Mens Health Fitness Challenge

Men’s Health has a great fitness challenge in their latest issue. The challenge is also available on their website, here. Measure how many reps you can perform of single leg squats, chinups, pushups, measure your vertical jump height and how fast you can run a mile. Enter your scores in the MH Fit Calculator and get your MH fitness level evaluation. That simple.

However, although the exercises are simple, they are all very demanding. The average guy, for example, is only able to rip out a couple of single leg squats in a row. Pullups are similar, with most guys forgoing this exercise at the gym, in favour of lat pulldowns (which aren’t as effective IMHO). Pushups, on the other hand, aren’t uncommon. But while you might feel fairly comfortable with them, can you squeeze out 30 reps? How about 40 or even 50!? Vertical jump practice is something that I bet you rarely do. And while you might get in a 5k run here and there, the one mile challenge is an all-out run your fastest test of will power to hold out till the end.

It will be interesting to see the results when MH tabulate the average numbers from their readership. My suggestion is to try the challenge now and throughout the next 3 weeks, work up to some higher numbers by practicing the exercises as part of your normal routine. Instead of running the 5k as you normally do on a Saturday, do some sprints or 400m intervals. Work pullups into your warmup and try to get 30 reps, even if broken. Sub inclined bench presses for 3 sets of max reps pushups. Work on your single leg squats instead of some other leg press exercise you have in your normal getup. After 3 weeks is up, go another round with the challenge and see how well you’ve improved because if you keep at it, you will see a huge difference.

Six Pack Exercises

The road to a 6 pack of abs is a tough one. It’s a combination of diet, exercise and genetics that make or break one of the most sought after defined muscle groups. In fact, for some people, it’s just impossible. But it’s worth a shot and although the golden rule is to get lean so the abdominals can peek through the stomach, the abdominal muscles have to first get built up a bit. These two exercises are perfect additions to your routines to help get you down the road to success.

Leg Raises are a great exercise that focus primarily on the lower abs. The easiest variation is to perform them lying on the back with legs out in front of you. Left the legs off the floor, hold for a second and slowly lower them down again. Another variation uses the parallel bars, which can often be found at a gym on the vertical knee raise and dip station. Place the arms on the machine with elbows and forearms holding the body up with the legs dangling. Lift the legs straight out and slowly back down. A third variation is hanging leg raises. This one is done hanging from the pull-up bar. Again, lift legs straight up and then slowly back down. All of these can be done in a typical 3 sets of 10 reps fashion.

Knee Grabs are done lying on your back. Start with arms and legs fully extended and touching the ground. Bend the legs at the knees and bring them up to the chest. at the same time, bring the arms forward, lifting the upper back off the ground and “hug” the knees. Again, 3 sets of 10 should do you well.

Good Form Sit-ups

Good sit-up tip. Fold up your towel to a thickness of about 1.5 to 2 inches. Place it under your lower back so that it fills the gap between your tail bone and upper back when you’re in the lying position of a sit-up. You will find that the towel will enable you to more easily lift yourself with your abdominal muscles, without having to anchor your feet or throw your arms or head forward to create momentum. The towel also helps to fully extend your abs in the lying position and fully contract them in the sitting position. The towel will also help keep your stinking sweat off the mat ;)

Body Mass Index Calculator

The Body Mass Index is a calculated number, based on the ratio of weight and height, that identifies a person’s body type within a range between being underweight and obese. A BMI between 18.5 and 25 is considered optimal weight. Persons with a BMI of less than 18.5 are considered underweight and similarly, persons with a BMI greater than 25 are considered overweight. Individuals with a BMI greater than 30 are in the obese category. Since the 1980s, the number of obese individuals, particularly in North America, has been climbing at an alarming rate.

BMI is often criticized because it does not take into account variables such as bone and muscle mass. Individuals with high muscle mass may be perfectly lean but continue to possess high BMI calculations. The accuracy of the BMI is obviously debatable, but the measurement continues to more or less be regarded as the defacto standard for statistical weight to height ratios. A better measurement for determining “fatness” or “thinness” may be to accurately measure body fat percentage for an individual. However, accurately measuring this is, in general, difficult and requires specialized equipment.

Calculate your own BMI using the tool below:

The Fit Blog Tip #2

Losing weight is a commitment. Unfortunately it’s the hard truth - you can’t expect much from a one or two week South-Beach diet. Losing weight means having the will to deny yourself many of the things you may like. Chocolate bars, beer, croissants, all the good stuff has to be removed from your diet, and not just for a couple weeks - staying on the course and staying committed is the number one road to success. Mix in some cardio and resistance training and you’ll be seeing the weight drop off in no time.

Say No to Gun Control

The guns I’m referring to, of course, don’t need bullets

Get your “Say No to Gun Control” t-shirt at the Fit Blog CafePress store.

Clean, Squat and Jerk for a Rep

I’m a big fan of Olympic style weightlifting. I like the shear strength that some lifters possess, but what I like most about these lifts is actually incorporating them into my routine as they are extremely great workouts.

Lifts like the clean and jerk incorporate a huge number of muscles. From the lower legs right up through the shoulders, a good clean and jerk hits you pretty much everywhere.

Some good instruction on the clean and jerk can be found on, here. It is a very compound movement. Beginning in a squat position, you “clean” the barbell to a racked front-squat position, then the barbell is pushed overhead while the knees bend to bring the lifter under the bar and assist in getting a full arm extension. The lifter then straightens his legs with the barbell pressed fully above him. This is probably the one of the most technical lifts, but with the technical aspects comes the ability for lifters to press amazing amounts of weight above their heads.

But rather than attempting maximum weight, I like to incorporate the clean and jerk into a workout to get more of a full body workout. This exercise is also capable of bringing the heart-rate up significantly.

For a single rep, using fairly light weight, here’s a great way to utilize the clean and jerk:

  • from the weight on the ground, perform a clean to a front squat position.
  • perform a full front-squat.
  • do a shoulder press (no legs)
  • then use the legs and perform a push-press
  • then use a combination of the legs and squating to get under the bar by performing a jerk.
  • bring the weights down to the ground

That’s one rep. Try 5 to 7 reps for a set. Use fairly light weight (or just the bar or broom stick or PVC piping). This exercise can also be performed with dumbbells or kettlebells instead of a barbell.

Super Cardio - The Rowing Machine

If there is a form of cardio exercise that just plasters me against the wall, it’s the CII rowing machine. Typically, when trying to include cardio after some resistance exercising, I’ll hit the CII rower and attempt a 1000m personal record. It takes under 4 minutes, but I’m dead afterwards, with my heart-rate through the roof and breathing a mile a minute.

I’ve yet to come across a gym that doesn’t have a few rowing machines lying around, and I’ve yet to encounter a gym where they are more than rarely used, which is unfortunate, because rowing is a very effective tool to help burn calories and stress the cardiovascular system.

The rowing machine puts a large demand on a broad range of upper, core and lower body muscles, from your traps to your quads. The high intensity of the exercise burns lots of calories and the strain on the muscles causes additional calories to burn well after finishing exercising. High intensity running is also known to cause continued post-exercise calorie consumption, but unlike running, rowing is an extremely low-impact exercise.

The Concept II website has loads more information on the rowing machine, as well as sample routines that can be done on this wonderful piece of gym equipment.

The Fit Blog Fit Tip #1

The first in a series of quick, realistic, usable fitness tips.

Make situations where you don’t have time to cook a good dinner a thing of the past. Preparation is key. Sundays, when things have slowed down a tiny bit, cook up some food for the week. Grill some chicken breasts and pack them in the fridge in some Tupperware. Slice them up for wraps or salads, or enjoy them on their own with a side of microwaved frozen veggies. While you’re at it, prepare other foods like chopped or sliced veggies for salads, pack up some single serving portions of baby carrots in zip-lock bags, cook up a bunch of slices of turkey bacon and refrigerate them. The more food you have ready to go, the less likely it is that you will make that McDonald’s stop on the way home from work.

A Good Full Body Circuit

I like to change up the workout all the time. I rarely do the same routine twice in a month. However, I’ve found a particular routine to be a great full-body workout and it takes very little time to complete so I’ve started doing it more often. The routine requires two barbells and weight for each. It’s a circuit style workout consisting of squats, pull-ups and inclined presses, so you might need to hog some equipment for a while, but fret not - the routine should take a maximum of 20 minutes to complete.

The routine is a simple 3 piece circuit. Each exercise is done immediately after the other (or as soon as you feel ready), with a little break inbetween each round.

Start off with the weighted back squats. If you have a power rack available with a PU bar at the top, use that as you will move on to PU’s next. Do 10 reps of about 60% - 70% max weight. Try to get down as far as possible in the squating position. Aim to have your upper legs just below parallel with the ground. Keep your weight distributed evenly on your toes and heels.

Once done with the squats, rack the bar and move onto pull-ups. Perform 8 to 10 PU’s (or as many as you feel you can). Use full arm extensions at the bottom position of the pull-up. These are dead-hang PU’s too - no kipping allowed here. Switch up grips as necessary - maybe start palms forward and move to palms up (or chins) later on.

Once done with the PU’s, make your way to an inclinded bench. It’s best to prepare the bench before you start the circuit. Again, use 60% - 70% weight and aim for 8 - 10 quick full reps.

After you’ve completed a round of the circuit, take a rest for at least a minute before going at it again. Aim to get in 3 to 4 rounds of the circuit. If you’re not sweating bullets after all is said and done, you’re not human.

The Importance of Protein for Weight Loss

Although recent diet “fads” have been proponents of low carbs and high proteins, the concept is certainly not something new. In fact, it’s been a common practice in bodybuilding for decades. Dave Draper, for example, went on tuna-and-water diets back in the Venice, California Muscle Beach Golden Era heyday in order to get cut and lean up.

But the “fad diets” do have a point - just as protein is important for bodybuilders to gain hard muscle, eating good amounts of protein is important for losing weight - or more specifically, breaking down the body’s fat storage. When high amounts of glucose or simple carbohydrates are ingested, insulin is produced to break down the sugars and ultimately, store any unused energy as fat. This is why eating a tub of your favourite H

Social Networking - Fitness Style

In the last couple of years, social networking sites have risen in Internet popularity faster than any other website type. First came MySpace and more recently, Facebook, which keeps getting a larger and larger community. Literally hundreds of other social networking sites exist. Wikipedia has a good sample of what’s out there. These sites allow users to post items about themselves, keep running commentaries (blogs), hook up with other people, hook up with their people, post pictures, videos and a whole whack of other things.

What’s neat about social networking is that it has the potential to put people in touch with other similar, like minded individuals. It creates a community and sometimes sub-communities and groups, allowing people to share and learn from others. Taking Facebook to a more focused audience, a growing number of social networking sites are targeting specific interests and activities. And fortunately, fitness and social networking seem to go hand in hand.

Below is a list of a bunch of social networking style fitness sites. Some of them are smaller sites that have just started up, while others have been around for a while and have been doing the social networking thing whether they knew it or not. By combining things like nutrition and exercise tracking, personal blogs, goal setting and tracking, groups, photo and video sharing and forum style posting, these sites could be truly useful tools for individuals interested in diet, fitness and health, or who are interested in losing some weight or changing their physique. By taking advantage of what social networking has to offer, the fitness-minded now have some new tools to help track their progress, meet new people and, probably most importantly, help stay motivated.

BodySpace A community driven site by This site has a lot of members, boasting over 87,000 user profiles as of this writing. Good progress tracking. Blogging, photo and video sharing and forums also offered. Has a humungous library of articles on
Sparkpeople Another site that has been around for a while. Features personalized pages and blogs, meal plans and recipes. Tools for calculating calories and tracking exercise and weight. A wealth of nutrition and exercise information and articles.
traineo A new site on the block. Offers similar features to the rest - personalized page, goal and diet tracking, community. Also features a unique concept of having “motivators” to help keep you on track.
My Fit Tribe My Fit Tribe calls itslef “an island of fun, fitness and friends”. Although the whole tropical island theme is a little strange, the site has a nice layout and some good articles. Blogs, video workouts, exercises, groups, forums, photo sharing.
Wellsphere Another newer site. Personalization, groups, trainer support, goal tracking, health club listings, event searching.
Fitlink Beyond the usual fare of social networking features, fitlink also has integration with google maps for mapping (and sharing) running routes. Also has a fairly usable “workout generator”. Personalization, goal tracking, groups, photos. Small, but growing community.
gimme20 Fitness and progress tracking, workout builder, personalization, blogs, forums and groups. Small, but growing community.
Shapefit Fittracker From the fairly extensive fitness website Shapefit comes FitTracker. With a large existing readership, this fledgling offspring community site is rapidly growing. Has all the usuals - personalization, groups, photos, goal tracking, workout generator, etc. Like BodySpace, has a very large number of articles on its parent site.

In a Rush and Want a Good Breakfast? How About Eggs and Toast?

I’m an oatmeal guy on most days. But I’m also a guy and, like most people in this modern day and age, somewhat time constrained - especially during the week, in the morning. In order to get my oatmeal in, I turn to the trusty microwave. I put about half a cup of oatmeal in a bowl, cover the oatmeal with water and nuke it for exactly 1 minute and 35 seconds. Add a bit of honey and milk, and I’m good to go.

However, oatmeal does get tiresome and some days I want a little change. Some days, I want an egg for breakfast. But I just don’t have time to get out the frying pan or boil some water and I’m not one to eat a raw egg. So once again, I turn to the trusty microwave. Crack the egg in a microwave bowl and whisk it up with a teeny bit of milk. Nuke it for a minute and you’re set. I’ll usually also put the egg on a piece of multigrain or whole-wheat toast and top it off with a couple tablespoons of salsa.

Diet Pop is Bad for You?

Today, the CBC reported that a “huge” U.S. study has found that “Diet soft drinks [are] linked to health risks”. The study “included nearly 9,000 observations of middle-aged men and women over four years at three different times. [It] looked at how many 355-millilitre cans of cola or other soft drinks a participant consumed each day.” The researchers found that regardless of whether the study’s participants drank diet or non-diet sodas, there was a 45% increased risk of new-onset metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome describes an umbrella of symptoms such as central obesity (apple shaped body), high blood pressure, high cholesterol and onset diabetes.

It’s clear how, with an average can of coke containing almost 8 teaspoons of sugar, regular soda can increase the likelihood of metabolic syndrome. However, what is unclear, and what the study fails to identify, is how sugar-free soft drinks can be linked to the problem.

I believe that, in general, diet or not, soda is mostly consumed by individuals with higher daily caloric intakes - not necessarily from the soda itself, but in other dietary elements. Therefore, while it may be possible to enjoy diet soft drinks and not have any symptoms of metabolic syndrome, looking to identify how soda contributes to the problem by simply looking at individuals diet\non-diet soda preferences is not going to shed an ounce of light on the role of pop in health problems. Instead, the whole diet will have to be looked at in future studies, limiting the uncontrollable dietary variables.