats (pyramid up and down) – 95 for 10, 115 for 10, 135 for 10 x 3 sets, 155 for 5, 175 for 3, 135 for 8
  • Leg Press (pyramid up and down) – 90 for 15, 180 for 10, 270 for 8, 360 for 4, 180 for 6
  • Walking Lunges / Band Sidesteps (superset)– 50lbs for 10 steps each leg, Light band for 10 steps each leg
  • Quad Extensions (one leg at a time)(pyramid up and down) 40 for 12, 50 for 8, 60 for 4, 50 for 5, 40 for 9
  • Hamstring curls (one leg at a time) 50 for 10 reps x 3 sets
  • Seated Calf Raised – 70 for 10 reps x 3 sets

At the end of the lift, my legs were dead and it was a good lift.  Doing a little stretching can save you from walking like a penguin for the next three days.  Foam rolling is always helpful to loosen up those muscle fibers and gain back some of that mobility you’re sure to be craving.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 5: Shoulders

Today I hit shoulders.  It was one of those workouts where I was dead tired and just wanted to get in and get out.  When you feel like you have no energy, shoulders is a good muscle group to go to because they are smaller and can be activated with lighter weights if done properly.

Today I followed another Youtube idol and his shoulder workout.  His name is Bounty Tank and I don’t know what it is about it but I love his videos.  This workout was all about the basic shoulder movements.  Shoulders is a muscle group for myself where drop sets and supersets burn the muscle and gives me a great pump.

For the shoulder press in this workout, I did them seated which I find more comfortable.  I have a history of shoulder dislocations so having more stability in the lift helps a guy like me.  For the shoulder press I got up to 65’s today for 5 reps which was solid.  I added a superset after shoulder press with 25’s till burnout.  But for the rest I followed along to what Bounty Tank was doing in his video.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 4: Biceps

Today was gun day.  Every now and then I like to focus a day on the guns and see what kind of pump I can get out of them.  There’s nothing quite like the euphoric of seeing a bicep vein for the first time.

For this workout, instead of freestyling it like I normally would, I followed a routine from one of my go to Youtube idols.  Phil Heath is a 5 x Mr. Olympia and he’s not shy about putting his routines up on the tube.  This workout is great for anyone looking to get a nice arm pump in before heading to the beach or to a shirtless party.  For this workout, I didn’t even count reps really, more or less just went to failure.  Follow the workout that Phil outlines and note what weight you get up to with your low rep sets.  The max I got up to in the workout was 35’s with the rep range of 4-6.  With arms, you don’t need to lift heavy which is a common mistake.  Pick a weight that is comfortable and focus on the stretch and contraction.  Better form means a better pump.

Johnny,

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”