Thursday, April 27, 2017

My Fitness Program, Results, and Rationale: Part II

This is part two of a two-part series detailing what results I'm currently seeing along with my habits and lifestyle. In part one, I shared my results: my joint health, metabolic and cardiovascular numbers, and body composition data. In this part, I share what I do and why.

A crock pot dish of tomatoes, carrots, spinach, chicken, and beef broth.

This post is for anyone who follows this blog and is curious about my personal habits/routines. Before continuing, keep in mind:
  1. My habits and routines are not perfect - it's just what works for me at the present time.
  2. I'm frequently adjusting and experimenting, so what I do now isn't necessarily what I did six months ago or what I'll be doing in six months from now.
  3. As mentioned in part one, my goals are health, longevity, being satisfied with how I look, and having an above average amount of strength and muscle.

My Habits and Routines


Using my last 30 days of logging in MyFitnessPal, I average 40.7 minutes per day of activity. Focusing on my high-intensity exercise only (no walks or hikes), I average 24.7 minutes of exercise per day. 

Here's a look at my last 30 days of activity and exercise in terms of total minutes each day, and a table featuring a more comprehensive breakdown of my routine.

W = walks.

Type of Exercise
Other Details
Strength training
Workouts last 20-28 minutes.
Walks are slow and last 30-90 minutes.
High-intensity intervals on a stationary cycle
Total workout is 10-15 minutes.
Warm-up/cool-down: 5 minutes total.
Workout is three 30-second intervals of 90-100% effort with light pedaling in between.
Average hike is 3-5 hours.

I don't really consider walking to be exercise. Walking is effective for reducing blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity (diabetes prevention), but doesn't produce physique or skeletal changes. I walk for mental clarity and sun exposure

My current strength training routine features three days of training, followed by two days of rest. In each day of training, I perform three pairs of exercises. My workouts feature 14-18 total sets. I work until exhaustion on each set and pick weights that lead to exhaustion in 4-7 reps. My reps last around eight seconds each. I increase the weight when I'm able to perform seven reps in the first set.

Day 1 (Upper)
Day 2 (Lower/Midsection)
Day 3 (Accessory)
Lat Pulldown
Incline bench press
3 sets for each
Leg Curl
Hack Squat*
3 sets for each
Seated Barbell Military Press
Seated Calf Raise Machine
3 sets for each
Cable Row
Barbell Bench Press
3 sets for each
Deadlift with Cable Machine
Leg Press Machine
3 sets for each
Standing Barbell Curls
Cable Pushdown
3 sets for each
Neutral Grip Pull-ups
Dumbbell Bench Press
3 sets for each
Floor Crunch (dumbbell on my chest)
Back Extensions
1 set for each
Dumbbell Hammer Curls
Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension
2 sets for each

I am removing the hack squat to eliminate unnecessary stress on my lower back. In regards to the structure of my workout program, here are some reasons why I do what I do:
  • Short workouts: performing long workouts almost every day leads to immune system weakness, a drop in metabolism, a lack of recovery, and added joint breakdown (1). Exercise should improve health and fitness, not damage it. Also, long "cardio" workouts can limit the strength and muscle growth benefits from strength training. However, short, high-intensity interval training could enhance strength training results, plus provide health benefits (2).
  • Compound exercises: in my upper and lower body training days, I focus on compound movements, which are exercises which require multiple joints to move (bench press, pull-ups, row, deadlift, leg press, etc.). These exercises train more muscles at one time. Also, compound exercises have larger effects on metabolism and stimulate a greater production of growth hormone and testosterone, which could improve muscle growth (3).
  • Short rest between sets: resting just one minute between sets leads to fewer reps performed in the following sets (3). However, it leads to a greater increase in blood flow (3), and leads to larger improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and artery functioning (4). 
  • One set each for abs and lower back: crunches and back extensions put a fair amount of stress on the lumbar spine (lower back). Therefore, I use a very small amount of exercise with each. Also, one set of back extensions are all that's needed to improve back strength and reduce pain (5).

Eating Habits

Here's a rundown of what I eat:

Averages (my last 20 days on MyFitnessPal)
Total Calorie Intake
1,716 calories/day
Intermittent Fasting
I eat only between the hours of 12 PM and 8 PM, then fast the rest of the day. I do this 5-6 days per week.
30-40% of total calories (50-115 grams per day)
30-40% of total calories (120-200 grams per day)
25-35% of total calories (120-180 grams per day)

In each meal, I eat a protein source (usually sardines, salmon, tuna, turkey, or chicken) with fruit (orange, banana, grapes, kiwi, mango, berries, etc.) or vegetables (salad, carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.). Most of my meals are pan-fried, from the crock pot, or involve no cooking at all.

Besides proteins, fruits, and vegetables, I eat beans and yogurt each about twice per week. I eat a sandwich or wrap once a week. My diet includes 1-2 large meals (>1,000 calories) per week and days where I consume 2,400+ calories, which are balanced by eating less than my average amount on most days.

My drinks are almost always water and carbonated water. I drink four energy drinks per week (an area I want to improve in), and 1-2 cocktails over the weekend.

  • Calories. Obviously I don't eat a lot. Between this and my protein intake being less than optimal, I am not optimizing the amount of muscle I can have. I eat so few calories partly due to the fast (eating for only eight hours per day). Mainly, I eat few calories because people who eat less tend to age better and live longer (6,7). 
  • Fasting. Fasting helps control my weight, plus it is known to improve health, especially in areas related to diabetes and heart disease (8).  
  • Protein. People who strength train should eat, on a daily basis, at least their weight in pounds multiplied by 0.82 (9). For example: 181.4 lbs. x 0.82 = 149 grams per day. When eating very few calories, that requirement increases (10). This is an area I plan to work on more soon.

Other Health-Related Habits

Donating platelets in 2014.

Here are a few other things I do to obtain or reach my goals:
  1. Sleep. Since February, I average about 7.5-8 hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation increases blood sugar, total calorie intake, and junk food cravings (I'll blog about this in the near future).
  2. Self-monitoring of activity and eating: I use MyFitnessPal most days of the week to track my protein intake, overall calorie consumption, and activity (as you saw before). Monitoring increases self-awareness and leads to better control of habits (11).
  3. Self-monitoring of weight: I weight myself every morning. While this may sound like a nightmare to you, daily weighing is shown to help reach weight goals effectively for the same reason: increasing self-awareness (11). I don't stress about small fluctuations. I hope to weigh in a specific range (178-183 lbs.). If I fall out of that range, then I pay more attention to my habits so I can work back into the range.
  4. Platelet donations: I donate platelets through United Blood Services twice per month. Blood donations are shown to help control iron in the blood (prevent an excess of iron). I don't know if donating platelets provides health benefits, but it could.

Final Thoughts

While I do switch my workouts every few months, my total workout time doesn't change significantly - I'm not interested in spending an hour at the gym, five days per week. If I were to change anything with exercise, I would actually decrease my strength training workload. Speaking of changes, I'm planning to add a little more protein and decrease my energy drink consumption in the next two months.

Thanks for reading through this post and part one. I hope this two-part series gave you a better idea of who I am, where I'm at, and provided at least one idea for something you can add to your own health habits.


  1. Preuss, S.R. (2017). When exercise is toxic. The Heart Healthy Lifestyle, retrieved from
  2. Preuss, S.R. (2017). Does cardio "kill your gains?" The Heart Healthy Lifestyle, retrieved from
  3. Kraemer, W.J. & Ratamess, N.A. (2004). Fundamentals of resistance training: Progression and exercise prescription. Physical Fitness and Performance, 36(4), 674-688.
  4. Tan, B. (1999). Manipulating resistance training program variables to optimize maximum strength in men: A review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 13(3), 298-304.
  5. Preuss, S.R. (2013). The direct approach: treating lower back pain with strength. The Heart Healthy Lifestyle, retrieved from
  6. CR Society. (N.d.). Calorie restriction research moves forward! CR Society International, retrieved from 
  7. Buettner, D. (2010). The blue zones: Lessons for living longer from the people who've lived the longest. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.
  8. Preuss, S.R. (2013). The fast diet and the effectiveness of intermittent fasting. The Heart Healthy Lifestyle, retrieved from
  9. Lemon, P. W. (2000). Beyond the zone: protein needs of active individuals. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 19(5), 513S-521S.
  10. Helms, E.R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D.S., & Brown, S.R. (2014). A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 24, 127-138.
  11. Robinson, D. (2015). Could you triple your weight loss? Beyond Diets, retrieved from


Anonymous said...

Lots of valuable information, thank you.

Dr. Sean Preuss said...

Thanks. I hope there's at least one idea from this that you can add to your lifestyle.

Melissa said...

At first I was like wow you're consuming a lot of protein, but then you said your intake is actually low, based on the calculation. So I did the calculation with my weight and got 86 grams. When I was pregnant I found research (and was told in my birth class which focused on nutrition in pregnancy (by a chiropractor)) that recommended pregnant women consume greater than 60 (I think this was the number) grams of protein per day to prevent preeclampsia. I still continue to aim for high protein and protein with every meal (which is not always easy).
Does chasing two kids all/part of the time count as exercise? :)
What do you think about yoga and pilates in regards to exercise?
What are some good abdominal exercises that you can do at home that don't put strain on the back?

Dr. Sean Preuss said...

Thanks for reading.

Protein intake is not considered to be high unless is makes up more than 35% of total calorie intake. I'm often close, but I'm generally around 30-35%. If 86 grams are your minimal suggested amount of protein, then you should weigh around 103 lbs. (You don't have to confirm that here - I'm just noting to help you ensure accuracy.)

I think chasing two kids sounds exhausting...and I would consider it activity, not exercise. It offers health benefits but doesn't necessarily change your structure in a positive way.

For abs, I think crunches are great - I just would do a low volume (1-2 sets of 12 or fewer reps) and use resistance. An example is placing a dumbbell, gallon of water, or a case of water bottles on your chest as you perform crunches. An alternative is holding the weight (water bottle) above your forehead hairline as you perform crunches.

In regards to yoga and pilates, I think people should perform them if they enjoy it. I think neither is as critical as strength training, but both offer health benefits.