Rowing Machine Workout: More Muscle and Less Fat in Under 30 Minutes

This is Frank Underwood.

Frank is America’s most hated and loved fictional president of the United States.

Why am I talking about President Underwood in a fitness blog?

Well, if you can’t figure it out just go to a scene back in season 1 of “House of Cards.”

Frank Underwood is using a rowing machine.

Interesting seeing this machine being used in a popular drama series.

This is Jason Statham.

He looks nothing like Francis Underwood.

Underwood doesn’t look fit.

But it’s pretty obvious Jason Statham is fit.

And he probably knows how to use cardio to his advantage.

He’s quite athletic.

So why do I bring them up.

Before I answer that I have to point one thing out.

There’s two camps in fitness.

Those who do cardio.

And those who don’t.

For some reason there’s this belief that cardio isn’t necessary.

Or there’s this belief that cardio will make you lose muscle and get skinny.

If you’ve read previous articles on this site you’ll see examples of how cardio helps you maintain muscle.

In some instances you can gain muscle.

It all depends on how you use it.

Muscles Worked By Rowing

(That’s USA Rower Susan Francia)

I’ve seen rowers many times.

Especially in the Olympics.

I’ve seen the way the exercise works.

Grab two oars, hold them in your hands and start rowing.

Naturally, I used to think that the biceps did all the work.

But rowing is way more complicated than that.

It’s possibly one of the few total body cardio workouts around.

Done right it is similar to a power clean movement.

Check out the rowing motion.

  • Legs
  • Buttocks
  • Calves
  • Lower Back
  • Lats
  • Traps
  • Biceps
  • Abs

The entire body is getting a workout.

But lost in the motion is the idea that only the upper body is doing all the work.

The truth is it’s the opposite.

Done right, the legs and core do the majority of the work.

Your biceps are only there to finish the job.

How To Properly Row

First thing’s first.

In order to make a rowing workout effective you have to follow a series of steps.

Here are the steps:

  • Hold the bar with two hands
  • Start at knees bent position
  • Without leaning forward use your legs to push off
  • Once your legs are completely straight, lean back slightly
  • Now use the momentum to pull the bar into your upper ab area

That covers the first half of the exercise.

The motion of the exercise should be smooth and controlled.

Don’t jerk the handle and don’t rush through each step.

Now comes the 2nd part of the motion.

Going back to the starting point.

  • Once the bar touches the upper ab area, smoothly let the bar glide away from your body.
  • As the bar crosses above the thigh area let your upper body come back to an upright position.
  • The legs should be straight at this point, now bend at the knees and go back to the starting position.

Again, this should follow a controlled effortless motion.

The 2nd part of the motion should be slower than the first part of the motion.

It’s important to learn the proper way to do this exercise for the following reasons:

Doing this exercise incorrectly will lead to injury.

Not doing the exercise properly will screw up the benefits of rowing.

You’ll struggle with your rowing stamina and tap out too soon.

Choose Your Damper Setting Wisely

A big mistake most people make when using a rowing machine is underestimating how good of a cardio exercise it is.

One of the first things that people notice when trying out rowing is that it feels pretty easy.

Unlike sprints or a jog on a treadmill, if you’re out of shape you’ll tap out pretty fast.

A few minutes into a light jog and it’s possible to get winded.

On a rowing machine going for a few minutes can feel easier.

The first instinct is to make it harder by increasing the setting.

It’s also common for beginners, and even more experienced rowers, to not know that settings can be changed on a machine.

Look at a rowing machine and you’ll see that the front looks like a wheel.

On the “wheel” of the machine you’ll see a black round piece that can be adjusted.

That’s what’s called the “damper.”

The damper is basically the part of the machine that adds more friction to your rowing.

Naturally, you’d think that the higher the setting, creates a tougher and better cardio workout.

But the damper determines how much air flow enters the machine.

  • A higher damper setting (like a setting of 10) causes more air to enter the machine. The higher setting allows more air to enter the machine during the recovery period. More effort will then be required at the next stroke (Damper Setting 101).
  • A lower setting allows less air flow in the recovery phase of rowing.
Lower Damper Setting vs. High Damper Setting

If you’re just starting out it’s best to use lower damper settings.

A lower setting in the range of 3 to 5 will give you a better cardio workout.

If your goal is to focus more on strength goals, then a higher damper setting in the range of 7 to 10 is a better option.

However, a higher setting is recommended if you’ve been doing rowing for a while.

It’s important to learn to properly row and perfect the steps of a proper row.

A lower setting will also help you build stamina and keep you from gassing out too soon.

4 Benefits of Rowing Machine Workouts

#1 The first benefit to rowing is the overall athleticism involved in this workout.

Sure, you can get on a stationary bicycle.

You can use an elliptical if you want to burn some fat.

But rowing requires your entire body, including your core, to be engaged in the workout.

I’ve talked about the importance of making workouts as athletic as possible if you want to look fit.

#2  A second benefit is the combination of muscle building and cardio.

There’s few ways to combine both of these factors in one cardio workout.

Most cardio workouts have their limitations.

Some cardio workouts are mostly effective for just that- cardio.

Muscle building isn’t possible, as in the case of the elliptical.

A stationary bicycle can help you gain muscle in your lower body along with cardio.

But rowing will help you gain muscle from your calves and thighs to your traps and lats.

In fact, research in the Journal of Applied Physiology has shown that rowing, paired with strength training, helps maintain muscle, prevents atrophy in important muscle groups and helps improve cardiovascular health.

#3  A third benefit, which is popular, is the low impact of the exercise.

If you row the right way you won’t be busting your joints.

In fact, it’s pretty tough to mess up your joints.

Unlike sprinting and jogging which put strain on the knees, ankles and lower back, rowing doesn’t cause this problem.

Rowing is a smooth exercise that doesn’t impact your joints in any way.

#4 I’ll throw this as a fourth benefit- the meditative/zen like feeling of rowing.

One of the benefits I’ve  gotten from using a rowing machine is the peaceful yet focused feeling i get from it.

The repetitive motion of using my legs, core, arms and back in a controlled manner has a peaceful feeling.

The sound of air going into the machine, steady repetitive movement and staying in tune to your body and breathing keeps you focused throughout the exercise.

It’s hard for your mind to wander.

Rowing feels like meditation.

And i’m sure that rowing in the outdoors is even more meditative.

A Rowing Workout to Get Extra Lean

Getting ripped is not tough.

One of the best ways to do so is by using HIIT.

Rowing for distance works for burning fat.

But you can combine distance along with intervals to maximize fat burning while gaining muscle.

Here’s a way to combine the two.

  • Warm Up (10 minutes)
  • Set your damper to level 3.
  • Row for 10 minutes at an easy to moderate pace.
  • Stroke rate should be at an average of 20 during this phase.
  • Intervals (15 minutes)
  • Increase your stroke rate to 24 for the next 15 minutes.
  • Break your intervals by 2 minute intervals with one minute rest in between.
  • So it’ll look like this:
  • Rowing for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute

Finish by walking on a treadmill for 10 minutes at an easy pace to cool down.

Some training programs break up intervals by distance.

These work too but I find it tougher to follow distance intervals for beginners and even intermediate rowers.

Beyond Intermediate Rowers

However, if you want to follow a more challenging interval plan you can do it in the following way.

Warm up by doing 10 minutes of rowing at a moderate pace.

Follow the warm up with the following:

  • 500 meters of rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 750 meters of rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 1000 meters of rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 750 meters rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 500 meters rowing
  • 1 minute rest

Finish by walking on a treadmill at an easy 10 minute pace.

Try including some rowing into your workouts 2 or 3 times per week.

Add rowing at the end of strength training workout day.

Or do it on a cardio day.

There you have it.

Rowing is a great way to switch things.

By doing rowing as a cardio workout, you’ll find it providing many benefits.

You won’t have to worry about getting skinny.

Quite the opposite.

Rowing is an excellent way to build your back, traps, strengthen you core and get strong legs.

Combined with strength training you’ll see how athletic you’ll look.

Try it out.

Comment below and let me know what you think of rowing workouts.

To your fitness,

Sam- Look Like An Athlete

Krainski, Hastings, Heinicke, Romain, Pacini, Snell, … & Levine, (2014). The effect of rowing ergometry and resistive exercise on skeletal muscle structure and function during bed rest. Journal of Applied Physiology, jap-00803.

Metabolic Conditioning Workouts: A Surefire Way To Get Lean Using Short Intense Exercises

It’s not a secret.  You want a body that is lean and ripped.  You want to have a body that burns fat faster than an F-16 burns fuel all while keeping your hard earned muscles.  If you want to get all the benefits in one workout without having to suffer through boring cardio then get ready to try metabolic conditioning workouts.

Burning fat and gaining or keeping muscle is often looked at as an either/ or option.  You are told that you can only train for fat loss or you can train for muscle gain but you can’t combine the two.

Maybe this theory comes from aerobics instructors who swear that sweating to the oldies will leave you weighing as much as a leaf.  Maybe it comes from muscle heads that are afraid that getting on a treadmill will make them lose those 20 pounds they fought so hard for.

Well there is no need to worry.  If you want to keep those muscles all while having muscle definition like never before then you can take advantage by doing metabolic workouts.

What Are Metabolic Exercises?

If you want to look lean there is no other way around it.  You need to elevate your metabolic rate.  If you have a slow metabolism you will have a hard time looking lean.  Speed up your metabolism and you will have no problem keeping your fat levels low.

The best way to increase your metabolism is by doing exercises that elevate your heart rate.  This is the simple explanation.

So you will often hear advice like, “do 20 minutes of any activity and you will increase your metabolism.”

Well, although this is not bad advice, the goal should always be to make our exercises more efficient.  The goal in a metabolic workout is to burn calories and raise our metabolic rate not only during the activity but also long after the workout is over.

If you have done cardio for long periods of time and done ONLY cardio you have noticed by now just how difficult it is to create that lean body.  It is very difficult simply because you are increasing your metabolism for a short period of time.  Once the workout is over, so is the increase in your metabolism.

Strength Training For A Maximum Metabolic Effect

Simply doing strength training is also not enough to boost your metabolism.  Sure you will burn calories and you will gain muscle but you will not look as lean as you would like if you are not doing the right exercises.

For example, picture yourself doing 4 or 5 sets of biceps curls on a day you want to work on arms and then call it a day.

To many this sounds like a good enough workout.  In fact, I see it often, people going to the gym and doing exercises like triceps extensions, biceps curls, leg extensions or some other single joint movement.  However, if you want to have an athletic body you need to do more exercises that are compound movements and use various muscle groups.

When it comes to metabolic training, isolation exercises like biceps curls are not the types of exercises you will be doing.

Typical exercises that are compound movements include:

  • Bench Presses
  • Squats and its variations
  • Deadlifts
  • Leg Presses
  • Power Clean
  • Clean & Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Hang Pull
  • Hang High Pull
  • Hang Clean & Press
  • Lat Pull Downs

You can also do these exercises in their variations using kettlebells.

Bodyweight exercises that are compound movements include:

The Difference Between Compound Exercises And Metabolic Exercises

As I mentioned earlier, metabolic workouts will consist of using compound movements.  However, simply using compound movements does not make an exercise or a workout metabolic.  A workout becomes metabolic when the level of intensity is high.

Ever done a workout and you completed one set, then another with long rest periods?  You noticed that your heart rate increased for a short period of time but after a period of rest your heart rate came back to normal.  This type of workout lacked the metabolic element.

If you want to increase the intensity of a workout then one of the best ways is by making your rest periods short.

Metabolic Conditioning Training:  Two Perfect Approaches

There are various ways to increase your intensity in a workout.  Like I said above, the way you are going to elevate your heart rate is by taking shorter rest periods.  Here are 2 ways you can easily decrease your rest time in your next period

Circuit Training (First Approach)

This is possibly the easiest and perhaps classic method of using strength training with very little rest.  In circuit training you will use mostly compound movements and move from one exercise to the next.  A circuit is simply a series of exercises performed on after another until you reach the last exercise in the series.  Once you finish the circuit, you rest for one minute and do the circuit again in the same sequence.

For maximum effect a circuit should switch between an upper body exercise to a lower body exercise each time.  The rest time between the exercises should be very minimal anywhere between 0 seconds and 15 seconds.  In other words, the only rest period you should have is between the time you move from one exercise to the next.

Here is an example of a circuit training workout:

  • Bench Press (10-12 reps)
  • Squats (10-12 reps)
  • Pull Ups (10-12 reps)
  • Lunges (10-12 reps)
  • Shoulder Presses (10-12 reps)
  • Bodyweight Jump Squats (10-12 reps)

Move from one exercise to the next and once you complete the last exercise it is time to rest for one minute.  Repeat one or two more times.

This is a good way to work out if you are a beginner or really focused on burning fat.  You can combine this in a way that is extremely effective if you want to get lean but we will get to this technique a bit later.

Barbell Complexes (Second Approach)

A workout that also fits in the metabolic training category and is for intermediate and advance level individuals is a barbell complex workout.  This type of workout is a personal favorite of mine and is definitely more intense than circuit training.

In a barbell complex the exercises are done continuously without any rest between exercises.  The exercises are done with a barbell and you do not put down the barbell as you move from one exercise to the next.

  • Deadlift
  • Push Press
  • Squats
  • Hang Clean
  • Front Squat
  • Romanian Dead Lift

Do 6 to 8 repetitions for 4 sets

Once you complete the series outlined above rest for one minute and start again.

One series equals 1 set.

There are various ways of doing barbell complexes and many different combination of exercises you can do.  Each complex should be done using only compound movements.  Also, make sure that the weight is light as this is very difficult to perform from beginning to end.

Metabolic Conditioning: Boost Your Fat Burning While Keeping Your Muscle

So far we have looked at using metabolic workouts using either circuit training or barbell complexes.  Both types of workouts are very effective and are done without a cardio type exercise.

If you want to push your metabolic workouts with a focus on conditioning, then one way to do this is by throwing in some cardio type exercises in between your strength training exercises.

Rather than rest between exercises you can replace your rest periods with a cardio type exercise like the following:

  • Jump Rope
  • Shadow Boxing
  • Burpees
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Sprints
  • Running in place
  • Box Jumps

For example, let’s say you want to work on your upper body today.  You can split up a workout in the following way.

  • Bench Press (3 sets of 6 to 8 reps)
  • Jump Rope (30 seconds between each set)
  • Pull Ups or Chin Ups (3 sets of 8 to 10 reps)
  • Jump Rope (30 seconds between each set)
  • Military Press (3 sets of 6 to 8 reps)
  • Jump Rope (30 seconds between each set)

You won’t be resting between sets and instead you will be performing some form of activity to keep your heart rate elevated throughout the workout.

You can also switch the jump rope for any other type of cardio exercise like those mentioned above.

Also, rather than doing just a jump rope exercise you can switch exercises each set.  You can do jump ropes one set, jumping jacks the next, burpees the following set and so on.

You can also do a metabolic workout using dumbbells.  Just like a barbell complex simply do a series of compound exercises using just a dumbbell.

Here is Brad Gouthro of “Awaken The Abs Within” showing a complex using dumbbells.

Metabolic Cardio- An Advanced Way To Finish Off A Workout

Earlier I had discussed circuit training as a great way to make your workouts metabolic.  Although a strength training workout alone can take you a long way towards getting a lean body if you increase the intensity the right way, there is a way to make it even more effective.  By simply adding a twist to your typical cardio sessions you can make your workouts even more effective than ever before.

Your average cardio session usually consists of getting on a treadmill or going on a jog for 20 to 30 minutes.  In the past I have talked about the advantages of doing burst training and intervals to get an athletic body.

Well, there is a way to take your interval training, which is metabolic, to more advanced levels.

Interval training is broken up into bursts of brief levels of activity followed by short rest periods.  The intervals are done repeatedly for a period of time usually in the range of 10 to 20 minutes.  Interval training can be done on any cardio equipment: stationary bicycle, bicycle, treadmill, track, literally any type of cardio machine or even outdoors.

There are various ways to break up the intervals and rest periods.  Ideally you do not want to have long rest periods but they can be broken up in intervals of either 1:1, 1: 1.5 or 1:2

For example:

1:1 ratio

30 seconds active/ 30 seconds rest

1 minute active/ 1 minute rest

1: 1.5 ratios

30 seconds active/ 45 seconds rest

1 minute active/ 1 ½ minute rest

1: 2 ratios

30 seconds active/ 1 minute rest

1 minute active/ 2 minute rest

These are some examples of how interval training can be broken up when you do cardio.

Once you complete your intervals lasting anywhere between 10 minutes and 20 minutes then move into some bodyweight movements like those mentioned in the metabolic conditioning portion of this article.  These bodyweight exercises can be done for the next 5 to 10 minutes and should be done for bursts of 30 seconds of activity followed by rest periods of 30- 60 seconds.

Here is an example:

  • Warm up for 5 minutes with a light jog
  • Sprint for 60 seconds
  • Rest for 60 seconds
  • Sprint for 60 seconds
  • Rest for 60 seconds

Repeat this sequence until you reach the 20th minute.  So that is a 5 minute warm up followed by 15 minutes of intervals.

Follow up your intervals with either burpees, jump rope, jumping jacks, box jumps or bodyweight jump squats.


After completing your intervals you do the following.

  • 10 Bodyweight Jump Squats
  • Rest for 30 to 60 seconds

Repeat until you have done 4 to 5 sets of jump squats

This will take about 5 minutes.

Total time including intervals and bodyweight jump squats 25 minutes

You can do the same using a jump rope, burpees or jumping jacks depending on your preference.

This type of cardio training can be done on days you are not doing weights or on the same day.  If you are doing circuit training or any other form of strength training you can easily include this at the end as cardio to get a great metabolic effect.

Having a lean body while keeping your hard earned muscle is not as difficult as you may think.  By including metabolic conditioning workouts you can burn some fat while keeping and even gaining muscle.

How To Get Muscle Definition: Tips To Get A Shredded And Ripped Physique

You see it on the big screen. You see it on an athlete. Guys and ladies with muscle definition you probably dream of but simply do not know how to achieve.  So how do they do it and how can you get that body?

Most of us can remember Brad Pitt in “Fight Club” and more recently Ryan Reynolds in “Green Lantern,” and Alexander Skarsgard in “True Blood,” with bodies that were not only ripped and lean but looked athletic.  I often hear people at the gym complain that getting a body that lean takes too long and requires practically living in a gym 24-7.  This is far from true.

You Don’t Have To Live In The Gym

The myth of the gym rat spending an entire day seven days a week pumping iron in order to look ripped and achieving incredible results is pretty much that- a myth.  Unfortunately that approach is often pushed by professional bodybuilders.

Years ago when I started reading fitness magazines religiously I read bodybuilder’s workouts and profiles and it was always the same story, do a cookie cutter workout that takes a couple of hours or more to complete and you too can look like them.  The sad thing is I still see these workouts pushed in the bodybuilder magazines.

Doing long workouts is perhaps something that bodybuilders and actors do but they do not spend long periods at a time following this approach.  In fact, if you try this approach it is almost a guarantee that your body will burn out in a matter of weeks.  Believe me, I know, I have experienced it.

Shorter Workouts Equals Better Results

After a couple of years of trial and error and following the right advice I learned that longer workouts are a quick way for those with less than stellar genetics (so I am guessing that is 99 percent of us) to burn out, plateau and see little or no improvements.  I tried doing long workouts just like what I read in magazines, but all I ever got was a body that looked the same month after month.

After getting the right advice I decided to change it up and do short workouts (no more than one hour per workout).  Although the common advice was to do workouts that lasted 2 hours per session one thing that became clear was that keeping a workout at less than 60 minutes long gave me better results.  It did not matter if I was trying to bulk up or if I was trying to look lean, my body reacted this way.

Whenever I was trying to gain muscle size my muscles increased with shorter workouts and whenever I tried to look lean it looked better when following brief workouts done over a set period of time.

Shorter workouts allow the body to recover much quicker while also maintaining the intensity high in the brief time spent per workout session.  By keeping the time period of your workouts brief in duration you end up avoiding a decrease in blood sugar levels which zap your energy in mid workout, something you definitely want to avoid.

Most people think that you can either build more muscle or burn more fat by simply working out more, but the truth is that the time spent in the gym is only one component to getting a better body.

Using Shorter Rep Schemes To Your Advantage

Talk to a typical gym rat and you will probably hear the typical advice- do high reps to get lean and low reps get bigger.  Although this advice is given time and time again, without proof or explanation, it turns out that quite the opposite is true.

Doing high reps only help in gaining muscle or adding bulk.  Doing exercises in the range of 8 repetitions or higher is a great way to put on size, however, this is also a way to look puffy if done for a long period of time.  A typical result of doing higher reps causes a short lived pump.   If you want to get lean and ripped one of the best ways to do so is by increasing muscle density.  In order to increase the density of the muscle is by using a lower number of reps with heavier loads.

A good range of reps to work with for density is 4 to 5 reps per set.  Performing sets in this range helps build strength without putting on too much size.  The muscle will develop a hard, solid appearance if done over a period of time and if it is combined with low body weight percentage.

Maintaining Low Body Fat Percentage Using Burst Training

I recall a conversation not long ago between two guys in the gym and they were discussing muscle striations.  Striations are basically when there is such high definition that you can see muscle fibers as if the skin was wrapped tight to the muscles.  This is also called “the shrink wrap effect” and Rusty Moore goes in to great detail in his advanced program, “Visual Impact Muscle Building.”

The conversation these guys were having blew me away, in not a good way.  During this conversation one of the guys was explaining that certain exercises bring out striations and definition.  As an example he said that cable flyes bring out striations in the inner chest and lateral raises bring out striations in the shoulders.

Here is the truth.

In order to bring out muscle definition you will not get it by doing a certain exercise or series of exercises.  Bringing out muscle definition requires having lower than average body fat.

One of the best ways to burn fat is by doing cardio in short bursts or burst training.  This method of cardio is also known by its most common name, interval training.  Even though traditional cardio, like going for a jog or getting on a treadmill for one hour is not a bad thing and can be healthy, it is not the best method to burn fat.

If you want to burn fat in an effective and quicker way then it is best to do it in bursts or intervals.  By doing cardio in a short series of intervals you end up burning more calories and developing fast twitch muscles (the kind you see in a lean athlete) in a way you simply cannot by doing long cardio sessions.

A simple way of doing burst training is by alternating your cardio between intense activity and short rest periods.  For example you can start with a simple warm up and jog lightly for five to ten minutes before doing intervals.

For the next 15 to 20 minutes you can alternate between rest periods of 30 seconds to 1 minute and bursts of cardio for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  This type of cardio can be done using your favorite cardio exercise and still achieve excellent results.

Interval training is a sure way to boost your levels of HGH (human growth hormone) which has been shown to increase muscle and burn fat.

Celebrities use this type of cardio to get a very lean and athletic body.  By training in this manner they are able to look athletic, burn fat and have great physiques year round.

Eat Right And Get Leaner Than Ever

This is probably the toughest part of getting a lean body.  Following a training problem that is effective can be easy when someone is highly motivated.  Most people who want to get in shape are mentally prepared to do the workouts but the hardest part for most is eating right.

In order to really lean down, lower your body fat to a level that will bring out a high degree of muscle definition you need to eat the right way.  There is no way around it.

Although the typical approach that many follow is by doing fad diets this is perhaps the worst way to get a better body.  Eating healthy is easier than doing a diet that is not only extreme but a hazard to your health.

In order to look lean you do not have to do a weird diet.  The easiest and safest way is by simply eating less calories than what you currently consume.  For example, if you calculate the number of calories you consume you can simply reduce them on a daily basis.  This is probably not the ideal method of lowering your calories for most people as it can be difficult and time consuming to count calories.

However, an easy approach is to do a process called intermittent fasting.  Intermitttent fasting is simply not eating a meal over the course of a 24 hour period.  Brad Pilon talks about this approach in “Eat Stop Eat,” and although it may sound like it is tough to follow it really isn’t.  All it takes is choosing one or two non consecutive 24 hour periods in a week.  You can have your last meal late in the day and not eat for the next 24 hours.  Your next meal will be the following day at the same time which essentially has you sleeping through the period when you are most likely to feel hungry.

The important thing is not to do this method of fasting on a daily basis as this will definitely cause a loss in muscle mass over time.  However, when done only once or twice per week the body does not lose muscle and ends up seeing a spike in HGH.

Here is Brad Pilon discussing how HGH increases with intermittent fasting:

Bringing Out Muscle Definition With Higher Reps

Once the fat percentage in your body has gone down and you have developed muscle density by following the tips outlined above, the next step is to put on some size. Putting on some muscle mass is very important as this will allow the skin to wrap around the muscle as the muscle size increases.

Earlier in this article we had discussed how higher reps add muscle size.  For best results stay within a range of 8-12 repetitions per set for each exercise you perform.  You can do 3 to 4 sets for each exercise.  Doing sets in this range will increase sarcoplasmic growth which will make your muscles look full.

The process of learning how to get muscle definition is not something that can be done overnight and cannot be achieved in a matter of days.  However, by following a focused plan it is achievable.  You can learn more by reading my free Muscle Definition course.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

Brad Gouthro Interview: Awaken The Abs Within And Other Fitness Tips

I first came across Brad Gouthro about a year ago while I was surfing around on the net looking for pictures to use in my then new blog.  While looking around I stumbled on a few pictures of a guy I felt had one of the most impressive lean bodies around.

Brad and I have kept in touch a bit here and there, in fact he granted me permission to use his image on our official Twitter page.  His knowledge of all things fitness have made him one of the most sought after fitness models and trainers not only in Canada but beyond as well.

Brad Gouthro took some time from his busy schedule to share with us his knowledge on fitness, exercise and diet in this interview.  He also talked a bit about his new book which I have been waiting for some time titled, “Awaken The Abs Within.”

Hi Brad, thanks for taking some time to do this interview. I have been looking forward to seeing you release a book for quite some time. What inspired you and made you want to write your book, “Awaken the Abs Within.”

Hi Sam, it’s great talking with you again. I was inspired to write Awaken The Abs Within based on the feedback from people struggling to live a healthier lifestyle. There were two common denominators in talking with all of these people. Number one: they were confused with all the conflicting information about how to get in shape. Number two: they were frustrated by the lack of results and the sustainability of these mass marketed crash diets and fitness programs. No one wants to go on a starvation diet and do countless hours of cardio (especially since they don’t provide long-term results). The thing that hit home for me was I experienced this same confusion and frustration first hand during my own journey to a healthier lifestyle. To help clear up all this confusion, I’ve literally downloaded everything that has worked for me and my clients in this book. It’s my hope that other people can take what I’ve learned and apply it to their current situation to create a sustainable, long-term healthy lifestyle.

You weren’t always ripped and with hard abs. In fact, when I saw your before and after (now) pictures it is safe to say that you have come a long way. What was the biggest struggle for you in your early years? What were you doing wrong?

The biggest struggle I faced earlier on was eating the wrong foods and focusing on the wrong types of exercises. Like most people, I thought the best way to lose belly fat was to cut the amount of food I ate and eat “low fat” food. I would also spend hours on the cardio machines and spend most of my time on the gym floor doing crunches. I obviously was doing it all wrong. I started seeing results once I realized I needed to eat the right types of foods, in the right quantities, at the right time. I call this the TQT nutrition principle and cover it in detail in Awaken The Abs Within. I also realized I needed to focus on exercises that created the best fat burning metabolic and hormonal response in the body. These exercise are also included in Awaken The Abs Within.

When it comes to getting 6 pack abs a lot of people focus on crunches or sit ups. What is the primary factor that will help anyone achieve awesome looking abs?

We all have abs. The problem is the thick layer of belly fat the accumulates after years of poor nutrition and lack of moving your body. So the first step to get six pack abs and a flat stomach is to lose the belly fat. This is accomplished via proper nutrition, performing the right metabolic and hormonal fat burning exercises, and HIIT cardio. Crunches and sit ups do not create enough of a caloric burn to help burn belly fat, therefore, they are essentially a waste of time if you currently have too much belly fat. Once you drop enough belly fat, it is then time to focus on direct ab training exercises to sculpt the abdominal section.

When someone uses the word “diet” they think of starving or eating bland food but in your free report you mention eating several times a day and eating often. How is it possible to eat several meals per day and yet burn fat at the same time?

I’ll try not to get to technical with this answer. Although you’re eating more frequently, your calorie count does not increase. The amount of calories in every meal just gets smaller. Eating more frequently helps create a fat burning metabolic and hormonal response in the body. In order for your metabolism to operate at peak efficiency, it requires a constant supply of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, water, and amino acids. When your body doesn’t receive these nutrients in a timely manner, your metabolic rate can slow down and your blood sugar levels can drop, which usually causes people to go on a junk food binge. Eating more frequently also activates the leptin hormone. The higher the quantity of active leptin in the body, the more potential the body has to burn fat.

You also talk about foods that many would consider healthy but in reality is totally the opposite. Is it safe to say that often it is just a matter of making some tweaks in our diets in order to see progress?

That’s right. A large portion of Awaken The Abs Within covers nutrition. Even if you never pick up a dumbbell, the nutrition strategies alone will get you results. I mentioned my TQT formula earlier. The real problem with people’s diets is they are eating the wrong types of foods, in the wrong quantities, at the wrong times. The book takes you step by step through the TQT formula and allows you to create your very own customized nutrition plan based on your current health condition and lifestyle requirements. The book outlines all the proper fat loss foods to focus on, the right quantities of these foods you should be eating, and the right times you should be eating them. It’s simple to do and guaranteed to bring results.

What is the biggest mistake you see often when someone is trying to lose weight?

The biggest mistake is when people make too many drastic changes to their lifestyle that are not sustainable and maintainable over the long-term. This can include starving themselves and doing countless hours of boring cardio every day. All the secrets I reveal in Awaken The Abs Within are meant to create a healthy long-term lifestyle that anyone, regardless of sex, age, or fitness level, can implement. This is not a short-term fad program.

(Brad Gouthro showing his ripped body-this photograph has gone on to appear here in this blog and in popular fitness products)

Someone looks at you and probably thinks that you spend several hours per day in the gym. How long is it necessary to exercise per day to get a great body and great abs?

I only spend about 45-60 minutes in the gym. Rest and recovery is often the missing link in getting results. This is why the cardio programs I designed in Awaken The Abs Within take no more than 20 minutes and the workouts last between 45-60 minutes.

It is common seeing women and men avoid strength training and focusing more on cardio when trying to burn fat. Is this a mistake?

As mentioned earlier, this is a big mistake. Too much cardio can actually have the opposite effect to lose fat. This is because excessive cardio can burn muscle and spike the production of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone that can literally eat away at muscle. Muscle is the key metabolic driver of the body meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn every day. The last thing you want to do, if your goal is to lose fat, is to burn muscle for energy. Building and maintaining lean muscle is key to burning fat for life.

Finally, a lot of people may be reading this and have lost faith that they can get lean, get sexy abs and burn fat. Any words of advice and motivation for the readers?

Just remember there are so many real world examples of people that were in much worse condition than you currently are in, and they have turned there life around by following a plan and taking action. Awaken The Abs Within can work for anyone regardless of sex, age, or fitness level. Implementing the nutrition strategies alone can create incredible results. It all starts with first believing that you can do it. Once you believe, everything else will fall into place if you take action.

Yours in Health & Fitness,

Brad Gouthro
Author, Awaken The Abs Within
Certified Fitness Trainer
Certified Nutrition & Wellness Specialist

Lets Connect: website I facebook I youtube I twitter I google me

Free Stuff: 9 Steps To: Healthy Eating & 5 Abdominal Fat Burning Foods

The Goo Diet: Lady Gaga Went Gaga For This?

Just when I thought I had heard enough the latest fad diet for this year along comes a new one- The Goo Diet. A few weeks ago here in the U.S. we became familiar with the Dukan Diet, thanks to Princess Kate,  and for many years we have heard of other diets like the Atkins Diet, the South Beach diet, among others.  But nothing this new diet that was based around baby food really surprised me.

Lady Gaga Stays Thin On This?

Every fad diet has its origins somewhere and usually with someone.  Nine times out of ten it is a result of a celebrity endorsement and this time the celebrity was Lady Gaga.  Lady Gaga has stated in recent interviews that she stays thin by eating baby food.
To be fair it has also been reported that she is not the only celebrity who is on this diet.  Other celebs who have or are reportedly on this diet are Jennifer Aniston and Cheryl Cole.  Not surprisingly, sales of baby food have seen a whopping increase of 100 percent.   I seriously need to buy baby food stock…

What The Goo Diet Consists Of

The diet consists of eating one main meal a day and snacking on 14 small 4 ounce jars of baby food throughout the rest of the day. The baby food is said to leave a person feeling full throughout the day.
The creator of this diet is personal trainer to the stars Tracy Anderson.  The purpose of the diet is to cleanse the body but one of the side effects is feeling full while eating baby food and losing pounds as a result.

Problems With The Goo Diet

Some of the problems that have been listed by health experts are:

  • Baby food leaves you short on nutrients like protein and fiber
  • Lack of vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron
  • Constipation
  • You are eating like an infant and not like an adult
  • You will gain the weight once you return to a normal diet

As you can see there is a list of valid problems with this diet.  Although the short term gains may seem like they are worth it, the long term gains are not in favor of one’s health.

Why This Diet Works In Weight Loss

Are you asking yourself, “how is it possible that baby food helps an adult lose weight?”  The answer is very simple.  Eating baby food is low in calories.  By simply eating fewer calories you will see a decrease in weight.  If you want to see a decrease in weight all you need to do is reduce you calories, eat fewer calories than what you use in energy (a calorie deficit) and you will see a thinner person in the mirror over time.  However, being on the Goo Diet as a way to stay thin or get thin is not the healthiest option.  Diets like Brad Pillon’s Eat Stop Eat, for example, uses a simple approach that does not require you to sacrifice how you eat and does not force you to eat different foods than what you already eat today.

A Better Option To Get Thin And Get A Celebrity Body

Looking good and staying healthy is much easier than you may think.  Although it is easy to think that you need to eat next to nothing and work out many hours a day in the gym all it takes is a simple plan in order to look your best.  The two factors that work best are:

  • Eating Healthy
  • Exercise

(Lady Gaga Caught In A Gym By TMZ)

In order to lose weight and lose fat, the first factor is by eating healthy and consuming fewer calories.  As mentioned above, a program like “Eat Stop Eat” is one ideal and long term approach as it helps you reduce calories without drastically changing your food preferences (i.e. not having to eat baby food).

Exercise is the second component that I find impossible to avoid, especially if you want to look lean and healthy and if you want to have a thin body much like a celebrity.  For most people the thought of running miles a day or lifting weights is not the most attractive option.  In fact, most women will find themselves avoiding lifting weights because they do not want to look bulky.  However, there are ways to lift weights without having to look muscular. Rusty Moore of Fitness Black Book for example, shows the exact process for achieving a thin Hollywood type body in his programs, “Visual Impact for Women” and “Visual Impact Muscle Building-For Men.”

How To Properly Exercise To Get A Thin And Lean Body

In order to torch the fat in your body and get your metabolism in to overdrive the best approach is following a cardio and strength training approach.  Instead of doing long cardio sessions simply
do interval type training, also called HIIT or burst training.  Performing short, intense bursts of activity
will get your body to burn more calories and burn more fat without losing lean
muscle.  Simply do intervals of cardio for one minute, followed by two minute rest periods.  A sequence of 15 minutes will be enough followed by 15 minutes of slow to moderate cardio.

Strength training is also important, however, this does not have to be done using only
weights.  In fact, you can substitute weights with bodyweight exercises, kettlebells or resistance bands.  The important thing is to provide resistance type training to your muscles.  In order to get a lean body avoid training in the higher rep range even though this has been a common piece of advice given by trainers.  Instead do exercises in lower rep ranges, preferrably 4-5 reps per set per exercise.  Do not work out the same body part on consecutive days and allow suffiecient rest days between workouts.

The important thing to remember is that in order to look healthy and stay healthy a fad diet like the Goo Diet is not the best option.  Choosing a long term and healthy approach will get you closer to looking your best.

Feel free to comment below and join in the discussion.

Burpees Exercise: Lose The Fat In One Simple Move


That was the drill every morning in middle school. I hated it.  I know everyone in my physical education class hated it, but we did not have an option.  All we wanted to do was play basketball, softball or flag football, but not this.

At the time I did not understand just how valuable an exercise this was.  I mean, who would think that an exercise that requires you to move quickly from a standing position, do a push up position and back up could be so valuable?

Build Athleticism Using A Simple Exercise

In order to becoming athletic or simply get fit it takes doing a lot of cardio or lifting weights- or so we are told.  We have become used to hearing that it takes expensive equipment in order to get in shape but sometimes the smallest and simplest techniques can get us in shape as fast.  If you look at programs like Jason Ferruggia’s “Renegade Bodyweight Bodybuilding” you will find that all it takes to get in shape is your body alone.  A burpee exercise is one way to get in physical conditioning in a short time.

Bodyweight workouts are often not even mentioned in gyms and are rarely talked about in fitness magazines.  However, these workouts are also an excellent way to do strength-training workouts without having to spend money and they can be done in the comfort of your own home.

Burpees Exercises- A Full Body Exercise To Lose Fat

The burpees exercise is a simple exercise that only requires your body and nothing else.  There is no need to use equipment, yet it gives you cardio and strength training benefits like very few other exercises can.  Here you will find a sample workout using burpees.

In order to do a burpee you have to follow this sequence:

  • Begin in a shoulder wide stance
  • Quickly move in to a squat and crouching position with your hands on the floor
  • Kick your feet back in to a push up position and perform a push up
  • Bring your legs in together at the same time back in to the crouching position
  • Explode up and jump as high as you can (similar to a bodyweight jump squat)
  • Land in the same shoulder wide stance
  • This completes one repetition

Note:  the movement should be done without stopping and each repetition is performed non-stop, moving from one repetition to the next.

Do as many burpees as fast as possible for a period of one minute.  Rest for two minutes and repeat the minute sequence 4 more times for a total of 5 sets of burpees.  However, if you cannot do 5 sets that is fine.  You should be able to do a challenging 3 sets and build up to 5 over time.  Do this workout twice a week allowing 72 hours between workouts.

This exercise is an excellent total body workout.  As you can see the push up will work the triceps and chest muscles.  The explosive jump and landing will work on your thighs and hamstrings along with your calves.  The leg tucks and subsequent jump also works your abs/ core region.

If you are a beginner or simply find this sequence challenging you can eliminate the jump in the burpee as well as the push-ups.  If you can perform push-ups I definitely recommend that you keep them.

For an example of a burpee you can see the following video by Craig Ballantyne of Turbulence Training (  In this video he incorporates burpees at the end of this bodyweight routine.

Why This Exercise Works So Well

The best way to burn fat and keep lean muscle is by doing burst training or interval training along with strength training. As you can see, this workout combines the two.  Rather than do long cardio sessions you can get better results by doing short bursts of cardio broken up by short rest periods.  In the 15 minutes that it takes to complete this exercise you will get more benefits than if you were to take a jog for over 30 minutes.

How To Make This Your Workout Routine

If you do not have access to a gym, do not have the money, time or you want to switch things up a bit here is my sample weeklong workout.

Monday:  Sprint Workout (15 minutes followed by 15 minute jog or walk)

Tuesday:  Burpees & Abs/ Core Workout

Wednesday:  Rest

Thursday:  Sprint Workout (15 minutes followed by 15 minute jog or walk)

Friday:  Burpees & Abs/Core Workout

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Rest

What I have outlined is a simple workout you can try.  If you are interested in a complete bodyweight program you can follow a more structured and complete program like Jason Ferruggia’s “Renegade Bodyweight Bodybuilding.”

As you can see a burpees exercise can be a great way to burn fat and get lean if you are new to working out or if you are looking for a different way to get in shape.

Feel free to comment below and join in the discussion.

Kettlebell Workout Routines- Pick Up Some Steel And Chisel Your Body

I won’t lie; kettlebell workout routines are something that has been foreign to me for most of my training career.  Yeah, I know, you are either nodding at me in disbelief or you are skeptical of what these little steel balls have to offer.  Don’t get me wrong, I have tried them in the last year or so and I have been impressed by how a small piece of equipment can take you far in getting in shape.

Trendiest Piece of Equipment In Roman Times

Kettlebells haven’t been the most popular equipment tools believe it or not.  Although there has been a growing popularity, the use of kettlebells was mostly at an “underground” level.  Even though we see it talked about more and more in magazines and on fitness shows, it has been in the past 2-3 years that kettlebells have seen an increase in exposure and popularity.  These days many celebrities use them as their primary purpose for getting fit, one example is Daniel Baldwin.  Yes, Daniel Baldwin from “Celebrity Rehab.”

Kettlebells are believed to have gotten their early incarnation at some point in the Roman era and in Ancient Greece but truly became a more popular fitness tool in Russia in the early 1700’s.  However, it is tough to use the old days as a way to measure not only their popularity but also their effectiveness.

Kettlebells In Sports

One of the primary reasons for the increase popularity of kettlebells is the use of this equipment by athletes in various sports.  MMA fighters use them more and more in their training in order to work on their explosiveness and power.  Football players have been seen using in their training outside of the gym and it is also becoming a staple in the training of the U.S. Army, Special Forces and other government agencies.

(Lance Armstrong performing kettlebell routines)

Why Kettlebell Workout Routines Are A Favorite With Athletes

Kettlebells are excellent in developing strong hips, hamstrings, shoulders and a strong core, all muscle groups that are important in sports performance.  Because of the quick and explosive movements needed to carry and swing the weight this requires the body to use its fast twitch muscles for explosiveness.  The development of fast twitch muscles is important in developing lean muscle and in burning fat.

Ketllebell Routine Example

One of the best kettlebell workouts I have seen is one done by Craig Ballantyne of  Craig always uses creative workouts to spark muscle confusion and is an expert at applying burst training workouts in burning fat.  In the example below he shows an excellent kettlebell and bodyweight workout using very limited space.

(Check out more of Craig Ballantyne’s Kettlebell Workouts)

The 10 x 20 Kettlebell Workout Bodyweight Exercise Circuit Breakdown

1) Squat With Kettlebells – 20 reps
2) Pushups (Hands in Front) – 20 reps
3) Kettlebell Swings – 20 reps
4) Walking Lunges – 20 reps per side
5) Single Arm High Pulls – 10 reps per side
6) Mountain Climber – 20 reps
7) One Arm Kettlebell Swing – 10 reps per side
8) Close Grip Pushups – 20 reps
9) Kettlebell One Arm Row – 10 reps per side
10) Stability Ball Leg Curls – 20 reps
Rest 1-2 Minutes and then do it 2 more times

As you can see, performing this circuit is pretty simple and can be performed in a limited space.  This type of workout is excellent at burning fat and  can be done by either men or women.  I have done this kettlebell circuit and have found it quite challenging but is really worth doing because of its fat burning benefits.

It may be hard to believe that a simple piece of iron can get someone in top shape but do not underestimate its capabilities.  This simple tool provides anyone the ability to be creative with a workout and can get anyone to look athletic.  Just follow the example of many athletes and try to incorporate kettlebell workout routines if you want switch things up and burn fat and get a lean and ripped body or try Craig Ballantyne’s Kettlebell Program.

Try it and see what you think.  Feel free to comment below.