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Optimal Workout


Cornfed

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Recently I've been looking into the subject of what the optimal workout would be, not so much for people who wanted to be professional bodybuilders, but more for the average bloke who wanted to become generally strong, attractive and athletic with minimal effort. The following is what I came up with.

All major body movements fit into three basic categories: pushing, pulling and leg movements of various kinds. So we can prescribe a bunch of compound exercises for each category. For example:

Pushing: Bench press, incline press, dip, shoulder press...

Pulling: Bent row, upright row, chin-up...

Legs: Squat, dl, sldl...

Trainees could effectively train their whole body in one short workout by doing one exercise from each category. They would do this three or four times per week. They would vary the exercises performed, but if they had particular favorites from each category (say they preferred squats to dl or vice versa) then it would be OK to emphasize some more than others. They could also do a few isolation exercises at the end of their workouts as required. Rather than training to failure, they would do reps with strict form at, say, a three seconds up two down cadence and stop the instant they could no longer maintain their form. They would do a couple of sets of 5-10 reps for strength and one of 15-25 for endurance. They would maintain this regime indefinitely and make progress by increasing the weights used.

In addition, they could do weighted stretching of the whole body once a week in order to add to muscle growth as well as stretching the muscle casings to allow for further growth and develop general flexibility. If they led an otherwise sedentary lifestyle, they could also do some low impact, medium intensity aerobic exercise about twice a week. Swimming laps with flippers on would be ideal, or walking up hills would be pretty good, or the stepper machine would be OK. Total exercise time for the week, including aerobics, would be 6-8 hours.

The advantages of this regime compared to traditional bodybuilding workouts are as follows:

1. It is simpler, more versatile more tolerant of missed workouts and requires less time than most, and could be done by trainees of all levels and most sporting persuasions.

2. It would cause the greatest testosterone spike. The increase in testosterone is known to be proportional to the amount of muscle stimulated and peak after a fairly short duration of intense exercise. This workout is ideal because it stimulates the whole body several times a week over a short duration.

3. It develops muscular co-ordination to the greatest degree without leading to overtraining. This would lead to trainees having a high power-to-weight ratio, which is what most people want.

I believe that this scheme combined with a healthy manlike diet would lead to previously marshmallowy guys becoming strong, lean and vigorous in fairly short order. I myself will be giving it a try over the coming months, although I'm currently nursing a rotator cuff injury and so may not get the maximum benefit. It would be great if others, particularly those near the start of their training, could give it a try and report back on the results.

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In addition to the optimal workout above, I thought I would also post my thoughts on the optimal diet for men. Basically this is a version of the "Paleolithic diet" - the idea that humans are best adapted to eat pre-agricultural foods and we should therefore eliminate from our diets the foods that are unique to agriculture.

The common thread with agricultural foods is that we eat the seeds of plants that devote a large percentage of their resources to producing seeds, such as wheat, corn, rice, potato etc. This makes good economic sense as it allows the greatest amount of calories of food to be produced inside a given area of land. However, such foods are sub-optimal in terms of health for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the seeds contain much energy to provide a boost for the growing plant but very little in the way of nutrients useful to animal bodies - the original empty calories. For another thing, to protect their seeds the plants have evolved defense mechanisms such as enzyme blockers and lectins, against which humans have no defense. Cooking the plants deactivates some of these but not all of them. Hence all of these foods should be avoided. Drinking milk should also be avoided, although butter and yogurt are acceptable.

Other things to avoid are any highly processed foods and their accompanying toxic additives such as MSG, aspartame, saccharine etc. Also any industrially produced fats such as margarine and canola oil. It goes without saying that soft drinks, sweets and other junk should be eliminated. Ditto for beer unfortunately. Probably all alcohol should go, but failing that, wine would be the least damaging drink.

That leaves you with practically everything else: meats, eggs, fruit, nuts, honey, animal fat, leafy plants and so forth. Most diets composed of these would be somewhat healthy, but the optimal diet for men (who are adapted to be lean and muscular) would consist almost entirely of animal protein and saturated animal fat, - including much cholesterol, which is the building block for testosterone and other hormones and very important for the immune system. This avoids the insulin spike and other toxic effects of too much sugar in the bloodstream and allows the body to adapt to using fat as its primary energy source, which is a more efficient process than burning glycogen.

To get enough micronutrients you would have to supplement this with relatively small amounts of nutrient-rich plant material. Ideally you would forage for wild plants such as watercress, sow thistle, dandelions etc. However, if you didn't want to do that you could use the juice extracted wheat and/or barley grass (either buy it or grow your own), the basic salad-type plants that can be eaten raw or take a multivitamin. Fruit could also be used for this purpose, but should be used sparingly because of the sugar content, especially since modern fruits are bred to be artificially high in sugar. (This applies to men - women, who are adapted to carry slightly higher body fat, could eat a reasonable amount of fruit).

As to the frequency of meals, most bodybuilding diets recommend eating many small meals throughout the day. This is necessary when consuming a lot of carbohydrate to avoid the body converting it to fat, but is not really necessary with this diet. Indeed, the fact that men are basically hunters tends to imply that we should eat a few major meals - one after each kill. Hence the standard three meals a day should be fine. For the amount of food, let your hunger be your guide. If you are skinny and want to bulk up, eat slightly more than you would want to and add another small meal before bedtime. (The mega-eating regime recommended with standard bodybuilding diets is not necessary). If you are fat and want to slim down, eat so that you are slightly hungry after each meal but not ravenously so. If you are about the right weight then you should eat enough to satisfy yourself but still resist any temptation to eat between meals.

In a typical day you might eat natural unsweetened yogurt (which you could make yourself) with wheatgrass juice mixed in for breakfast, bacon and eggs fried in butter or tallow for lunch (with the egg yolks and without any bread) and a fatty cut of meat also fried in butter or tallow for dinner. You would want to include a mixture of fatty meats in your diet, including organ meats such as liver for the vitamin A content.

To drink, just have water. So as not to intefere with digestion, avoid drinking anything between 10 minutes before and 1 hour after each meal, but otherwise drink plenty of water. The best water is probably rainwater that has been sitting in a tank for a little while so that it develops enough microbial life to become "activated", but otherwise go for distilled water.

It may take you a while to adapt to this diet, as your body has to detoxify and readjust itself to burn fat instead of carbs, so be prepared for dts lasting up to three weeks. Once that is over, and assuming you combine this diet with the workout suggested above, you should be super fit, strong and healthy in no time.

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...the optimal diet for men (who are adapted to be lean and muscular) would consist almost entirely of animal protein and saturated animal fat, - including much cholesterol, which is the building block for testosterone and other hormones and very important for the immune system.

This was very interesting reading, thanks for posting, however there are a couple of things I thought I might add. Its not really necessary to get large quantities of cholesterol from your diet as your body manufactures it. This is one of the problems facing people who have high cholesterol levels, namely that removing all sources of dietary cholesterol never reduces levels by more than around 10%.

...allows the body to adapt to using fat as its primary energy source, which is a more efficient process than burning glycogen.

At rest the majority of people use fat as their primary energy source already, but I'm not sure if this is a more efficient process than burning glucose/glycogen, apart from the fact that the energy yield from fat gram per gram is just over double that of glucose/glycogen.

As to the frequency of meals, most bodybuilding diets recommend eating many small meals throughout the day. This is necessary when consuming a lot of carbohydrate to avoid the body converting it to fat, but is not really necessary with this diet. Indeed, the fact that men are basically hunters tends to imply that we should eat a few major meals - one after each kill. Hence the standard three meals a day should be fine.

I think the idea to eat multiple small meals is concerned with maintaining nitrogen (amino acid) levels in the blood. Any protein consumed in excess of requirements at a given point in time has its amino acids deaminated, that is, converted to glucose and urea. The glucose can be used for energy or stored as fat/glycogen and the urea is simply excreted as one of the components of urine. However some time after the digestion process is complete the weight trained muscles still require amino acids for repair. The body stores a small amount of amino acids in the liver but apart from that the primary store is muscle tissue itself. Eating small protein rich meals often means that your body isn't going to sacrifice muscle tissue from one part of the body in order to repair another.

...eggs fried in butter or tallow for lunch (with the egg yolks and without any bread) and a fatty cut of meat also fried in butter or tallow for dinner. You would want to include a mixture of fatty meats in your diet...

Be careful here Cornfed as the links between regular consumption of saturated fats and circulatory disease are well established, despite what Dr. Atkins claimed. Personally I would be disinclined to eat like this long term.

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Be careful here Cornfed as the links between regular consumption of saturated fats and circulatory disease are well established, despite what Dr. Atkins claimed. Personally I would be disinclined to eat like this long term.

I'm glad someone brought this up. No such links have been established in non-Western populations that eat a diet similar to the one I advocate. Indeed, in populations like the (traditional lifestyle living) Inuit, such diseases are practically unheard of:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=11965522&dopt=Citation

Also, although the diet of humans "in the wild" varies greatly depending on the food available in their locality, most hunter-gatherers seem to have preferred such a diet, presumably not because it was killing them off:

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/71/3/682

The trouble with studying questions like this in the West is that most of the differences in the populations studied are not corrected for. (That and the fact that many studies are rigged to serve particular economic interests). So say you compare a bunch of vegetarians to a bunch of people who eat at McDonalds all the time. In that instance the McDonalds eaters will indeed consume more saturated fat and have a higher rate of circulatory disease, and it is currently fashionable to blame the fat, but that fails to take into account that the McDonalds eaters would also eat a lot of processed carbs and MSG and more calories and probably don't get enough exercise.

Its not really necessary to get large quantities of cholesterol from your diet as your body manufactures it. This is one of the problems facing people who have high cholesterol levels, namely that removing all sources of dietary cholesterol never reduces levels by more than around 10%.

I think a lot of confusion in this area comes from equating the amount of blood serum cholesterol with cholesterol in the body. It seems that people who eat low cholesterol diets cause the release of stored cholesterol into the bloodstream, thus depleting the body and weakening various bodily systems associated with cholesterol. I'm basing that observation on the fact that most indigenous peoples seem to prefer fatty cuts of meat and their health suffers when these are unavailable, an extreme example of this being "rabbit starvation".

http://www.westonaprice.org/men/menshealthmag.html

http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/skinny.html

On the subject how many meals you should eat, I think this is largely speculation. Historically the problem that eating a lot of meals usually sought to address was the accumulation of too much body fat when bulking up, and I'm just pointing out that this would probably not be such a problem on this diet. Keep in mind that I'm making recommendations aimed at becoming a generally strong, lean and healthy person here rather than at becoming a pro bodybuilder, which is a quite different kettle of fish. Your claim that it is necessary to maintain a constant amino acid supply in the blood may well be right when in comes to super-muscular people but not necessarily the people I am targeting.

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I'm glad someone brought this up. No such links have been established in non-Western populations that eat a diet similar to the one I advocate. Indeed, in populations like the (traditional lifestyle living) Inuit, such diseases are practically unheard of:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=11965522&dopt=Citation

Also, although the diet of humans "in the wild" varies greatly depending on the food available in their locality, most hunter-gatherers seem to have preferred such a diet, presumably not because it was killing them off:

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/71/3/682

I think the conclusion from the first paper is important though:

The high reliance upon animal-based foods would not have necessarily elicited unfavorable blood lipid profiles because of the hypolipidemic effects of high dietary protein (19-35% energy) and the relatively low level of dietary carbohydrate (22-40% energy). Although fat intake (28-58% energy) would have been similar to or higher than that found in Western diets, it is likely that important qualitative differences in fat intake, including relatively high levels of MUFA and PUFA and a lower omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio, would have served to inhibit the development of CVD. Other dietary characteristics including high intakes of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals along with a low salt intake may have operated synergistically with lifestyle characteristics (more exercise, less stress and no smoking) to further deter the development of CVD.

The researchers attributed at least some of the effect to the quality of the fats consumed (higher levels of mono and poly unsaturated fats etc.) along with other dietary and lifestyle factors. There is also a distinct possiblity that Inuit genes could contribute. The process of natural selection over 1000's of years may mean they tolerate the fat consumption better. As you pointed out there are so many variables to control for it becomes difficult to draw hard and fast conclusions.

I think a lot of confusion in this area comes from equating the amount of blood serum cholesterol with cholesterol in the body. It seems that people who eat low cholesterol diets cause the release of stored cholesterol into the bloodstream, thus depleting the body and weakening various bodily systems associated with cholesterol. I'm basing that observation on the fact that most indigenous peoples seem to prefer fatty cuts of meat and their health suffers when these are unavailable, an extreme example of this being "rabbit starvation".

http://www.westonaprice.org/men/menshealthmag.html

http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/skinny.html

I may be wrong but it is unlikely that the body will ever become cholesterol depleted as cells can readily synthesise cholesterol from acetyl-CoA. Cholesterol levels are maintained as part of homeostasis, with cholesterol biosynthesis being inhibited by dietary cholesterol.

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Once again, I don't really believe that there's an optimal workout for EVERYONE, at ANY point in time, at ANY level of conditioning, that you will give the GREATEST hypertrophy with the GREATEST strength, wank wank wank...

It just reminds me of the HIT-Jedi.

Cornfed, your workout is workable if you don't go retarded with volume over the course of training sessions. Since the frequency of workouts is already high (you're training your entire body 3x or so over the week) it's best to break the volume down. Once again, with frequent training I'd rarely go to failure (sometimes you can't help but fail on some sets), which is basically what you've said above. Another thing I'd like to point out is that you might want to vary loading parameters from exercise to exercise.

Just to give you an example...

You're training Mon,Wed,Fri. Sat/Sun you rest.

Monday- You go Heavy.

Wednesday - You go Light.

Friday - You go Medium.

or..(depending on your levels of fitness/recovery)

Monday - Heavy.

Wednesday - Light.

Friday - Heavy.

or... you can break it down even further.

Say, on Monday you're doing the following...

-Squats

-Hamstring Curl/Leg Curl/whatever

-Bench Press

- Bent-Over rows/Pendlay Rows

- Something for Calves.

Instead of going all out on every exercise in terms of loading (we're not touching failure) you might want to varry loading on certain exercises.

Meaning...

-Squats - HEAVY

-Hamstring Curl/Leg Curl/whatever - LIGHT/MED

-Bench Press - HEAVY

-Bent-Over rows/Pendlay Rows - LIGHT/MED

- Something for Calves. - Whatever

Then go heavy on the exercises you went Light/Med on, during your next session..

Or .... times other 34958390458 ways you can twist and change it.

You might want to look into HST, since your program links to it very nicely but HST is still a little bit different.

0.02$

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Once again, I don't really believe that there's an optimal workout for EVERYONE, at ANY point in time, at ANY level of conditioning, that you will give the GREATEST hypertrophy with the GREATEST strength, wank wank wank...

Yes, there can't be an optimal workout for every goal because at some point the goals themselves are opposed. For example, beyond a certain level, the physique with the most muscular hypertrophy is not going to be the strongest for everyday activities and certainly not the healthiest or most efficient.

The workout is mainly intended to help flabby and enfeebled Western men attain the vibrant muscular physique that is the birthright of every human male as painlessly as possible. In this I think it would cater to quite a large group of people. It would also be useful for those starting their careers in particular sports. They could attain a certain level with this program before perhaps going on to more specialized programs. So say for example a kid wanted to play high school rugby league. He could use this program, in addition to his league practice, to promote general strength and gain ~10kg of lean, functional muscle. Now lets say he then went on to play professional rugby league and his position required him to add another 10kg of muscle. This highly specialized requirement would likely be opposed to general good health and functionality, so he would then have to go onto a regime specifically designed to force his body in this unnatural direction. However, most people don't or shouldn't want to do such a thing.

Cornfed, your workout is workable if you don't go retarded with volume over the course of training sessions. Since the frequency of workouts is already high (you're training your entire body 3x or so over the week) it's best to break the volume down. Once again, with frequent training I'd rarely go to failure (sometimes you can't help but fail on some sets), which is basically what you've said above. Another thing I'd like to point out is that you might want to vary loading parameters from exercise to exercise.

In the interests of simplicity I thought it would be best to recommend objective standards such as going to a form of failure but without damaging the muscle too much - hence the idea of doing slow, strict form reps and stopping when you can no longer maintain the form. However, these more complex methods might have merit as occasional training aids. If I expand these recommendations into an e-book I'll probably include some such suggestions, if for no other reason than that readers will think they are getting more value.

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  • 2 years later...

The Paleolithic diet is in essence the Atkins Diet - ie. eating as our Forefathers did. Atkins has been extremely helpful to me in losing bodyfat and adding lean muscle to my frame.

I tried to follow a higher carbohydrate diet - with great sources of carbs by the way, ie. oatmeal, potatoes, brown rice etc... But though I was putting on mass I put on a great deal of bodyfat.

I did copious amounts of reading online and in muscle mags into establishing the right level of carbs, proteins and fats for a solid bodybuilding diet but found I can't process carbs the way the average bodybuilder can even though I worked out extremely hard with both cardio and heavy weight training.

A lower carb intake I found works best for me - meat, vegetables, fruits etc... I've gone from 68 kgs to a very lean and muscular 88kgs in just over a year from following Atkins and weight training and have made significant gains in muscle size.

There are four phases of Atkins. A common misconception is that the entire Atkins diet is only restricted to the first phase. Not true. The Paleolithic diet and Atkins are very similar.

ATKINS® DIET

Four Phases of Atkins:

The Atkins Nutritional Approach™ (ANA) is an easy-to-follow four-phase program. Initially, you cut back significantly on carb intake to lose weight; then you gradually add back a variety of "good" carbs as you get closer to your goal weight. Once you reach your goal weight, you will find your individual ACE (Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium), meaning the approximate number of "Net Carbs" you can continue to eat without gaining or losing weight. Changes in your activity level, hormonal status or other factors may raise or lower your ACE. Here's how to do Atkins properly.

Phase 1 - Induction

We recommend you do the first phase of Atkins for at least two weeks. You will be staying at or below 20 grams of Net Carbs per day. (Carbs such as fiber don't count in this tally. Eat three meals a day or four or five small meals, if preferred. Don't skip meals. Eat until you're satisfied but not stuffed.

A sample breakfast might consist of an avocado-tomato omelet and decaf coffee with cream. For lunch you could have a cheeseburger (minus the roll) and a tossed salad. Dinner might include broiled salmon and spinach sautéed with garlic.

Foods that combine protein and fat, such as poultry, fish, red meat and eggs, will be the foundation of your meals.

Most of your carbs will come from nutrient-dense foods such as leafy green vegetables dressed in olive oil.

Drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water each day to hydrate your body and flush out impurities.

Exercise regularly, preferably combining an aerobic activity such as walking or running with an anaerobic activity such as weight training. Always check with your physician before starting any exercise program.

Phase 2 - Ongoing Weight Loss

Slow your weight loss by gradually increasing your carb intake in increments of 5 grams of Net Carbs. (For example, 6 asparagus spears and half a tomato contain roughly 5 grams of Net Carbs.) Choose your additional carbs wisely, starting with non-starchy vegetables, berries (lower in carbs than other fruits) or Atkins controlled carb alternative foods. Never assume any food is low in carbs; instead, read labels and use a carb gram counter (visit http://www.atkinsonline.com/).

The first week, move up to 25 grams of net Carbs per day.

If you continue to lose weight, move to a daily intake of 30 grams of Net Carbs the next week, and so forth until weight loss stops for a few days in a row.

Drop back 5 grams and you should continue losing weight slowly. Stay at this level of Net Carbs until you come within 5 to 10 pounds of your target weight.

Phase 3 - Pre-Maintenance

When you get within 5 to 10 pounds of your goal weight, move to Pre-Maintenance. By losing those last few pounds very slowly, you'll ease yourself into a permanently changed way of eating.

Each week, add more grams (as much as 10) of carbs to your daily allotment, going, for example from 50 grams of Net Carbs as day to 60 the next week.

As long as you continue to lose at an almost imperceptible rate, gradually introduce other fruits, such as grapefruit, kiwi or melon, whole grains and yams and other starchy vegetables.

When you achieve and maintain your goal weight for at least a month, you have found the Net Carb level called your Ace and have effectively moved to the final phase of Atkins.

Phase 4 - Lifetime Maintenance

To maintain your goal weight, stay at your newly found ACE.

Your ACE may range from as low as 40 to 120 or more grams of net Carbs daily, depending on your metabolism, age, gender, activity level, or other factors.

Continue to follow this healthful and satisfying way of eating and engage in regular exercise for effective weight control.

Changes in your activity level, hormonal status or other factors may raise or lower your ACE.

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"or Atkins controlled carb alternative foods".

In my experiance this is the major downfall of the Atkin diet and where it differes greatly from the palolithic style diet.

You take the avarage recreational trainer and put them on Atkin, and they will go crazy with all the supa highly processed Atkin type carb reduced/controled foods, which completely negates the whole Idea of eating what our bodys had become used to over the previous couple thousand years.

I like the OP's nutritional view, though its nothing new it about time it was revived again

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Agreed.

Here's an interesting article concerning the food pyramid and carbohydrate, processed food intake.

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Re ... 52B2D86AF4

Good article, really interesting...

"But it gets even weirder than that. Foods considered more or less deadly under the low-fat dogma turn out to be comparatively benign if you actually look at their fat content. More than two-thirds of the fat in a porterhouse steak, for instance, will definitively improve your cholesterol profile (at least in comparison with the baked potato next to it); it's true that the remainder will raise your L.D.L., the bad stuff, but it will also boost your H.D.L. The same is true for lard. If you work out the numbers, you come to the surreal conclusion that you can eat lard straight from the can and conceivably reduce your risk of heart disease."

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Lard out of a can *ewwww* =P~ I think I'll stick to a good ol' fashioned steak myself!

But yeah, before I started with a higher protein diet, it was getting to the point that I was scared to eat a steak or any form of meat and was also scared of sugar and carbohydrates. I was very confused! I was virtually starving myself eating rice, pasta and bread. Now that wasn't healthy! Not to mention driving my body into a catabolic state.

Definitely a good idea to include a lot more protein in one's diet.

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