Today, my personal trainer, Jake, is answering your questions! When I asked you guys to submit your questions on Instagram you sent in almost 500 questions (!!!) so we had to narrow it down to the most frequently asked. His responses are so thorough and I hope they help you! A little background, I started training with Jake when I was 3.5 months postpartum with Jack. In that time I’ve lost 20 pounds thanks to getting into a healthy habit of exercising, training 2x a week for 60 minutes and having a healthier relationship with food. I always ask Jake questions about what my nutrition should look like, what cardio I should do, etc. so I hope this helps you make some healthier choices, too!
A little bit about Jake….Jake started training 17 years ago while he was still in school. First at a personal gym and eventually at Lifetime Fitness in Burr Ridge where he has been for 11 years. He and his wife, Keely, have a 6 month old son Jacob Jr.!
Take it away, Jake!
With all of these great questions I’ll be answering, I wanted to give as much information without boring you all too much! I would recommend running my advice by you doctor or PT. Advice that’s good for some, might not be good for others.
Ok, let’s go!
1. I fell off the workout train and am looking to get back into a routine. Where should I start, and do you have any tips for staying on track?
There’s a ton to take into account. Age, physical ability, do you have any injuries, what was your previous style of training and how often you were training before you “fell off”. That will determine how you should initially start back up. I would generally say 2-3x a week, pick any piece of cardio equipment you are familiar and comfortable doing. You don’t have to kill yourself, but you want to break a sweat. With the strength portion, I would say 3-5x a week(depending on goals). You can do classes for a less expensive route or go the smart/safe way and join a small group training program that’s a little more structured. The more expensive way is to hire a fitness professional and have them show you the basic movements… and then structure a program for your wants/needs. If you’re on your own start by doing leg exercises(Squat, Lunges), a push(Chest Press, Shoulder Raises), a Pull(Pulldown, Rows) and a core(Plank, Bridge, Crunches), for 1-3 sets, 8-12 reps & 1min rest.
Tips to stay on track would be to set short obtainable goals at first. (Ex: lose 1-3Lbs in 2 weeks or be able to walk/run a 5k). Also, you can join a team setting at your local gym, which are typically pretty motivating. In my class I’ve had people with me for 10+ years, mainly because it holds them accountable and challenges them in ways they wouldn’t do themselves.
2. Do you have an ideal breakdown for a week of workouts? That is, how many days should I be doing cardio and how many days should I focus on weights?
This is a very hard question, it really depends on what your goals are and what you want to do with your body. Someone wanting/needing to lose weight would be doing more cardio during the week.(3-5x per week & 30-90min each day) As for strength training, I’d start off by doing full body workouts or circuit training, 3-5x per week. Keeping the sets at 1-3 and reps 10-20.
Now if you’re like Dave Adams and wanting to get jacked and tan for the summer…all the while improving mobility, core strength and range of motion for golf, I’d do more cardio Interval training 3-5x a week, at 30-60min each day. A day or two of low intensity cardio wouldn’t hurt from time to time. The strength program would change by adding more sets, 3-5 and dropping the reps to 6-12. Tempo, combination sets, drop sets and timed exercises are also great tools to building strength. Stretching and foam rolling before & after each workout for 5-15min is a must. It will help loosen tight muscles, soreness and prevent injury.
3. How can I tone and strengthen without bulking up?
The biggest factor with “lean & tone” vs “bulking” is nutrition, plain and simple. A lot of workouts you see on the internet for toning will consist of higher rep ranges and lighter weights. Although that style of training is beneficial, it’s not helping the muscle grow (in a good way), it instead strengthens your muscle endurance. By lifting heavier weight to fatigue the muscles you will boost your metabolism, which in turn helps you gain lean sexy muscles and burn more fat at rest. So in short, eat a calorie controlled diet and use weights that will fatigue the muscle, but stay between 8-15 repetition.
4. New mom here! What exercises should I focus on to get back in shape? Specifically looking to tighten that post-partum “pooch!”
For all the new & veteran moms wanting to get back in shape, especially when it comes to the midsection. I believe it’s very important to work on pelvic mobility(anterior & posterior tilts), control(isometric/holds) and strengthening the hip/thighs&core muscles. Here are 5 exercises you should definitely start incorporating into your routines.
1-3 sets (depending on fitness level)
10-12 controlled movements
45sec-1min rest in between exercises
– Lying Ball/pillow squeezes
– Lying Bridges (you can combine 1st & 2nd Exercises)
– Side Lying Leg Raises
– Controlled Crunches
– Cat Cow Pose
5. Is it better to focus on specific muscle groups on different days of the week, or do you prefer consistent full-body workouts?
My opinion on whether to split muscle groups up throughout the week or to do full body workouts, depends on a few things; how much time do you have a week to train, what are you looking to do(increase muscle mass, lose body fat/weight or to maintain what you already have). I personally rotate my routines about every 8-12 weeks. If I’m training for mud runs, like the Spartan Races, I stay with more full body workouts. About 8 weeks out from golf season I’ll start doing more specific muscle groups that also combine some sort of Range of Motion, Balance and/or Stability to it. But beach season sometimes conflicts with golf workouts and I start isolating 2 sometimes 3 muscle groups each day. An example would be:
-Back, Biceps & Obliques
-Chest, Triceps & Abs
-Legs, Isometric(Planks, Side Planks, Bird Dogs)
-Shoulders & Lighter-Burnout Arms(beach season!)
-Back, Chest & Abs
6. What should I eat before and after my workouts? Are you a fan of intermittent fasting?
I am a fan of eating before and after my workouts, with spacing meals 3-4 hours apart. It gives me the fuel and energy I need to sustain a full workout. And eating within 30-45min after your workout is a must because you want to replenish the body and feed the muscles. I like to get a lighter protein(shake, chicken, eggs or fish), a good digesting carbohydrate(rice, Ezekiel bread, cream of rice…great with PB mixed in it or pasta). Now for my fat, I’ll do either pre or post workout but not both. This would be olive oil, avocado, or Peanut/Almond Butter).
Some people find it hard to workout when they eat before, and those are typically my morning intermittent fasting clients. So I think in those cases it’s important to refuel your body right after and think about an intra workout drink. I take BCAA’s (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) while training to help repair and sustain the workout. 1-3 times a week I incorporate intermediate Fasting… I feel it helps reset and jumpstart my body into burning fat more efficiently. Some studies have shown it to help with fat loss, cholesterol, high blood pressure and brain function. But just like anything, you have numerous ways to fast and it doesn’t work for everyone.
7. Do you have any quick but efficient at-home workouts? Even better if they require minimal equipment!
Quick and efficient workouts to do at home are fun because most should incorporate a combination of slower and faster movements, burnout sets and muscle endurance. Which I think is key if you’re looking to tone up and get some heart benefits as well. Here are 2 sample circuits I currently am doing with some of my clients.
|1| 5 rounds – 10 reps of each exercise – Timed
-Squat or *Squat Jumps
-Kneeling or *Regular Push Ups
-Stationary Lunge or Lunge Jumps
…. now if you’re a beginner do 1-2 rounds, intermediate level 3-4 rounds and Beast Mode 5 rounds…. 5 rounds takes most my clients 8-10min.
|2| 30sec to *1min of each exercise(depending on fitness level and available time) 1-3 rounds with a 2 min breather after each round.
-Push Ups (Kneeling/Inclined/Regular)
-Reverse Crunches or Seated Oblique Twists
8. I need some definition in my arms, and fast! Any tips?
To get quick results in your arms, without tearing or injuring something, is hard. They are smaller muscles you really shouldn’t you spot train/isolate. Im not saying never do arms, just don’t do them everyday! Instead I’d work on burnouts with body weight exercises. An example would be to do a 30 day challenge with yourself. Pick an attainable number of push ups and do that number everyday. If you need a rest day take one like every 3rd day, but never consecutive days off.
My wife wanted to be able to do 10 pull ups, so we did a progressional 30 day routine. It included different grips, holds at Flexion and Extension, with very little rest in between sets. By the 30 day mark she went from 4 pull ups to 12 legit (no kipping) Pull Ups. And not to mention her arms and back looked amazing… I mean still looks amazing!
9. Do you ever work with pregnant clients? If so, what workouts would you suggest so that I’m not totally out of shape at the end of my pregnancy?
I have worked and still do work with pregnant woman, and the important thing is to listen to your body. What’s good for one person might not be so good another. Consult with your doctor before the start of each trimester. With each trimester you should start to modify everything and start eliminating certain movements/exercises.
1st Trimester: Not a ton of limitations from your current physical activity should have to change. You will be losing your breathe and fatiguing faster. The only exercises you should avoid are ones flat on your back.
2nd Trimester: Mobility and Range of motion begin to get harder and your training methods should gear more toward body weight and/or resistance bands. Maybe you’ll start doing one less day of strength and resting or adding a cardio day. Stretching will also become important because of the mobility restrictions, tightness in your hips and other body parts starting to stretch and shift more. The big exercises to stay away from now, in addition to lying flat on your back is no heavy overhead movements and no lying flat on your stomach.
3rd Trimester: By this point the entire body is beat up, worn down and ready to be done! Most woman find this period to be the hardest to do anything in the gym…with feeling nauseous, having headaches and feeling uncomfortable doing just about any thing. Keep motions controlled and smooth, and begin doing more walking, swimming, squats, pelvic floor exercises(kegels) and light yoga.
After you have your baby, you’ll have a grace period where you can’t do anything, so eat smart and healthy (for you and the baby!). And once you’ve been cleared by the doctor, start slow (3rd tri workouts) and then go to the 2nd Trimester routines for a few weeks. Once you can do your first trimester exercises, you should be to resume all other styles of training.
10. How many times a week do I need to workout to really see results?
I would say if you can get in at least 3 30min-1hour training sessions a week, you have a good chance of seeing positive results. I love to get 5-6 days and about an hour or so of cardio &/or strength training in a week. That allows me to separate and breakdown the muscles more, so I get a faster and better result. Ultimately, results are made in the kitchen… whether you want to lose weight or gain muscle. If your nutrition is poor, the definition you want to see gets covered by added body weight(fat). Another important factor is consistency, it takes roughly 8 weeks to have a habit stick, so give your body some time to work through that initial “hard phase”. And remember Quality over Quantity… you have to put in quality time to see a quality result.
11. My abs separated during pregnancy–any suggestions or specific exercises for diastasis recti?
A few suggestions when performing exercises to help with Diastasis Recti(Abdominal Separation). But before trying any of these recommendations, consult with a doctor or professional physical therapist. Start off by making sure all exercises be in the form of pulling in the abdominal muscles rather than pushing them outwards(seeing a bump/bulge coming out from middle of the stomach). If something feels off or wrong, stop and move onto the next exercise. Next would be to use smaller/controlled motions that allow you to keep the correct form. This will help prevent loss of posture, pelvic imbalances and low back pain. Last one would be to measure your gap before starting a routine. The first exercise i have listed below is a great way to do that, plus on my Instagram @bef.i.i.t I have my wife demonstrating how to check your gap… along with a few of her favorite exercises.
Here are some other exercises that have helped my clients bounce back fairly quickly and see amazing results. And the best part is they have done it without any injuries or setbacks:
1-2 sets. 10-12 reps. 1min Rest
Slow Crunch: Lying down, knees bent at 90°, feet flat and hips in a neutral position. Slowly lift the head, and shoulders and bring chin toward your chest. Concentrate on isolating the abdominals to prevent hip-flexors from being engage). Slowly contract abdominals toward floor, hold for two seconds, lower shoulders and head to starting position for 2 seconds. If you’re doing this as a test, take your hand with fingers pointed. Right above the belly button, place your fingers(palm facing your face) in the middle of your abdominal. However many fingers go in between the abs, is your result. Most woman start with a 2-3 finger gap.
Seated Ab Hold: with your legs straight or bent(depending on physical capabilities) and a pillow or ball in between knees. Take small controlled breaths(in through the nose & out through the mouth). Slowly contract the abdominal muscles, pulling them straight back towards the spine. Hold the contraction for 20-30 seconds… Never hold your breath!
Bridge Squeezes: In a Lying position, knees bent at 90*, abdominals drawn in, hips rolled to neutral spine and a pillow or ball in between knees. Slowly raise hips in the air, hold and squeeze your glutes and begin contracting your inner thighs. Squeeze for 2 seconds and relax for 2 seconds(never dropping hips).
Inclined Push Ups: Place your hands shoulder width apart on a couch, bed, stairs or table(hip to chest height). Contract abdominal muscles toward spine, lower down and bring middle of chest towards what you’re leaning on, with elbows close to body and feet shoulder width apart.
Wall Sit: Stand with back against the wall, feet out in front of body shoulder width, slowly lower body to a seated position so knees are bent at a 90°, heels are under your knees and contracting abs toward spine. Hold this for 20-30 seconds. Optionally, this exercise can also be done using an exercise ball placed against the wall and the lower back. You can also bring your feet close and place a pillow or ball in between the knees.
Bird Dogs: Start by being on both hands and knees with your neck straight. With keeping your back straight and belly button drawn in towards your spine; extend the right arm and left leg out away from the midline of the body. You should contact the backside of the leg that is raised, shoulder and entire back. Lower limbs back to starting position while keeping core engaged.
12. How can I burn more fat? And how much does metabolism depend on diet vs. exercise?
To burn more fat there’s a few factors to evaluate first. Most important is your daily food intake vs your energy output(exercise). Whether your metabolism is fast or slow, our bodies are designed to store excess energy in fat cells. That’s one reason why losing weight is often so difficult. We all should know if you eat and drink more calories (intake) than your body expends (output) you will gain weight. On the other hand, if you eat and drink fewer calories than are burned (including exercise, rest and sleep), you’ll lose weight. Now there’s always exceptions, people that have great genes and can eat anything and everything yet not gain a pound… those people just have it a little easier than most! Second is how frequent are you eating, it should be every 3-4 hours. This is important because as we get older our metabolism, along with muscle and bone density start to decrease(which all help burn fat). By eating every 3-4 hours, it allows the bodies energy to stay above the metabolic threshold. Combine this with a proper strength training program and you’ll be setting the body up to be a fat burning machine. With that being said, our bodies are also programmed to sense a lack of food as starvation. This will make our BMR slow down, which means fewer calories burned over time.
In short, eating a balanced diet every 3-4 hours, adding strength training and a smidge of interval cardio(20-30min) into your daily routine should help jumpstart your metabolism and help you burn more fat.
13. If I’m sore after a workout, is it better to take a rest day or push through it? Do you have any tips for recovering faster?
Being sore is a good thing, it means you are on your way to a stronger/ leaner you! On the flip side, trying to “push through it” could actually have a negative impact on the muscle. It can cause tears and/or tissue damage, which then puts strain on other body parts leading to injury. Now with resistance training you’re basically tearing/breaking down muscle and creating microtrauma in the muscle. When the muscle recovers (24-48 hours), it’s going to recover stronger and denser than it was before.
What I do for faster recovery is supplement Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) during my strength or cardio workouts. This helps with muscle fatigue and performance throughout the session. Then followed by adding glutamine to my protein shake after working out. This helps with muscle soreness and speeds up the recovery process. The best for last – foam roll and stretch. It’s a must to break up some of that lactic acid and lengthen the muscles. It not only helps with soreness , but also prevents injury.
14. What should an ideal day of healthy eating look like?
I’m a picky eater, so I stick with my “go to” foods. These foods have dozens of recipes so you’ll never get bored, and the best part is I know it works for me.
Protein: consume my body weight in:
Chicken, steak, fish, turkey, eggs, shakes
Carbs: depends on goals
Rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal/cream of rice, waffles, muffins
Fats: in 2-3 meals
Almond Butter, avocado, olive oil
Veggies: Lots & Lots
Kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus
Here’s a sample day from mine a my wife’s 30 Day ReBoot Plan…
3 egg white
1/2 medium avocado
1 piece Rudy’s gluten free bread
Snack: (on the go)
Quest Bar & a tbsp of almond butter
Cardio-20min Strength-30min Recovery-10min
Protein powder, kale1/2 c frozen berries 1/3 cup, hemp seed 1 teaspoon, chia seed 1/2 teaspoon.
Mid-Day Snack: (optional meal)
1/2 c rice, 5 Brussels sprouts, 4 pieces of asparagus, 5 pieces cauliflower, 5 pieces broccoli, 1 lemon slice, 1 pinch seasoned salt
4 oz salmon, 6oz spinach, 1/2 avocado, 6 asparagus, crushed red pepper (pinch) apple cider vinegar (1/2 tsp) seasoned salt (pinch) Italian seasoning (pinch)
15. What questions should I ask a potential personal trainer to see if he/she is a good fit?
When shopping around for a trainer you want to find a few things out.
-How long has he or she been training?
-How busy are they, a busy trainer is typically a better trainer.
-Ask if they can share any success stories of their own or of clients.
-What certifications do you have… will those certs benefit your wants and needs?
-Can they put you through a sample workout(after an assessment) to see his/her training style.