Weight loss, THEN muscle gain - right logic?

  • onesixtyfive

    Posts: 4

    Oct 07, 2013 10:39 PM GMT
    Looking for advice on whether my current weight-loss/body-building plan makes sense...

    I currently weigh around 198.0 lbs., and I am focused right now on two goals: 1) reach a normal and then optimal BMI, which for my height is around 184 (normal ceiling) and 165 (goal weight); and 2) build and expand the upper body - chest, shoulders, arms and upper back - to improve my physical appearance and confidence.

    Right now, I am tackling both simultaneously; I am doing three intense interval training cardio days a week for weight loss, and two days of strength/weight training, where I cover the whole body (legs, core, upper) over the two days using basic general weight lifting/training exercises. (I'll include those below).

    I am wondering if doing these two goals simultaneously is smart and effective, or not smart or effective. I find that I lose weight at a glacial pace (lost about 25 lbs. over one full year with cardio and watching calories), but I suppose that makes sense because weight loss is not exactly instant. But, I wonder if my weight training and all the protein shakes I take throughout the week is making that more difficult and I could have had actually lost much more. I notice that when the scale goes down, my arms and pecs seems to get a little bit smaller. But, when they get bigger, I don't see much change in the scale.

    So, if I have these two goals, do I need to tackle them at different times, or is my approach sound?

    Thank you very much for any advice - MUCH appreciated!

    Here's my strength training/weight lifting routine:

    Back (all 14, 12, 10 reps): Seated high back row, seated machine row, reverse cruch machine (not sure what to call it, it's like doing a cruch but backwards, with glutes incorporated)
    Chest (all 16, 14, 10 reps): Fly (machine), seated machine bench press, standing decline cable flyes
    Abs (all 25, 20, 18 reps): Sit-ups, reverse situps, side crunches
    Arms: Mostly incorporated in back exercises; also do preacher curls, 13-11-10, and occasionally triceps pushdowns
    Calves: Seated calves machine, 20-18-16
    Legs and glutes: Seated leg press (14-12-10), machine-guided squats (13-11-10), machine leg curl (where I lay on my stomach and lift legs toward butt, 14-12-10)
    Legs isolation (I only do these very occasionally): Adductors and abductors, 16-14-12
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Oct 07, 2013 10:55 PM GMT
    i personally can't comment on the weight loss/bodybuilding combo

    but why are you choosing machines over free weights in all of your exercises? I see almost no freeweights in your routine.

    Machine bench?? Machine Squat? I really regret all the time i wasted on machine squat. I feel like it takes a natural motion and torques it into an unnatural position. You should probably ditch the abductors/adductors too...

    Not trying to come off as a dick. I just think in general free weights are much better so I'm curious to why you dont use them.

    Also just a general comment since you are posting the reps. I hope that isn't a fixed number. Each work out you either need to up the reps or up the weight to grow.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Oct 08, 2013 1:10 AM GMT
    Do both.. lose the extra fat and gain muscle mass.
  • Neon_Dreams

    Posts: 352

    Oct 08, 2013 1:25 AM GMT
    I also am looking to gain muscle and lose fat... I gained 20 lbs in the past year (mostly in the last 6 months) because of stress and poor diet. But, it's all turning around fast as I got back to the gym and back to a healthy vegetarian diet!

    So, what is the answer here? Lose fat first? Or, maybe turn the fat into muscle...??

    Any advice guys?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Oct 08, 2013 1:27 AM GMT
    It's an "AND", not an "OR". By gaining muscle, you will burn more fat and lose "bad weight" faster.
  • onesixtyfive

    Posts: 4

    Oct 08, 2013 2:39 AM GMT
    IRFire66 said

    but why are you choosing machines over free weights in all of your exercises? I see almost no freeweights in your routine.

    This one's a bit complicated to answer... I am pretty new to the gym and got a free set of personal training sessions for signing up a couple winter holidays ago. That trainer taught me almost exclusively on machines (but some of the exercises I do are on free weights, like the preacher curls, I probably didn't make that so clear on my list). Part of the reason for training me so much on machines was that I had never done full-on weight training before, and the other reason was I have an injury from a car accident on my left hip that he believed would be best worked around through the aid of controlled motions that machines could provide me.

    So, I've never really learned how to use free weights, but now that my injury is pretty much no longer an issue, I might want to look into this as I get more and more serious with my muscle-building goals.

    As for the reps, I am increasing the amount of weight on the machines as I go along.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Oct 08, 2013 12:08 PM GMT
    OP, people who diet without strength training end up metabolizing some of their own muscle. Basically, you would be using some of your own precious muscle as food for yourself. Looking at your profile and your starting weight, you have already done the hard part. Congrats, Man! Losing weight glacially slow is exactly what you want now. You will get optimal tone and appearance that way.

    Using machines vs. free weights won't give the eye popping development that competitive body builders seek, but it will help you avoid injury as you strengthen and tone. An injury that takes you back out of the gym for a couple of months would be devastating to your goals. I use machines because of my age.

    Long story short, you are doing everything right. I would avoid focusing on a set weight as your destination and just enjoy the journey, the endorphins and the whole gym experience. For a six footer, there really isn't anything wrong with your present weight--you just need to convert more of it to muscle. Don't let residual body image issues from your past ruin this exciting time and the amazing progress that you have made.

  • pelotudo87

    Posts: 225

    Oct 08, 2013 4:35 PM GMT
    Congrats on the weight loss! Here are my thoughts:

    Trying to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time is impossible at any significant rate, so it's best to choose one direction and go that route, however...

    1. As others have said, you have a lot of machine exercises. Free weights incorporate more stabilizer muscles, so they burn more calories...a definite plus if you are looking to lose fat.

    2. You do a lot of high-rep work. In exercise science theory, 8-12 reps is supposed to be the "hypertrophy range," but a lot of well-known personal trainers / consultants believe that 5-8 or 5-10 will recruit more muscle fibers...I personally like 8 reps or so. Even if your goal is to lose fat, do NOT do higher reps / lower weight...with the decreased stimulus, you will lose muscle.

    3. How tight is your diet? Have you calculated your daily calorie needs? Do you know how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you are eating every day? Figuring this out is absolutely CRITICAL. Then, eat a slight deficit...perhaps 80-100 calories...per day. You will lose weight slow enough not to lose a lot of muscle.

    Also, I would not try to get ripped abs. Try to get to maybe 12% bodyfat, and then bulk up again until you reach a level of "fatness" that you aren't comfortable with, then cut back down, then repeat until you have reached an overall size you are happy with.

    Good luck!
  • onesixtyfive

    Posts: 4

    Oct 10, 2013 3:53 AM GMT
    Thanks for the positive encouragement and the great feedback, everyone! I see somewhat conflicting advice; do both weight loss and muscle building, or do one or the other if I want to truly be effective at one or the other.

    My instinct right now points toward focusing more of my efforts on the muscle-building, starting with revamping my routine to incorporate more freeweights (and lower reps). I took a step toward that today by switching to higher weights at only 8-10 reps, instead of the 12-14 I was doing before. I also am holding the reps longer - before I was doing about one second per rep, but now doing a solid two seconds to three seconds each one. My back and chest hurt extra awesome tonight - I love it!

    If I understand correctly, muscle-building can help me lose the weight I want to lose. Is that about right? My biggest weight-loss issues are 1) the gut, 2) the sides (lovehandles?) and 3) my thighs. My thighs are enormous, but only when I am sitting down. I am not sure if that's normal or not... I notice that when I do a lot of leg exercises, it tends to make the thigh problem worse and I need to go up in pant sizes even if the scale is actually going down. I don't think I look flattering in bigger pants, so is there anything I can do in terms of squats/leg presses that won't inadvertently lead to Hulk legs?
  • pelotudo87

    Posts: 225

    Oct 10, 2013 8:35 PM GMT
    Hi again,

    Yes, building muscle will help you lose weight...indirectly.

    1. People do not agree on this, but there is a lot of evidence to suggest that a pound of muscle raises your metabolic rate significantly. Exrx.net estimates that it is between 30-50 calories per pound per day...some estimates put it as low as 9ish, if I remember correctly...but look at anecdotal evidence: bodybuilders eat a lot and are not obese.

    2. Unfortunately, spot reducing is pretty much impossible. Just try losing fat in general, and eventually the stubborn areas will lose fat, too...but don't worry about stubborn areas until you are really lean (sub 10% bodyfat with well-defined abs).

    3. I know that you don't want your legs to get bigger, but unfortunately that's part of the game. Your legs are huge muscles (as you can tell), and working them burns a lot of calories...so working them is a must. My personal opinion is that losing weight overall will make you look more aesthetic with larger legs...but that's some time down the road.

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Oct 10, 2013 9:13 PM GMT
    You may not lose any MORE weight. 165 lbs IMHO would be too thin if you are worked out. 185-200 if built at 6' is good! Given the right amount of stimulus and calories your body will determine it's own natural weight. What you lose in cardio you gain in weight training. You have a storehouse of energy to be tapped. Use it. I think 2 days of weight training isn't enough.

    I've been doing this workout for 3 months....I love it.

    I have this theory that guys with big legs often times were heavy to begin with. Guys with thin legs seem to stay that way to an extent, no matter how hard they try. Consider yourself lucky! Unfortunately you need beefy chest/back/arms to balance it out.

    On regular crunches I do as many as I can....slowly. If your flopping around like a fish out of water it's pointless. I do 100. I should be more cut but I eat whatever I damn well please!

    Somewhere I read that free weights over a Smith machine exerts 43% more in terms of flexibility. "....produced almost 50 percent more muscle activity...."
    Not sure about other machines, but for the best bang for your buck switch over to free weights.....if you can. Gradually introduce free weight in, at a low weight and increasing, and eventually you can cross over.

  • onesixtyfive

    Posts: 4

    Oct 19, 2013 4:29 PM GMT
    Thanks Unckabasa for those resources - very, very enlightening. I really like that workout plan, and it's definitely becoming clear that I need to get into freeweights ASAP. I'm still building up to that, but at least I can do some of the basic freeweight exercises for now, such as arms and shoulders.

    My current gym's and setup is great for cardio and machines, but really tricky when it comes to freeweights, there's just not enough room or freeweights to go around. I'll need to think about investing in some of my own weights as switching to a different gym is out of the question right now.

    I've been really steady so far at the late-190's range (right now I am at a 197.5) and I switched one of my cardio days to an additional body building day. I saw massive improvements in my chest and back last week after a particularly good run of upper body workouts that week; however, this week, my chest is much less than it was a week ago, but still a little bigger/firmer than it was prior to last week. I reduced my calorie intake this past week and increased the proportion of my protein intake, but I wonder why this occurred and if my body "ate up" my chest muscles. I had two days in a row this past week where I was severely ill and probably only had about 800 calories those two days tops, but I can't imagine just two days in a row eating up that much muscle...