Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ask Herculiza

THis is the first installment of Ask Herculiza. Liza Hoen Reichenberger is a multi titled Pro natural bodybuilder, and fitness personality. Each installment she will take your questions and answer to help you in your training and other aspects of fitness. If you want to ask Liza a question email me at

Q: How many exercises and/or sets do you suggest for a back workout?
A: Regarding back, (and chest as well) I usually do around 20-22 sets.
Each bodypart is trained once a week. As a natural athlete, more than one
workout for each bodypart per week tends to leave me a little stringy and overtrained.Delts, triceps and biceps each get 12-14 sets (also once a week) and follow the largerbodyparts in succession. The larger bodyparts (back, chest and legs) go Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday...with an "off" day, then smaller bodyparts to finish...(delts and arms)

Q: Do you suggest descending or pyramid sets?
A: Descending sets are fine, as long as you retain form, and do all the additional reps at the end of the last set in the exercise. For instance, the last (and heaviest) of my 4 sets of dumbell upright rows might start with the 35lb ones for 10 reps, dropping to the 25's for 10 reps, then the 15lb dumbells and so on...until my shoulders and traps are on fire! I don't do this with every exercise in a workout, maybe just one real 'burner' to polish off that bodypart towards the end of the workout.

Q: How much cardio should one do ina workout?
A: Low impact cardio need not be low intensity cardio. Due to hereditary osteoarthritis on both sides of my family, I stopped doing impact cardio in the late 90s. I feel that the elliptical is a better all-over workout, causing less spine and joint damage than running or even walking on the treadmill, and can be just as difficult (and calorie burning, heart pumping) as a brisk cross-country run. One need merely turn up the resistance (push-pull of arms) and gradient (from walking to climbing for legs) to get a more 'hardcore' workout. The stationary bike is less
work, but crank that level up, and your thighs will burn as efficiently as the calories! and excess fat! The trouble is, with cardio machines most bodybuilders stay within their comfort zones, and peddle away while nonchalantly reading a trashy magazine:) My cardio sessions last about an hour (to 1.5 hrs per day) and I am drenched when done.

Q: How often should I train abs in a week?
A: I train abs twice a week and avoid ANY lateral bending exercises with weights, which only serve to thicken the waistline and ruin one's symmetry. I do about 8-10 sets, twice a week.

Q: What causes veins to pop out so much?
A: Veins seem to protrude more for two reasons....age, and cardiovascular training.
The skin thins with age and subcutaneous fat (and collagen) decreases, making facial lines more pronounced, and striations POP! (There's a double edge to THAT sword!)
The veins running over the surface of the skin, and draining the muscles are much more visible, due to that thinned skin. I have also noticed that with increased cardio capability, the veins in my abs and legs are more noticeable too. In my 20s I was delighted to see a vertical "pipe" on each arm, yet a little horrified in my 40's to see them just about EVERYWHERE when I get really lean!

Q: What bodyparts can be trained more than once in any given week?
A: I think only abs and calves should be trained twice a week. Abs and calves are harder for everybody to carve up, and being smaller muscle groups, are not that easy to overtrain. I also do 8-10 sets of calves twice a week, and like abs, do VERY high rep sets...say, 40-50 reps at a time.

Q: When I do things like raises for shoulders I can lift very much weight. I feel like a wimpy. Is it ok that those lifts are low weight?
A: I don't use super heavy weights for shoulders because I realized a long time ago that I didnt want rotator cuff problems! People, DON'T do any behind-the-neck presses (or pulldowns) because someday you will be sorry...form is very important with shoulder exercises. It is a complicated joint and far too easy to screw up by throwing around heavy dumbells. Do the high-rep, perfect form sets, and do supersets, giant sets....make them burn, but dont give yourself a permanent problem
because you're worried about being a 'wimp' in the gym. See all those guys in their 40s and 50s who dont do legs anymore and wear big baggy pants??!! It's because they blew out their backs long ago, squatting in excess, trying to prove they were badasses. BE a wimp! Keep lifting (and looking good)into your 80's!!

Q: I train alone and like to use the Smith Machine a lot. Is using the Smith Machine OK?
A: Using the Smith machine is a great way to avoid injury if you're using a weight you're not sure you can control for at least 8-10 reps. I usually train alone, and don't want some random person spotting me while squatting...(they always put their hands in the wrong places:) so I use the Smith machine. Sometimes I do heavier reverse lunges on it, too. It is not enough, however, to use for ALL upright
leg exercises. I prefer free weights to stabilize my core, balance, and accessory leg muscles, and to provide more freedom of motion. I just don't overdo it with the (barbell) amount of weight, always using something I can handle for at least 10-20 reps. Because I have avoided overdoing the weight with the barbell, and have
always sought perfect form, I plan to continue playing under a real squat rack into MY 80's!!

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