If you are looking to get into shape information online can be a mixed bag. While there are some influencers out there who know what they’re talking about there are dozens more who care more about selling worthless products then helping people. Knowing where to find good, actionable advice especially for beginners can often make or break an early fitness first year. What is strange is that this summer in 2019 one of the best places for beginner fitness advice online is Funimations How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift.
With only two episodes released Dumbbell has already provided more sound advice than hours of social media fitness, in regard to basic movements and dieting. In fact the first five minutes of the second episode may have given the single most important piece of advice for somebody looking to start a fitness journey: weight does not matter.
Hibiki our protagonist is scared she has put on weight (scary I know...) but she mentions that her muscles are feeling firmer. Of course, she is afraid of what training is doing to her body. Machio, Hibiki’s fitness trainer that anyone would be lucky to have explains that this is normal. Infact it is good. Muscle is more dense than fat, as such even though you are gaining weight you still look slimmer.
For many people whose fitness goal is just to lose weight, be more healthy, and yes (admit it) look a bit better this is the dream. It actually has a name “body recomposition” whereby you stay around the same weight but your body fat percentage goes down. Body recomposition is so good it is one of the holy grails of bodybuilding. As losing fat and building muscle at the same time is a process which is effectiely exclussive to beginners. As beginners normally have enough body fat to fuel their muscle growth while eating in a caloric deficit, which is required to lose fat.
I will repeat as this is important. Weight does not matter, body fat percentage does. Hibiki who started out at 35% body fat (25% to 30% is considered a ‘healthy’ body fat percentage for woman) is going in the right direction which if she was a real person would be great for your longevity. As excess body fat is not useful in any way barring a stint on Survivor.
Without missing a beat the episode transitions to one of its exercises of the week. The Lat Pull Down Machine, which full disclosure is a personal favourite of mine. As the name implies the machine primarily works the Latissimus Dorsi the large fanlike muscles on the sides of your back.
Hibiki however is worried as she eyes Machio who is admiring his well developed physique. If she works out her Lats wont she end up looking like a “gorilla” like Machio? A very common concern many woman have when considering using resistance training? Akemi, Hibiki’s friend and training buddy, explains perfectly there is a slight difference between Hibiki and Machio.
Machio wants to look like that so he trains (and eats) to look like that. Only with extreme dedication can you build a body like Machio, nobody does it by accident. It does not happen. Physical ability and a physique of that level as Hibiki comes to learn is a “lifestyle choice”, it is something people are invested in.
To be blunt Hibiki just does not put in the time or effort to achieve those results. Which is fine, everyone is different and everyone should train for their own personal goals. In fact everyone is so different how ones body reacts to a training regime is not the same as how another would react. When you begin it is best to figure out what works for you and what does not as everyone is different.
Furthermore, the series mentions but does not go too deep into muscle adaptation. Which is the process of how your muscles react to certain training stimulus. Akemi mentions Hibiki should train for endurance by using low weight and high reps. Which is actually just what a person should do, if they wish to avoid making mass gains as Hibiki has stated.
If you wish to train for strength training at high weight near your max for three to five reps is advisable with longer breaks. While training for size is medium weight for eight to twelve reps. All these are of course only guidelines how you will respond is based on many factors including gentics. However, explaining training specificity even in a basic way is something many fitness influencers fail to do entirely.
The series than even warns potential new gym goers about a certain exercise. The deadlift. While the deadlift is considered one of the three best lifts (alongside the Squat and the Bench Press which Dumbbell covered last week) due to its ability to hit multiple muscle groups simultaneously, the load it places on ones back is dangerous if done incorrectly and should not be attempted by beginners.
Furthermore, due to its complexity it almost requires a trainer to help with the form. I remember my first time attempting the movement, which due to my height I did not have a good time of it and had a sore lower back for the better part of a week. To this day I only do the Hex-Bar Deadlift as its easier to grip and keep form. Besides as somebody who has no intention of power lifting why bother doing something that hurts? Which again comes back to the idea you should train for your personal goals like Hibiki.
Sadly, Dubbells does not pitch a perfect game in Episode Two. As it brings up an old, tired, and debunked idea regarding protein. The show calls it “Golden Time” I know it as “the Anabolic Window” the idea that ingesting protein 30 minutes after a workout dramatically increases its muscle building properties.
This has been debunked as broscience. While protein is very important for building muscles timing is less important. What matters is total protein intake over the course of the day. As long as you are consuming enough protein (about .8 grams to 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight) muscle protein synthesis will work just fine. So don’t worry about chugging down a protein shake after a workout. Though you likely will be hungry so I suggest eating up regardles!
As the episode progresses it reverts to form by providing good advice. Including a little known piece of information regarding stretching. Basically put, everything you were taught about stretching in grade school is wrong. Static stretching where you extend your arms and legs generally does not work. Akemi recomends “dynamic stretching” which uses small smooth movements such as circling your arms.
For myself personally while I use both kinds of stretching I actually prefer to work up a little sweat before a workout. Doing seven minutes of cardio on an elliptical or row machine, depending on what I will be working out. However, anything that gets your body moving will be beneficial.
In fact, I continue to do short bursts of cardio between my resistance training exercises to keep my heart rate up and stay loose. While not everyone likes this as it expends energy that could be used for lifting rather quickly, I find personally it works wonders. As I never want to be that lifter that gets winded walking up a flight of stairs.
As the episode winds down we focus on everyones favourite but largely misunderstood muscle - the abs. I say misunderstood because what we think of as “Abs” is actually one muscle - the rectus abdominis - which is only part of the entire set of four muscles. The other muscles of your abdominal group are the transversus abdominis which stabilizes your trunk, the external obliques and internal obliques which together helps in turning your core.
Of the muscles of the abdominal region most only care about the rectus abdominis due to its “six pack” nature and the external obliques which frame them. However, if you train one you train them all as they work as a group. So strong abs come hand in hand with a strong trunk, which is great for just about every possible physical activity.
That being said just training your rectus abdominis will not get you abs. A new character introduced Ayaka Uehara represents the path to abs. Namely, low body fat percentage. Ayaka who is introduced at 12% body fat is certainly lean enough to have abs showing as leanness is a requirement for abs. How lean one must be depends on your gender (sub 10% for men and sub 20% for woman generally) and genetics as some people need to be very lean as they carry a lot of body fat on their belly. This is very common among men.
That being said I want to say this here. Just as Hibiki at 35% body fat last episode is slightly over the healthy range, I would say Ayaka is approaching too low. That is because the human body has what is called “vital fat” which we require to live. Woman’s vital fat is around 10% (mens is 2% to 4%) being at 12% body fat is extremely lean for even female body builders and requires intense dieting. I’ll be honest, nobody that age should be that lean it is unhealthy. Furthermore, Ayaka does not actually look that lean probably closer to 17% which is lean but still healthy.
With that in mind, the exercises they choose to explain abdominal work is quite good. While I am personally more partial to jackknvies myself, the plank is without any doubt the best beginner ab workout you can do. It is low impact and unlike the ever popular crunch (thank you One Punch Man...) it does not put undo pressure on your lower back.
At the end of the day abs are about only two things, leanness and rectus abdominus development. However, there is one sad truth many don’t know. How many “packs” you have is totally dependent on genetics. Some people have six ridges on their rectus abdominus, others have eight, some have four, others... none... it is the luck of birth and there is no way to change it. Sorry.
With that episode two was much better then I expected in terms of information. Also if you have not seen episode one they have a key piece of information every gym bro must remember: DO NOT SKIP LEG DAY!
At the end of the episode while not everything was perfect the episode was impressively on point with its information. What is even more it was usable and clear enough for a beginner to understand it. With even the “Golden Time” myth being widely held even among people who tend to know better. In a world where fitness is actively complicated to the point where a beginner can feel lost How Heavy are the Dumbbell You Lift is actually one of the best introductory points.
It teaches people and woman especially that the gym is not a scary place. Even people like Machio-San are often the norm not the exception. Myself, I am looking forward to see how Dumbbell continues on and which exercises they tackle next. That being said I must mention, the series is quite ecchi in its nature which can be a turn off for many people. If that is not your thing this series will not change your mind.