circuit training or dedicated muscle groups?

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    Mar 10, 2008 9:46 PM GMT
    I've worked out off and on for years, only getting "serious" about it a couple years ago. I went from 185# with lots of flab & fat in 2004, to a very (too) lean 158# in late 2006/early 2007, and since then have gradually built up to the low 180's today. My body fat is much lower than it was in 2004, but still higher than I'd like. I have trouble balancing calorie intake for muscle gain without excessive fat gain.

    I have too much trouble on this site with G-rated pics being tagged as "adult", so here are links to them elsewhere. Note, you can tell I am nude in the shots, but the photos are cut off just below the waist (they are, in my opinion, G-rated).

    Me in 2004:

    Me in Feb 2008:

    I usually do 3 days of weight training per week, with 3-5 days of cardio. My weight training is typically done as legs/shoulders one day, then back/biceps, then chest/triceps. My cardio is HIIT, the one method I've found most effective at fat burning.

    So my question. I know another approach to lifting is to do a circut-style routine. That is, do one or two of each body part on each workout day, rather than doing them in pairs on specific days like I do now. Which have you found most effective?

    As you can see, I've toned up a lot, and what you can't really see is that i've gained a lot of strength over the past few years. What you also can't see in the new pic is that my belly has a "rounded" appearance. My abs have gotten fairly strong, but definitely don't have the "flat" or "6-pack" look I'd love to get. I found if I lost enough fat to show that level of leanness, then I look enemic overall.

    Anyway, have you found dedicated muscle group days, or circuit style training, most effective in creating a muscular athletic look?
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    Mar 11, 2008 7:09 AM GMT
    Your round belly looks partly due to your posture. Lift your chest as you stand, pulling your shoulders downward. Squeeze your glutes a little and tilt your pelvis backward under you (as though reaching in front between your legs to pull your tail up through). Practice holding this position longer every day until it feels natural. Your tummy will flatten instantly.

    Circuit training is great, but I "count" it toward my cardio workout when I do it. I usually do circuit training when I have LESS time in a week to get segmented workouts in.

    You may want to hit your body-parts twice a week.
    Monday: chest, shoulders, triceps
    Tuesday: back, biceps, abs
    Wednesday: legs
    Thursday: rest
    Friday: do Monday
    Saturday: do Tuesday
    Sunday: do Wednesday
    Monday: rest
    Tuesday: last week's Monday
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    Mar 14, 2008 1:31 PM GMT
    mickeytopogigio saidYour round belly looks partly due to your posture. ...

    Agreed. I've been working on this.

    Thanks for the suggestions. I'm surprised there weren't additional comments re: circuit training as opposed to a traditional approach. What do most of you do?

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    Apr 03, 2008 12:34 AM GMT
    Eating habbits are part of having a "fat apearance" also. When competing I have six small meals rather than the 3 usuals meals which are ofcoarse larger.

    It helps with my diet and also "shrinks" my stomach. As there is never that much food in it. It helps to loose weight that way too because you are always digesting and and therefore working on your metabolism.

    To keep muscularity and loose weight just do low weight/high reps so you burn of energy. But do one or to sessions now or then doing the low reps /high weight. To still make more muscle.

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    Apr 03, 2008 1:11 AM GMT
    Early on in training it can be easy to both burn fat and build muscle. However, as the training adaptations take place that becomes a much more difficult thing to accomplish, for biochemical reasons that are beyond the scope of this answer. In my opinion you will have greater success if you choose one of those two goals at a time and pursue that.

    For instance do a hypertrophy (muscle building)focused program for eight to twelve weeks. There are a number of ways and methods to do it, you can search on google for those or ask me directly if you would like specific help on this. The main idea is to use heavy enough weight to challenge yourself but not so much as to be unable to do at least 6 reps. A lot of times when guys gain a lot of strength but little muscle size it comes from one of two reasons, one believe it or not they are lifting to heavy, or two they aren't lifting heavy enough to stimulate the muscle to grow. Also hypertrophy focused programs are going to increase your days so you are hitting each muscle group at least twice per week. Some programs say never go more then two days without hitting a muscle group in order to grow it.

    Bottom line here is that there is sort of subtle but obvious principle behind this. Think of work related tasks, when consistent and persistent demands are placed on the body it responds to adapt to those demands. Now if you just do something once in awhile is the body going to adapt to doing that action - probably not, or not very much and not very fast. The key to stimulating muscle growth in my opinion is a moderate intensity at a high frequency.

    After 8 weeks on the hypertrophy program then do a cutting cycle, where you focus on supersets, tri-sets and things like circuit training. This is a good time to do quite a bit of HIIT, probably if you can handle it, at least 5 days a week, but never more then 6. Your muscle progress will be slower during this phase but with proper protein in the diet and frequent weight training you can prevent muscle loss, and proabably gain a little slowly. Just keep in mind that the growth cycle is the growth cycle and the cutting cycle is for losing body fat.

    Now if you find in your hypertrophy program you are adding to much body fat, and you are sure its body fat and not just pounds on the scale, then you can adjust the program accordingly, add a morning run, or switch to the cutting cycle.

    My advice to you is get a log for your lifts, know your 1RM (use the 1RM calculators on the net if you don't have a spotter), know what 65%, 75%, and 85% of 1 RM max is. Plan your lifts, build your program treating it like a science, the science of your body's response to training. If you're recording everything, you can see whats working and whats not, and make adjustments accordingly. Or any trainer worth his salt will be able to look at it and help you make specific changes targeted to you.

    Record everything that goes in your mouth (well most everything -hopefully you know what I mean). A great site that is free and does a lot of the work for you is It is a completely free account and it will break down your macronutrients, protein, fats, carbs, etc, vitamins and minerals. Once your specific information is entered its a breeze. They also have a much more in depth software program called Fitday as well that is very good for tracking all this information. Here you can be sure what your fat intake is, what your carb intake is and how that correlates with your exercises, growth, fat increase/decrease etc. The point is to get great results get very scientific about every aspect of your program, if you do this enough and tweak the variables enough you will arrive at a place of excellent response to training.

    I don't think you can use circuit training for muscle growth, its simply not the tool for that. If you were lifting the kind of weight that is necessary for muscle growth everyday you would soon burn out from overtraining or end up injuring yourself.

    Hope this helps.