The New Rules of the Road

The New Rules of the Road

The New Rules of the Road

A lot has changed in the world of fitness since the release of Arnold’s “The encyclopedia of Body Building”.  With our over exposure to daily Infomercials, new research and fad diets, it’s easy for one to get confused on what to do and what to trust. Like any ‘profession’…. the personal development profession is inhabited by a wide range of ‘interesting’ characters who collectively bring an even wider range of qualifications, skills, backgrounds, abilities, philosophies, egos, attitudes, personalities, perspectives and motives to the self-help table, and despite what’s coming out of their mouth, book, CD, DVD… are actually more about helping themselves than they are about helping anybody else. They’re slick, polished, articulate, clever, well marketed, talented… and full of crap.

Whew! That felt better; so needless to say but I did, it seems that our ideas and thoughts on training and weight loss are constantly being challenged.  Given that we have a limited amount of time to work out, we don’t want to be wasting any of it on outdated facts. The beauty of information is supposed to be that the more we get, the more we realize that knowledge is power. So let’s do a quick one page information refresher course, shall we?

Old rule: Do crunches for a strong midsection.
This is a tough one for me after having done millions of setups; crunches are by far the most popular exercise for working the abs, but why? Turns out, crunches will not make you complete and improve your core strength that much. And, really, what good is fitness if it can’t help you easily do what you need to do in everyday life?

New rule: Get a strong core with functional full-body exercises.
Did you know that abs only make up one part of your core? Yep, the full core is made up your abdominals, oblique’s, transverse abdominis and erector spinae (low back). Some experts even consider your hips to be part of your core. So when it comes to getting a strong midsection, don’t just crunch. Do a variety of planks, side planks, twists, rotations, balance work and more to build functional strength and support your body—no matter what activity you’re doing. A strong core keeps your back healthy and resistant to pain and injury, improves posture, allows you to move your body with greater control and helps with balance.

Old rule: Always rest between strength-training sets.
You’ve probably heard that you should rest for 60-90 seconds between sets when lifting weights, right? But the fitness industry has gotten a lot more creative, focused and time-efficient when it comes to weight-lifting, making this rule old news.

New rule: Circuit train to make the most of your workout.
While there’s nothing wrong with resting between sets, who has time? Make the most of your workout time with circuit training! Circuit training is a method of training borrowed from athletes and modified for us regular folks. Although circuit training is a broad term and can be done in many different and creative ways, traditionally circuit training is done in stations that alternate between different muscle groups. In this type of training you go from one station or exercise to the next with little to no rest, as you’re working a different muscle group. Because you keep your heart rate up throughout the workout, you not only build muscle—you also get the benefits of cardiovascular training. Perfect for those with limited time to work out! You can find sample workouts  on

Old rule: Do lots of reps with light weights to get toned and lean, not big and bulky.
I hear this outdated rule a lot, especially from women. For some reason it has been pounded into our heads that lifting light weights makes you tiny and toned while lifting heavy weights will make you big and bulky like the Hulk. And it just isn’t true.

New rule: Choose weights that challenge you.
If you can lift a weight 20-25 times, it’s time to go heavier. Lifting heavier weights will not bulk anyone up unless they spend hours and hours in the gym, so don’t be afraid to pick up the larger weights in the strength area of your health club. Depending on your weight and how many reps you’re doing (I recommend 8-15 reps with 1-4 sets for each exercise), you always need to select a weight that is heavy enough to get you to muscle exhaustion during your last couple of reps in a set. Exhaustion means your muscle has worked hard enough and is tired enough that you cannot do another rep with proper form. It’s so important to reach exhaustion because it’s at this point that your body starts to build more muscle. (We know how important muscle is for weight-loss! Don’t we?) So, if you’re regularly doing bicep curls with 5-pound weights and could easily squeeze a few more reps or sets into your workout without really even feeling the burn, it’s time to up those dumbbells!

Old rule: Do yoga and Pilates to make your muscles longer and leaner.
This is another old rule I hear from women a lot. Truth is, no form of exercise has the ability to “lengthen” your muscles. Your muscles are a certain length, and training doesn’t make them longer—period.

New rule: Round out your workout routine with yoga and Pilates.
I practice yoga and Pilates workouts, but not to burn calories. I do these two mind-body practices because they reduce stress, improve focus, strengthen the core and greatly improve flexibility—all of which are very important! Yoga and Pilates are fantastic activities that add value to any workout program, but they don’t fully replace cardio or strength training unless the kind you’re doing is extremely vigorous and advanced. (And for most people and in most classes and workout DVDs, that’s just not the case.)

Old rule: No pain, no gain.
I’m sure you’ve heard this old phrase. But nothing could be further from the truth. While “feeling the burn” is a good thing and signals that the body and its muscles are working hard, there is absolutely no gain to real pain.

New rule: If you feel bad or have pain, stop, rest and modify your workout.
If you have pain, do not take it lightly or push through it. Pain is a sign that something is wrong with your body and it needs rest or a modification of an exercise (for example walking instead of running or doing a front lunge instead of a backwards lunge). Also important, if you feel terrible, black out or have chest pains (more warning signs are here), you must take this very seriously and slow down (for cardio) or stop (for immediate severe pain). Additionally, if you’ve been working out very hard and feel like you might be overtraining, it’s important to give your body the rest it needs. Remember, exercise is supposed to make you feel better—not worse!
When it comes down to it, the new rules for fitness are common sense and help you to reach your goals faster. Incorporate these new “rules” into your repertoire and you’ll be amazed at what a difference such small changes can make!

Lastly, Having said all of that, I also acknowledge that there are many fantastic, generous, philanthropic, amazingly successful Personal Development types who succeed on a commercial level and also ‘give back’ more than most. I have met and worked with many people who make a living from personal development; most of them have been honest, ethical and generous.
Some of them, incredible.

Eat Smart, Train Hard, Live boldly

Robert Custer


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