Category Archives: Muscle-Building Exercises

Exercises You’ve Never Tried: Beach Body Edition

I have a confession to make: I love lifting weights, but I don’t enjoy training the beach muscles.
It’s not that I hate bodybuilding or training arms – I love all training – but if given the choice, I’d pick legs ten times out of ten.
My hierarchy would probably look something like this:

  1. Legs
  2. More Legs
  3. Back
  4. Wander aimlessly around the gym
  5. Chest/Shoulders
  6. More Back
  7. Read a magazine
  8. Core
  9. Clip my toenails
  10. Arms

Most typical upper body exercises bore me to tears. I just can’t get hyped up for bench presses, pushdowns, and curls like I can for squats, lunges, and pull-ups.
Call me crazy.
One thing that helps make upper body days more fun, and consequently keeps me pushing hard, is experimenting with different exercise variations. Here are some upper body exercises that even I like.

1. Rotational One-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

When I first saw the one-arm dumbbell bench press, I didn’t give it the respect it deserves. It didn’t look particularly hard, so I unassumingly grabbed the same weight I’d use for a regular dumbbell bench press.
Bad move. Anyone that’s tried the exercise before knows where this is going.
On the first rep, I literally tipped to the side and fell off the bench, dropping the dumbbell like a total jackass and causing a scene. I knew immediately I was going to like this one.
While it’s essentially an upper-body pushing exercise to work the chest, shoulders, and triceps, you’ll learn fast that it’s really a full body exercise. To be successful, you must create massive tension throughout your legs, core, and even the opposite arm.
You’ll want to start out light to avoid my embarrassing fate, but interestingly, after a few tries to get the hang of it, you’ll find you’re able to use more weight unilaterally than you could bilaterally.
I like to start with a neutral grip at the bottom and pronate my wrist as I press. This feels great on the shoulders, and the rotation allows for a better contraction in my chest.

2. Ring Flies

Exercises You've Never Tried: Beach Body Edition

These are brutal, but if you can pull them off, they’ll fry your chest like no other. I first tried them after seeing a picture of Larry Scott doing them on some badass old-school chain rings.
This is an extremely advanced exercise, so don’t just jump right into trying it if you don’t have any experience on the rings. Doing so will inevitably lead to either a shoulder injury or a face plant, neither of which you want.
Make sure you can first knock out at least 25 ring push-ups to get acquainted with the inherent instability. From there, progress to flies with your arms bent at approximately a 90-degree angle. You may even want to do these on your knees at first.
Once you’re comfortable with those, it’s time to progress to full flies. Be sure to maintain a slight bend in your elbows to protect your shoulders and keep the tension on your chest.

If you get comfortable with full flies (and by comfortable I mean proficient – I can assure your pecs won’t be comfortable), give ring “fly-aways” a shot. I got the idea for these from a recent Livespill from TC where he talked about a similar concept using dumbbells.
You’re basically going to do a drop set going in the reverse order of the progression I laid out to work up to full flies: five full flies, five bent-arm flies, and five pushups, all in succession with no rest. Superset that with five minutes of lying on the floor, hating life.

3. Ring Push-up/Fly Combo

Like the name suggests, one arm does a push-up while the other arm does a fly. You’ll want to place more weight on the arm doing the push-up and de-load the arm doing the fly as much as possible. It may help to think of it as a modified one-arm pushup where you reach the other arm straight out to the side. Alternate between arms each rep.
Confused? I don’t blame you. Check out the video below.

The unilateral nature of the exercise may lead you to believe it’s significantly more difficult than bilateral ring flies, but from a pressing standpoint, it’s actually slightly easier since the arm doing the push-up is supporting the majority of the load where the lever arm is shorter. The “fly” arm simply provides some assistance to counter the rotational demands of the one-arm push up, and gets a decent stretch and bit of activation in the process.
From a core standpoint, however, it’s much harder. The unilateral nature of the exercise introduces a big anti-rotational stability component since you have to brace extremely hard to avoid twisting toward the arm doing the fly.

4. Supinated Ring Chins

Exercises You've Never Tried: Beach Body Edition

Some bodybuilding coaches spout that chin-ups are the best biceps exercise going and no direct biceps work is required. Others say to build mammoth bone-crushing pythons, you need to devote an entire day (or two or three) per week to arms and do every type of curl imaginable.
I’m somewhere in the middle.
I love chin-ups as much as anybody, while curls are the absolute bane of my training existence.
I dropped curls all-together about two years ago, and have just been doing a heavy diet of chin-ups and rows. In that time, my arms have stayed about the same size while the rest of my body has grown, leading me to believe that chin-ups obviously work the biceps to a large degree and are sufficient if your goals are more performance-based, but probably aren’t enough if you hope to start selling tickets to the gun show.
Here’s the thing: it depends largely on how you do the chin-ups.
For instance, I usually use a shoulder-width grip (often wider) and think of my arms as being hooks while my back does all the work. I also come to full extension at the bottom of every rep and do them explosively while maintaining control of my body (i.e. no swinging).
Interestingly, the better I’ve become at chin-ups, the less I feel them in my biceps. Fact is, when I do feel my biceps working a lot, I take it as a sign I’m not retracting my scapulae as I should be.
However, you can easily tweak them to hone in on the biceps. The best way I’ve found is with close-grip supinated ring chin-ups.
Place the rings as close together as possible and take a supinated grip. Perform the reps slower than normal on both the concentric and eccentric and stop just short of full extension at the bottom to keep constant tension on the biceps. It’s important to be strict with these.

If you don’t have rings, you can do them with just a bar, although the rings definitely add something to it from a biceps standpoint. You’ll find that towards the bottom of the rep, the rings will start to twist and your biceps will be forced to kick into overdrive to keep that supinated wrist position.
These are a lot tougher than they look, so if it’s too much at first, you can also try a similar concept using inverted rows instead.

Doing reps like this will invariably shortchange your back to some degree, so do them after your regular chin-up or inverted row workout to finish off your arms.

5. Super Slow Chin-ups

The explanation for these is simple, but they’re far from easy. Do a close-grip chin-up as slowly as you can. That’s it.
Shoot for 20-30 seconds on the concentric and 30-40 seconds on the eccentric to start. If you can do that, add some weight. If that’s too much, then just go as slowly as you can.
I also like to do a static hold at the top.

Use a supinated grip for more biceps emphasis or a neutral grip to target the brachialis. Either way, it’ll also blast your forearms and help build tremendous grip strength.
Save this for the tail end of your workout and just do one painstaking rep. Trust me, if you’re doing it right, that’s all you’ll be able to muster.

6. Bodyweight Triceps Extensions

This is an awesome triceps exercise that, when done correctly, also smokes the core.
TC wrote about doing these in a Smith machine in a Livespill and while I like that exercise too, I prefer doing them using suspension straps for two reasons.
First, you can get a bigger range of motion. When you use a fixed bar, you’re forced to do the exercise like a traditional skullcrusher where you bring your forehead to the bar. With straps, you can extend your arms forward slightly as you drop down so that at the bottom, your hands are actually behind your head. This enhances the stretch on the long head of the triceps and takes stress off the elbows.
Second, the straps allow you to rotate your hands freely as you move through the rep, making it more shoulder-friendly and increasing the contraction in your triceps.

To get the full benefit for your core, it’s imperative that you keep a straight line from your feet to your head. There will be a tendency to want to pike at the hips, so you’ll need to squeeze your glutes and brace your abs to prevent that from happening. It should feel similar to the sensation you get from an ab wheel rollout. If it doesn’t, you’re probably not doing it right.
This is a lot tougher than it looks, so start with the straps fairly high at first (approximately chest level) and work your way down.

7. Reverse Grip Dumbbell Floor Press

Perform this exercise just as you would a regular dumbbell floor press, only supinate your hands as you press. At the bottom your palms will face each other, while at the top they’ll point back behind you.

Where you feel this exercise will depend on your set up. If you use a wider grip, you’ll feel it more in your chest, whereas a closer-grip will put more emphasis on the triceps. I prefer a close grip because I find a wide grip puts undue stress on my shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
You can also try holding a supinated position throughout the rep, but I prefer to rotate to allow for a neutral, shoulder-friendly position closer to the chest.
Think about pressing the dumbbell down towards your feet rather than up over your face like you might in a typical barbell bench press. You obviously won’t be able to, but having that cue in your mind makes the exercise go more smoothly.
Start with about 50% of the weight you can use for a regular dumbbell press and go from there.

8. The “Anti” Press

In response to Dr. Stuart McGill’s research regarding spinal health, much of the new-age core training focuses on “anti” movement stability training: anti-rotation, anti-extension, and anti-lateral flexion. I called this exercise the “anti press” because it addresses all those categories simultaneously.
Grab the handle of a suspension strap and face sideways. Lean out so that your body is at about a 60% angle to the floor. Now brace your core to keep from twisting and press straight out until your arms are fully extended. This part of the motion is similar to a Pallof press you might do with bands or cables and works anti-rotation.
From there, bring your arms straight overhead and pause for a brief second. At this point, you’re focusing on anti-extension and anti-lateral flexion. Rinse and repeat for the desired reps.

Along with building tremendous core stability, this also assists with shoulder strength and mobility. I’m always looking for ways to kill as many birds as I can with one stone and this exercise fits the bill nicely.
It’s easy to progress or regress simply by adjusting your foot position and/or the length of the strap. The further out your feet are from the anchor point and the shorter the strap is, the easier it will be. Move your feet more underneath the anchor point and increase the length of the strap as you get better.
This is a very advanced exercise, so you may want to start with just the overhead portion and see how that goes first.

Conclusion

If you’re one of those people that when asked how you’re doing always responds with “same shit, different day,” some of these exercises may be just what you need to spice up your gym life and get growing again. Don’t go throwing all the basics out the window, but use these as supplements to reignite your training vigor or to help break through a rut or plateau.
Have fun, and be sure to save me a seat at the gun show.
Actually, don’t bother. I’m pretty sure I’ll be training legs that day.

Wikio

10 Exercises You’ve Never Tried: Backside Edition

One of my favorite T Nation article series is the 20-installment monster called Exercises You’ve Never Tried Before. I like it so much that I want to bring it back.
Rather than list a bunch of random exercises though, I’ll base my installment around a common theme: the backside of the body (aka the posterior chain). And more specifically, low back-friendly exercises to work the backside of the body.
Maybe you’ve hurt your lower back and can’t load your spine with the heavy basics like deadlifts and barbell rows but still want to strengthen your posterior chain. Or maybe you’re already banging away with heavy deads and squats and just want some accessory work that won’t hammer your lower back any further.
Either way, these exercises may be just what the doctor ordered.

1. L-Sit Chin-ups

For this chin-up variation, raise your legs until they’re parallel to the floor and don’t allow them to drop for the duration of the set.
Once you’ve established good body position, perform chin-ups as normal, pulling your upper chest to the bar on each rep. If you can, try to angle your torso so you’re leaning back slightly to further emphasize the lats. You can use any grip you’d like, but it’s best to vary it periodically.

This is a great one because it effectively kills two birds with one stone, functioning as both a back exercise and a core exercise. Having your legs raised in front of you also keeps you honest because you can’t use momentum from the lower body to propel yourself up.
You may initially lack the core strength and/or hamstring flexibility to do this with straight legs, in which case you can start with your legs bent and work on straightening them over time.
The position of the legs makes it difficult to add weight with a dip belt, so if you’re looking to make it harder, you can slow down the tempo, add a weight vest, put a small dumbbell between your feet, or use light ankles weights (absolutely brutal)!

2. Lean Back Chin-ups

Here’s one I picked up from Charles Poliquin, who refers to them as subscapularis chin-ups.
Using either a pronated or neutral grip, pull yourself up until your upper chest touches the bar. Your chest should be puffed out and your elbows pulled down and back – no rounded shoulders or sunken chests allowed.
Before you begin the descent, squeeze your lats, brace your core, contract your glutes, and begin to lean back as you slowly push yourself away from the bar. Use a controlled eccentric and continue to lean back as far as you can the whole way down.
Your torso should be at approximately 45 degrees to the floor. At the bottom, return your torso to an upright position and repeat for the desired reps.

Strive to keep your torso as straight as possible throughout the set. I recommend dorsiflexing the ankles to help lock the lower body into position. If you do these correctly, they’ll not only smoke your upper back and lats but fry your core as well.

3. Gironda Sternum Chin-ups

If you type “sternum chin-ups” into YouTube, you’ll get a whole bunch of videos showing guys doing standard chin-ups where they simply pull their chest to the bar. That’s a great exercise, but I wouldn’t call that a sternum chin-up. I’d just call that a good chin-up.
Chin-up standards have become pathetically low. In my mind, a properly executed chin-up should always be pulled to the upper chest. It’s like saying a full squat: it’s redundant and shouldn’t be necessary. Sadly, I guess it is.
A true Gironda sternum chin-up (as prescribed by the legendary Vince Gironda) is a whole different animal.
Right as you begin the pull, tip your head back and try to look behind you as if you were attempting to do a backflip. Continue looking back as you pull while keeping your chest elevated and your lower body still. Depending on the length of your arms, you should contact with the bar anywhere between your lower chest and mid-abdomen.

Poliquin has referred to these as the king of upper back exercises, and for good reason. If done correctly, the contraction you get in your upper back will be unparalleled and your lats will be on fire after just a few reps.
This is an extremely advanced exercise, so make sure you’ve mastered other easier variations first before trying it. Furthermore, the arching required to complete the movement may be too provocative for extension-intolerant individuals, so if you fall into that camp and it causes you any pain whatsoever, choose something else.

4. Inverted Rows (1.5 reps)

10 Exercises You've Never Tried: Posterior Chain

Inverted rows are extremely underrated. Fact is, over the past couple years, they’ve become my favorite rowing exercise, especially for those with back pain. They allow you to attack the upper back without putting pressure on the lower back, and they also help to activate and strengthen the glutes, which are generally underactive in back pain sufferers.
If you have suspension straps – TRX, blast straps, rings, etc. – they’re also very shoulder friendly because they allow you to rotate your hands through a natural range of motion from pronated to supinated, which strengthens the rotator cuff. If you don’t have straps, you can use a bar in a power rack or Smith machine.
The reason most people blow these off initially is that they just seem too easy. However, I’d urge you to try them first before jumping to conclusions. Elevating the feet on a bench so that the torso is parallel to the floor increases difficulty. Lying plates across the chest or wearing a weight vest are further progressions.
Once you’ve mastered regular inverted rows, try using “1.5” reps. Row up, come halfway down, row up again, then come all the way down. That’s 1.

“1.5” reps help ensure that your form stays tight and allows you to concentrate on retracting your scapulae and getting a good contraction on every rep. If crappy form on rows has kept you from experiencing what an upper back pump feels like, you’ll quickly find out with these. And you know what Arnold said about the pump, right?

5. One-Arm Inverted Rows

These are the mack daddy of all inverted row variations.
Set up as you normally would for an inverted row except hold only one strap. Extend the other arm straight up toward the ceiling and place your feet a little wider than normal for a more stable base.
To do these successfully requires extreme total body stiffness, so contract everything – glutes, core, lats, grip, the other arm – literally everything. When you’re ready, row yourself up and reach the non-working arm straight towards the ceiling.
Your torso will want to rotate slightly towards the side of the working arm, which is fine as it allows you to achieve a greater range of motion on the row. Just don’t allow your hips to sag. Lower yourself under control and repeat.

Each rep should be performed under control such that you could pause each rep at the point of contraction if need be. That’s actually a good rule of thumb for all rows, but it’s especially important here – if you start to get sloppy, you’re putting your shoulder at risk of injury. You can also start with your feet on the floor if elevating them is too challenging at first.
While this is ostensibly a back exercise, it’s really a total body exercise because every muscle from head to toe must fire to stay tight or you simply won’t be able to do it.
I promise you that after trying this one, any preconceived notions you may have had about inverted rows being a sissy exercise will go right out the window.

6. Inverted Row “Slides”

Here’s a good alternative if you don’t have suspension straps.
Set up using a pronated grip with your hands slightly wider than what you’d use for the bench press. Pulling primarily with your right arm, pull yourself up towards your right hand until your chest touches the bar. From there, keeping your chest close to the bar and your torso level, slide yourself over to your left hand and lower yourself primarily using your left arm to bear the load. Alternate which side you pull to first on each successive rep.

Adding a unilateral element into the mix significantly enhances the difficulty of the row by forcing each arm to lift a greater percentage of your total bodyweight. Moreover, performing the slide at the top amplifies the intensity of the contraction and increases the core demands by forcing the torso to resist rotation.

7. Inverted Face Pulls

10 Exercises You've Never Tried: Posterior Chain

Face pulls are an excellent exercise to promote good shoulder health and strengthen the middle and lower traps. They should definitely be a mainstay in your program, especially if you emphasize the bench press (i.e. 99% of you reading this).
The inverted face pull using suspension straps is a great variation because you get all the benefits of a regular face pull with the added benefit of core stability that comes from handling your own bodyweight.
What’s more, when you do these using cables or bands, you’re forced to stand in an asymmetrical split stance and brace yourself to keep from getting pulled in towards the machine. Using suspension straps allows you to be more symmetrical and focus your efforts completely on the task at hand since you aren’t being pulled off balance.
Set up just as you would for an inverted row, only instead of pulling your hands to your sides, pull just to the sides of your head. Control each rep and make sure to squeeze your scapulae together at the point of contraction. These are much tougher than they might look, so you’ll want to start with your feet on the floor.

8. Inverted Row/Hamstring Bodycurl Combo

This is a cool exercise that works both the back and the hamstrings at once.
It’s essentially an inverted row combined with an inverted hamstring bodycurl, which I discussed here. I like both exercises on their own, but they work even better in tandem.

As a standalone, the hamstring bodycurl is much harder than the inverted row. However, because you must hold an isometric contraction on each rep of the inverted row while you perform the leg curl, the difficulty of the row increases greatly. You’re actually working both your back and hamstrings to the max. In terms of exercise economy, that’s hard to beat.
That’s all well and good if you do full body training, but where does it fit in if you follow an upper/lower split?
It depends. If you’re quad dominant and want to bring up your hamstrings, you could include these on upper body days for some supplemental work. Conversely, if you need more upper back work – which most do – you could use it on your lower body days.
I use it on lower body days, but it doesn’t really matter. While these are challenging, they won’t tap into your recovery stores too much so it shouldn’t throw off the rest of your training.

9. Banded “Iron Cross” Glute-Ham Raise

Speaking of combination exercises that work the whole backside at once, here’s another doozy. It’s a glute-ham raise, which I’ve written about extensively here, combined with an isometric band pull-apart.

Along with engaging the upper back and traps, holding the band in an isometric pull-apart helps ensure good posture and body positioning throughout the exercise. Some people have a tendency to slouch their shoulders and round their lower backs, but having the scapulae pinched together has a trickle-down effect throughout the body to help maintain rigidity and alignment.
If it’s too much to handle at first, you can always use some band assistance to make it more manageable.

10. Back Extension/Rear Delt Raise Combo

Any time I mention the glute-ham raise, I invariably get the question: what about if I don’t have access to a glute-ham apparatus?
You might think my answer would be to revert to the “natural” glute-ham raise – otherwise known as the Russian leg curl – but I’m not a fan. It’s just flat-out too hard.
Very few people can do them without using a pushup for assistance at the bottom, and even fewer can do them with good form and hinging dramatically at the hips. They usually look ugly, so much so that I worry about the potential for a pulled hamstring.
Besides, I’m big on progressive resistance, and it’s nearly impossible to gauge progress on an exercise where you can’t even do one unassisted rep.
I think a better choice would be a 45-degree back extension, which is typically much more common in commercial gyms and can create a similar training effect as the glute-ham raise when done properly.
The problem with this exercise is that because it’s often referred to as back hyperextensions – people are under the impression that the primary movement should be initiated by the back, so they flex the lumbar spine at the bottom and hyperextend at the top. Not good.
Instead, think about it as a hip extension where the glutes function as the primary extensor and the lumbar spine stays in neutral. You want to feel these almost entirely in the glutes and hamstrings; if you feel it a lot in the lower back, it’s a sign you’re probably doing it wrong.
To include some work for the upper back and posterior delts, you can add a rear delt raise. It won’t take much weight to be challenging, but adding even a little weight to the arms in an outstretched position will significantly increase the challenge for the glutes and hamstrings by slowing down the movement and decreasing momentum, as well as slightly increasing the length of the lever arm.

Have Fun!
It should go without saying that the vast majority of your training should be built around the simple basics. But when you hit a plateau or grow bored of doing the same old stuff day in and day out, here are some cool tweaks you can try to spice things up.
Have fun and post your questions in the Live Spill!

Wikio

How to Build Any Muscle Group


How to Build Any Muscle Group

When you hear the word “science,” what does it mean to you? My guess is that word probably makes you conjure up images of a nerdy looking dude in a lab coat who’s hovering over a Petri dish that’s filled with bacteria.
And when it comes to building muscle, we all know that science often falls short of giving us the best solutions. That’s because there’s very little funding for studies that elucidate the best methods to turn little Henry into the Hulk.
Computer technology has progressed at an astonishing pace because there’s so much funding and because the potential financial rewards are enormous. Not so in the world of muscle building.
Yep, if you’ve got a burning desire to add muscle to a stubborn body part you’ll have no luck finding your answer on Pubmed, even if you pull an all-nighter.

So Where’s the Answer?

While I was in graduate school one of my professors made a profound statement that has stuck with me over the years. To quote the good doctor, “Science is about observing the world around you.”
For example, if you want to cure Alzheimer’s it makes sense to study cultures where the disease is virtually nonexistent. Then you try to figure out what they do that the rest of the world doesn’t do.
And if you want bigger quadriceps, it makes perfect sense to look for a sport where the athletes have proportionally large quadriceps development and figure out what they’re doing that you’re not doing.
That’s smart science.

Gut Check

How to Build Any Muscle Group

Before I get to the details of how to add muscle where you need it most, it’s important to understand what truly deserves the title as a stubborn body part. Your proportionally challenged biceps might not be stubborn at all, and that’s why you should first consider two points.
1. Be honest with yourself. Is the muscle group in question too small simply because you haven’t been training it more than once every week or two? Many guys have puny calves because they rarely train them. No big mystery there.
2. Understand that muscle growth takes months. If you just started lifting weights three weeks ago and you’re frustrated with your lack of upper arm development, join the club that every guy has been a member of. No one ever complains about building muscle too fast. You must be patient, even if you find the training method that’s best for your body type.
Now that those two points are out of the way, if you’ve been training the stubborn body part consistently for a few months without noticing any results, it’s time to do some problem solving.

30 Reps to Bigger Muscles

First, consider the training parameters you’ve been using. Three sets of 10 reps isn’t an ideal way to build muscle, even for muscle groups that welcome growth. Therefore, the best initial approach is to train a stubborn muscle group with a less traditional method that works awesome to build muscle.
– this is a more effective twist on the 10 sets of 3 reps method that I’ve been advocating for a decade. Instead of doing 10 sets of 3 reps, you’ll start with a load you can lift no more than six times for the first set.
Next you’ll perform a second set of as many reps as possible (usually it’ll be less than six reps). Then you’ll perform a third set of as many reps as possible.
You’ll continue performing as many sets as it takes until you reach 30 total reps.
You’ll use the same load for all sets and the reps will decrease with the sets. This is an ideal way to train since you’ll never miss a rep, and it’s the way I approach muscle building in my book, Huge in a Hurry.
Here’s a sample exercise pairing for the upper arms:
Exercise Weight Sets Reps Rest
1A Hammer curl * ** *** 30 sec.
1B Lying dumbbell triceps extension * ** *** 30 sec.
This is an example for one workout. You’ll use only one exercise per muscle group and you’ll put all your energy into that lift until you reach 30 total reps. Perform the 30-Rep Method three times per week with a different exercise in each workout throughout the week. You can use those same three exercise pairings for all four weeks.
Of course, the 30-Rep Method can be used for any muscle group that needs more mass without sacrificing maximal strength. You can perform straight sets with 60 seconds of rest between each set, but I’ve found that it’s more effective and more efficient to alternate between exercises for different muscle groups.
You don’t have to use an antagonist pairing. For example, if your calves and triceps need help, you could alternate a calf raise with a triceps exercise. The options are endless.
Here’s an overview of the parameters for the 30 Rep Method.
The 30-Rep Method is my first line of attack to build a lagging muscle group. Try it for four weeks and I bet you’ll like what you see. Importantly, you don’t need to perform an entire workout with this method, even though it’s an excellent way to train.
For example, you might be content with your current program, but you feel it’s neglecting a muscle group that you want to make freaky enough to scare the neighbors. Use the 30-Rep Method three times per week for four weeks to fire things up.

Back to Real World Science

How to Build Any Muscle Group

At this point you might be wondering what all my rambling was about in the beginning of this article when I talked about the relationship between science and real-world observations.
Let’s look at the deltoids and quadriceps. They’re two muscle groups that are sometimes outliers. They can be problematic for many good muscle building methods, even the 30-Rep Method. Yep, sometimes you’ve got to break the rules and look around for guidance. Sometimes multiple sets of heavy reps isn’t the best approach.
Indeed, if there were ever a muscle group that thrives on high-rep training with lighter loads, it’s the deltoids. You only need to look at the shoulders of professional boxers for proof.
The quadriceps can be tricky for a different reason: it’s extremely draining to perform 30 total reps of a heavy multi-joint quadriceps exercise three times per week. Elite Olympic lifters might have the best quadriceps development of any power athlete but we all know how impractical and time-consuming it would be to work up to their frequency and volume while keeping your joints in tact.
So we need to keep looking around. Which other athletes have quadriceps development with proportions that even Tom Platz can envy? Professional cyclists.
When you think about professional boxers or cyclists, it’s easy to hypothesize that any muscle group can grow if you stimulate it with enough volume and frequency. While that might be true sometimes, it doesn’t appear accurate in all cases.
Take the biceps, for example. If the amount of volume from boxing or cycling could carryover to head-turning biceps proportions, elite rowers would have the best biceps on the planet. But they don’t.
Gymnasts who perform the rings events hold the title of best pound-for-pound biceps on earth. That’s because the biceps need high-tension exercises for growth, unlike the deltoids or quadriceps which are made up of a higher proportion of fast fatigue resistant (FFR) motor units. Those FFR motor units love high-rep training like a fat kid loves cake.
If you need to add more muscle to your deltoids and quadriceps so you can finally hit the beach without ridicule, here’s your solution.

5 Minutes of Hell

How to Build Any Muscle Group

The two exercises I use to build the quadriceps or deltoids when traditional training doesn’t work are the hill climb and boxer drill. Both of these exercises induce a lot of fatigue so perform them at the end of your workouts or on a day when you’re not lifting heavy.
As an added bonus, the following two exercises will help you burn more fat!
Hill Climb: adjust the seat on an exercise bike so your knee joint can only extend to 160 degrees as you pedal. Basically, just make sure your knees can’t completely straighten during each revolution to keep tension on your quads. Next, crank up the resistance so you can’t perform more than 60 revolutions per minute (RPM) when you’re pedaling with maximum intensity.
Continue pedaling with the most effort possible for five minutes. As you fatigue you’ll need to decrease the resistance on the exercise bike. The ideal range to stay within is 45-60 RPM. Don’t let it drop below 45 or exceed 60 RPM throughout the five-minute climb from Hell.
Perform the hill climb exercise every other day or three times per week until you’ve added enough muscle to make the effort worthwhile.
Here are a few tips for the hill climb exercise.
  • Stay seated throughout the exercise! If you stand up and pedal it takes stress off your quadriceps (since your body weight can push the pedals down).
  • Don’t grip the armrests or handles because it will accumulate unnecessary fatigue. Keep your hands relaxed. It’s best to have your arms hanging down at your sides or interlock your fingers and place your hands behind your head.
  • Keep your chest held high throughout the exercise. It’s easy to slouch while you’re grimacing in pain but this can lead to disc problems.
  • If your cardiovascular system isn’t accustomed to high intensity training, start with three minutes and add 30 seconds every other day until you reach five minutes.
Boxer drill: the boxer drill is very straightforward and tough to screw up as long as you put out five minutes of continuous effort. Just grab a pair of 5-pound dumbbells and do your best to mimic Arturo Gatti against the ropes. Throw straight punches, hooks, and upper cuts for five minutes without resting.
Perform the boxer drill every other day or three times per week for as long as you desire.
Here are a few tips for the boxer drill:
  • Keep your hands up throughout the entire drill. You should never drop your hands in a fight and you should never drop your hands in this drill either, since it will take stress off the deltoids.
  • Move around as much as possible while you’re throwing punches and switch your stance from right to southpaw every 30 seconds to keep your T-spine mobility in balance.
  • If 5-pound dumbbells are too heavy, start with three pounds.
  • To get the most out of this drill you should be able to throw decent punches. So if you’re completely at a loss for how to throw a hook or uppercut, ask a qualified person for technique tips.
  • If your cardiovascular system isn’t accustomed to high intensity training, start with three minutes and add 30 seconds every other day until you reach five minutes.

Final Words

One of the best ways to build up a lagging muscle group is with the 30-Rep Method. It can work for any muscle group. However, if you want to mix things up, or if a traditional approach hasn’t worked for your quadriceps or deltoids, now you have a couple of solutions that will also help you burn more fat!

Wikio

>The Truth Behind 7 Muscle Myths

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By: Scott Quill

The guy lifting beside you looks like he should write the book on muscle. Talks like it, too. He’s worked out since the seventh grade, he played D-1 football, and he’s big.

But that doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about. Starting now, ignore him.

The gym is infested with bad information. Lies that start with well-intentioned gym teachers trickle down to students who become coaches, trainers, or know-it-all gym-rat preachers. Lies morph into myths that endure because we don’t ask questions, for fear of looking stupid.

Scientists, on the other hand, gladly look stupid—that’s why they’re so darn smart. Plus, they have cool human-performance laboratories where they can prove or disprove theories and myths.

Here’s what top exercise scientists and expert trainers have to say about the crap that’s passed around in gyms. Listen up and learn. Then go ahead, question it.

Slow Lifting Builds Huge Muscles
Lifting super slowly produces superlong workouts—and that’s it. University of Alabama researchers recently studied two groups of lifters doing a 29-minute workout. One group performed exercises using a 5-second up phase and a 10-second down phase, the other a more traditional approach of 1 second up and 1 second down. The faster group burned 71 percent more calories and lifted 250 percent more weight than the superslow lifters.

The real expert says: “The best increases in strength are achieved by doing the up phase as rapidly as possible,” says Gary Hunter, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., the lead study author. “Lower the weight more slowly and under control.” There’s greater potential for growth during the lowering phase, and when you lower with control, there’s less chance of injury.

More Protein Builds More Muscle
To a point, sure. But put down the shake for a sec. Protein promotes the muscle-building process, called protein synthesis, “but you don’t need exorbitant amounts to do this,” says John Ivy, Ph.D., coauthor of Nutrient Timing.

If you’re working out hard, consuming more than 0.9 to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of body weight is a waste. Excess protein breaks down into amino acids and nitrogen, which are either excreted or converted into carbohydrates and stored.

The real expert says: More important is when you consume protein, and that you have the right balance of carbohydrates with it. Have a postworkout shake of three parts carbohydrates and one part protein.

Eat a meal several hours later, and then reverse that ratio in your snack after another few hours, says Ivy. “This will keep protein synthesis going by maintaining high amino acid concentrations in the blood.”

Squats Kill Your Knees
And cotton swabs are dangerous when you push them too far into your ears. It’s a matter of knowing what you’re doing.

A recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that “open-chain” exercises—those in which a single joint is activated, such as the leg extension—are potentially more dangerous than closed-chain moves—those that engage multiple joints, such as the squat and the leg press.

The study found that leg extensions activate your quadriceps muscles slightly independently of each other, and just a 5-millisecond difference in activation causes uneven compression between the patella (kneecap) and thighbone, says Anki Stensdotter, the lead study author.

The real expert says: “The knee joint is controlled by the quadriceps and the hamstrings. Balanced muscle activity keeps the patella in place and appears to be more easily attained in closed-chain exercises,” says Stensdotter.

To squat safely, hold your back as upright as possible and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or at least as far as you can go without discomfort in your knees).

Try front squats if you find yourself leaning forward. Although it’s a more advanced move, the weight rests on the fronts of your shoulders, helping to keep your back upright, Stensdotter says.

Never Exercise a Sore Muscle
Before you skip that workout, determine how sore you really are. “If your muscle is sore to the touch or the soreness limits your range of motion, it’s best that you give the muscle at least another day of rest,” says Alan Mikesky, Ph.D., director of the human performance and biomechanics laboratory at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

In less severe instances, an “active rest” involving light aerobic activity and stretching, and even light lifting, can help alleviate some of the soreness. “Light activity stimulates bloodflow through the muscles, which removes waste products to help in the repair process,” says David Docherty, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science at the University of Victoria in Canada.

The real expert says: If you’re not sore to the touch and you have your full range of motion, go to the gym. Start with 10 minutes of cycling, then exercise the achy muscle by performing no more than three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions using a weight that’s no heavier than 30 percent of your one-rep maximum, says Docherty.

Stretching Prevents Injuries
Maybe if you’re a figure skater. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed more than 350 studies and articles examining the relationship between stretching and injuries and concluded that stretching during a warmup has little effect on injury prevention.

“Stretching increases flexibility, but most injuries occur within the normal range of motion,” says Julie Gilchrist, M.D., one of the study’s researchers. “Stretching and warming up have just gone together for decades. It’s simply what’s done, and it hasn’t been approached through rigorous science.”

The real expert says: Warming up is what prevents injury, by slowly increasing your bloodflow and giving your muscles a chance to prepare for the upcoming activity. To this end, Dr. Gilchrist suggests a thorough warmup, as well as conditioning for your particular sport.

Of course, flexibility is a good thing. If you need to increase yours so it’s in the normal range (touching your toes without bending your knees, for instance), do your stretching when your muscles are already warm.

Use Swiss Balls, Not Benches
Don’t abandon your trusty bench for exercises like the chest press and shoulder press if your goal is strength and size. “The reason people are using the ball and getting gains is because they’re weak as kittens to begin with,” says Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S. You have to reduce the weight in order to press on a Swiss ball, and this means you get less out of the exercise, he says.

The real expert says: A Swiss ball is great for variety, but center your chest and shoulder routines on exercises that are performed on a stable surface, Ballantyne says. Then use the ball to work your abs.

Always Use Free Weights
Sometimes machines can build muscle better—for instance, when you need to isolate specific muscles after an injury, or when you’re too inexperienced to perform a free-weight exercise.

If you can’t complete a pullup, you won’t build your back muscles. So do lat pulldowns to develop strength in this range of motion, says Greg Haff, Ph.D., director of the strength research laboratory at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

The real expert says: “Initially, novice athletes will see benefits with either machines or free weights, but as you become more trained, free weights should make up the major portion of your training program,” says Haff.

Free-weight exercises mimic athletic moves and generally activate more muscle mass. If you’re a seasoned lifter, free weights are your best tools to build strength or burn fat.

Wikio

8 Weight-Lifting Fixes for More Muscle

By: Charles Staley
I’m a sports-performance coach. For 20 years, I’ve been hanging around in gyms, coaching thousands of football, basketball, and track-and-field athletes on how to build muscle and lose weight. I show up before the gym rats and leave after they jump ship. And that means I’ve seen every mistake that is humanly possible to make. Stupid mistakes. Dangerous mistakes. And maybe worst of all, time-wasting mistakes.

Time is always a crucial factor, whether a guy is trying to survive training-camp cuts or hustling back to the office before the boss puts him in for the next round of layoffs. Save a minute, add more muscle. It’s a principle you can build on.

Here are the most common mistakes I see in the gym. Let this be the last time I warn you.
You Don’t Use a Training Log
It’s hard to break records that don’t exist. So invest in a clipboard. Then focus on lifting more total weight each workout. It’s the key to building muscle. Here’s how: Multiply the amount of weight you lift for each exercise by the total number of times you lift it. Then increase that number every workout by moving heavier weights, increasing your repetitions, or doing more sets. So if in your last workout you did three sets of 10 repetitions of the bench press with 150 pounds, your total to beat is 4,500. Accomplish that goal by doing four sets instead of three, 11 repetitions instead of 10, 155 pounds instead of 150, or a combination of the three.

Beginners take note: Training logs aren’t just for the big fellas. In a 2002 study, YMCA researchers found that 70 percent of exercisers who set goals stuck with their programs for the entire year. By contrast, three-quarters of those who didn’t set goals dropped out.
You Try Too Hard
Working your muscles to failure—the point at which you absolutely can’t do another repetition—isn’t the best way to get bigger and stronger. As your muscles fatigue, they use fewer fast-twitch fibers, which have the greatest potential for size and strength gains. For most exercises there’s an easy fix: You can simply use a weight that allows you to finish all of your repetitions.

But body-weight exercises like chinups don’t allow that luxury. The solution: Cut your repetitions in half and double the number of sets you do. So if you can do only three sets of four chinups, you’ll switch to six sets of two repetitions. That way, the total number you do is the same as in your typical three sets of four, but you’ll focus your training where it counts the most—on those fast-twitch muscle fibers.
You Have a Big Ego
Don’t feel terrible if you’re guilty of trying to lift more weight than you can handle. It’s a product of our natural inclination to be better than the other guy. (If we can’t have his job, his house, or his car, we can at least outlift the smug bastard.) But the only way heavy weights benefit your end goal is if you lift them with perfect form. Item #5, on the next page, describes a few of the signs that you’re working with more weight than you can handle. Some less obvious clues:

You can’t perform an exercise through its full range of motion. For instance, on a squat, you know you should lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. But if you’re using too much weight, you don’t dare go down that low for fear of getting stuck, so you stop halfway and then return to the starting position.

You can’t do your entire set without the help of a spotter. You should always have one on hand for your maximum-weight sets, but he’s there for safety, not to actually help you perform your repetitions.

You can’t hold on to the bar without wrist straps. Straps are effective if you use them occasionally, but many men use them on all their sets to mask weak grip strength. You’re better off using weights you can hold without assistance, and forcing your grip strength to improve along with muscle size and strength. Trust us: Lift without straps and soon you’ll be lifting more than you ever could with them.

Your lower back arches like a sapling in a windstorm on bench presses and arm curls.

Universal ego-fixing drill: Once a month, do 10 sets of a single repetition of an important exercise such as the bench press, squat, or deadlift. Use about two-thirds of the maximum weight you’re capable of lifting on that exercise. If possible, have a trainer or knowledgeable friend evaluate your form. Strive for perfection on each repetition. Once perfect form for that exercise becomes second nature to you, you’ll reap greater gains—with fewer injuries—from your normal workouts.

You Do the Same Old Exercises
Muscles get bigger and stronger when they’re challenged with new exercises and techniques. And yet gyms are filled with guys who are still doing the same exercises they learned in their first workout program—no matter whether they learned them 2 months or two presidential administrations ago. Chances are, their muscles stopped responding to the exercises halfway through Paula Jones’s deposition.

All exercises have an expiration date. A general guideline: If an exercise uses more than one joint (for example, the bench press uses the shoulders and elbows; the squat uses the hips and knees), you can do it for 8 weeks before you should switch to another exercise for the same muscles. If it involves a single joint (biceps curl, triceps pushdown, lateral raise), find a substitute after just 4 weeks.

Below are some popular exercises and good substitutes (find exercise descriptions at http://www.menshealth.com).

If you’ve been doing . . . Leg press
Switch to . . . Squat
And then to . . . Wide-stance squat

If you’ve been doing . . . Leg curl
Switch to . . . Romanian deadlift
And then to . . . Good morning

If you’ve been doing . . . Deadlift
Switch to . . . Sumo deadlift
And then to . . .Snatch-grip deadlift

If you’ve been doing . . . Barbell bench press
Switch to . . . Incline or decline bench press
And then to . . . Wide-grip or close-grip bench press

If you’ve been doing . . . Lat pulldown
Switch to . . . Pullup or chinup
And then to . . . Wide-grip, close-grip, neutral-grip (palms facing each other), or weighted pullup or chinup

If you’ve been doing . . . Arm curl
Switch to . . . Preacher curl or incline curl
And then to . . . Wide-grip or narrow-grip curl

If you’ve been doing . . . Triceps extension
Switch to . . . Overhead triceps extension (French press)
And then to . . . Incline or decline triceps extension

You Use Incorrect Form
Quit flexing. Mirrors are in gyms for a reason, but not that reason. They’re the easiest way for you to monitor your form and avoid injury. Three signs you’re doing an exercise wrong:

The barbell isn’t parallel to the floor. If it’s tilted to one side, you’re applying more force with one arm or leg than the other. Keep your movement precise and consistent throughout each repetition—as if you were performing each exercise on a machine.

Your lower back is rounded. This isn’t a mistake in all exercises (you have to round your back to do most abdominal exercises properly), but it shouldn’t happen during squats, deadlifts, or rows.

Your torso sways forward and back. On power exercises—deadlifts, squats, cleans—your torso needs to move. But if you sway like a mast on the Edmund Fitzgerald while doing curls, rows, or presses, you’re doing something wrong (see #3 for the most likely explanation).

You Run Too Much
A little running—about 20 minutes on the days following your weight-lifting sessions—can help you recover from your workouts faster. But a lot of running can prevent your body from gaining muscle and strength. One possible reason: Running damages your lower-body muscles, and exercise-induced muscle damage significantly decreases leg strength, according to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Sports Science.

Don’t run or cycle the day before a weight workout in which you plan to work your leg muscles.

You can do a light run the day after a leg workout to help speed recovery and reduce muscle soreness, but a hard run will probably undo the benefits of the weight workout.

Don’t train for a triathlon or marathon while you’re trying to build serious muscle and strength. You can train for both endurance and strength throughout the year, but not at the same time.

You Warm Up on a Treadmill
For most men, warming up means running on a treadmill or pedaling an exercise bike. But that 10-minute aerobic workout only prepares the muscles of your lower body to lift.

A better way to warm up—especially when you’re crunched for time—is to focus on the specific muscles you’ll be using in your weight workout. Try this quick three-set routine. For your lower body, warm up with squats. For your upper body, use a combination of bench presses and rows. Start with a weight that you figure you can lift 15 to 20 times, but perform only six repetitions. Wait 30 seconds, increase the weight to an amount you can lift just 10 to 15 times, and do four repetitions. Rest again, increase the weight to an amount you can lift five to 10 times, and do two repetitions.

You Play to Your Strengths
It’s human nature to spend more time on the muscles that work best–a dangerous mistake, as it happens. A 2002 study found that 70 percent of men with recurrent hamstring injuries suffered from muscle imbalances between their quadriceps and hamstrings—the muscles of the front and back of the thighs. After correcting the imbalances with equal training for both areas, every man in the study went injury-free for the entire 12-month follow-up.

Use the general guidelines below to check your muscle balance. The strength ratio for each set of muscle groups represents the amount of weight that the first muscle group should be able to lift compared with the second muscle group. If one group is proportionally weaker than it should be, you have to hit it first in your workouts until it catches up.

Muscle group: Quadriceps (front of thighs)
Opposing muscle group: Hamstrings (back of thighs)
Ideal strength ratio: 3:2
Sample exercises: Leg extension, leg curl
Sample weights (lb): 90:60

Muscle group: Biceps
Opposing muscle group: Triceps
Ideal strength ratio: 1:1
Sample exercises: Arm curl, triceps extension
Sample weights (lb): 45:45

Muscle group: Front shoulders
Opposing muscle group: Rear shoulders
Ideal strength ratio: 2:3
Sample exercises: Cable front raise, cable bent-over rear-shoulder raise
Sample weights (lb): 20:30

Muscle group: Internal shoulder rotators
Opposing muscle group: External shoulder rotators
Ideal strength ratio: 3:2
Sample exercises: Cable internal rotation, cable external rotation
Sample weights (lb): 30:20

Wikio

9 Secrets for Bigger, Stronger Muscles

By: Lou Schuler & Ian King

Your body has about 650 muscles. It doesn’t matter that you only care about four or five of them. You need every one in order to perform the normal functions of everyday life—eating, breathing, walking, holding in your stomach at the beach.

Granted, you don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about most of your muscles. The 200 muscles involved in walking do the job whether you monitor them or not.

You could try to impress your friends at parties by telling them the gluteus maximus is the body’s strongest muscle, or that the latissimus dorsi (in your middle back) is the largest, or that a middle-ear muscle called the stapedius is the smallest. But it probably won’t work, unless you have some really unusual friends. And muscle trivia can’t capture the wonder of muscles themselves—the brilliance of coordinated muscles in motion, the magnificence of well-developed muscles in isolation.

We hope, in the following story, to help you understand a little more about how your muscles work, and thus how to make them bigger, stronger, and more aesthetically pleasing (if you’re into that sort of thing). You can accomplish all three, if you know what’s going on beneath the surface.

Shop smarter! Know the 125 best foods at the supermarket.

Muscle Fibers Do Different Things
Your skeletal muscles—the ones you check out in the mirror—have two main types of fibers.

Type I fibers, also called slow-twitch, are used mainly for endurance activities. Type II, or fast-twitch, begin to work when a task utilizes more than 25 percent of your maximum strength. A movement doesn’t have to be “slow” for the slow-twitch fibers to take over; it just has to be an action that doesn’t require much of your fast-twitch strength. And an effort doesn’t have to be “fast” to call your fast-twitch fibers into play.

A personal-record bench press is going to use every possible fast-twitch fiber (plus all the slow-twitchers, as we’ll explain below), even though the bar probably isn’t moving very fast.

Most people are thought to have a more or less equal mix of slow- and fast-twitch fibers. (Elite athletes are obvious exceptions—a gifted marathoner was probably born with more slow- than fast-twitch fibers, just as an Olympic-champion sprinter or NFL running back probably started life with more fast-twitch fibers.) However, the fast-twitch fibers are twice as big as the slow ones, with the potential to get even bigger. Slow-twitch fibers can get bigger, too, although not to the same extent.

So one strategy comes immediately to mind . . .

To Grow Large, Lift Large
When you begin a task, no matter if it’s as simple as getting out of bed or as complex as swinging a golf club, your muscles operate on two basic principles of physiology:

1. The all-or-nothing principle states that either a muscle fiber gets into the action or it doesn’t. (As Yoda said, long ago in a galaxy far away, “There is no try.”) If it’s in, it’s all the way in. So when you get up to walk to the bathroom, incredibly enough, a small percentage of your muscle fibers are working as hard as they can to get you there. And, more important, all the other fibers are inactive.

2. The size principle requires that the smallest muscle fibers get into a task first. If the task—a biceps curl, for example—requires less than 25 percent of your biceps’ strength, then the slow-twitch fibers will handle it by themselves. When the weight exceeds 25 percent of their strength, the type II, fast-twitch fibers jump in. The closer you get to the limits of your strength, the more fast-twitch fibers get involved.

Here’s why this is important: One of the most pervasive myths in the muscle world is that merely exhausting a muscle will bring all its fibers into play. So, in theory, if you did a lot of repetitions with a light weight, eventually your biggest type II fibers would help out because the smaller fibers would be too tired to lift the weight.

But the size principle tells you that the biggest fibers are the Mafia hit men of your body. They don’t help the underlings collect money from deadbeats. They suit up only when the work calls for their special talents, and when no one else can be trusted to do the job right.

In other words, a guy who’s trying to build as much muscle as possible must eventually work with weights that require something close to an all-out effort. Otherwise, the highest-threshold fibers would never spring into action. Moreover, the smaller fibers don’t need any special high-repetition program of their own, since the size principle also says that if the big fibers are pushed to the max, the small ones are getting blasted, too.

Building Muscles Saves Your Bones
Many have tried to disparage the squat, framing it as an exercise that’s brutal to back and knees. The charges never stick. Sure, the exercise can be tough on the knees, but no tougher than full-court basketball or other full-bore sports.

And for guys with healthy backs and knees, the squat is among the best exercises for strength, mass, sports performance, and even long-term health. The heavy loads build muscle size and strength, along with bone density, and thicker bones will serve you well when you finally break into that 401(k). So you won’t be the guy who fractures his hip and ends up in a nursing home, although you’ll probably pay some visits to your nonsquatting friends.

Setup: Set a bar in supports that are just below shoulder height and load the weight plates. (Be conservative with these weights if you’ve never squatted before. There’s a learning curve.) Grab the bar with your hands just outside your shoulders, then step under the bar and rest it on your back. When you pull your shoulder blades together in back, the bar will have a nice shelf to rest on. Lift the bar off the supports and take a step back. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly, pull in your lower abs, squeeze your glutes, and set your head in line with your spine, keeping your eyes forward.

Descent: To begin the squat, bend your knees and hips simultaneously to lower your body. Squat as deeply as you can without allowing your trunk to move forward more than 45 degrees from vertical. Make sure your heels stay flat on the floor.

Ascent: Squeeze your glutes together and push them forward to start the ascent, which should mirror the descent. Keep your knees the same distance apart (don’t let them move in or out). Your hips and shoulders need to move at the same angle–if your hips come up faster, you increase your trunk angle and risk straining your lower back. At the top, keep a slight bend in your knees.

You Can Improve Muscle Quality
On the day you were conceived, the gene gods had made three decisions that you might want to quibble with as an adult, if you could:

1. Your maximum number of muscle fibers

2. Your percentages of fast- and slow-twitch fibers

3. The shapes of your muscles when fully developed

On the downside, unless you were born to anchor the 4×100 relay at next summer’s Olympics, you can forget about ever reaching that goal. The athletes at the extremes—the fastest and strongest, the ones with the best-looking muscles, and the ones capable of the greatest endurance—were already at the extremes from the moment sperm swam headlong into egg.

The upside is that there’s a lot of wiggle room in between. Few of us ever approach our full genetic potential. You probably will never be a freak, but with the right kind and amount of work, you can always be a little freakier than you are now.

The best way to do that is to learn to use your muscles’ very own juice machine.

More Muscle Comes from More T
Everyone has some testosterone—babies, little girls playing with tea sets, grandparents shuffling through the laxative aisle at CVS—but no one has hormonal increases from one year to the next like a maturing male. His level increases tenfold during puberty, starting sometime between ages 9 and 15, and he hits near-peak production in his late teens. From there, his testosterone level climbs slowly until about age 30, at which point he hits or passes a few other peaks.

His muscle mass will top out between the ages of 18 and 25, unless he intervenes with some barbell therapy. Sexual desire peaks in his early 30s. Sports performance, even among elite athletes, peaks in the late 20s and starts to decline in the early 30s.

None of this is inevitable, of course. Unless you’re that elite athlete who’s trained for his sport since before the short hairs sprouted, you probably have the potential to grow bigger and stronger than you’ve ever been. And that could also put a little of that teenage explosiveness back into your sex life.

The testosterone/muscle-mass link is pretty clear in general terms: The more you have of one, the more you get of the other. Strength training, while it doesn’t necessarily make your testosterone level go up permanently, certainly makes it get a little jiggy in the short term. We know of four ways to create a temporary surge in your most important hormone.

1. Do exercises that employ the most muscle mass, such as squats, deadlifts, pullups, and dips.

2. Use heavy weights, at least 85 percent of the maximum you can lift once on any given exercise.

3. Do a lot of work during your gym time—multiple exercises, multiple sets, multiple repetitions.

4. Keep rest periods fairly short—30 to 60 seconds. Of course, you can’t do all these things in the same workout. For example, when you work a lot of muscle mass with heavy weights, you can’t do a high volume of exercise, nor can you work effectively with short rest periods. This is among the many reasons you should periodize your workouts, which is a polysyllabic way of saying change your workouts every few weeks, rather than do the same thing from now till the gene gods recall the merchandise.

Muscles Need More than Protein
The mythology surrounding protein and muscle building could fill a book, even though the science is fairly straightforward. Your muscles are made of protein (except the four-fifths that’s water), so you have to eat protein to make them grow. You also have to eat protein to keep them from shrinking, which is why men trying to lose fat without sacrificing muscle do best when they build their diets around high-quality, muscle-friendly protein from lean meat, fish, eggs, poultry, and low-fat dairy products.

But if you’re young, lean, and trying to gain solid weight, a lot of extra protein may not help as much as you think. Protein has qualities that help weight loss and may curtail weight gain. First, protein is metabolically expensive for your body to process. Your body burns about 20 percent of each protein calorie just digesting it. (It burns about 8 percent of carbohydrate and 2 percent of fat during digestion.)

Second, protein creates a high level of satiety, both during meals and between them. In other words, it makes you feel fuller faster and keeps you feeling full longer between meals. (This effect does wear off as you grow accustomed to a higher-protein diet, so it may not have an impact on long-term weight gain or weight loss.)

Finally, if you eat more protein than your body needs, it will learn to use the protein for energy. You want your body to burn carbohydrates and fat for energy, obviously, so a body that’s relying on protein for energy is like a car that’s using pieces of its engine for fuel.

The best weight-gain strategy is to focus on calories first, protein second. You should make sure you’re eating at least 2 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of muscle mass. A kilogram is 2.2 pounds, so a 160-pound guy weighs about 73 kg and should take in a minimum of 146 g protein a day. But that’s just 584 calories of protein, the amount you’d find in 15 ounces of chicken, two salmon fillets, or a 28-ounce steak. A protein-powder shake can amp up your totals, as well. If you need to eat more than 3,000 calories a day to gain weight, you’d better have some sweet potatoes with those steaks.

Do Deadlifts
Ever watched a Strongman competition on TV? They start with large men picking something even larger up off the ground. That’s a deadlift—the most basic and practical of all strength-building movements. Now, have you ever watched a Strongman competition with your wife or girlfriend? She’ll notice something you probably wouldn’t: Not a single one of those guys has a flat ass. So pull up a barbell: You’ll be able to perform everyday feats of strength—lifting a sleeping child or a dying TV—and you’ll look a lot better when she follows you upstairs to the bedroom.

Setup: Load a barbell and roll it up to your shins. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Position your shoulders over the bar as you grab it with an overhand grip, your hands just outside your knees. Keep your back in a straight line from head to pelvis. Finally, pull your shoulder blades together and down.

Just before the lift: Straighten your legs a bit to establish tension on the bar. Pull in your lower abs and squeeze your glutes.

First pull, from floor to knees: Straighten your legs while keeping your trunk and hips at or near the same angle. The bar should stay in contact with your skin at all times.

Second pull, from knees to midthighs: Stand up, driving your hips forward. Finish upright, with your shoulder blades back and down and your lower back flat.

Lowering: No need to perfectly reverse the motion; just slide the bar down your thighs and shins to the floor. Don’t annoy your fellow lifters by dropping the bar.

Next repetition: Repeat the setup, letting go of the bar and regripping if necessary. You want perfect form on every repetition, and you won’t get that if you bang out reps without stopping to set up properly before each lift. Remember, it’s a deadlift. That means no momentum from one repetition to the next.

If you use perfect form, your lower back should give you no trouble. However, if you have preexisting back problems, your muscles may not fire properly for this exercise. Try the sumo deadlift instead. Set your feet wide apart, toes pointed slightly outward, and grip the bar overhand with your hands inside your knees. Your back will be more upright at the start, taking away some of the potential for strain.

Dip for Big Triceps
Beginners almost invariably hit their triceps with light weights, limited ranges of motion, and simple, easy exercises. Which is fine . . . for beginners. For sizeaholics, the key to triceps development is lifting really, really heavy loads.

If you have time for just one triceps exercise, make it a dip. It’s the big, basic movement that works all three parts of the muscle (thus the name “triceps”). And, because the bigger, stronger chest muscles are the prime movers—the ones that get your body moving from a dead-hang position—your triceps get to work against a much heavier load than they would in a triceps-isolating exercise.

How to dip: Hoist yourself up on parallel bars with your torso perpendicular to the floor; you’ll maintain this posture throughout the exercise. (Leaning forward will shift emphasis to your chest and shoulders.) Bend your knees and cross your ankles. Slowly lower your body until your shoulder joints are below your elbows. (Most guys stop short of this position.) Push back up until your elbows are nearly straight but not locked.

Making progress: For most men, doing sets of dips with their own body weight is challenging enough. But when you reach a point at which you can do multiple sets of 10 dips, you want to add weight. The best way is to attach a weight plate or dumbbell to a rope or chain that’s attached to a weight belt. Many gyms have belts specially designed for weighted dips and chinups. Another solution, especially if you work out at home, is to wear a backpack with weight plates inside it.

But the more weight you add, the more careful you have to be. Always lower yourself slowly—you don’t ever want to pop down and up quickly on a weighted dip, unless you think you’ll relish the feeling of your pectoral muscles detaching from your breastbone.

Precautions: Aside from the pec-tearing thing, you want to protect your shoulders. If you have preexisting shoulder problems, or feel pain there the first few times you try dips, you should skip them.

A comparable but more shoulder-friendly exercise is the decline close-grip bench press, using a barbell or dumbbells held together.

Run Less to Grow Faster
Running doesn’t build muscle mass. If it did, marathoners would have legs like defensive linemen, and workers in Boston would have to repave the streets each year following the city’s signature race. But running shrinks muscle fibers to make them more metabolically efficient, thereby saving the pavement.

You’d think you could get around this by lifting weights in addition to running, but your body negates that work through a mysterious “interference effect.” Your type II fibers—the biggest ones—will still grow if you run and lift. But your type I fibers won’t, and even though they’re smaller than the type IIs, they probably comprise 50 percent of the muscle fibers in your body that have any growth potential.

Cut back on your running program and you’ll see growth in both your slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers, and perhaps finally get your body to look the way you think it should.

Excerpted from The Book of Muscle (Rodale, 2003).

Wikio

7 Muscle-Building Mistakes to Avoid



By: Myatt Murphy

You’ve put in the time. The sweat. Maybe the tears when you don’t see results. Quit blubbering. It’ll be fine.

Entering the weight room is the first step toward building muscle, but it’s not the last. What you do before, during, and after a workout can either negate your hard work or elevate your growth to a new level.

“Your personal habits, your social life, even which exercises you choose to do can take away from what you’re trying to build,” says Jeff Bell, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist and the owner of Spectrum Wellness in New York City. Bell and other experts helped us pinpoint seven factors that sabotage results. “Add them up and they could be why your muscles have nothing to show for all your time served,” Bell says.

Eliminate these seven saboteurs, then watch your muscles grow—with nothing holding them back.

Skipping Basics
Plenty of lifters believe that doing isolation exercises like chest flies and leg extensions is the only way to make their muscles grow. But basic moves such as bench presses and squats force several muscle groups to work together, imposing more stress on your body for bigger gains.

“Your body reacts to all that stress by having the anterior pituitary gland issue more growth hormone to compensate for the extra effort,” says Allen Hedrick, C.S.C.S., head strength-and-conditioning coach at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Of course you need variation, but don’t abandon basic moves in favor of intermediate isolation exercises.

Fix it: Write down the exercises in your routine to see what percentage of them are compound moves. “If it’s not in the range of at least 40 to 50 percent, then you’re doing too many isolation exercises,” says Bell.

Lunchtime Hoops
Playing sports too often can sidetrack your muscle-growth goals. Muscles typically need 48 hours of rest to adapt to the stresses placed on them during exercise. “Engaging in extra activity also makes your body more likely to use any excess calories it has for fuel, and not for rebuilding itself,” says Bell.

Fix it: “Pull your cardiovascular activity back to the bare minimum—20 minutes, three times a week—to see what effect it has on your body,” Bell says. If cardio is indeed stealing your muscle, you should begin to notice strength improvements—being able to lift more weight or complete more repetitions—within 2 to 3 weeks. If your primary goal is to increase muscle size and strength, and not necessarily to build your overall health, try pulling back further. Can’t miss a game? During your workout, ease up on the muscles you use most in your extra activity so they have more time to recover.

Smoking and Drinking
You know smoking is stupid. You know you’re gambling with cancer, stroke, and other health issues. But did you know you’re also sabotaging your strength training?

“Smoking places carbon monoxide in your system, which prevents your muscles from getting as much oxygen to use for energy,” says Scott Swartzwelder, Ph.D., a clinical professor of medical psychology at Duke University. “The less oxygen your muscles have to draw from, the less efficient they are at contracting, which can limit their capacity for work.”

As for alcohol, it can cover your abs with a layer of lard and interfere with hormones that help build them. “Drinking alcohol on a regular basis can also keep your testosterone levels lower than usual and decrease muscle mass,” says Swartzwelder.

Fix it: Quit smoking, and don’t worry about becoming a cold-turkey butterball. “Getting in at least 30 minutes of exercise three or four times a week not only helps control body weight, but can also produce positive psychological effects that might diminish the need to smoke,” says Swartzwelder. Drinking moderately (two drinks or less per day) won’t harm testosterone levels and can actually improve your cardiovascular health, he says.

Starvation
You need to eat after your workout. Right after a session, your body is hustling to convert glucose into glycogen so your muscles can repair themselves and grow. “If you don’t eat after exercise, your body breaks down muscle into amino acids to convert into glucose,” says John Ivy, Ph.D., chairman of kinesiology at the University of Texas.

Fix it: After you work out, eat a high-carbohydrate meal—and don’t forget the protein. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that a four-to-one carbohydrate-to-protein ratio can provide 128 percent greater muscle-glycogen storage than a high-carbohydrate drink alone. (They used Endurox R Recovery Drink in the study.) For even greater results, have a sports drink before and during exercise.

Craig Ferguson
If you don’t get enough deep sleep, your muscles can’t recover. Moreover, says Catherine Jackson, Ph.D., chairwoman of the department of kinesiology at California State University at Fresno, when you work out on insufficient sleep, you exercise at a lower intensity than you realize—but you feel as if it’s high. So your muscles are less likely to receive enough stress to grow.

Fix it: Go to bed and wake up at set times every day, even on weekends, to keep your sleep cycles regular. Avoid caffeine—and perhaps exercise—for 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Elevating your heart rate before bed can interfere with sleep, Jackson says.

Sugar
Sugary drinks like soda can fool your body with a blood-sugar spike, making you prone  to skip “other, nutrient-dense foods you could be eating,” says Bell. If your sugar habit limits your intake of muscle-building amino acids, it will sap the fuel you need for your workouts, says New York City-based celebrity trainer Steve Lischin, M.S., C.P.T.

Fix it: Water and low-sugar sports drinks are your best bets. But sugar hides elsewhere. “Watch out for dried fruits, certain nutrition bars, and even ketchup,” Lischin says.

Thirst
For the active man, eating about a gram of protein for every 2.2 pounds of body weight helps build muscle—if the protein is processed correctly. “A high-protein meal has a slight diuretic effect,” says Lischin. When the body uses protein for energy, it has to remove the nitrogen component of the molecule to turn it into glucose. “This requires plenty of water,” he says.

Fix it: Drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day and divide your protein among five or six small meals throughout the day. “Eating an average of 25 to 30 grams each meal is ideal,” says Lischin. “Not only will you put less stress on your kidneys, but you’ll also utilize more of the protein you’re ingesting by giving your body only as much as it can use each time.”

Wikio

8 Weight-Lifting Fixes for More Muscle



By: Charles Staley
I’m a sports-performance coach. For 20 years, I’ve been hanging around in gyms, coaching thousands of football, basketball, and track-and-field athletes on how to build muscle and lose weight. I show up before the gym rats and leave after they jump ship. And that means I’ve seen every mistake that is humanly possible to make. Stupid mistakes. Dangerous mistakes. And maybe worst of all, time-wasting mistakes.

Time is always a crucial factor, whether a guy is trying to survive training-camp cuts or hustling back to the office before the boss puts him in for the next round of layoffs. Save a minute, add more muscle. It’s a principle you can build on.

Here are the most common mistakes I see in the gym. Let this be the last time I warn you.
You Don’t Use a Training Log
It’s hard to break records that don’t exist. So invest in a clipboard. Then focus on lifting more total weight each workout. It’s the key to building muscle. Here’s how: Multiply the amount of weight you lift for each exercise by the total number of times you lift it. Then increase that number every workout by moving heavier weights, increasing your repetitions, or doing more sets. So if in your last workout you did three sets of 10 repetitions of the bench press with 150 pounds, your total to beat is 4,500. Accomplish that goal by doing four sets instead of three, 11 repetitions instead of 10, 155 pounds instead of 150, or a combination of the three.

Beginners take note: Training logs aren’t just for the big fellas. In a 2002 study, YMCA researchers found that 70 percent of exercisers who set goals stuck with their programs for the entire year. By contrast, three-quarters of those who didn’t set goals dropped out.
You Try Too Hard
Working your muscles to failure—the point at which you absolutely can’t do another repetition—isn’t the best way to get bigger and stronger. As your muscles fatigue, they use fewer fast-twitch fibers, which have the greatest potential for size and strength gains. For most exercises there’s an easy fix: You can simply use a weight that allows you to finish all of your repetitions.

But body-weight exercises like chinups don’t allow that luxury. The solution: Cut your repetitions in half and double the number of sets you do. So if you can do only three sets of four chinups, you’ll switch to six sets of two repetitions. That way, the total number you do is the same as in your typical three sets of four, but you’ll focus your training where it counts the most—on those fast-twitch muscle fibers.
You Have a Big Ego
Don’t feel terrible if you’re guilty of trying to lift more weight than you can handle. It’s a product of our natural inclination to be better than the other guy. (If we can’t have his job, his house, or his car, we can at least outlift the smug bastard.) But the only way heavy weights benefit your end goal is if you lift them with perfect form. Item #5, on the next page, describes a few of the signs that you’re working with more weight than you can handle. Some less obvious clues:

You can’t perform an exercise through its full range of motion. For instance, on a squat, you know you should lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. But if you’re using too much weight, you don’t dare go down that low for fear of getting stuck, so you stop halfway and then return to the starting position.

You can’t do your entire set without the help of a spotter. You should always have one on hand for your maximum-weight sets, but he’s there for safety, not to actually help you perform your repetitions.

You can’t hold on to the bar without wrist straps. Straps are effective if you use them occasionally, but many men use them on all their sets to mask weak grip strength. You’re better off using weights you can hold without assistance, and forcing your grip strength to improve along with muscle size and strength. Trust us: Lift without straps and soon you’ll be lifting more than you ever could with them.

Your lower back arches like a sapling in a windstorm on bench presses and arm curls.

Universal ego-fixing drill: Once a month, do 10 sets of a single repetition of an important exercise such as the bench press, squat, or deadlift. Use about two-thirds of the maximum weight you’re capable of lifting on that exercise. If possible, have a trainer or knowledgeable friend evaluate your form. Strive for perfection on each repetition. Once perfect form for that exercise becomes second nature to you, you’ll reap greater gains—with fewer injuries—from your normal workouts.

You Do the Same Old Exercises
Muscles get bigger and stronger when they’re challenged with new exercises and techniques. And yet gyms are filled with guys who are still doing the same exercises they learned in their first workout program—no matter whether they learned them 2 months or two presidential administrations ago. Chances are, their muscles stopped responding to the exercises halfway through Paula Jones’s deposition.

All exercises have an expiration date. A general guideline: If an exercise uses more than one joint (for example, the bench press uses the shoulders and elbows; the squat uses the hips and knees), you can do it for 8 weeks before you should switch to another exercise for the same muscles. If it involves a single joint (biceps curl, triceps pushdown, lateral raise), find a substitute after just 4 weeks.

Below are some popular exercises and good substitutes (find exercise descriptions at http://www.menshealth.com).

If you’ve been doing . . . Leg press
Switch to . . . Squat
And then to . . . Wide-stance squat

If you’ve been doing . . . Leg curl
Switch to . . . Romanian deadlift
And then to . . . Good morning

If you’ve been doing . . . Deadlift
Switch to . . . Sumo deadlift
And then to . . .Snatch-grip deadlift

If you’ve been doing . . . Barbell bench press
Switch to . . . Incline or decline bench press
And then to . . . Wide-grip or close-grip bench press

If you’ve been doing . . . Lat pulldown
Switch to . . . Pullup or chinup
And then to . . . Wide-grip, close-grip, neutral-grip (palms facing each other), or weighted pullup or chinup

If you’ve been doing . . . Arm curl
Switch to . . . Preacher curl or incline curl
And then to . . . Wide-grip or narrow-grip curl

If you’ve been doing . . . Triceps extension
Switch to . . . Overhead triceps extension (French press)
And then to . . . Incline or decline triceps extension

You Use Incorrect Form
Quit flexing. Mirrors are in gyms for a reason, but not that reason. They’re the easiest way for you to monitor your form and avoid injury. Three signs you’re doing an exercise wrong:

The barbell isn’t parallel to the floor. If it’s tilted to one side, you’re applying more force with one arm or leg than the other. Keep your movement precise and consistent throughout each repetition—as if you were performing each exercise on a machine.

Your lower back is rounded. This isn’t a mistake in all exercises (you have to round your back to do most abdominal exercises properly), but it shouldn’t happen during squats, deadlifts, or rows.

Your torso sways forward and back. On power exercises—deadlifts, squats, cleans—your torso needs to move. But if you sway like a mast on the Edmund Fitzgerald while doing curls, rows, or presses, you’re doing something wrong (see #3 for the most likely explanation).

You Run Too Much
A little running—about 20 minutes on the days following your weight-lifting sessions—can help you recover from your workouts faster. But a lot of running can prevent your body from gaining muscle and strength. One possible reason: Running damages your lower-body muscles, and exercise-induced muscle damage significantly decreases leg strength, according to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Sports Science.

Don’t run or cycle the day before a weight workout in which you plan to work your leg muscles.

You can do a light run the day after a leg workout to help speed recovery and reduce muscle soreness, but a hard run will probably undo the benefits of the weight workout.

Don’t train for a triathlon or marathon while you’re trying to build serious muscle and strength. You can train for both endurance and strength throughout the year, but not at the same time.

You Warm Up on a Treadmill
For most men, warming up means running on a treadmill or pedaling an exercise bike. But that 10-minute aerobic workout only prepares the muscles of your lower body to lift.

A better way to warm up—especially when you’re crunched for time—is to focus on the specific muscles you’ll be using in your weight workout. Try this quick three-set routine. For your lower body, warm up with squats. For your upper body, use a combination of bench presses and rows. Start with a weight that you figure you can lift 15 to 20 times, but perform only six repetitions. Wait 30 seconds, increase the weight to an amount you can lift just 10 to 15 times, and do four repetitions. Rest again, increase the weight to an amount you can lift five to 10 times, and do two repetitions.

You Play to Your Strengths
It’s human nature to spend more time on the muscles that work best–a dangerous mistake, as it happens. A 2002 study found that 70 percent of men with recurrent hamstring injuries suffered from muscle imbalances between their quadriceps and hamstrings—the muscles of the front and back of the thighs. After correcting the imbalances with equal training for both areas, every man in the study went injury-free for the entire 12-month follow-up.

Use the general guidelines below to check your muscle balance. The strength ratio for each set of muscle groups represents the amount of weight that the first muscle group should be able to lift compared with the second muscle group. If one group is proportionally weaker than it should be, you have to hit it first in your workouts until it catches up.

Muscle group: Quadriceps (front of thighs)
Opposing muscle group: Hamstrings (back of thighs)
Ideal strength ratio: 3:2
Sample exercises: Leg extension, leg curl
Sample weights (lb): 90:60

Muscle group: Biceps
Opposing muscle group: Triceps
Ideal strength ratio: 1:1
Sample exercises: Arm curl, triceps extension
Sample weights (lb): 45:45

Muscle group: Front shoulders
Opposing muscle group: Rear shoulders
Ideal strength ratio: 2:3
Sample exercises: Cable front raise, cable bent-over rear-shoulder raise
Sample weights (lb): 20:30

Muscle group: Internal shoulder rotators
Opposing muscle group: External shoulder rotators
Ideal strength ratio: 3:2
Sample exercises: Cable internal rotation, cable external rotation
Sample weights (lb): 30:20

http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/get_more_muscle/index.php?cm_mmc=BONL-_-2010_Oct_20-_-HTML-_-dek

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Exercise Upgrades for More Muscle

What You’re Doing Wrong

Lunge

You’re leaning forward, causing your front heel to rise.

Perfect Your Form
1. “When you lunge, keep your torso upright, and focus on moving it up and down, not backward and forward,” says Rasmussen. This will keep your weight balanced evenly through your front foot, allowing you to press hard into the floor with your heel—and target more muscle.

2. “Drop your back knee straight down to the floor,” says Boyle. Consider this a second strategy to help you remember that you should drop your torso down, not push it forward, as you do the exercise.

3. “To work your core harder, narrow your starting stance,” says Gray Cook, M.S.P.T., the author of Athletic Body in Balance. The smaller the gap between your feet, the more your core has to work to stabilize your body. Your goal: Lunge so that it’s almost like you’re walking on a tightrope as you perform the exercise.

Rows and Pullups

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re ignoring the muscles that retract your shoulder blades.

Perfect Your Form
1. “When doing bent-over and seated rows, and any pullup variation, create as much space between your ears and shoulders as you can,” says Rasmussen. Pull your shoulders down and back and hold them that way as you do the exercise. This ensures you’re working the intended middle-and upper-back muscles.

2. “As you row the weight, stick your chest out,” says Mike Boyle, M.A., A.T.C., owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, in Winchester and North Andover, Massachusetts. This allows you to better retract your shoulder blades, which will lead to better results.

3. “Imagine there’s an orange between your shoulder blades,” says Grantham. “Then try to squeeze the juice out of it with your shoulder blades as you pull the weight or your body up.”

Straight-Leg Deadlift

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re rounding your lower back as you bend over.

Perfect Your Form
1. “To lower the weight, pretend you’re holding a tray of drinks and need to close the door behind you with your butt,” says Cosgrove. This cues you to bend over by pushing your hips back instead of rounding your lower back—a form blunder that puts you at risk for back problems.

2. “Try to ‘shave your legs’ with the bar,” says Weiss. The reason: Every degree the bar is away from your body places more strain on your back, which increases your chance of injury and limits the emphasis on your hamstrings and glutes.

3. “As you lift the bar, squeeze your glutes like two fists,” says Nick Grantham, a top strength and conditioning coach in the U.K. and the owner of Smart Fitness. You’ll ensure that you’re engaging your butt muscles. This helps you generate more power, lift more weight, and produce better results

Squat

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re starting the movement by bending your knees.

Perfect Your Form
1. “Sit back between your legs, not on top of your knees,” says Dan John, a strength coach based in Draper, Utah. Start your squats by pushing your hips back. “Most men tend to bend their knees first, which puts more stress on their joints.”

2. “When you squat, imagine you’re standing on a paper towel,” says Charlie Weingroff, director of sports performance and physical therapy for CentraState Sports Performance, in Monroe, New Jersey. “Then try to rip the towel apart by pressing your feet hard into the floor and outward.” This activates your glutes, which helps you use heavier weights.

3. “Instead of raising your body, think about pushing the floor away from your body,” says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness. “This helps you better engage the muscles in your legs.”

Bench Press

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re thinking only about pushing the bar up from your chest.

Perfect Your Form
1. “Every time you lower the weight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar to your chest,” says Craig Rasmussen, C.S.C.S., a fitness coach at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. This will help you build up energy in your upper body so that you can press the bar up with more force.

2. “As you pull the weight down, lift your chest to meet the barbell,” Rasmussen says. “This will aid your efforts to create a springlike effect when you start to push the bar back up.”

3. “When you press the weight, try to bend the bar with your hands,” says Pavel Tsatsouline, a fitness expert and the author of Enter the Kettlebell! The benefit: You’ll activate more muscle fibers in your lats and move the bar in a stronger and safer path for your shoulders.

Pushup

What You’re Doing Wrong
You’re letting your hips sag as you raise and lower your body.

Perfect Your Form
1. “When you’re in a pushup position, your posture should look the same as it would if you were standing up straight and tall,” says Vern Gambetta, the owner of Gambetta Sports Training Systems, in Sarasota, Florida. “So your hips shouldn’t sag or be hiked, and your upper back shouldn’t be rounded.”

2. “Before you start, contract and stiffen your core the way you would if you had to zip up a really tight jacket,” says Kaitlyn Weiss, a NASM-certified trainer based in Southern California. Hold it that way for the duration of your set. “This helps your body remain rigid—with perfect posture—as you perform the exercise.”

3. “Don’t just push your body up; push your hands through the floor,” Gambetta says. You’ll generate more power with every repetition.

By: Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S

3 Ways to Build Lean Muscle

by CHAD WATERBURY on AUGUST 2, 2010
Men want more muscle; women typically don’t. When a guy sees a mixed martial arts fighter such as Georges St. Pierre, or a model on the cover of Men’s Health, he knows he needs to gain muscle. However, when a woman sees a body like Jennifer Garner had in Elektra, she typically thinks, “I’d like to tone up and look like that.” In reality, Jennifer had to gain muscle to get that lean, sexy look. Toning up is nothing more than losing fatand building a little muscle.
Whether you want to look like St. Pierre or Jennifer Garner in Elektra, your goal should be to gain muscle and lose fat – build lean muscle, in other words. Since women have a fraction of the testosterone men have, they don’t need to worry about packing on extra muscle.
There are two primary benefits to gaining muscle. First, you’ll look harder and more defined when you lose fat. Second, you’ll boost your metabolism. Even just a few pounds of additional muscle can have a significant impact on supercharging your metabolism at rest (the jury’s still out on how much a pound of muscle actually boosts your metabolism, but regardless, it helps).
First and foremost, your diet must be in order to lose fat. With that in mind, here are three changes you can immediately make to your current workout program to make it more effective for building lean muscle.
1. Use enough weight: focus on lifting weights that don’t allow more than 12 reps per set. As a general rule, start with a weight you can lift 6-12 times for the first set. Shoot for 25 total reps per exercise with heavier weights (6RM) and 50 total reps with lighter weights.
2. Keep your rest periods short: one of the biggest mistake people typically make is that they rest too long between sets. Your heart rate should remain elevated throughout the entire workout. At some point during the workout you should be questioning whether you’re resting long enough. No rest is best between exercises – just enough time to transition between exercises. 30 seconds is the most you should ever rest when fat loss is the goal. As a general rule, 10-20 seconds between exercises works well.
3. Do Full-body workouts: every time you train you should perform upper and lower body exercises. This drastically increases the metabolic demand of the workout and keeps your metabolism elevated long after you leave the gym. Choose one upper body pull, one upper body push, and a squat or deadlift variation as a bare minimum to meet the full-body requirement. And be sure to put in full-body cardio strength exercises (eg, squat thrust with overhead press with dumbbells) at the end of your workouts to really crank up your metabolism.
And speaking of Jennifer Garner, I just did a cool video interview with her trainer, Valerie Waters. You can check it out here.
Stay focused,
CW

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