I have several questions, and they cover both workouts and nutrition, so I wasn't sure which of the forums would be best suited. I figured to just try my luck here, even though some of the questions are not specifically "bodybuilding and weight lifting" related.
I'll put them in simple list form:
1. How much time should I be spending in the gym? I am there four days a week, and while I work hard and don't mess around, I sometimes feel like it just didn't take long enough. On a good day, when I don't have to wait in line for a bench or a machine, I can be done with the weights within thirty-five minutes. (Legs usually take longer, and shoulders shorter.) I then spend fifteen to twenty minutes on a treadmill, but when it's all said and done, I start to worry when I'm out the door within an hour. Is it truly more about quality of time spent in the gym than quantity, or should I find a way to hang around a bit longer?
2. Is there any accurate way to estimate body fat percentage short of using a purpose-built machine or device for it? I don't have access to one of those nifty gadgets that they made us use in high school gym class, yet I'm curious about my body fat. And I take most online calculators with a grain of salt - though I was flattered to be told I have 7% body fat, I had to be a bit skeptical.
3. Is there any accurate way to estimate caloric needs? Again, the online calculators seem unreliable to me: even though I would love to treat myself to the 3500 calories that are apparently appropriate for someone my age, size, and activity level, I'd rather have an accurate measure than rely on such a clearly bloated number.
4. Is maintaining a caloric deficit enough to get cut? I really wish I didn't sound so vain in asking this question, but I will be honest: for me, gaining strength and size are secondary. I truly would just like to have more definition and less body fat. So I am tracking my calories and trying to keep well below what I'm burning, but beyond training, is there anything else I should be doing to reach my goal?
5. What's the role of cardio training? If I read ten articles about cardio, I'll get ten different opinions. It's frustrating. As it stands, I run two miles on the treadmill after every workout, and I try to keep a challenging pace - for me, it's about 7:30 to 8:00 per mile. Considering my goal to burn fat, would I be better served by running harder but shorter, or for a longer time at a slower pace? Or is cardio not useful to me at all?
I'm sure I'll think of more questions in the future. Thanks for reading my long-winded post.
1. 35 mins should be enough if your working high intensity although most would be at gym for about 45- 1hr.
2. Calipers. at your gym you could probaly ask one of the personal trainers and they would measure bodyfat. (if you really are 7% BF you do not need to cut, although if you are asking about cutting i doubt you are really 7%)
3. The best way to measure is trial and error. Spend a week on around 14-16 calories/lb of body wieght. lessen calories if your gaining wieght, add more if your losing too fast.
4. You should probaly aim to lose about 1-2lb/week. if you lose any faster you will be losing a lot of muscle which wont do anything for your appearence.
5. Cardio is just burning calories losing wieght is about calories in being less then the calories you burn. You should do a mixture of the different types of cardio's. Perhaps 2xHIIT sessions and 1x SS cardio sessions (long, low intensity). There is a good article on cardio on this site.
If progress were measured by how much time you spent in the gym, people would just sit there and do nothing. It's about the intensity of your workout. I'd recommend lifting as heavy as you can (with ample rest time) and shoot for a 45min workout.
ain't nuttin but a peanut.
You will have gotten stronger when the weight that feels heavy is actually heavier than the weight that feels heavy now. Then the weight that feels heavy now will be a warmup for the weight that feels heavy then. But the weight will always feel heavy or you're not lifting enough weight. Clear? -Rippetoe
I'll take a stab at #1 and #5 for ya.
I'm a really big fan of intensity instead of time. I like to get the most bang for my buck in terms of time. I personally think working out for over an hour is a waste. Whenever I try to do that I always try to save strength for the end instead of working as hard as I can right from the get go.
If you're going to do a short workout, you have to get motivated and work HARD. If you do that it will give you much better results than a longer not as intense workout.
As far as cardio goes, I never do cardio on lifting days. It can counter the muscle building your trying to accomplish. On the 1 cardio day a week, I do sprints. I can get completely worn out in 20 minutes doing sprints, where as jogging just seems to go on and on. Plus the intensity of sprints will keep your metabolism high.
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Generally, if you read a piece of advice on the internet, assume it's wrong until proven otherwise. This applies especially to "conventional wisdom". -Belial