SAN JOSE, CA—Heritage Ink Supply sales representative Eric Vanderbilt broke his workout routine down in the company breakroom Monday, for the benefit of coworker Jennifer Kim.

Vanderbilt describes a typical Thursday night.

"Mondays, I focus on chest and triceps," Vanderbilt told Kim, after she said that her 232-pound coworker "must go to a gym or something." "I usually start with the flat bench press, which works the whole chest. Then, I move on to the incline and decline bench press—those focus on the upper and lower chest, respectively. Sometimes, I do dumbbells, just to mix it up. For the triceps, I usually do french press and dips."

Kim said that, in asking Vanderbilt whether he belonged to a gym, she had neither sought nor expected a meticulous account of his lifting regimen.

"It's all about DPP: discipline, persistence, and patience," Vanderbilt said, watching the muscles in his forearm move as he worked his wrist back and forth. "I do six or eight reps for each exercise, unless I'm increasing the weight. In that case, I decrease the reps. No cheat reps. No 'one rep max.' A lot of the younger guys are doing 'one rep max' for quick gain, but they're playing with fire."

Many common perceptions about weightlifting are incorrect, Vanderbilt told Kim as she removed a plate from the microwave and stared in the direction of her cubicle.

"You might think you gotta do chest and arms every day of the week, but you don't," Vanderbilt said. "It's actually important to let your muscles recover. That's why I do legs on Tuesday, back and biceps on Thursday, and shoulders on Friday. I take Wednesdays and weekends off. I don't just sit around eating chips and watching TV, though. I usually go for a swim. Gotta keep up the old cardiovascular."

Added Vanderbilt: "What I'm striving for is a total body workout."

He then stressed the importance of stretching before strenuous exercise.

"Even if I don't do any serious exercise, I'll do 20 minutes of stretching," Vanderbilt said. "That's a bare minimum. If I'm lifting, then I stretch out before and after the workout. You wouldn't believe how many injuries could be avoided if people stretched before they worked out. If I have time, I like to stretch the muscles I'm working out between reps. You look pretty flexible. Do you do yoga?"

Kim responded by smiling and reaching for a AAA-member magazine sitting on the table.

"You don't eat French fries, do you?" Vanderbilt said, eyeing Kim's organic burrito. "Those are the worst things for your body. You might as well be eating lard. Seriously, if you don't put the right things into your body, you're not going to get the maximum benefit from all that sweat. I usually eat a chicken sandwich without the bun about two hours before a workout and then maybe a can of tuna mixed with vegetables 20 minutes after I'm done. To build muscle, you need protein—lots of it."

Vanderbilt said that, in order to add mass, he stacks his supplements, starting his day with a high-protein shake, an antioxidant multivitamin, a cardio-support supplement, a selenium supplement, and steel-cut oats sprinkled with whey.

When Kim asked Vanderbilt why he spends so much time at the gym, instead of spending it with friends or a girlfriend, Vanderbilt said it was important to take care of his most valuable asset: his body.

"I like knowing my body is working at peak efficiency," Vanderbilt said. "When I walk out of the gym, I feel physically and mentally disciplined. I like that. And there's a group down at the gym. We like to hang out at the juice bar and talk about routines, diet, and where to buy gear and workout clothes."

After stressing the importance of drinking enough water every day, Vanderbilt excused himself to take a phone call at his desk, giving Kim the opportunity to return to her cubicle and reflect on what she had learned about her coworker.

"Well, I learned that that Eric guy likes to work out—a lot," Kim said. "I also know that he likes to eat five or six meals a day instead of three. I think I offended him, though, when I asked him about steroids. It's amazing I managed that, since I barely got three words in edgewise for the last 15 minutes. Oh, and now my food's cold."