Shape Up: Answers To Your Questions!

    [Editor’s note: The advice and information given in the Shape Up column comes directly from Darrell Butler, who is a certified personal trainer and strength coach. Feel free to send him questions for future Q&A!]   Hey, what’s good everybody?  Thanks for all of the positive feedback on the “Three Keys to Success: […]



[Editor’s note: The advice and information given in the Shape Up column comes directly from Darrell Butler, who is a certified personal trainer and strength coach. Feel free to send him questions for future Q&A!]


Hey, what’s good everybody?  Thanks for all of the positive feedback on the “Three Keys to Success: Nutrition, Cardio and Strength Training” series.  Your comments and emails are always much appreciated.  In this edition of Shape Up, I’m going to address a few of the questions that I have received in regards to issues discussed in the series. 


Ma$h da great asks:  Informing article [Part 3, Strength Training].  In your professional opinion, is the ab lounge more stimulating to your stomach muscles than say regular crunches you do on the floor?  The Ab Lounge is designed to mimic basic movements that you can do on the floor so if you don’t already own one, you can save the money. The same can be said for most of the popular pieces of abdominal equipment that are sold on television.  For example, the Ab Glide that was once advertised on TV for “three easy installments of $39.99” was just a glorified version of the Ab Wheel that can be found in most sports stores for only $5.00! 


If you already own an Ab Lounge, don’t feel bad, since it can still provide a quality workout for your midsection. The hand positions also encourage proper form that will help you to not strain your neck as many beginners do when performing basic sit-ups.  I’ll also concede that the Ab Lounge does look kind of cool. At the end of the day, that’s really what you’re paying for when purchasing one of these: the unique look and brand name. Beyond that, you’re better off just sticking to floor movements. 


As noted in the tips that concluded Part 3, you’ll need to constantly mix up your routine and perform movements that work your upper, lower and side (oblique) abdominals. Also make sure to perform exercises for your lower back to help you maintain good posture and balance. Crunching forward repeatedly and never stretching your body in the opposite direction will cause you to slouch as you, grow older.


Unless you have really nice tiles on your floor or some hot shoes, odds are that you won’t want to spend the rest of your days staring down like that, so be sure to work your entire core.


Crooked Wild asks:  Man I agree with everything else [in Part 3], but I wanna [add] something to [tip] #1.  Couldn’t you just like work on your upper body first for like one hour and work your lower body for the next hour?  Yes, you can train your upper body for one hour and your lower body for the next, but for maximum growth and recovery; you’ll still need to allow for two days rest before working those muscle groups again. The true answer to your question however, really depends on what kind of shape you’re in, how many days you’d like to commit to going to the gym and what your specific goals are. 


If you were only able to hit the weights one time per week, then yes, you would need to work your entire body in one day. If you’re only able to make it to the gym twice per week and you’re looking to maintain but not necessarily ad size to your muscles than working your whole body in the span of two hours can work for you as well. If you are looking to increase the size of your muscles however, I’d suggest at least making time for a long break between your upper and lower body workouts if you plan to do them on the same day. 


For example, you can do your upper body in the morning and your lower body at night. The reason for this break is that you should be spent after each of these workouts if you’re actually pushing yourself.  If you’re dead tired after performing an intense upper body workout, it’s going to be extremely difficult to motivate yourself to give your all to an immediate chaser of lower body exercises.


Most of your energy will go into the first exercise that you perform each routine, and will decrease as you continue through the rest of your workout. This means that by the time you get to that last lower body exercise, you’ll probably not train at a beneficial intensity level or you’ll just skip the exercise completely. 


As you work each muscle group, blood also flows to that area of your body, so you may end up feeling lightheaded as you shift from your lower body to your upper body as well. Of course there are always exceptions to every rule, so a few advanced workout programs actually share a similar approach to what you suggested. For the average gym attendee however, this would not be recommended. If you are planning to attempt this approach though, I’d suggest performing exercises that target more than one muscle group at the same time. 


You can also create a mini-circuit of exercises that will target every desired muscle group so that at least you won’t be stuck in the gym for the entire day and may be able to evenly distribute your energy to allow for a high intensity level throughout the duration of your routine.


Deena asks:  Hi!  I love your site and articles.  I’m a female who used to be 125-130lbs for most of my life. Over the past year I have gained a lot of weight and gone up to 170lbs. I’ve changed my eating habits and I’m now working out at the gym with cardio three to four times a week. but I am skeptical about the amount of strength training to do if any at this point.


Should I just do cardio until I get close to my goal weight of 130lbs, [or] should I still incorporate weights and if so how much?  I need to lose inches mostly on my thighs and stomach. Please help. Thanks!  Carrying extra muscle will help you shed fat faster than cardio alone so I would definitely suggest continuing to do all three of the Keys To Success laid out in the series. If you’re hitting the gym at least three or four days per week, I’d suggest strength training on one or two of those days.


By strength training, I’m not saying that you need to grab the heaviest weights on the rack and hoist them over your head. In general, you can stick to lighter weights but utilize perfect form and pacing to fully engage the muscle into developing but not to the extent that you’ll end up bulky. 


It’s more about performing the exercises correctly that will truly help you achieve your goal not the amounts of weight that you use. As mentioned in Part 3, you won’t want to slim down and still be flabby would you? Strength training will keep you tight as you drop sizes. Aside from basic free weight movements and machines, see if your gym also has functional training equipment. For those who are unfamiliar, these are pieces of equipment designed to strengthen and enhance muscles that are already utilized in every day movements. 


For example, most current gyms have resistance bands (which are actually the only pieces of equipment that NFL star Terrell Owens uses during the season. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he’s in great shape!), medicine balls, gates, steps and other fitness tools. Ask a trainer how to utilize these to perform various movements that will make you stronger and help you lose weight but not end up looking like a female bodybuilder.


Natural movements such as push-ups, sprints, lunges and squats will also help you tighten up. Just be careful not to overdue the amount of weight that you use for your lower body since your goal is to reduce the size of your thighs. 


In actuality, you may not even need weights for many of the exercises that you’ll be performing, because the movement itself will provide enough of a challenge already. If you’re short on time and can’t perform both cardio and strength training on the same day, I’d suggest warming up on a piece of cardio equipment to get your heart beating faster and your metabolism kick-started. Then go immediately into a circuit of strength training exercises. Choose an exercise for each muscle group and perform them in succession. 


You can also “cheat cardio into your routine” by either jumping rope or hopping onto a step or bench for 30-60 seconds in between sets. Speaking of steps, most gyms offer aerobics classes including some that incorporate weights and strength training. I’d suggest enrolling into one to not only provide a great cardio and strength training workout, but also to learn many exercises that you can perform on your own.


This will also be a chance for you to observe other women in the class or possibly a female instructor who can hopefully prove that you can use weights, but not end up looking like Mike Tyson in a dress. 


Hopefully you’re all putting the numerous articles in the Health section to good use. As your AHH Fitness Specialist, it’s my goal to help each and every one of you achieve your health related goals, so please continue to reach out with any questions or comments that you might have.


I’d also like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very safe and happy holiday season. And if you’re going to that office Christmas party this year, please try not to throw up or hit on anyone important…


Until next time be good…or be good at it.



Here is the MP3 soundtrack to go along with this edition’s topic:


“20 Questions” – 50 Cent

“Why” – Jadakiss

“I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson” – DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince



Darrell W. Butler is a certified personal trainer and strength coach with the American Council on Exercise (ACE).  He is the founder of Industrial Strength & Performance (I.S.P Fitness) and has trained at facilities throughout the nation. You can find out more about his work at