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Q&A with Mike Furci

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I've been working out for quite a few years and believe I'm in pretty good shape. The only problem I've got is around my mid section and it always seems like I have a little belly on me. I'm 37 and I'm wondering if that has anything to do with the situation. Do you have any suggestions that may help get rid of my extra baggage.





your concern about your mid section is the most common concern men have about their bodies. Genetically, men deposit a large percentage of their body fat in their abdominal region and lower back. Unfortunately, being 37 does have something to do with it. I'm 35, so I know where you're coming from. I remember the good old days when I could eat anything in any amount and not gain a pound. But don't give up yet. There is something you can do to help.

I'm not going to promise you'll get back to your 18-year-old metabolism, but I can show you how to speed it up and get leaner. The following components are a brief overview to get you started.

The first component is modifying your diet. Start by ensuring that you consume at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight. Protein is responsible for repairing and maintaining everything in our bodies. Without adequate amounts of protein, your chances of building or even maintaining muscle are about as good as getting a date with Pamela Anderson-Lee. Don't listen to these wackos that claim high amounts of protein are bad for you. There is not one single solitary study that shows this fact.

Next, find out how many carbohydrates you need to take in each day to bring your body fat levels down. To do this, figure out what your current average intake of carbs is. Cut this average by 20% and see what happens over the next two weeks. If you lose one to two pounds per week, stay there. If you do not lose any weight, cut it by another 20%.

Finally, your fat intake should be roughly 10% to 30% of your diet. Try to ensure that most of the fat you consume comes from fish (omega 3 sources), olive oil, or any other monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources.

The second component is building muscle. Muscle drives the metabolism. It's our muscle that burns fat as fuel. Five pounds of muscle on an average man's frame will raise his basal metabolic rate about 10%. So what's the fastest way to build muscle? Read all three parts of "A no-nonsense guide to design your workouts." These articles will set you off in the right direction.

And finally, the third component is doing some cardio. I recommend doing 20-30 minutes per day at 85% to 90% of your maximum heart rate. The formula for figuring a percentage of your maximum heart rate is: 220 minus (your age) multiplied by (percentage). If you're a beginner or aren't used to training at this intensity, I recommend starting at 60% of your maximum heart rate. Gradually increase the intensity over time. A simple way to determine your intensity level is by looking at your ability to hold a conversation while doing cardio: If it is easy for you to discuss the day's events while riding a piece of cardio equipment, the intensity level is too low and you're wasting time.


I've been lifting for a few years now (five) and have made some pretty good progress. I've competed in the past and would like to compete again some time soon. However, I'm a firefighter and feel I need to do cardio to keep my fitness levels up. I've been running a lot because I don't seem to get as much out of machines. I'm a little worried that the cardio I'm doing is hindering my leg development. Is there a way to do cardio without taking away form the size of my legs?

Charlotte, NC



I'm glad to see that you take being a firefighter so seriously. My father was a firefighter for just under 30 years and was always proud of the fact that he was in better shape than most of the young guys.

Being a firefighter can call for some intense situations, and running is a good way to prepare. However, running can definitely make recovering from workout to workout a real struggle, especially for somebody with your goals. I recommend that you perform some type of interval training two or three times a week. Do not go over 30 minutes in a session, including a five-minute warm-up. Interval training, if done properly, is by far the best way to improve your fitness level.

The best way to perform interval training for your purpose is a 1:1, work-to-rest ratio. In other words, you will work for one to two minutes then rest for that same amount of time. The object to interval training is to raise your lactic acid threshold (your ability to tolerate and get rid of lactic acid). The higher your threshold, the easier it will be for you to recover. To do this, the work portions of your training must be as intense as possible. The rest portions should be done at a very low level of intensity. At the end of your interval session, you should feel like you couldn't run another minute.

Most cardio pieces have an interval setting that you can use. This is very convenient and is much easier to monitor than running outside. Keep a detailed journal of your cardio and weight training. If you feel your weight training is suffering, skip a cardio day or reduce the amount of time. It may take a while, but eventually you will find the right mix of cardio and weight training to get the gains you want. 

Good luck with future competitions.


I've been working out for about six months. I've read the first part of the three-part series on designing your workouts. The article is very good and there are a lot of good ideas. My problem is that I'm not quite sure where to start. It seems like there is so much information and so many variables. Could you please write out a workout for me? I can train three days a week and want to put on some muscle and get stronger.




Writing a workout takes much more than knowing you've trained for approximately 6 months and are interested in gaining muscle. In order for me to give you a properly designed program, I would need a little more information. 
However, since I do not have all the info I need, I'm going to have to assume you are an average guy with an average build. I am also going to assume you have no injuries or other weaknesses to work around.

The first thing you need to do is read all three parts of "A no-nonsense guide to designing your workouts." Using the principles outlined in these articles will give you the information you need to keep you on track.

The second thing you need to do is apply these principles to the workout schedule I've outlined below. This schedule is designed for an intermediate to advanced lifter. It is designed to hit every body part once per week. Once you've been using this workout for three months, please e-mail me with any questions you have.

There is a lot more that goes into designing workouts than most people can imagine. Writing out an entire workout for somebody takes much more time, effort and background information than can be allotted to a Q&A forum. If you have any questions, make sure you include as much pertinent information as possible. This way I can give you the best possible advice.

3 Days per week 
Day 1: Chest, shoulders and biceps
Day 2: Off 
Day 3: Quads, hams and abs
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Back, biceps and calves
Day 6 & 7 Off

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