Rules to Lift By

Cool. You are ready to lift weights to get into awesome shape. But the thought of figuring out how much weight to lift, how often to lift it, and how to change up your program can leave you thinking, ‘I will just go for a little run instead.’


Don’t do it! Weights beat cardio for getting fit and lean in the long run. Take heart. I’ve got your back on this one.


Three Simple Steps to Get the Most From Your Strength Workouts

  1. How much?

Shoot for a total of 24-50 reps for each muscle group. Say you choose squats for the lower body, chest press for upper body, and triceps to look great in tank tops.

  • Do a warm-up set of 10-12 repetitions (reps or times)
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps with a weight you can complete for at least 6 but not more than 12 reps. You need sufficient stimulation to gain muscle
  • Work your abs

Begin with light weight—even bodyweight—and when you can outdo your previous workouts by even one more rep or an extra pound, increase the weight you were using and–

  • Do a warm-up set of 10 reps
  • Do 3 sets of 8 reps at your increased weight
  • Take a longer rest interval between sets since you are increasing the weights (the ‘load)

This is the recipe to continuously improve body composition and performance. Changing your program variables like rest interval and sets/reps will place demand on the body to adapt and expend more energy to get used to it.

  1. How hard/intense?

Hit it hard and get out. Recent and abundant research shows that brief and workouts with progressively heavier weights (definition of intense) can build the body you aspire to. An effective strength training session can take just 30-40 minutes. Focus on strength vs. endurance (‘Total Fitness and Wellness,’ Stephen Dodd, Ph.D., and Scott K. Powers, Ph.D’s, Physiology). Exercise at a moderate to vigorous level.

When you work out, are you working hard or hardly working? How hard does it feel to you while you’re doing it—what is your ‘perceived exertion?’ You want to feel powerful while not over-stressing yourself. If you think you are working hard, your heart rate is likely elevated a bit in a good way. Back off if you feel it is too high.

Intense training can be a time-effective and potent stimulus for inducing many of the benefits normally associated with more prolonged workouts. Balance is important. Overdoing it can increase your risk of soreness, injury and burnout. If you’re new to regular exercise and physical activity, you may need to start out at a light intensity and gradually build up to a moderate or vigorous intensity.

  1. How often?

Consistency is the name of the game here. What works in your lifestyle? Can you do a short strength workout at LEAST twice a week? Commit to that and you will get results.

Phew. Now we relieved the confusion, you are ready to rock!


Here is where the rubber meets the road. To improve with age you may want to consider re-considering.

You will need to think and train like an elite athlete. Uncomfortable? You want to succeed. You want to gain muscle to defy age. So let’s look at this in a fresh way.

Athletes reach potential with a basic philosophy we can all use.

Potential = performance – interference (waste)

Learn how to minimize or eliminate the interference

Eliminate the Interference With a Fitness Program

Now that you are in the athlete’s mindset, here is the perfect plan for fitness success.

  • Develop a solid base of strength to develop skills safely and avoid injury
  • Learn perfect biomechanics and details of each movement—perfect practice makes perfect results.
  • Be consistent and practice with deliberation (intensity vs. volume)
  • Make sure every workout has a purpose (toward your dream goals)
  • Use free weights whenever possible 
  • Think movement not simply muscles
  • Cycle work and recovery throughout the year–stress, recover, improve
  • Plan energy- and time-effective exercises and use free weights whenever possible

When I began training for a lean, mean body (I completely changed my body composition) and to compete, I noticed something odd. I used the same few exercises and kept getting different, progressive results. I defied Einstein’s version of insanity, of ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ Nice.  I was using multijoint, compound exercises which are full-body exercises.

I also continuously met my dream goals (thinking large) because I committed to progressive programs that pushed the envelope and inspired me. My workouts were focused and never over one hour. I carefully used and balanced energy, cutting out anything that interfered with my laser focus on what I wanted to achieve.

It was a blast. It was a recipe for success. I got results.  I defied age.

Debunking the Myths

You don’t need to ‘shock’ your muscles to make gains. Muscles don’t get confused—your central nervous system (CNS), or brain and spinal cord, control movement. Switching up exercises, sets, and reps is one thing, but purposefully overloading your CNS is a sure precursor to overtraining and injury, not muscle gains.

Make it simple but effective. Eliminate the interference and follow the athletes to success.

Fun Bio Facts

Muscle and Strength Loss Associated with Aging

The aging process is associated with changes in muscle mass and strength with decline of muscle strength after the age of 30.

The muscular system accounts for about 40% of the total body mass and the human body’s cell mass consists in 75% of muscle cells. Between ages 30 to 50 the reported changes in muscle mass, power, and strength are small but do exist. Pronounced changes with the aging process occur 50 with more than 15% strength loss per decade



How do you design a kick-ass resistance training program to get your best body efficiently, safely, and quickly? How do you reduce markers of aging?  It is as easy as choosing your meal at a restaurant.

Be the Connoisseur of Your Menu to Get the Desired Experience

When eating out, do you look for quality over quantity? Do you look for the freshest and most organic foods over the conventional? If ‘yes,’ you will like the approach of getting the most quality out of a targeted and succinct training plan.  You spend less time on your workout and move faster to results.

Simply use the following menu. First choose a few entrees from the CORE or go-to strength moves. These involve great body balance and recruit more major muscles and muscle groups than isolated moves.


IMG_0298 (1)


Deadlift (above)

Squat (or one-legged squat, also called lunges)

Chest press

Cleans or push press (shoulder press)

Pull-down or pull-up (assisted while building strength)

Row (all kinds)


Abs (crunches, reverse crunches, captain’s chair, rotations—many more)

Now pick some ‘sides’ from the COMPLEMENTARY exercises, which can help strengthen certain muscle groups and offer variety and fun to workouts.




Triceps dips, extensions (above), and kick-backs

Chest flyes

Biceps curls

Back extension

(You will find more you like over time and with experience.)

For example, here are a few workouts you could pull from your new exercise menu:



Chest press

Pull-ups (or pull downs)


Triceps extensions



One-armed rows

Push press



Reverse-grip pull downs (abs and back)


Use 4-5 core exercises only as your full meal without complementary moves.

Your initial goal is perfect biomechanics (form), so use comfortable weight if not just bodyweight. Work up slowly and consistently as you get stronger, so the last few reps are challenging.  Choose free weights over machines whenever possible.

Bon appétit!

Fun Bio Fact


Why do we recommend free weights over machines (unless you have specific needs)? Most traditional resistance machines have back rests or other features that support your spine and torso while your legs or arms perform repetitions. Because the spine is passive in these exercises, it does not need do any work to support itself.

If the spine is passive, strength and power is developed in the limbs without the necessary corresponding functional strength and control in the torso. What results is a non-integrated core with strong powerful limbs, which can set the stage for injury.