It's easy to devote time to training your strengths. If you have powerful legs, you'll probably find yourself devoting time to them before another body part. Likewise, if you are in particularly good shape from a cardiovascular standpoint, you may spend a half hour on the stationary bicycle before dragging yourself over to the weights.
Now, I think having a favorite workout is terrific because that may be the thing that gets you into the gym in the first place. But be sure not to neglect your least favorite one, because that may be the one you need most. Take one day a week, and focus on your less-favored exercises or body parts. If you hate training your calves and abs, set aside a day in which you train them exclusively. If you find yourself shunning cardio work, go for 45 minutes on the treadmill on an "off" day.
By prioritizing our weak points, we have the ability to make them strong.
Q: I'm 16 and starting to get into mixed martial arts. I have been taking karate since I was 10 and now am learning jiu jitsu. I am 5 feet, 8 inches and only 135 pounds, and I want to add at least 20 pounds to my frame. I want to start lifting weights to bulk up, but my jiu jitsu instructor told me that too much lifting could lead to stiff muscles. Is this true?
Joe: First, let me say that I absolutely believe that weight training will improve your performance in martial arts, as it can in most any athletic endeavor. With greater strength comes greater control, greater confidence and greater ability to move opposing forces. I wholeheartedly encourage you to lift in conjunction with your martial arts training.
As to your instructor's views — there is some truth to them. Lifting weights, especially in the beginning, can bring about sore, stiff muscles. This is a natural byproduct of exercising, but a temporary one. To avoid DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from interfering with your jiu jitsu classes, you may want to schedule your weight-training workouts such that you have at least a day between them and martial arts.
That being said, weight training will not stiffen your muscles over the long term, especially if you are conscientious about regular stretching, which I know is part and parcel to martial arts training.
The benefits you will see from regular weight training will be great, while the negatives will be minimal at best — I promise you that.
Q: I've heard that fruit, despite being natural, is mostly sugar and that it can raise your blood-sugar levels. I'm currently on a weight-loss plan that includes fruit. How can this be?
Joe: I can understand your confusion over fruit. Yes, fruit is almost purely carbohydrates, much of it in the form of fructose, which is a naturally occurring form of sugar that gives fruit its sweetness. As a simple sugar, fructose can easily be converted by the liver into fat. Obviously, this is something you're looking to avoid.
However, fruit is full of important nutrients and fiber and has a high water content, so it can also be a dieter's best friend.
So, by now, you must be really confused. Fruit sugar can be converted to fat easily, but it's also good for dieters. How can this be?
Because fruit — particularly apples, pears, cherries and a few others — are relatively low on the GI (glycemic index) scale. They don't create an insulin spike when you eat them. This means the only chance for fruit to add fat to your body is if your liver's glycogen stores are full. If you're on a calorie-restricted diet, this should never be the case, assuming the diet you're on is a sound one.
It's a bit of a complicated thing to describe in the space of a column, but two to three pieces of fruit plus vegetables and protein each day can have you losing weight while maintaining vigorous health.
Joe Weider is acclaimed as "the father of modern bodybuilding" and the founder of the world's leading fitness magazines, including Shape, Muscle and Fitness, Men's Fitness, Fit Pregnancy, Hers, Golf for Seniors and others published worldwide in over 20 languages.