The Real Way to Workout

I have been working out for years. At 190 pounds, my max bench is nearly 350 pounds and I could shoulder press 110 pound dumbbells in each hand. I am extremely strong for my weight and there aren’t many people stronger than me pound for pound. I would say nearly 75-80% of my workouts over that 10+ year span just focused on primarily lifting. All I would really care about is getting “big” as people like to say. My workouts were hard as all hell and I would constantly change around my workouts to shock my body to new growth. Drop sets, supersets, reps of 50-100 in a set- you name it and I did it.

Nevertheless, there is a reason that I am telling you this. I have gained tremendous growth and strength over the years and I look pretty good in the mirror (but I could always look better!). However, because I have lifted heavy and constantly stressed my body primarily with weights, I have deprived my heart of proper exercise (through cardio) and I have developed joint problems and occasional muscle pulls and cramping (from not stretching). Working out is not just about lifting weights. It needs to be broken down into 3 essential elements: lifting weights, performing cardio, and stretching. I have followed this new routine for a couple months now and I have never looked and felt better in all the years of exercise. Just check out my transformation below!


Before I get into describing my routine and the benefits of lifting weights, cardio training and stretching together in one routine, I want to say that everybody is different. Just because this routine works for me doesn’t mean another routine won’t work for you better. If you choose to just lift weights and not do cardio or stretching then that’s your decision. Lifting weights is a 1000x better for your health and physical appearance than not doing it at all. I would say lifting weights is probably the most important aspect if you had to pick one. You gain strength, muscle growth, increase cardiovascular output, and flexibility in just weight training alone.

Nevertheless, if you do weight training, cardio and stretching together each day then you will really see a difference in your appearance and notice drastic improvements in how you feel. A lot of people like to just stick with weights because it is less boring than its counterparts in cardio and stretching. However, spending 15 more minutes doing cardio and 10 more minutes stretching a day will make a tremendous difference, which I will explain further. What else could you do with 25-30 minutes extra in your day? Watch television or use the computer? Is that going to make you a better person, both physically and mentally?

group with weight training equipment on sport gym

What Weightlifting Can Do For You

Lifting weights is probably the most popular activity to do in the gym, over other things such as cardiovascular training and stretching. Perhaps the biggest reason why people hit the weights is to build muscle and improve their physique; basically, you just want others to notice your big arms or ripped midsection.

Besides providing pleasing aesthetics, lifting weights has many other benefits:

According to the American Heart Association, doing moderate-to-high-intensity resistance training, even as little as 2-3 times per week for 3 to 6 months, can improve muscular strength in men and women anywhere between 25% and 100%. Resistance training also allows your bones to grow. Because your bones are growing and getting stronger, the risk of developing osteoporosis as you age is decreased significantly. By lifting weights and putting pressure on your bones and surrounding muscles, you are giving your bones the opportunity to grow and get stronger by increasing your bone mineral density (BMD). This higher level of BMD is what prevents osteoporosis. Studies have shown that resistance training can even repair bones that have already seen significant bone loss. You burn approximately 20% more calories at rest when lifting weights than if you were not to. When your metabolic system is working at a faster rate, you are gaining in two ways: you are becoming leaner by losing body fat, and your muscles are becoming firmer. With this excess weight being dropped from your body, you are becoming a much healthier individual. As a result from this, your metabolism will be faster. According to the American Heart Association, resistance training can help prevent people from developing chronic cardiac ailments as “resistance weight training actually has significant benefits for people with cardiovascular disease.” Lifting weights can make you feel better mentally because you look better physically, and releases endorphins, which increase your overall mood development.Woman athlete doing exercise on treadmill

What Cardiovascular Training Can Do For You

Cardio is something that many people either fully neglect while in the gym or perform wrong. Cardio is so very important as it works the most important muscle in your body: your heart. More and more people die of heart disease each year because of improper care throughout their lives. Be proactive and protect your heart now.

Not only does cardio improve your heart but provides you with other benefits too:

You will be able to lift more as your heart fuels the rest of your body. You could turn 9 reps into 10 and can perform supersets, drop sets, strip sets, etc. as your cardiovascular health will be better and you won’t breathe as heavy when lifting. You will be able to grow bigger muscles because your heart will fuel your muscles with more blood and more nutrients, which is required for muscular growth. You will be able to last longer in your workouts and stimulate your muscles longer. You will burn more fat throughout your body. You cannot spot-reduce fat in a certain area. The only way to burn fat in your midsection is by decreasing calories and performing more cardio. You burn far more fat performing cardio than weight training. You will develop that lean physique you’ve always wanted with cables for veins and striations throughout your larger and smaller body parts. Only perform HIIT when performing cardio. High Intensity Interval Training burns up to 10x more fat than steady jogging does. Keep your cardio limited to a few times a week at only 20-30 minutes a session where you go “all-out” during those sessions.iStock_000016935323_Small

What Stretching Can Do For You

Stretching is one of the most underrated things you could do. What makes weightlifting and cardio potentially dangerous is the chance that you could pull or tear a muscle. Stretching daily will help ensure that you are much safer when lifting weights or cardio. In general terms, we stretch to improve our flexibility, which is the range of motion that our joints are capable of.

Besides helping to prevent injury, more flexibility will:

Help you develop a better posture because it improves muscular balance around the joints. A longer muscle is a stronger muscle. Stretching helps to supply more blood and nutrients to the muscles, which can aid in muscle growth. Nutrients and even blood is like food for your muscles. You need it for growth. The more nutrients and blood that is pumped to your muscles the bigger and stronger you will grow. It will help reduce muscle soreness by this blood and nutrient supply. Stretching can help eliminate lower back pain, which is one of the most common forms of pain among people. Muscle tightness in the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and lower back muscles is a common cause for lower back pain. You need to stretch these muscles to help get rid of the pain.shutterstock_109996523

The Best Times to do Each

Now the question is when is the best time to lift, do cardio and stretch? Should I lift weights before or after I do cardio? What about stretching? I will break it down for you and show you when to do all three in your routine for the day.

Here’s why you shouldn’t stretch before weight training or cardio:

Researchers have found that stretching before weight training or cardio actually weakens the muscles. According to a New York Times article on stretching (published 11/02/2008): “In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements.” Not only is this true for legs but it is true with the upper body as well. Furthermore, many people believe they will pull muscles and injure themselves if they don’t stretch before a run or other forms of cardio training. Nevertheless, you never want to stretch a cold muscle because it can do more harm than good. It is actually better for you to stretch a completely warmed muscle made possible by weight training and cardio.

Here’s why you shouldn’t perform cardio before you weight train:

There’s an obvious answer to this. Doing cardio will tire you enough to hinder your workout. Your energy sources will be used up so it is a lot harder and more exhausting to weight train. Cardio training burns fat and carbs. As a result, if you do cardio first then you may have less carbs to fuel your weight training because carbohydrates = energy.

The Proper Routine You Should Follow

Start off your workout with a light 5 minute jog. This is not considered part of your cardio training but it is only to get blood flow going and to warm up your muscles so you prevent injury and can actually lift heavier weights because your muscles are inundated with blood. Right after your jog, do a couple sets of lightweights and gradually increase to your working sets. For example, let’s say you are doing chest and triceps today. Do your 5 minute jog and then start off with chest. Let’s say you start off your chest routine doing 225 pounds for reps. You need to start off benching just the bar and then do 135 pounds and finish at 185 pounds as your warm up sets. Just do enough to get the blood flowing and to slightly tire your muscle. Warming up your body is just as important as working it out. A cold muscle is a poor muscle and you can injure yourself and hinder muscle growth.

Now it’s time to start your workout. Remember, Muscle Prodigy has dozens of articles that discuss the proper way to weight train and all different variations to train your muscles with. Therefore, please consult the rest of the site for this topic.

After you finish with your workout, hop on the treadmill and do some cardio. Focus on high intensity interval training, which is combining higher intensity runs and sprints with lower intensity runs and jogs at an interval pace. This will increase your VO2 max and cardiovascular output while burning more fat. Even if you don’t burn as many calories as you would just jogging, your body burns far more calories while at rest as you have elevated your metabolism to keep burning fuel.

Keep HIIT to 20 minutes after properly warming up. Make sure you push yourself in terms of the upper and lower echelon speeds. Go as hard and as fast as you can. This is about being as efficient as possible. Be as effective as you can in as little time as possible. Perform your cardio either immediately after your weight resistance workout or in the morning after consuming amino acid tablets or a protein shake. Sprinting is the best way to burn fat. Use the treadmill over other cardio machines like the elliptical and bike, where your caloric burning capabilities are most likely less on those other machines. Make sure to set the treadmill at 1.0 incline in order to make up for the pavement and wind resistance that comes from outside. Increase your speed and time of intervals from week to week. Keep the sprints at 0:30-1:00 and your jogging recovery rest to anywhere from the same time limit as the sprint to double that time period.

Now you are completely exhausted. Since you are drenched in sweat and your muscles are fatigued you are completely warmed. This is the best and most ideal time to stretch. A good way to do a stretching routine is to first stretch out the muscle groups you trained in your routine for the day and then focus on stretching all other muscle groups, primarily the legs, especially since you just ran. There are hundreds of stretches you could do so it is nearly impossible to cover all of them. Just stick with the stretches you know or try to carefully research different stretches. You can really hurt yourself if you do improper stretching form so try to know what you are doing. There are many different theories on what is the ideal time to hold a stretch for. Most researches believe 3 sets of a 30 second hold for a stretch is most ideal. Nevertheless, since you are doing a good amount of stretches to end your workout, there is nothing wrong with holding a stretch for 15 seconds and doing 1 or 2 sets per stretching exercise. It will take you long if you try to do 3 sets of 30 second stretches for all of your preferred stretching exercises. You shouldn’t really break it into individual days to stretch specific muscles because to improve flexibility you need to be consistent and stretch the muscles almost everyday. You should stretch for 10-15 minutes. Stretching should not only be essential for your muscles but it is extremely relaxing and will leave you feeling refreshed.Bicep Curl

As a small side note, you should try to flex your muscles constantly. Let’s say you just finished a hard set on bench press. Try to immediately flex the chest muscles and hold for 30 seconds. You will feel the blood pour into your muscles, which is beneficial considering blood flow is a prerequisite for muscle growth. Try to randomly flex between sets and even flex all your muscles for 2-3 minutes before you go to bed. You can get a workout with just flexing alone!

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