Tuesday, October 25, 2011


This week the group got their second free weight workout. After a month of using the machines to build a base of muscular strength and endurance, we taught them their first workout with dumbbells (DB) and an exercise ball.

We try and shift people over to free weights whenever possible. Machines are great for stabilizing the body and targeting specific muscles, but doing exercises with dumbbells and barbells, forces you to use more accessory and stabilizers muscles to control the movement and maintain your posture.

Using more muscle means you’re burning more calories which will help with weight loss. It also means you’re more fully developing the body. There are hundreds of different exercises that exercise the body as a whole, or that zero in on specific muscle groups.

Start with a pair of dumbbells that you can easily hold in each hand. It keeps you from lifting too much weight too soon. If it seems too heavy, it probably is.

Have someone that knows what they’re doing show you the movements, and then try them with a fairly light pair of dumbbells. If you don’t have access to anyone, get a magazine or go online. There are lots of resources out there.

When you do the exercise, shoot for 10-15 repetitions. If you can’t do 10 reps, it’s too heavy. If it was easy to do it 15 times, then the weight is too light and you need to use try the next heavier dumbbell.

Do the movements slowly, making sure you are in complete control of the weights. Keep your posture correct by tightening your core. Make sure you don’t hold your breath. If possible, watch yourself in the mirror to keep an eye on things.

Start with a whole body program three days a week, (M, W, F). Later, if you want to split things up, there are lots of ways to do that. For best results, do opposing body part exercises back-to-back with no break in between. That will keep you burning more calories!

Here are the two full body programs they learned. They did the first one last week, and will be doing the second one this week. They’re both similar, working the same body parts, but using different exercises to do it.

Workout #1: Chest Press on Ball, Squats (3x); Single Arm Row, Deadlifts (3x); Lateral Raises, DB Curls, Overhead Tricep Press (3x); Assorted Ab Crunches on Ball.

Workout #2: Pec Fly’s on Ball, Walking Lunges (3x); DB Pullovers on Ball, Deadlifts (3x); Arnold Press, Double Curl, Tricep Kickbacks; more assorted Ab Crunches on Ball, planks.

Our Week Five winner was Sande Sherer, who lost 2.6% of her body weight and 4.8 lbs. Kara Englum and Shirley Fiscus tied for second place, both losing 1.9% and 3.2 lbs and 3.8 lbs respectively. Kelli Stidham placed third, losing 1.7% and 4.4 lbs.

If you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


This week I want to talk about the final parameter we measure each week: Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). A lot of people confuse this with BMI (body mass index) but it’s quite different.

While Body Mass Index is a fairly common measure that can help you know if you’re overweight, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is a much more specific measure of how many calories your body needs to maintain it’s current state. Put simply, your BMR is how many calories you need to live. I like to call it “hitting your minimum.”

The value of knowing your BMR is pretty high, especially for women. Typically, 9 out of 10 women aren’t eating enough, although most of them believe that they are. We’ve seen this time and time again in Biggest Loser.

I know I keep harping on this, but it keeps coming up. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and just about the entire medical profession says that women shouldn’t ever go below 1,200 calories.

As a practical matter, most women’s BMR will come out higher than that. In this latest group, most of the women had a BMR between 1,300 & 1,400 calories. That means that they need to consume 1,300-1,400 calories each day to maintain, without regard to exercise.

It’s pretty simple. Eat that many calories, add some exercise, and you’ll start losing weight. While there are some other factors that play in, it pretty much comes down to math. Do more exercise, burn more calories, and you’ll lose more weight.

This is why I like to call that 2nd daily workout the secret weapon. It makes a huge difference in weight loss—even if it’s just walking a mile or two.

We used to have to do a calculation to determine BMR for people. Now it’s easy to measure, just by stepping on the scale. This means there’s no excuse not to hit your minimum, since it’s so easy to figure it out!

If you don’t, you’re really fighting yourself. Your metabolism will stay artificially low, you won’t operate at peak efficiency, and you won’t recover from exercise as well either. This can lead to feeling run down, and even illness or injury.

While guys tend to be over-eaters, I’ll occasionally run across one who isn’t, so here’s the guideline for men: never go below 1,800 calories. Holding to 2,000 calories is pretty strict, and 2,200-2,400 calories a day is usually pretty comfortable.

Our Week Four winner was Alexa Stidham, who lost 1.6% of her body weight and 2.6 lbs. Shawn Bowers and Steve Jones tied for second, losing 1.2% of their body weight and 4.0 lbs and 3.2 lbs respectively. Nicole Clodfelter and Karen Wolfe tied for third place, both losing 1.0% of their body weight, 2.6 lbs and 1.6 lbs.

Next week we’ll look at how we’re using free weight exercises to change things up with the group. Don’t forget, if you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


This week our Biggest Losers did a kickboxing workout. After partnering up, I taught them a kickboxing movement. Then they practiced the combination for a two minute round while their partner held the targets. They switched roles every two minutes.

30 minutes later, one partner hit the heavy bag while the other did pushups for a minute before switching. The next time they did a different combination on the bag while their partner did body squats before switching. Finally, they did a third combination while their partner did sit-ups.

Last week I wrote about weight, body fat%, muscle mass and bone mass. This week we’re going to look at Body Water%, Physique Rating, Metabolic Age, and Visceral Fat.

Body Water% should range from 45-60% in women. In men, it should range from 50-65%. We all hear we should be drinking more water, but now we have a tool to measure it. Many of the contestants were under-hydrated, so now we can help them stay on top of it better.

If you had a significant weight loss during the week, but Body Water% shows up below normal, you can be sure that some of your weight loss was probably water. That means you’ll probably just put it back on when you become rehydrated.

Physique Rating is measured on a scale between 1 and 9. For the person who is obese, you’ll receive a rating from 1 to 3 based on your percent fat and muscle mass. This is risky category, because your chance for heart disease and diabetes goes way up.

For the average person, a rating between 4 and 6 shows improvement, and for the “under-fat” (if there is such a thing), a rating between 7 and 9 tells you if you need to put on some muscle. For the participants, their goal is to try and improve their physique rating number during the twelve weeks.

Metabolic Age shows up as a range between age 12 and 50. This is like the “inner age” measure they use on the Biggest Loser TV show. Most of the participants showed up as 50 (or older), although few of them were actually 50.

If you’re 30 years old but have a metabolic age of 50, then you’re carrying the body of a 50 year old. That’s an extra 20 years, which wouldn’t bode well for your future. But if you’re 30, but have a metabolic age of 20, then it’s like you’re carrying the body of someone 10 years younger! The participants should see a marked drop in their metabolic age during the program.

Visceral Fat measures how much fat you’re carrying around your vital organs, which markedly increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. A visceral fat rating from 1-12 would be healthy, while a rating of 13-59 is unhealthy. This should also drop during the 12 weeks.

Our Week Three winner was Stacy Luth, who lost 2.6% of her body weight and 4.4 lbs. Michelle Clark placed second, losing 2.0% of her body weight and 3.2 lbs. Sande Sherer and Vince Porter tied for third, both losing 1.6% of their body weight and 3.0 lbs and 3.8 lbs respectively.

Next week we’ll look at how to use the last parameter (BMR) to ensure you’re not just eating right, but eating the right amount of food. Don’t forget, if you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Even though it’s getting colder outside, we turned up the heat on the participants again this week. The goal is to get them doing more work, with more intensity each week. I call it learning how to exercise smart. This week, they did 2 minute cardio intervals followed by 2 minutes of weight training on the machines, back and forth!

The more exercise they can do, the more calories they’ll be burning. And the more calories they can burn, the more impact it will have on their body. But just losing weight doesn’t always mean you’re losing the right kind of weight.

That’s why we look at the following physical parameters when they weigh each week: Weight, Body Fat %, Body Water %, Muscle Mass, Physique Rating, BMR, Metabolic Age, Bone Mass, and Visceral Fat.

The first one is obvious: Weight. This should drop at least a pound each week. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, healthy weight loss is 1-2 lbs per week which is achievable and sustainable.

It’s fine to lose more weight than that, as long as it’s fat loss. Many of our contestants will lose more than that. On TV they lose incredible amounts of weight, but you have to remember a few things. They live on a ranch. Losing weight is their job—and their only job. They don’t have to take care of kids or run errands. So even though it’s “reality TV”, it’s not real life.

After doing this for quite awhile, I’ve come to believe that losing a pound a week is good; two pounds a week is great; and three or more pounds a week is fantastic. In the end, it comes down to how much work you’re willing to do.

The second parameter, and perhaps the more important one, is Body Fat %. This is the amount of fat we have, compared to our total weight. We carry a lot more fat around than we think. Believe me, I know.

If a man weighs 167.6 lbs with 9.3% body fat, roughly 15.6 lbs is fat. That means about 144.4 lbs is lean Muscle Mass, with about 7.6 lbs in Bone Mass. Healthy bone mass in guys ranges from 5.9 to 8.1 lbs based on your size. For women, it ranges from 4.3 lbs to 6.5 lbs.   

Now if that same guy weighed in at 194.4 lbs, with 17.0% body fat, that means 33 lbs of his weight would be fat (more than double), with 153.8 lbs as lean muscle, and the same 7.6 lbs of bone mass.

It’s good to have a little more muscle mass but twice the fat, it’s just not worth it. Like I said, I know. Even though I was in pretty good shape and carried it reasonably well, that heavier, twice-as-fat guy was me five months ago! My new goal now is to keep the weight and fat down and add perhaps 5 lbs of muscle mass.

People with 30% or 40% fat have greatly increased risk of heart disease and type II diabetes. As they become inactive, they start losing muscle mass. When they consume more calories than they burn, they store it as fat, so their fat weight increases. That’s why it’s so important to keep moving!

Our Week Two winner was Stacy Reed, who lost 3.0% of her body weight and 8.8 lbs. Michelle Clark placed second, losing 2.0% and 3.2 lbs. Jennifer Bell was third, losing 1.9% and 3.8 lbs. Fourth place went to Kara Englum who lost 1.7% and 2.8 lbs. Jennifer Bowers and Shirley Fiscus tied for fifth, losing 1.6% of their body weight. Jennifer lost 4.2 lbs and Shirley lost 3.4 lbs.

Next week I’ll cover the other physical parameters we look at: Body Water %, Physique Rating, Metabolic Age, and Visceral Fat. Don’t forget, if you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook.