As I write this, I’m in Tahoe for Mind Pump‘s #PodcastHard event, which is basically a three-day podcasting extravaganza. They invited a bunch of podcasters up here to record with each other, and it’s really nice to see podcast hosts from all over the country in person! If you haven’t listened to Mind Pump yet, I highly recommend listening to their podcast (I was on episode 677). Sal, Adam, and Justin have also been on my podcast multiple times, which you can listen to here, here, and here, and here. Considering current events, it seemed fitting for this week’s post to be related to fitness, and more specifically, Mind Pump.
I’m sure by now you know that I’m a huge fan of Mind Pump’s MAPS fitness programs. To be honest, I feel like the demographic that needs their programs the most is not getting them. They’re really popular amongst people who are already into lifting weights, but it’s the rest of the population that desperately needs this type of programming. For example, while I welcome everyone to my little corner of the Internet, my audience tends to be women of pretty much all ages, but let’s say 18-35. And mostly women who are drawn to the “wellness” space. Most of the workout programs targeted toward that demographic are not programmed very well. Most of them won’t give you real results, or if they do get you results, they tend to be short-term wins…and eventually you end up back where you started.
The problem is that a lot of workout programs you’ll find on the Internet “for women” aren’t actually focused on building strength. Strength training should be the focus of everyone’s workout programming, in my opinion. Strength training is what will actually change your body, and it provides a number of health benefits.
Strength training is key for increasing bone mineral density and preventing osteoporosis. It also helps to reduce the risk of major health concerns like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. This is because resistance training can improve insulin sensitivity, and insulin resistance is a growing concern for our population. Insulin resistance can cause belly fat, extreme mood and energy swings, cravings, and more.
Strength training also improves mood and can help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s also been shown to enhance cognitive abilities and promote feelings of self-esteem. Studies also suggest that regular strength training can reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension, and some research shows that it can improve blood lipid profiles.
Strength training is also important if you want to age well. It can help with different types of chronic pain that become more common as people get older, like lower back pain and osteoarthritis, and it also increases mitochondrial content. Healthy mitochondria are the key to longevity! Beyond that, strength training is important for boosting your body’s metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be. Sadly, a lot of popular nutrition and fitness advice has left people with downregulated metabolisms. Undereating and doing too much cardio has this effect. A pivotal step to rebuilding your metabolism is STRENGTH TRAINING.
Obviously, strength training is key for making lasting changes to your body composition. If you want to look sculpted, you need to build some muscle! Honestly, no matter what your fitness goals are – build muscle, burn fat, lose weight – you need strength training in your routine. Plus, getting stronger will allow you to do useful things in real life… like pick up heavy things!
Unfortunately, most workout guides that are marketed towards women are focused on burpees and jump squats, or 2 pound weights. This turns into endurance training / cardio rather than strength training, and a lot of plyometric moves can be a bit dangerous if not performed correctly. Feeling depleted, out of breath, and dripping in sweat isn’t necessarily a sign of a good workout. You might be surprised to find that a different approach can work better. Less can be more, especially when the program is designed well! Work smarter, not harder. 😉
I recommend MAPS Anabolic to anyone looking for a good strength-training routine that uses weights. The first MAPS program I tried was MAPS Anywhere, which is designed for travel or at-home workouts. MAPS Anywhere helps you build strength using bodyweight, resistance bands, and a mobility stick (you can use a broomstick instead, and you can also make do without one). I use the Rubberbanditz resistance bands sold on Mind Pump’s site, which are definitely the best resistance bands I’ve ever used and very worth the investment. I used to use some from Amazon, but they never lasted me longer than a year. (My discount code “WELLNESS” gets you 10% off of all MAPS programs and any gear, like resistance bands, from MP’s website!)
I LOVED MAPS Anywhere and highly recommend it. The program was 4 weeks total, and each week you do 2 foundational workouts and 2-3 “Amp sessions.” You get to customize your amp session workouts and choose from a list of suggested exercises, which I really liked. Most of the workouts took me between 30 and 45 minutes. I was shocked at how well this program worked at helping me gain strength and build muscle, and I definitely underestimated it before I started! I can’t say enough good things about MAPS Anywhere. If you’re doing bodyweight training, this is a great program to see actual results.
That being said, lifting weights is a more effective way to get results than bodyweight training for most people. MAPS Anabolic is Mind Pump’s program for pretty much anyone looking for a good strength training routine. They have a bunch of other programs for people with specific goals, but they recommend everyone start with MAPS Anabolic. It’s great for complete beginners AND people who are more advanced and have been lifting for awhile. All MAPS programs can be adjusted to your fitness and strength levels, which is why they’re so great for everybody.
All MAPS programs come with access to a portal where you can watch thorough video demonstrations of all exercises, along with downloadable PDFs that map out the workouts and exactly what to do, as well as the philosophy behind the programming. You can print out the last page of the PDF to write on, which is a sheet that has the foundational workouts and an area to track your progress each week.
MAPS Anabolic has a pre-phase and then three main phases. If you’ve never done any strength training, definitely start with the pre-phase. If you’re not new to lifting weights, then you can probably skip it. Each phase lasts 3 weeks, so the full program is 9-12 weeks, and then you can keep repeating it with heavier weights and any adjustments you want. The instructions for each phase are slightly different, but each week you’ll perform 2 to 3 foundational workouts, and then you’ll do “trigger sessions” on your off days.
Foundational workouts are basic strength training workouts, and the exact exercises are written out for you. You want to use a weight that challenges you but allows you to perform the movement with proper form for the prescribed number of reps. If you feel like you could bust out 5 more reps, it was probably too light. If you feel like you can barely complete the reps, it was probably too heavy. You shouldn’t be going to failure – it should feel like you could MAYBE get 1 or 2 more reps in before your form is compromised. Again, stick to this: choose a weight that challenges you the most while still allowing you to maintain proper form for the stated number of reps. If you’re doing less reps, it will be more weight. With more reps, less weight.
If you’re new to lifting weights, stick with 2 foundational workouts a week. If you have experience with weight training, you could do 3. I toyed with both throughout the program depending on the week and how I was feeling, but I tended to do 2. I definitely underestimated how the workouts at first. There were weeks when I thought I could easily handle 3 workouts, which is “less” (days) than I usually work out, but then afterwards I realized that it was sometimes too much for my body when I factored in trigger sessions. Foundational workouts are full body workouts, and they’ll take between 30 and 60 minutes. They usually took me 45 minutes to an hour because of the long rest periods. It took about 60 minutes at the beginning of the program, and then closer to 40 or 45 minutes because rest periods got shorter throughout the program.
Trigger sessions are what make Anabolic especially unique. Trigger sessions are mini sessions on non-foundational workout days that last 5-10 minutes and allow you to “trigger” your muscles a bit in between your main sessions. They’re not full “workouts.” You’re using bodyweight and resistance bands to just stimulate the muscle – you’re not working up a sweat. The guys recommend 1-3 trigger sessions a day, depending on your goals and how advanced you are. I usually did 1 or 2 a day. I would do one in the morning first thing, and then a second in the afternoon to give me a little burst of energy. You can customize trigger sessions by choosing exercises that work the body parts you want to put the most focus on – all of this is mapped out in the program!
MAPS Anabolic is designed to be performed in the gym 2-3 times a week, and trigger sessions can be done from anywhere. I don’t have a gym membership, though, so I adjusted the program to be done from at-home! I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how exactly I did that, so I’ll share it here.
When I work out from home, I use dumbbells. When using dumbbells for Anabolic, you want to use the heaviest dumbbells you can. I personally use adjustable dumbbells that I’ve had since the beginning of college, and I ordered extra plates so that I could increase the weight more. These are the adjustable dumbbells I use, and I just add or remove weight plates depending on the weight I need for the exercise. I have the 200 lb version, which means it comes with enough plates to make each dumbbell 100 lbs. You can also get adjustable dumbbells from somewhere like Big 5. They were definitely an investment, but they completely paid for themselves. I don’t pay for a gym membership and they last forever. If I had more space in my apartment (I currently live in a small studio), I would invest in a barbell. I am definitely getting one when I move somewhere with more space!
While I’ve never been one to lift super light weights, I don’t usually lift “heavy” weights either. I’m more in the middle, but I know I can push myself more if I want. I lifted more weight while doing this program than I usually do, which obviously shocked my body and helped it change. Lifting heavier weights and pushing your limits is really what will build strength and muscle, and actually lead to a difference in your body. My muscles became a lot more defined and my strength really improved. Again, all relative to where I started. A lot of people noticed that I looked different, which I didn’t even notice myself until they pointed it out!
If you’re doing Anabolic from home, I recommend lifting the heaviest dumbbells you can to get the best results possible. If you’re using a set of 15 pound dumbbells, you’re really not going to get the same results you would if you were using heavier weights. If that’s all you have access to, then the movements are still a good baseline to work from, but again – the program is phased in a specific way designed to get you maximum results, which requires you to be challenging your body with heavier weight. If you don’t have heavy enough weights, you can still use the same exercises for your workout program, and maybe add more sets / bands with certain moves to try to increase resistance when you can or find other ways to progress.
Let’s talk about how to substitute the exercises so they can be done with dumbbells at home. Most of the exercises use a barbell, and most can just be subbed directly with the dumbbell version of the exercise. For example, substitute a barbell bench press with a dumbbell bench press, and so on. You can find videos for these movements on Mind Pump’s YouTube channel or somewhere else on YouTube very easily.
Here is a list of the other exercises that didn’t have direct substitutions and what I replaced them with (Sal gave me these recommendations, by the way):
- Replace box squats and barbell squats with goblet squats, dumbbell shoulder squats, or regular dumbbell squats. You can also use lunges to replace one of these if you don’t want to do two types of squats in a row.
- Good mornings can be replaced with stiff-leg deadlifts, but if you’re already doing a deadlift that day, you can do lunges or squats instead.
- I have a pull-up bar, so I replaced traditional pull-ups with jumping pull-ups or negative pull-ups since I can’t do real pull-ups yet. You can also replace these with lat pull-downs.
- You can replace dips with pushups.
- I replaced decline situps with weighted situps.
- I did hanging leg-raises with my pull-up bar, but you can replace them with reverse crunches.
With those simple substitutions and making sure you challenge yourself enough with the weight of the dumbbells, it’s simple to do MAPS Anabolic at home! Of course, if you’re at a gym, no substitutions are necessary. Once you finish MAPS Anabolic, you can always try one of their other programs or restart Anabolic. You’ll continue to see results because you’ll be starting from a new “baseline” and always getting stronger.
Sal answered some of the most common questions about Anabolic on my Instagram stories, which is saved on my profile as a highlight! Make sure you head there to learn more. If you have any more questions about the program, leave a comment below or feel free to ask Sal (@mindpumpsal), Adam (@mindpumpadam), or Justin (@mindpumpjustin), since they actually created the programs!
If you’re interested in trying out MAPS Anabolic or any other MAPS programs, you can use the discount code “WELLNESS” at checkout for 10% off, and that code also works on any apparel or other gear (like resistance bands) that they sell on their website! All programs have a 30-day money day back guarantee, so why not?!