Posted in Fit basics

Gym, Life and Everything

Let us use some space at the very beginning of this blog to mention a few useful concepts concerning exercising and training. We suggest that you take a look at them whether you are novice or advanced sports enthusiast as that will help us all to stand on a common ground when discussing various topics in the future.

Should you obey the rules or be creative?

The nature of being human
is to do the unexpected
and every birth carries with it
the possibility of a changed world.
- Hannah Arendt

When one consideres sports theory and practice, that broad area can be observed at several levels of “magnification”. From far away, one can observe that there are various long term goals that active people set for themselves and there are numerous disciplines through which they opt for achieving them… Some of them simply want to look good. Others enjoy being athletic and using their bodies to perform remarkable feats for sheer pleasure. Yet some folks literally live (and sometimes die) for sport; they are professionals willing to push themselves beyond the limits, compete with the likes and make for a living from that. Those are all legitimate goals.

While pursuing any of those, people follow some plan or program. Perhaps that’s just a general statement – I’ll go to a gym with my buddy two to three times a week, do some exercises and I hope I will look awesome in swimwear. Maybe you are more serious about your body so you have copied several routines from a textbook or a web page and now do your best to adhere to them for months and years. But if your living depends on your rankings, chances are good that you will invest a lot in a personal trainer conducting customized training program, a nutritionist preparing highly optimized diet and a chiropractor taking care of the consequences. Those are all legitimate plans.

If we keep zooming in on what people do when they engage in fitness and sport, we find that any plan and any training routine ultimately consists of exercises. No matter how casual or serious you are about athleticism, you will practice some exercises periodically in order to achieve your goals. And this is where an interesting observation can be made – there are not that many productive, efficient and safe exercises people usually do as one might think; both professionals and beginners seem to be doing very same exercises in the gym. Why would that be the case? The answer is simple – those are the VERY RARE safe and efficient exercises that exist.

The world of fitness is of course very dynamic and it constantly evolves. And yes, there are indeed new exercises that people invent, that quickly spread around the world and acquire many devotees. But most of them fade into oblivion as rapidly as they come to focus. The reason is quite simple – human body has a finite number of movements that it is designed to perform really well and without damage. That doesn’t mean that the number of good exercises is small, it is simply not infinitely large and thanks to generations of smart and diligent athletes, humankind has already figured out most of those that benefit our bodies.

Talk the talk, then walk the walk

We suggest that you think about it this way.

  • A typical language has some tens of thousands of words in its vocabulary; only a fraction of that number is really used in everyday conversations.
  • Speakers of that language combine them to formulate billions and billions of thoughts every day.
  • Despite using same words and similar sentences, stories that they tell to each other about their lives, experiences and achievements are doubtlessly unique and limitless.

In the world of physical culture, exercises are equal to words. There are just that many words, but there is no need to invent new ones all too often as these ones that we already have suit all possible purposes quite well. So that’s where you would neither want nor need to be creative. If you aim at becoming a world class writer one day, learning the existing words and understanding profoundly their deepest meanings is what you should concentrate on first as those are the building blocks which you will use to construct your masterpiece.

Exercising routines and programs are equal to thoughts and sentences built out of words. First of all, each of them ought to have a purpose and then its structure should be more or less adherent to some general recommendations. If you accept that there is no point in stacking words in nonsensical piles, then it should be obvious that there is also no point in aimless hopping from one exercise to another. But if several simple rules are obeyed many sentences will make sense, and similarly many routines will eventually make you fit. Some of them undoubtedly more quickly than others, but it is up to you to choose what seems to work best for you.

Your body is your novel. What you do with your body, how you reverie about its future and what you undertake to make those dreams come true is where limits vanish. You should experiment and explore new possibilities. You should push yourself hard to recognize and develop those hidden talents that you bear deep inside. There are no written rules for that. Because there are no written rules for becoming a human being.

Posted in Exercises

Time under Tension

The most typical advice on how to exercise in the gym is to carry out the same exercise in three to four series, so that each series consists of 8 to 12 repetitions or “reps”. But is there any real science behind that or is it just some arbitrary make-belief?

Consider this. In order to stimulate a muscle to grow, you need to exercise it using weight that is pretty heavy given its current strength. It should not be impossible for you to do the lift, but you do need to feel every rep really hard. If the resistance is chosen right, you will not be able to do more than approximately ten repetitions in a series.

Now an interesting fact: what turns out to be really important for muscle growth is actually not the absolute number of repetitions, but instead the time interval over which your muscles will be forced to scream for help but still be able to not give up totally. It really depends on your mental strength how hard and how long in each series you will be willing to push your body. The stronger the will, the stronger the body. But if you have managed to do more than 20 slow reps without compromising the form, that doesn’t mean that you are one insanely tough #^&%#, it just means that you’ve used too little weight. Because biology.

So, let us draw two important conclusions out of this. First, you don’t need to be extremely precise when selecting weight for a particular exercise. If you have started a series and you feel that you’ve picked a bit too light a weight, that’s ok; simply do a few more faster than usual reps until your muscles start slowing down and eventually stop responding to your commands. On the other hand, if you’ve picked too much weight, carry on with those really slow reps until you can not keep the proper form anymore. Hopefully, you will know your body enough not to miss weight by much… Now comes the interesting part – while it might not be obvious to you, bystanders would attest that in both previous cases a series lasted somewhere around a minute.

Our second conclusion concerns the continuity of tension throughout a series. A minute under continuous tension means a minute under uninterrupted tension. So if you really want to stimulate your muscles to become stronger and grow, it is important not to let them rest even for a second between two consecutive reps, until the entire series is complete. It means that you should not let e.g. your arms dangle freely at the bottom while doing biceps curls. Keep some minimum tension instead by not alowing your elbows to become fully extended. This universal advice applies to all exercises, no exceptions.

Posted in Fit basics

A Day in the Gym

We all know that there are various activities one can practice in the gym: working out with weights, stretching, warming up, cardio, aerobic… For those folks that may find themselves a bit perplexed about what they are “supposed” to do in a typical gym, here is a short article on what seems to work best in practice.

Firstly, before engaging in any demanding exercise routine, you would want to “warm up” your body. The purpose of warming up is twofold – elevating body temperature for a few degrees which makes muscles and other soft tissue more elastic and therefore less prone to injuries, and moving bodily fluids around which lubricates joints and raises oxygen level in muscles. A warmup routine should be light and short. It typically consists of several minutes of mobilizing joints and jumping around. Cycling to the gym is an elegant way to burn a few extra calories and warm yourself up before even entering a gym.

A so called “resistance training” usually forms a central part of gym activities. It generally means moving some weights slowly up and down by using the power of a few targeted muscles. The purpose of a weighted training routine is to stimulate i.e. to “provoke” muscles to strengthen up and grow in size. The weight of the body alone is able to provide sufficient resistance in some exercises, but in others you will need to use weights or special “machines” with levers and cables.

Each muscle group in the body requires one or more dedicated exercises in order to be properly stimulated. Each such exercise is typically practiced in the form of three to four series, each series consisting of 8 to 12 repetitions or “reps”. Muscle growth takes place over the next two to three days following the workout, which is why you need to periodically remind your muscles to do so by repeating the same routine two to three times a week.

Stretching is what athletes do at the end of a training day. The purpose of stretching is to relax muscles after a period of intense activity. Muscle relaxation enables the blood to flow easily, bringing oxygen and nutrients in and flushing the metabolic waste out. It is important to remember that you should stretch only muscles, not tendons and ligaments that surround the joints – stretching should feel very comfortable in the muscles, and must never become painful in the joints!

There are infinite ways in which one can warm the body up, combine exercises in a training routine and stretch the muscles. But generally, what one wound not want to do is to mix up aerobic activity, resistance exercises and relaxation stretches with one another. In addition, you should not reverse the order in which a training day is supposed to be put together – that would not only be unproductive, but might actually lead to mishaps.

For example, stretching muscles prior to working out with weights or stretching them in-between the series would only make them less strong and less coordinated, and thus more prone to injuries. Similarly, engaging in intense aerobic activities after the resistance workout would consume essential nutrients for fuel making the recovery longer and a training day as a whole ineffective.

So the formula is:


It is well worth remembering that resting after the workout is equally important for its effectiveness as the workout itself. Our bodies prefer to “clean up the room” when nobody’s at home i.e. when we sleep, so athletes are advised to sleep at least eight hours a day.

Finally, you should also be aware of the importance of proper nutrition and hydration. Because those topics deserve more than a few short lines, we invite you to read more about them in our next post.