The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2007 issue 6



Circuit Training

If you're like a lot of us, there's not enough days in the week, or time in the day to get in the recommended amount of cardio.  3 to 5 days per week at a minimum of 20-30 minutes in your target heart rate zone is recommended for health and fitness goals.  But wait, resistance training (machines, free weights, bands, etc...) is also recommended for 2-3 days per week for most major muscle groups.  If you have that kind of time to workout 5-8 days per week (I know, there aren't 8 days in a week), or to be disciplined enough to do a full cardio workout on the same day as your weight training then great!  Unfortunately, not everyone has that kind of time.

A circuit (also known as a complex) is a series of two or more exercises performed in succession for a specific number of reps with limited rest intervals.  In other words, you move through one exercise after the other, keeping your heart rate up with limiting recovery time .  You can perform them with free weights, various exercise machines, or your own body weight, with any combination being incorporated into the circuit.

Circuit training can hit the entire body in one fell swoop, or you can do a circuit for the upper and lower body separately.  Circuit training workouts are great for toning and trimming (fat loss) in addition to endurance training, but are typically not as popular for muscle building because of the reduced amount of weight lifted due to the limited recovery periods.

Performing the exercises in a circuit once through is called a run.  In the beginning of a program, just one run will be sufficient, but as you improve you'll be able to do more runs (up to 3 is recommended) and further challenge yourself, obtaining more benefits.  You can also increase the intensity of the workout by reducing your rest time between runs, increasing the weight used, or increasing the number of repetitions.

Circuit training is one of my personal favorites when working with clients that want to tone and trim (which is pretty much everybody).  There are a number of attractive benefits in addition to getting your cardio and resistance (toning) done at the same time.  Circuit training is efficient and takes less time to complete more exercises.  The recovery process that your body goes through after each workout will generally raise your metabolism for a day or so afterward which means you are still burning calories at an elevated rate.  Studies have shown that the calories that you burn in the hours after a workout come largely from stored fat, as opposed to muscle or carbohydrates. 

When planning a circuit, it is best to use compound exercises that work major muscle groups.  Compound exercises incorporate multiple muscle groups which typically means that more than one of your joints is moving during the motion of the exercise.  When designing a total body circuit, I like to alternate between body zones: lower body, abs, upper body, lower body, abs, upper body.. etc..  This allows some recovery between muscle groups allowing better performance throughout the entire circuit.

You can check out a few of my favorite body weight circuits posted on

Sure... if you're working out at a gym or club, there are some downsides.  You probably won't have time to BS with your pals as much.  You'll probably also be working up more of a sweat as you jump from exercise to exercise.  Hey, you're there for a purpose... just focus and get it done!

10 Ways to Gain Muscle

  1. Fuel up - Find out how many calories you are currently eating and add 500 more daily.  Try to take in one gram of protein per pound of body weight each day.
  2. Limit Cardio - Up to 2 days per week of light cardio at 30 minutes per session is ok.  To lose fat while sparing muscle, you'd do even better to perform sprint intervals.  For example:  run all out for a minute, jog for 2 minutes, continue this pattern for 30 minutes.
  3. Do Less - Do no more than 20 sets per muscle group - closer to 12 is even better.  Your reps should be between 6 and 12 per set for the most muscle growth, and your workouts should never last much longer than 45 minutes.  In lieu of more volume, use heavier weights and move through each rep at a controlled speed.  Your sets should last between 40 and 70 seconds -- any less, and you're not tensing your muscles long enough to shock them into growth.
  4. Use Full-Body Workouts or a Split Routine - You'll probably get the best results from your workout by either training the whole body in a single workout or concentrating only on the upper body in one session and the lower body in another.  Concentrate on lifts that involve lots of muscles at once (compound exercises), such as squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, and pull-ups.
  5. Stretch - Stretching of any kind will help keep you flexible, prevent injury, and improve recovery between workouts.
  6. Eat Regularly - You should be wolfing down five to six small meals a day.  As long as good-quality fuel keeps coming into your body - particularly protein and carbs - you'll have the calories to build muscle and the metabolism boost to lose fat.
  7. Change Everything - Every four to six weeks, you need to alter some part of your routine, whether it's the  number of reps you do, the amount of time you rest, the exercises you perform, or any other training variable.  Keep a journal of your workouts to record your progress.
  8. Train the Whole Body - The more muscles you involve - either in one exercise or one training session - the greater the hormone release you'll get from your training, and that stimulates muscle growth all day long.  Hitting each muscle group (agonist/antagonist) with roughly the same volume will ensure balanced training, allowing you to grow quickly and safely, avoiding injuries and preserving flexibility.
  9. Drink Shakes - Surround your workout with nutrition, starting with a high protein/carbohydrate meal about an hour beforehand.  Mix up a protein shake that has a ratio of about two grams of carbs for every gram of protein, and sip that throughout your workout.  Afterward, finish the drink or mix a new one and drink it down quickly (the first 30 minutes post workout allows for the best protein absorption).  Believe it or not, whole foods are not the best option post workout - they take too long to digest.
  10. Recover - The ideal amount of sleep is seven to eight hours per night.  You can let loose a night or two each week, but when you do, try to make up for it ASAP.  Train no more than four times a week.  As for your job, do whatever you can to avoid excess stress - chronic nervousness elevates cortisol, a hormone that makes your body store fat and burn muscle.

Ref: Men's Fitness (June/July 2007)


Elite Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Piked Shoulder Press
(on ball)

I'll tell you, trying to hold still for these pictures was a pain in the butt!  The blood was rushing to my head, and... oh, never mind, enough whining.  It's sometimes difficult to find a body weight exercise that works the same muscles as some machine or free weight exercises.  This piked shoulder press does a good job of working the shoulders and triceps, much like a military or overhead press.  Due to the piked position, it is somewhat easier to perform than a handstand push-up, but try doing it on a stability ball and it will add seriously challenge your core as you try to remain upright!


Target:  shoulders, arms (deltoids, triceps brachii)

Count:  2 count

Description:  Whether performing the piked shoulder press on a ball or on a chair, start in a push-up position with your feed on the chair/ball.  Walk your hands in while sticking your butt in the air.  Try to keep a flat back and maintain a good press position.  Lower your head to the floor and press back up.

The Mind Game

Did you ever wonder why you have lapses and breakdowns in “willpower?” Or why some days you just can’t drag yourself to the gym? Or why you “fall off the wagon” completely? Or why you can’t say “no” to those chocolate chip cookies? It’s because negative programming in your subconscious mind is controlling your behavior.

The most important part of getting in great shape is simply making up your mind to do so.  You get in shape by setting goals and thinking about them all day long.  Mental training increases your ability to focus.  If you don’t channel your mental energies properly, even the best diet and training program won’t help because you will always “sabotage” yourself.

Like the ship’s crew, your subconscious mind accepts every command your conscious mind gives it – its sole purpose is to obey and carry out your orders, even if you give stupid ones like “I’ll never see my abs.” Frequent repetition of thoughts (mental orders) is one of the most certain ways to penetrate the subconscious mind. This is why, by repeating “I can’t lose weight” over and over, your subconscious will see to it that you never lose weight because that’s its job – to follow your every command literally and without question. If you program your subconscious with negative suggestions often enough, your subconscious will lead you right into cheating on your diet, skipping workouts or some other form of self-sabotage.

Because of the way your subconscious works, it’s extremely important for you to focus all your thoughts on what you want to achieve, not on what you want to avoid. This is not mere semantics; it’s a very important distinction.  “The more you dwell on what you don’t want, the more of it you create.” - Louise Hay

Negative statements and self-defeating questions
  • I can’t lose weight no matter what I do.

  • Why is it so hard for me to lose weight?

  • I have a slow metabolism.

  • It’s not my fault because I don’t have good genetics.

  • I don't want to be fat anymore.

  • I wish I could get rid of this gut.

  • It’ll never work because I like food too much.

  • I don’t have the willpower to get lean.

  • I would work out but I don’t have time.

  • I hate being fat.

  • I’ll never see my abs.

  • I hate cardio.

  • I can’t.

  • I’ll try.

Bob Proctor, a master success coach and creator of the Goal Achiever program, suggests saying “NEXT” or “SWITCH” the instant you catch yourself in the middle of a negative thought or self-defeating question. Then, immediately replace it with a positive thought, affirmation, or an empowering question. Simply overwrite the old thought with a new one. Replace “I’ll try” with “I’ll do it.” Instead of “I should” say “I must.” Completely banish “I can’t” from your vocabulary. Soon you’ll find that your mind switches its “polarity” and the negative thoughts pop up less.

Positive statements and empowering questions.
  • How great am I going to feel after I finish my workout today?

  • I am getting leaner every day.

  • I like the way I look.

  • I am 100% responsible for my results.

  • Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.

  • I like eating healthy foods.

  • I love working out.

  • I have time for anything I am committed to.

  • I can do it.

Set SMART Goals, write them down, review them on a regular, if not daily basis.  Then simply become conscious of what you are thinking and be positive!  You'll be surprised how much of an effect this can have on your progress!

It's Go Time!

June Rocks!  It's the start of the summer, pool & beach season, school's out, plenty of yard work to do, lot's of outdoor opportunities. 

Sure it can be difficult to go to the gym, or do anything inside when it's so nice outside.  If you're having trouble with that, then plan accordingly.  Hit the gym in the morning or the evening.  Go to one of those parks and hit the "life trail" with those push-up, sit-up, chin-up stations, while your jogging/walking in between... or make your own.  There's plenty of outdoor exercise equipment if you just go to your local playground!  Walk, run, bike, kayak... there's no excuse for getting some good cardio in the nice weather!

Although you should be excited to get out and get moving, be smart about it!  You need to take into the consideration the heat and humidity and make sure that you are keeping well hydrated for safety purposes as well as to get the best performance from your workout.  Check out this link in the July '06 eNewsletter for more information.

The bottom line is.. if you're planning to play hard, then be sure to work hard too!  Why waste all that hard work trying to get healthy, just so you have to start over again?  And if you haven't started working out again, don't you owe it to yourself? 

For prior issues of this newsletter go to  

Good Luck!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT

"Whatever your mind can conceive and believe
it can achieve." | Personal Training | News | Tips & Tools | Fitness Stuff




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