Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NROLFW: Phase 1 Recap

See weekly workout recaps including phase 1 workouts here

The tagline on the book is "Lift like a man, look like a goddess". Which, if I hadn't heard some great things about it already, could very easily have turned me off of it entirely. It's also a book for women written by a man, so... that's kind of odd and potentially bad. But actually, I really like his tone; I think the book is funny, information, and helpful.

FYI - I'm trying to talk about my experience with the program, and provide info (mostly for my own reference) about my progression through it, as well as info (for people considering the program) about how it works. But of course this is a specialized, published program, so I'm trying to carefully walk the line between discussing the content, without completely giving away the background or specific workouts or violating any copyright laws. For example, I'm listing the exercises (mostly - I subbed some based on equipment I have available at home) and showing the weight I used and number of reps for one set, for comparison purposes from beginning to end of a phase, but not explaining how many sets are done per workout or what rest time between sets is prescribed.

What are these "new rules"? 

Basically, don't stop eating and just do cardio to burn all the calories. You can't "tone" or "lean out" your muscles; low-weight, high-rep exercises will only build muscle endurance, not muscle strength. Lifting progressively heavy weights is what will make your muscles stronger, and they'll get bigger and women do have the same muscle fibers as men, but it's still not likely that you'll end up "bulking" up in a way that the average women doesn't want.

It's really just common sense. Especially if you're trying to build overall health, not just create a certain physique - lifting 2 pound weights 50 times might make you really good at lifting 2 pound weights, but that won't be as helpful in being able to lift a 20-pound toddler. Though not strictly "functional fitness" types of exercises, it definitely is a similar mindset.

There are also some general eating guidelines; not specific food recommendations, but there is a 40/30/30 macro suggestion. It's basically eat whole foods, not processed crap. I haven't fully complied with that aspect of it, though I am making strides in that direction.

There a few ways to track progress for this kind of program: body weight, body measurements, appearance, increased lifting weight. Though it'd be a lie to say I'm not in this to lose weight, the book focuses on tracking performance, not appearance, which is a much healthier place to focus. I've reached that state of mind, most of the time, on my running, and am aiming to stay there in this case, as well. The probable fat loss and improved appearance are byproducts, not the primary goals of improving performance and health.

Performance progress

Phase 1 is 6 to 8 weeks, depending on how many workouts you do each week. Since I was fitting this around other goals and tax season, I had fewer per week, so it was 8 weeks of alternating the workouts (plus a break week between 5 and 6, just because it was a bad week), plus the last week of "special workouts", which are as many reps as possible (AMRAP) at the weights you used the first week, to see how you've progressed. A note - I couldn't use exactly the same weights on some, as I'd traded up to a heavier adjustable dumbbell set (gave the old set to my mom), that only had increments of 5 pounds instead of 2.5 and didn't go down to 7.5.

For the assisted pull-ups, I have a doorway pull-up bar, and use the 1 1/8" (purple) + 1 3/4" (green) Body Bands loop bands combined to provide counter resistance, so I'm not lifting up my entire body weight (this combo is at least 90 pounds of resistance). As I build strength for pull-ups, I'll eventually move down (up?) to just the thicker band, then just the thinner band, and eventually, hopefully, entire body weight with no resistance. 

Workout A

Workout B

Appearance progress

Though I'm trying to keep the focus on performance and actual strength, I do appreciate that this program should make me smaller, lose fat, and look better. As such, I took some progress photos and body measurements at the beginning. I may or may not share the photos eventually - maybe once halfway through and at the end, when there might be a more noticeable difference? 

I lost 5 pounds (from 146 to 141) over the course of 11 weeks (8 weeks of phase 1, one week break in the middle, last week of progress "special workouts", and one week break before starting phase 2). I don't think it's necessary or particularly helpful to share all of my body measurements, but I lost at least a quarter inch all over, and a half inch in many spots.

Overall thoughts

Most of the exercises I've done at some point in my life, so though I looked at the instructions in the book to confirm specifics and good form, I wasn't learning anything completely unknown. However, I don't do these exercises all the time, so it was nice to only focus on a handful at a time for an extended period (phase 1 had two workouts each with 5 exercises; phase 2 increases that slightly but not tons), to remember how to do them right. Yet on the other hand I also liked alternating between the two workouts each week, rather than repeating one workout for a week or more (as, for example, in the Jillian Michaels DVDs that I've done). Mixes things up enough, but not too much.

Some of the exercises clearly assume a gym setting with access to barbells and machines, however I'm doing this at home with a set of adjustable dumbbells (first with a set from 7.5 to 12.5 pounds; now with a set from 5 to 25 pounds), a in-doorway pull-up bar and resistance bands, a stability ball, and a staircase. For barbell exercises I just use two dumbbells; most of the machine-based exercise instructions give home-gym options that work the same muscles. There was one that didn't show an alternative, but a small amount of googling found something.

I'm pretty sure even the 9 weeks of phase 1 is the longest I've ever stuck with a weight-lifting program, so you can trust that I'm pretty excited about this! I know this is great for overall health, but I also suspect this is a significant factor in my recent running improvements. This program isn't dumbed down, but it is designed to make it pretty mindless in terms of figuring out what to do, which makes it convenient and easy to commit to.

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