2012-08-06

This Week In Exercise

Last week my personal trainer introduced me to an absolutely brutal workout. I did it with my trainer on Thursday, and a second time on Sunday. I will do it a third time on Tuesday, and will be ready for my next brutal workout on Thursday again.

I'll start by describing the workout, and then I'll offer some general impressions and recommendations on the workout specifically. Finally, I'll add a few thoughts about my experience with personal training thus far.

The Workout
This killer workout begins with a monster plyometric superset as follows:
  • Push-Up with row to burpee and punch: Start in push-up position, with your hands on a set of hand weights. Do one push up, then row the weight in your right hand from push-up position. Do another push-up, row the weight in your left hand. Do a third push up, then burpee up to standing position and do a right-punch, left-punch, right-punch, left-punch (still holding the weights). That's one. Do eight of those.
  • Roller Fly: Start in push-up position with your hands on a set of hand weights. Roll the weights out as far as you can, then roll them back in together. That's one. Do eight of those.
  • Iso-Lunge Combination: Holding hand weights, do three jumping lunges on the same leg. During the third, lift the weights to a full curl position and do three more jumping lunges on the same leg. During the third (now the sixth total), lift the weights straight up over your head and do three more jumping lunges. Switch and do the same set of nine jumping lunges on the other leg, too. That's one. Do eight of those.
  • Iso-Push-Up with burpee to uppercut: Start in push-up position, with your hands on a set of hand weights. Do one push-up. At the apex, jump your hands up off the ground (holding the weights) and twist your hands so that the handles of the weights go from being parallel to being inline. Do another push-up. Then burpee up to standing position and do a right-uppercut, left-uppercut, right-uppercut, left-uppercut. That's one. Do eight of those.
All of the above is to be done three times. When finished, the workout closes with one repetition of the following:
  • Incline Push-Up Fly: Start in incline push-up position, with your feet on a bench and one hand holding a hand weight. Using the hand with the weight, do eight reverse flys from that position. Then, switch hands and do eight flys with the other arm.
  • Squat Jump-and-Tuck: Holding a pair of hand weights, do 10 jump-and-tucks from squat position.
By the end, you may have already passed out. If not, hit the cardio machines for as long as you can go.

Succeeding At This Workout
Although this workout seems like it is actually less work than what I was doing a week earlier, it takes all I can do to finish it. My muscles literally give out by the end, which is of course what one wants to have happen when one is doing strength training.

Notice that I have not included any description of resting between sets. This is because, when I worked out with my trainer, I wasn't allowed to rest between sets. When I did it by myself, though, I couldn't help but take a little rest in between. The best thing I can say about rest during this workout is, minimize it. You will get the most out of this workout if you do not rest at all. Keep in mind that the whole thing should only take you about 20-30 minutes to complete. If you can hunker down and work hard for just twenty minutes, then you'll have mastered the workout.

Notice also that there are no explicit abdominal exercises involved here. One might get the impression that it's a workout that is light on the abs, however that is not the case. Because most of the exercises involve push-up position, one's back starts to sag if the abdominal muscles aren't tightly flexed throughout the duration of the workout. In fact, if you don't keep your abdominal muscles flexed when you do this, you may find that your lower back aches once you're done. It is a surprisingly difficult workout on the abs and back.

Finally, you may not be able to do all of the exercises perfectly when you give this a try. Just do the best you can. Keep going until your muscles give out, then try again. The harder you push yourself, the better this workout will pay off.

Three Weeks of Personal Training - Some Impressions
Now that I am on my third week of personal training, I feel I can provide some general impressions about the experience thus far.

For one thing, it is somewhat comical to see that these trainers are basically throwing the book at me. They are used to training relative novices who need constant encouragement and direction to make a positive change in their lives. That is certainly a valid reason to seek personal training, but it is not the only reason. When I show up, the trainers ask me, "You look pretty fit; what are you here for?" The answer I give them is that my body has been in a bit of a rut, and I'm looking to get out of it and supplement my regular running workouts with some physical training.

The result is that they are giving me workouts that go well above and beyond what most people get to do. This is both fun and humorous. Last week, my trainer said to me, "It's not often I get to work with fit people. I had to bring out some different stuff; you saw some creativity today!" Twice during the workout, the trainer told me that he was asking me to do something that none of his other clients could do.

The results also speak for themselves. Others have noticed the visible changes in my physical appearance. My shoulders are broader, and the muscle tone in my arms is at a point at which it has never been. This is very encouraging. I also find that my running is not suffering from the added muscle. One possible reason for this is that my weight hasn't really gone up, despite the obvious increase in muscle mass. This means that I am shedding even more fat (which I didn't really know I had).

By the end of each workout, I am struck by two seemingly incompatible feelings: The first is a total, all-encompassing fatigue from being pushed about as far as I can go; the second is a powerful feeling of being able to accomplish anything.

This latter feeling is something I never expected when I signed up for personal training sessions. Truth be told, I haven't felt that good about a workout in years, maybe even decades. It is remarkable.

For these reasons, I highly recommend personal training to anyone with the disposable income to support it. It is well worth the investment. Not only will it take your body into new territory, it will generate a self-confidence you never knew you had. And it's not the trainer's encouragement that will give it to you, either. Instead, it is the confidence that can only be earned by asking your body to do something you don't think it can do, and watch it rise to the occasion.