by Jim Merk & Jeff Libengood

Have you ever noticed how clear people’s eyes are after they finish a workout? Ever hear them say how good they feel even though they were just groaning seconds before? There is no cover-up going on here; these people truly feel great, all thanks to our brain’s ability to make endorphins.

Endorphins produce that slightly euphoric feeling that accompanies hearty laughter, a loved one’s hug or, of course, a great workout. Why does this happen? When you laugh too much your brain tries to calm you—endorphin time. When you hug a loved one your brain gets your body ready for…uh, more endor­phins. And when you work out really hard, your brain pumps you full of endorphins to kill the PAIN! The words “hurts so good” suddenly take on a wonder­fully new meaning.

You can get endorphins moving in other ways, too. Alcohol and other stimulants work, but getting them naturally means no hangover the next day. Not a bad thing. Another attribute of the workout “high” is that you get in better shape. I have always thought the “no pain, no gain” slogan was mind-numbingly stupid. Who, except for the sick, wants pain? Now I am begin­ning to understand. I have read that people can be­come addicted to this natural high—I believe it. I mean it makes you feel great and you know your actions are helping your body—give me more!

In the terms of workouts, pain relates more to ex­haustion rather than the “ouch” kind of pain. When you run awhile and think you need to stop for a rest, keep going. In a couple of minutes, you will feel like you can run forever—thanks to those cranial secre­tions. The same works for lifting weights or just stretch­ing. Go slightly beyond your limit and wonderful things happen.

It all boils down to enjoying yourself during your workout. This will keep you coming back for more. In ‘ the future, I am told “runner’s high” will mean less as I realize more of my other fitness goals. That’s fine with me, but for now…. no pain, no endorphins.

Jim Merk

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In the beginning…it was hard! Now, there’s no stopping “Locomotive Jim.” His first month has been g-r-e-a-t.

The majority of Jim’s training is with free weights. They are far superior to machines in that the weight and the body must be balanced while performing the movement, resulting in much greater muscle use (ma­jor muscles or prime movers, helping and stabilizing muscles) and better coordination through powerful exertions. Training speed should mimic real life movements—you don’t walk in slow motion, don’t train in slow motion—just make sure you retain full control of the weight you are handling. In this way, you will be able to transfer your gains in the gym smoothly to real life.

Free weights also permit total freedom of move­ment for any given exercise, requiring your total con­trol whereas machines confine your movements al­lowing you to cheat. In this way, free weights again mimic real life movements—most objects we face in daily life are free of pulleys or guides. Free weights also permit a greater variety of exercise choices allow­ing variability, which is very important to your train­ing program in the months and years to come.

Our plan was simple: determine Jim’s body com­position and current strengths and weaknesses, make a program to match his goals and then…”just do it!” His original body composition results were: body weight 68.7 kilos, body fat 26% and seated reach test was to 3 inches above his ankles. Body measurements were: chest 94 cm, arms flexed 31 cm, waist 86.2 cm, thighs 52 cm.

For the training menu, I selected four “core” exer­cises and four “synergist” exercises and administered a five repetition maximum test in each to find Jim’s starting poundages. The 5RM test is where an indi­vidual lifts the maximum amount of weight possible in a controlled manner for five repetitions. Multiply­ing that poundage by 75% will give an accurate pic­ture of what a person can lift for 10 reps. Of course, nothing is perfect, but this will give you a pretty accu­rate figure.

The core exercises Jim uses include: bench press, one-arm dumbbell row, dumbbell military press and leg press. His synergist exercises are: triceps barbell extension, barbell curl, leg curl and calf raise.

Jim does three sets of 10 reps with each core exercise and one set of 10 reps with each synergist movement. When he can do three sets (or one set on the synergists) of 10 repetitions for three work­outs in a row, I will increase his working pound­age by 5% for that given exercise. As he gets in better shape, I’ll add a couple more sets to his syner­gist exercises.

Abdominal training is a synergistically complete routine. It starts with lower abs working to intercostals, serratus and obliques, finishing up with upper abs. Hyper-extensions are done to balance strength from front to back. Jim’s routine is, in order, vertical knee raise, lying 6″-18″ leg raise, reverse twist, crunches, hyper-extensions.

The stretching program is basic but complete. The stretches, in order, are: seated toe touch, V-set toe touch, hurdler’s stretch, butterfly, shoulder stretch and chest stretch.

The program overview is: warm-up (brisk walking or cycling until there’s a light perspiration), stretch­ing, abdominals, weight training, cardiovascular work and cool down. Total time one hour and 10 minutes.

Next time I’ll report Jim’s progress. Together in purpose.

Jeff Libengood