Category Archives: Workouts

The Best Workouts to Relieve Stress

By: Scott Quill

Chances are, nobody has to tell you that exercise is a great stress reliever. But here’s the thing: You can reduce stress even more—and make that reduction last longer—if you tailor your workout specifically to your personality type.

“The psychological boost of adhering to a program that you enjoy doing is much greater than the reward you get from any single session,” says Steve Edwards, Ph.D., a professor of sports psychology at Oklahoma State University.

Edwards has identified six distinct exercise personalities. Find the one that best describes you, then follow our tips. You’ll end up ripped and relaxed. 

The Aesthete

You thrive on the artistry of sports and exercise.

Check Yourself Out
The mirrors in a weight room help you notice when your form starts to fail, but you can also see what you do well. And for you, that’s tension-taming. “Some suggest that vanity is at work here, but it could just as easily be a more profound appreciation of the capability of one’s body,” says Edwards.

Master a Skill Sport
“Get involved in any sport you think is well executed,” says Edwards. The sweet sound of a 5-iron meeting a Titleist, the crack of a big-barreled Louisville, or the plunk of an aced first serve satisfies your senses and leads to less stress.

The Thrill-Seeker

You work out for the rush.

Add Risk to Your Runs
Try running up and down stadium steps to exhaustion. The stress release is in the danger: “It gets trickier the longer you go. If you mess up, there could be a nasty fall,” says Edwards. Not a stadium in sight? Run outdoors over rugged terrain.

Aim Heavy
Stop doing three sets of 12 repetitions of every exercise; there’s no challenge in that. Do fewer repetitions and more sets with weights that are near your one-rep max on compound exercises, such as deadlifts, squats, and bench presses. Then lighten the load for power moves, such as jump squats, which appear riskier.

The Social Activist

You like the camaraderie of exercising with others.

Join a Team
For you, going it alone is misery—and that only adds to your anxiety. So build your program around group activities and team sports. “Join a jogging or cycling club,” says Edwards. Or, if you spend your time in the gym, create an exercise schedule that’s workable for your similarly stressed buddies.

Disguise Your Exercise
Make all of your activities more active and you’ll find yourself sweating in solitude less often. “Try doing business on the golf course. Or join a Big Brother program and take the kid with you to the gym,” says Edwards.

The Deathophobe

You exercise to stay healthy, but wish there were an easier way. 

Don’t Go Too Hard
The more comfortable exercise is for you, the more you enjoy it—and high satisfaction equals high stress relief. So use moderate weights and do a moderate number of repetitions. Just keep your rest periods short to maximize the muscle benefits, says Edwards.

Distract Yourself
Combine your workout with something you find relaxing, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music, says Kevin Burke, Ph.D., a professor of sports psychology at Georgia Southern University. You’ll focus more on what calms you (good tunes) and less on what you hate (the treadmill).

The Fanatic

You like feeling committed to your exercise routine. 

Shock Your Body
Given your loyalty to sweat, ensuring variety is a challenge. You can avoid irritating ruts and keep your muscles growing with a lottery approach, says Burke. Before you work out, grab a Men’s Health workout poster and several slips of paper. Write down the names of the exercises for the target body part and then draw from a hat.

Avoid Rush Hour
Waiting in line for benches and squat racks interferes with your mission to get fit, so grab the always-available Swiss ball. On an upper-body day, do two or three sets of Swiss-ball pushups to failure. On a lower-body day, do two or three sets of 20 Swiss-ball wall squats: Stand with the ball wedged between your back and a wall. Now squat, allowing the ball to roll with your back as you go down.

The Energized Animal

You hit the gym to release energy. 

Add Iron to Your Lunch
The longer you go without exercise, the more stressed you feel, says Edwards. Try to fit a workout into your workday. If you can, go to the gym around 2 p.m., just after the lunch crowd dissipates, so you can finish faster.

Keep a Racket Close By
By stowing your gym bag and other sporting goods in your car or under your desk at work, you can exercise whenever you feel the urge. “This also encourages variety in activities,” says Edwards. “If you’re driving by a park and it occurs to you that a quick run would be fun, you can grab your shoes and go for it.”   


20 Ways to Stick to Your Workout

By: Adam Campbell
You have the right to remain fat. Or skinny. Or weak. But you should know that every workout you miss can and will be used against you to make your belly bigger, your muscles smaller and weaker, and your life shorter. Unfortunately, most Americans are exercising their right not to exercise.
A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that only 19 percent of the population regularly engages in “high levels of physical activity.” (That’s defined as three intense 20-minute workouts per week.)
Another 63 percent—about the same percentage as that of Americans who are overweight—believe that exercising would make them healthier, leaner, and less stressed, but they don’t do it. At the root of this problem is motivation, or the lack thereof.
It’s the difference between wanting to exercise and actually doing it. That’s why the advice you’re about to read is priceless. We’ve filled these pages with the favorite motivational strategies of the top personal trainers in the country. Their livelihoods, in fact, depend on the effectiveness of their tips to inspire their clients to exercise—and to stick with it. After all, statistics don’t pay by the hour.
And for even more ways to shape your body, check out The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises. With complete instructions of more than 600 exercises, along with hundreds of workouts and useful tips, it’s the most comprehensive guide to fitness ever created.
Sign Up for a Distant Race
That is, one that’s at least 500 miles away. The extra incentive of paying for airfare and a hotel room will add to your motivation to follow your training plan, says Carolyn Ross-Toren, chairwoman of the Mayor’s Fitness Council in San Antonio.
Make a “Friendly” Bet
Challenge your nemesis—that idea-stealing coworker or a non-mowing neighbor—to a contest. The first guy to drop 15 pounds, run a 6-minute mile, or bench- press 250 pounds wins. The key: “Make sure it’s someone you don’t particularly like,” says Michael Mejia, C.S.C.S., Men’s Health exercise advisor. (It’s okay if your rival thinks you’re best friends.)
Tie Exercise to Your Health
Check your cholesterol. Then set a goal of lowering your LDL cholesterol by 20 points and increasing your HDL cholesterol by 5 points. “You’ll decrease your risk of heart disease while providing yourself with a very important, concrete goal,” says John Thyfault, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., an exercise researcher at East Carolina University. Ask your doctor to write a prescription for new blood work in a month. You’ll just have to go to the lab, and the doctor will call you with the results.
Switch Your Training Partners
Working out with a partner who will hold you accountable for showing up at the gym works well—for a while. But the more familiar you are with the partner, the easier it becomes to back out of workout plans. “Close friends and family members don’t always make the best training partners because they may allow you to slack off or cancel workouts,” says Jacqueline Wagner, C.S.C.S., a trainer in New York City. To keep this from happening, find a new, less forgiving workout partner every few months.
Find a sport or event that you enjoy and train to compete in it. “It adds a greater meaning to each workout,” says Alex Koch, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., an exercise researcher (and competitive weight lifter) at Truman State University. Consider training for the World Master’s games, an Olympics-like competition for regular guys. Events include basketball, rowing, golf, triathlon, and weight lifting.
Think About Fat
Your body is storing and burning fat simultaneously, but it’s always doing one faster than the other. “Understanding that you’re getting either fatter or leaner at any one time will keep you body-conscious so you won’t overeat or underexercise,” says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., owner of Results Fitness Training in Santa Clarita, California.
Do a Daily Gut Check
Place your fingers on your belly and inhale deeply so that it expands. As you exhale, contract your abdominal muscles and push your fingertips against your hard abdominal wall. Now pinch. “You’re holding pure fat between your fingers,” says Tom Seabourne, Ph.D., author of Athletic Abs. Do this every day, 30 minutes before your workout, and you’ll find that you’ll rarely decide to skip it.
Join a Fitness Message Board
It’ll be full of inspiration from men who have accomplished their goals and are working toward new ones. Our particular favorite: the 52-Day Challenge. Created by a Men’s Health Belly Off! Club forum member with the username Determined, it’s designed to foster encouragement, discipline, and accountability. “Each participant posts and tracks his goals for a 52-day period so that everyone is accountable to the other members,” says Determined. To sign up, click here.
Strike an Agreement with Your Family
The rule: You get 1 hour to yourself every day, provided that you use it for exercise (and reciprocate the favor). So there’s no pressure to do household chores, play marathon games of Monopoly, or be a doting husband (a fat, doting husband). “Since it’s for your health, it’s a contract they can’t refuse. And that will allow you to exercise guilt-free while acting as a role model for your children,” says Darren Steeves, C.S.C.S., a trainer in Canada.
Burn a Workout CD
Studies have shown that men who pedal stationary cycles while listening to their favorite music will do so longer and more intensely than men who exercise without music. So burn a disc with your favorite adrenaline-boosting songs (maybe something by Limp Bizkit or—if you’re over 40—Hot Tuna).
Plan Your Workouts in Advance
At the start of each month, schedule all of your workouts at once, and cross them off as they’re completed. For an average month, you might try for a total of 16 workouts. If any are left undone at the end of the month, tack them on to the following month. And make sure you have a contingency plan for bad weather and unscheduled meetings. “You’re about 40 percent more likely to work out if you have strategies to help you overcome these obstacles,” says Rod Dishman, Ph.D., an exercise scientist at the University of Georgia.
Squat First
If you have trouble finishing your weight workout, start with the exercises you dread. “You’ll look forward to your favorite exercises at the end of your workout, which will encourage you to complete the entire session,” says John Williams, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Spectrum Conditioning in Port Washington, New York.
Have a Body-Composition Test
Do this every 2 months for a clear end date for the simple goal of losing body fat or gaining muscle. “Tangible results are the best motivator,” says Tim Kuebler, C.S.C.S., a trainer in Kansas City, Missouri. Your gym probably offers the service for a small fee—just make sure the same trainer performs the test each time.
Don’t Do What You Hate
“Whenever you start to dread your workout, do what appeals to you instead,” says John Raglin, Ph.D., an exercise psychologist at Indiana University. If you loathe going to a gym, try working out at home. (Check the Men’s Health Home Workout Bible for ideas.) If you despise the treadmill, then jump rope, lift weights, or find a basketball court. Bottom line: If you’re sick of your routine, find a new one.
Go Through the Motions
On days when you don’t feel like working out, make the only requirement of your exercise session a single set of your favorite exercise. “It’s likely that once you’ve started, you’ll finish,” says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S. If you still don’t feel like being in the gym, go home. This way, you never actually stop exercising; you just have some gaps in your training log.
Start a Streak
There’s nothing like a winning streak to attract fans to the ballpark. Do the same for your workout by trying to set a new record for consecutive workouts without a miss. “Every time your streak ends, strive to set a longer mark in your next attempt,” says Williams.
Make Your Goals Attractive
“To stay motivated, frame your goals so that they drive you to achieve them,” says Charles Staley, owner of For example, if you’re a 200-pound guy, decide whether you’d rather bench “over 200 pounds,” “the bar with two 45-pound plates on each side,” or “your body weight.” They’re all different ways of saying the same thing, but one is probably more motivating to you than the others.
See Your Body Through Her Eyes
Ask your wife to make like Howard Stern and identify your most displeasing physical characteristic. “It’s instant motivation,” says Mejia. If she’s hesitant, make a list for her—abs, love handles, upper arms, and so on—and have her rank them from best to worst. Make the most-hated body part your workout focus for 4 weeks, then repeat the quiz for more motivation.
Buy a Year’s Worth of Protein
“If a guy believes that a supplement will help him achieve better results, he’ll be more inclined to keep up his workouts in order to reap the full benefits and avoid wasting his money,” says Kuebler. Stick with the stuff that really does help: protein and creatine, from major brands like MuscleTech, EAS, and Biotest.
Blackmail Yourself
Take a picture of yourself shirtless, holding a sign that shows your e-mail address. Then e-mail it to a trusted but sadistic friend, with the following instructions: “If I don’t send you a new picture that shows serious improvement in 12 weeks, post this photo at and send the link to the addresses listed below . . . ” (Include as many e-mail addresses—especially of female acquaintances—as possible.) “It’s nasty, but extremely effective,” says Alwyn Cosgrove.


Three Work-Arounds for Physique Success

Complexes 2.0 — Optimize Your Fat-Loss Workouts

It’s impossible not to notice trends in the fitness world. The majority of these—like the ridiculous Ab Lounge—last for a year or so and then are either forgotten or shoved underneath the bed next to the dust balls and discarded dirty underwear.

But some trends are actually beneficial and become staples in the training programs of thousands of lifters.

Take weight-training circuits (also called “complexes”) for fat-loss. When programmed properly, they have the potential to strip off fat faster than any other protocol, but when half-assed or shoddily constructed they become a giant waste of time.

This article will teach you how to set up your own advanced complexes to burn the most fat without looking like a pansy.

Wait. What’s a Complex?

It’s pretty straightforward: cycle through a series of exercises without putting the bar down, transitioning smoothly from movement to movement, and performing all the assigned reps on one exercise before moving to the next.

I thought all us “coaches” had a fairly good handle on it, but I was wrong.

My first indication was when I read a workout in a newsstand magazine. This complex, written by a guy who had enough letters behind his name to know better, took a completely ass-backwards approach. I wrote it off as a fluke.

Less than a week after that, I was in the gym and saw a student athlete muscle his way through what I can only assume was his version of a home-brew complex. And by that, I mean he would do a bunch of reps on one exercise, and then a bunch on another, with no real thought to the order.

Despite the great examples that can be found, like this article , I still see people absolutely ruining themselves in the gym.

Here’s the issue.

Efficacy vs. Expediency

The trend right now is fast-paced, interval-type weight training workouts designed for fat-loss. This is a good thing, and truth be told, these type of workouts make up a good part of my clients’ programming for fat-loss.

Overall, the idea is to do as much work as possible in the shortest period of time, focusing on training speed and density.

However, when people randomly throw exercises together to create a complex, they’re often not really paying attention to anything other than the idea of complexes. They’re too focused on doing more work in less time to lose fat and haven’t even considered if the exercises they picked were effective.

Let’s say you have a guy doing the following complex:

He’s doing a lot of big movements, but is he really getting much out of some of them? Hopefully the deadlift is his strongest movement, but he can’t really use a weight that’s challenging since he’s limited by the overhead press, which is undoubtedly weaker.

In terms of “doing a lot of stuff” in not a lot of time, this guy is on point. He’s veryexpedient. But he’s missing out on a lot since the complex isn’t very effective. Or at least not as effective as it could be.

But if this guy used a different set up, he could work with a weight that’s challenging for all parts of the complex and would get significantly better results.

Complexes 2.0

Here’s where a lot of coaches and I part ways. Many trainers who prescribe complexes are OK with the notion that your weakest exercise limits your strongest one. I consider it a limitation of basic complex design that can be completely eliminated with a bit of forethought and some ingenuity.

Going back to the example above, the weight is incredibly light for our guy to deadlift, but perfect for the overhead press. Popular training literature suggests that we shouldn’t care about that, since the complex is not intended to challenge you in the same way that traditional weight training is. That is, an overly-light deadlift is of no concern, because we are deadlifting just to lose fat.

I’m calling bullshit.

Instead, what if we did twice as many deadlifts as overhead presses or only used exercises where the weight was appropriate for the same number of reps on each?

What I’m about to show you aren’t regular complexes. They’re advanced. Or as I like to call them, Complexes 2.0.

But first, let’s look at some of the problems with current complexes.

1) Too much focus on uniformity of reps.

I have no idea where it came from, but there seems to be some unwritten rule that when you perform a complex, you need to do the same number of reps for each exercise. Sure, it’s one way to do it, but it’s only effective if that same weight is equally challenging on all of the selected exercises.

2) Improper exercise selection

It’s more effective to have the weight be equally challenging on all exercises. So if you’re not going with a variable rep method like I mentioned above, it’s better to select exercises that require an equal level of intensity to perform.

3) Improper exercise order

I can’t stress enough the importance of properly ordering exercises for maximizing the effectiveness of your complexes. Throwing presses, cleans, squats and deads together in any haphazard order is just stupid.

Roman’s Rules for Designing Complexes

Rule 1: When arranging exercises, “high skill” exercises come first.

Exercises should be performed in a descending order from the most demanding to the least demanding. I mean, why the hell would you put a hang clean in the middle of your complex? Also, by “demanding” I don’t just mean the hardest exercises. I mean those requiring the highest level of technical proficiency.

High skill exercises include the Full Clean, Full Snatch, High Pull From the Floor, and Overhead Squat.

Moderate skill exercises include the Hang Clean, Hang Snatch, High Pull From the Hang, Power Clean, Power Snatch, Push Press, Deadlift, and Front Squat.

Low skill exercises include the Bent-over Row, Overhead Press, Lunge Variations, Back Squat, and Dumbbell Squat.

Rule 2: Use a non-competing exercise order.

Non-competing exercises are those that don’t rely on the same muscles. The benefit of this protocol is simple: while one group is working, the others are resting. Given that complexes work with series of muscle groups at once, don’t get too hung up on specifics here. Generally, try to alternate a pushing exercise with a pulling exercise, or an upper body movement with a lower body one.

Rule 3: Never select a weight heavier than your 10RM on your weakest exercise

I believe that complexes should be short. The entire draw of complexes is that they’re brutal but brief. By imposing a 10RM weight limit based on our weakest exercise in a given complex, we ensure that the complex will generally stay in the area of 6-8 reps, which I believe is the most effective range.

Methods of Complex Execution

Given everything I’ve told you about the right and wrong way to set up complexes, it seems reasonable that there are some contradictory ideas, especially if you’re used to the “old method” of just doing random exercises in a random order for a pre-set number of reps.

Instead, here are two advanced methods for extreme masochists looking for extreme fat-loss.

Select exercises you can do for roughly the same number of reps with a given weight. Assume you want to do complexes with roughly 5-6 reps. Choose a series of exercises that you can do for roughly 12 reps (not necessarily your 12RM) with the same weight, and set up your complex according to the rules.

Select the exercises you want to perform in the complex as based on the above rules. Then, test your absolute max number of reps on each exercise. For the complex, do 50 to 60 percent of your max number of reps for each exercise. In this way, you might get a complex that requires you to do six overhead presses followed by 12 front squats followed by eight bent-over rows.

Both of these methods are highly effective. Here are a few examples to get you started.

Sample Complex 1 — The Rep-Based Method

Here’s a complex I’ve been using for both my athletes and myself. (I’ll use myself as an example.)

I selected exercises I’m about equally strong on, could do for 12-15 reps, and chose a weight of 175 pounds. For me, those exercises were:

It’s only five exercises, but I’m using the same fairly heavy weight for each. Now, I’m not the strongest guy in the world, but for me, this was absolutely brutal.

Note the order of exercises: I started with the one that required the most technical skill. From there, I alternated non-competing muscles. Generally I go upper/lower, but in the case of moving from the bent-over row to the push press, it’s obviously just moving from a pulling exercise to a pressing one.

In terms of number of reps, I normally aim for about six to start.

However, we’ve done all sorts of fun variations at my gym including:

5 sets with 90 seconds rest between.
(6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) with 75 seconds rest in between
( 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4). Rest periods are 45s, 30s, 20s, 5s, 5s, 20s, 30s

Keep in mind there are dozens of ways to set up your rep protocol.

Sample Complex 2 — The Weight-Method

This is a complex designed for one of my female soccer players. Lauren is attractive, strong, and never complains—the kind of client that makes me love my job.

For her complex, we set the weight at 55 pounds and pre-tested her maxes for the following exercises:

Here’s how we set it up:

Exercise Pre-Tested Max Prescribed Complex
Full Snatch 22 reps 12 reps
Alternating Reverse Lunge 15 reps per leg 8 reps per leg
Push Press 14 reps 7 reps
Bent-over Row 9 reps 5 reps
Back Squat 17 reps 9 reps

In this example, Lauren is obviously weakest in the bent-over row. If we were to follow normal complex protocol, we’d just do the same number of reps for each exercise, most likely five reps.

But in this case, she could do nearly twice that number of reps on almost every other exercise. Sure, the old method would still be moderately effective for fat loss, but with these adjustments we have optimized it.

Instead of being limited by her weakest exercise, we have set things up in a way that challenges Lauren supremely on every part of the complex.

Rather than focus on arbitrary prescriptions for reps, we allow for a little leeway and have to think a bit more during the complex. It’s harder, more involved and infinitely more effective.

Finally, once again, please note the order of the exercises: we start with a highly technical exercise (Full Snatch) and then proceed to work non-competing body parts. This allows Lauren to recover faster and continue to work harder. Overall, the entire complex becomes more efficient.

Closing Thoughts

Sure, you can probably drop a good deal of fat with “regular” complexes; after all, they do force you to do a lot of work in little time.

However, if you want to take your fat loss to the next level or challenge yourself in a whole new way, why settle for just expediency?

Instead of just tossing a barbell around, put in a few minutes of planning, follow the rules and methods described above and make your complexes both expedient andeffective.

Complexes 2.0 — Optimize Your Fat-Loss WorkoutsComplexes 2.0 — Optimize Your Fat-Loss Workouts

The Ab Lounge: Probably more useful for sex than for getting a six-pack.

You can (hopefully) deadlift more than you overhead press. Why use the same reps for each?

Complexes 2.0 — Optimize Your Fat-Loss Workouts

Stop using pansy weights and start loading up the bar.

Complexes 2.0 — Optimize Your Fat-Loss Workouts

Technical lifts come first. That way you don’t catch the bar awkwardly and potentially hurt yourself.

About John Romaniello

Complexes 2.0 — Optimize Your Fat-Loss Workouts

John Romaniello is the owner of Roman Fitness Systems, LLC, a personal training and online coaching service based in New York. In addition to training, Roman maintains a website where he blogs about fitness, nerdy stuff, sex, pop-culture and himself. He can be reached at

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