Here we go – a couple of good questions this week that come up all the time.
I feel like I’m making good progress, but then I look at my photos and I’m like *gag* – what am I doing wrong?
Honestly – as I tell my clients, the problem is that you’re a terrible photographer. Nothing personal, just the facts. Without a basic understanding of how a camera works, lighting, and how the human eye perceives things you’re always going to be taking photos that are (usually) much less flattering than reality.
First things first: the best camera in the world is the human eye. Trust what it tells you when you look in the mirror first and foremost. THAT is the best reality, and along with changes in how clothes are fitting and various measurements is the easiest way to gauge progress.
For the photos themselves: identify the brightest light source and put it BEHIND the camera – don’t point the camera at it. If you’re outdoors, this is the sun – position yourself accordingly. If indoors, do NOT take a picture of a light source, even an overhead light as this will mess up the camera’s automatic aperture settings and make you look grainy/fuzzy/blurry/shitty. Finally – experiment. The location that seems easiest to set up in is not always going to yield the best results. Play around with it.
I don’t know how much I should be lifting on these exercises. How do I know what’s right?
The most complete answer to this question is: you need a weight that is sufficient to make the muscle work, but not so much that it forces you to compromise form.
All of this assumes your form is impeccable and that your mind/muscle connection and ability to contract a muscle *hard* on command is on point. It’s an experimentation game to figure out the correct number so that you reach fatigue (and beyond) at the desired rep range. Generally speaking, heavier is better – until it isn’t. A breakdown in form means that muscles other than the target group are being recruited to help move the weight – and moving weight is NOT (repeat: NOT) the goal. Reaching muscle failure and pushing beyond that point – that is the goal. When you start flinging weights up and down, shortening up your range of motion, using momentum, or entering ‘brute force’ territory – where you’re doing anything you can just to MOVE the weight – that’s a place and unproductive place to be in.
Let the muscles do the work. Let them suffer. And then keep pushing – but maintain form!