Tag Archives: Mark Verstegen

Random Thoughts on Fitness

A couple years ago, I was thinking about putting together a fitness program for myself.  My goals were endurance, strength, less low-back aching, flexibility, longevity, and being able to get on my horse bareback without a mounting block or other cheat.

I spent quite a bit of time at Doug Robb’s HeathHabits site.  He has a post called The “I don’t have time to workout” Workout.  I ran across some paper notes I made during my time there.  Doug recommended some basic moves to incorporate: air squat, Hindu pushup, dragon flag, shuffle of scissor lung, Spiderman lung, hip thrust/bridge, swing snatch, dumbbell press, Siff lunge, jumping Bulgarian squat, band wood chops, leg stiff leg deadlift.  Click the link to see videos of most of these exercises.  The rest you can find on YouTube.

Another post is called “Do you wanna get big and strong? -Phase 1”.  The basic program is lifting weights thrice weekly.  Monday, work the chest and back.  Tuesday, legs and abs/core.  Friday, arms and shoulders.

  • Chest exercises: presses (barbell or dumbell, incline, decline, flat, even pushups with additional resistance  – your choice
  • Back: chins or rows
  • Legs: squats or deadlifts
  • Arms and shoulders: dips, presses, curls

Doug is a personal trainer with a huge amount of experience.  He’s a good writer, too, and gives away a wealth of information at his website.

Around this same time of searching a couple years ago, I ran across Mark Verstegen’s Core Performance, Mark Lauren’s book “You Are Your Own Gym,”  and Mark Sisson’s free fitness ebook that also  features bodyweight exercises.  I did Core Performance religiously for 15 weeks—it’s a good program, requiring 5-6 hours a week.

Lauren is or was a Navy Seal trainer.  His plan involves 30 minutes of work on four days a week and uses minimal equipment.  Lots of good reviews at Amazon.com.

I recently complete a stint with the Hillfit program.  Here’s my current regimen.

Newbies to vigorous exercise should seriously consider using a personal trainer.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Starting a Fitness Program? Get Baseline Measurements First

Impressive jump!

Before beginning or modifying a fitness program, it’s helpful to take some baseline physical measurements. Re-measure periodically. That way you’ll know whether you’re making progress, holding steady, or regressing. Improving your numbers also helps to maintain motivation.

Not taking measurements would be like starting a weight loss plan without a baseline and subsequent weights.

Eighteen months ago, I finished a home-based, 15-week, six-days-a-week fitness program called Core Performance, designed by Mark Verstegen. I was pleased with the results. The only problem is that it’s very time-consuming, 45-60 minutes a day. Perhaps fitness just has to be that way.

I regret that I didn’t take any fitness measurements before and after starting Core Performance.

For much of the last year, I modified Core Performance to a thrice weekly, then twice weekly program, until a couple months ago when I pretty much abandoned it. I miss the benefits now, but just didn’t want to put in the time to achieve them. In other words, I lost my motivation.

Who needs this much flexibility?

Intellectually, I know that regular exercise is important. I’ve read that you can be fairly fit with as little as 30 minutes of exercise a week. I’m not entirely convinced yet. I’ll be test-driving some of these time-efficient programs over the next 12 months.  One I’ve done already is Hillfit.

This new style of fitness is promoted by the likes of Dr. Doug McGuff, Chris Highcock, Skyler Tanner, Nassim Taleb, and Jonathan Bailor, among others.

What to Measure

  1. Weight
  2. Blood pressure
  3. Resting heart rate (first thing in the AM before getting out of bed)
  4. Waist circumference (upright and supine)
  5. Height
  6. Body mass index
  7. Mid-arm circumference, both arms, hanging relaxed at your sides
  8. Maximal calf circumference, both calves, while standing at ease
  9. Maximum number of consecutive pull-ups
  10. Maximum number of consecutive push-ups
  11. Run/walk one mile as fast as you can
  12. Maximum vertical jump (stand by a tall wall then jump and reach up as high as you can with one arm, noting the highest point above ground your fingers can reach)
  13. Can you touch your toes? Stand up straight, locking knees in extension, then bend over at your waist and touch your toes with your fingertips. If you can touch toes, can you flatten your palms against the floor? If you can’t reach your toes, measure the distance from your fingertips to the floor.
  14. Optional blood work for special situations: fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, triglycerides, cholesterols (total, HDL, LDL, sub-fractions)

The particular aspects of fitness these measure are strength and endurance in major muscle groups, cardiovascular and pulmonary endurance, a little flexibility, and a hint of body composition.

You may appreciate an assistant to help you measure some of these.

It’a long list.  If too long, just do what you think is important.  Record your numbers. Re-test some or all of these periodically, such as every six weeks after making a change.

If you’re in fairly poor condition at the outset, you’ll see some improved numbers after a couple or three weeks of a good exercise program. It takes months to build significant muscle mass; you’ll see improved strength and endurance before mass.

Am I missing anything?

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Book Review: Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?

I just read Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise by Alex Hutchinson, published in 2011.  Per Amazon.com’s rating system, I give it five stars (I love it).

♦   ♦   ♦

Since starting Mark Verstegen’s Core Performance workout program four months ago, I’ve developed a serious interest in exercise.  I stumbled across one of Alex Hutchinson’s helpful (and recommended) blogs: Sweat Science.  That’s where I heard about this book.

Mr. Hutchinson uses a Q & A format to address 113 debatable issues facing people who exercise regularly.   The questions are independent although grouped according to subject matter, such as “Nutrition and Hydration.”  This is great for those who have time only for snippets of reading (bathroom reading, for example).

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a particular interest of mine lately.  I see it as way to replace five hours a week of traditional cardio (aerobic) training with just one hour.  The author gives a nice description of HIIT and succinctly and accurately summarizes the science in support of it, along with the risks.

Mr. Hutchinson typically answers controversial questions with the best available evidence from current scientific research.  Rarely, he has to depend simply on expert concensus, which is less reliable.  I envision a new edition every five years or so.

The book is easy to read.  The style is congenial and witty.  Contrary to a recent publishing trend, the font size is reasonably large. 

The audience for this is folks who have made a commitment to make regular physical activity part of their lifestyle.    Trust me, I’m a doctor: the guys at the gym and Internet sources are quite often wrong on these issues. 

If you refuse to do more than just stroll in the neighborhood for 30 minutes a day, you don’t need the book.  But I urge you to consider challenging yourself to do more.   

Steve Parker, M.D.

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