-“Training Routines: Do you want to be “Skinny” OR “Lean”?
-“Forearm & Grip Training for Overall Strength”


At the beginning of every year, people migrate to the gym to lose fat and gain muscle mass. However, the methods that have been traditionally prescribed for these goals may not be optimal. I would like to challenge the notion that a training program devoted to aerobic exercise is the best manner to achieve a low body fat percentage.

First of all, I admit there is no doubt that aerobic exercise will burn a large amount of calories. The greater the intensity and duration of the exercise, the greater the number of calories that will be burned. However, a high level of both intensity and duration can not be maintained unless the individual is highly trained, leaving most individuals struggling with an inefficient mode of weight loss. Furthermore, the idea of sitting on a stationary cycle for 30 or more minutes is not highly appealing to most individuals. There must be a mode of exercise more enjoyable and beneficial than this…

Second, almost all aerobic-exercise is restricted to the lower body and therefore there is no training stimulus for muscles of the upper body. A possible result of exclusive aerobic conditioning is a loss of upper body muscle mass (atrophy). Unfortunately, the loss of muscle mass results in a lowering of the body's resting metabolic rate meaning that as lean tissue is lost the amount of energy expended by the body will be reduced.

Conversely, strength training helps promote and maintain lean body mass (muscle) and conserves the metabolic rate. So despite the ability of aerobic exercise to burn more calories during the exercise session, strength training makes up for that difference by burning more calories at rest over the course of the day because of a greater muscle mass. Strength training also contributes to greater levels of self-confidence in the ability to perform in sports and daily function and is an excellent activity for stress reduction.

This brings me to a comparison of body types, in this case a sprinter and a marathon runner. On one hand, the sprinter trains with high-intensity intervals and resistance training and the result is a well-muscled physique with extremely low body fat. In contrast, the marathon runner trains exclusively with low-intensity, extreme duration aerobic training and infrequent bouts of resistance training to produce a very thin physique with a moderate to low level of body fat. The question: Which athlete is skinny and which is considered lean?

A program of exclusive aerobic training is merely a step in the direction of becoming "skinny" as opposed to developing a "lean" body. The catabolic effect of aerobic training is enhanced by an overly severe reduction in caloric intake that is often included in weight-loss programs. Strength training has been shown to conserve lean body mass in combination with calorie-reduced diets, again demonstrating the superiority of resistance training in building a better body composition (see ISSUE # 11).

Conditioning professionals recommend that weight loss be kept to approximately 1% of body mass per week in order to reduce lean tissue loss.

I recommend individuals looking to develop a "lean and muscular" body re-examine their training modes and programs. Consider a reduction in the amount of low- OR moderate-intensity aerobic training and replace this with shorter, higher-intensity aerobic training sessions and most importantly, add resistance training to your arsenal in the fight against body fat and the quest for a "lean" physique.


Forearm and grip strength improvements will enhance your training and performance in lifts, athletics, and daily function. Performing regular grip work will permit the use of greater loads in back training (pull-ups, rows, etc.).

Squeezing a tennis ball is not an optimal grip strength exercise because there is only one resistance option (which can not be increased) and the resistance gets weaker the more the ball is squeezed (while the grip gets stronger). This exercise may help your grip endurance but will not help you develop crushing strength.

Thick grips should be used as a source of training variety. Vary the thickness of the handles the same way you vary your training parameters (reps, sets, etc.). The key, of course, is to continually provide new methods of stimulation. There are a variety of exercises that train the forearm flexors and extensors. Each will slightly enhance overall grip strength and will contribute to greater strength in exercises that depend heavily on elbow flexion. Expect to have meatier forearms after you consistently add these exercises to your training program.

    Farmers Walk
  • Grasp a heavy dumbbell in each hand and walk for 20 to 30 seconds before setting the weights down.
  • Start with your wrists flexed. As you lift the weights off the ground, they'll straighten your wrists out.
  • Make sure you're balanced before trying to walk with the weight.
    Hammer curl
  • Hold dumbbells at sides, palms facing in to the body, curl the weight to shoulders bending only at elbow.
  • Slowly lower to the starting position taking advantage of the eccentric muscle action.
    Reverse curl
  • Stand and grasp an E-Z curl bar with an overhand grip, shoulder width apart, and rest the bar on the quads.
  • Curl to shoulder level, do not swing hips, and lower with control.


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