Bodybuilding Contest Prep: 3 Biggest Mistakes To Avoid

Contest Prep Mistake #1 – Time

You must give yourself enough of the above. Most people underestimate how long it takes to get in competition/photoshoot shape.

As a general rule, if you don’t have abs at the start of the diet, plan for 16-20 weeks. Otherwise you’ll have to crash diet, which will cause muscle loss and you’ll end up looking smooth and flat (in addition to becoming a public menace).

So, at first you must decide how many pounds you need to lose in order to get to the bodyfat level that you desire. From there on, plan your diet with a reasonable caloric deficit so that you will drop about 1-2 lbs of fat a week (it won’t be all fat, but that’s another article).

Keep training as you did before. I still go as heavy as I can, in order to keep as much muscle as possible. Higher reps with lower weights do not burn more fat, but will put you at risk for muscle loss. As for cardio, start adding it gradually as you go along.

It is also preferable to be in shape 2-3 weeks before the event. This will allow you to properly taper off from training. Someone with rested muscles will simply look fuller and better than the guy who was doing two hours of cardio until a day ago. At same time, being in shape early will give you a chance to post as many Facebook updates as your friends can handle.

Contest Prep Mistake #2 – Over-Reliance on Supplements, Especially Fat Burners

Here is how the typical contest prep starts: calories are being cut, cardio added or increased and a fat burner is being thrown in the mix with perhaps an estrogen blocker. Low and behold, the athlete loses weight, at least for a while.

The problem with that is: You don’t know what works.
Where do you go from here if you reach a plateau?

My approach is to keep some arrows in the quiver. At first you cut your calories by 500 a day. Your diet is responsible for 80+% of what you will look like, so it pays off to be meticulous in that department.

After two to three weeks of reduced calories, I start adding cardio for about 2×30 minutes per week. If you keep getting leaner while keeping your strength, stick with that approach. If not, I suggest cutting the calories further by 200/daily and adding a third cardio session. If your strength drops more than 15%, bump your calories (especially carbohydrates) by 40% for two to three days in order to upregulate the metabolism.

Finally, for the last 6 weeks you can use a fat burner to eliminate stubborn fat deposits. This will also help provide that extra boost of energy so you can make it through your workouts. I recommend to lay off the fat burner the last two or three days before your event since most of these substances can interfere with the carb load.

Contest Prep Mistake #3 – Last Week Changes

Here is where most people get confused and end up damaging themselves greatly by following some obscure last-minute sodium/carbohydrate/water depletion/loading scheme. The result is that they look worse than before.

Now to be clear –  water, salt and carbs will have an effect on your appearance, but a proper loading scheme will only make a good physique look great. It will not turn a mediocre body into contest shape in 7 days. In short, athletes who win shows look great the week before already. With that being said, let’s cover the big three briefly.

Carbohydrates: most athletes consume very few carbs the week before a show in order to deplete, and start carb loading on Thursday/Friday to store more glycogen in the muscles. The idea is to take advantage of the so-called “super-compensation” effect, where a carb depleted muscle sucks up carbs like a sponge thus creating a fuller and drier appearance. There is nothing wrong with that approach but there are many shades of grey.

I personally only do a mild depletion from Sunday to Wednesday before the show, where my carbs drop about 25-30%. Then I do a carb load Thursday through Friday and consume about 120% of my regular carb intake. Other people go zero carb for the whole week and only do a heavy load on Friday. For me, that approach doesn’t provide enough time to fill out, but you have to experiment for yourselves to see what works. Simply take notes as to how many carb days and what kind of carbs it takes to make you look awesome.

Here is the carb-load approach I used for my last show:

Sunday to Wednesday – I ate 150 grams of carbs as well as chicken and white fish for 300 grams of protein, fat was kept at a minimum.
Thursday and Friday – 3 meals of 4 oz chicken and 8 oz white potatoes, 2 meals steak and 1 1/2 cup of rice.
Saturday – Was pretty much the same, but I added salt.

Water: That is probably one of the most misunderstood subjects there is. Very often, water is being blamed for what really is fat. “Oh I am just holding some water.”  Think again.

Most people shouldn’t even try to manipulate their water intake. If your training/diet got you in great shape the week before, why change it now? If you feel you should use any kind of diuretic, legal or not, keep in mind that your muscles are mostly made from water and dehydration will leave you flat. Therefore, it is critical not to cut water out too early.

So what about the opposite: the dreaded spill over? Don’t despair, if you feel you have spilled it can be fixed by doing a light whole body pump workout. This will make you sweat and force the body to transport the water from under the skin into the muscle cells. Most people actually don’t spill, they were simply not lean enough in the first place.

If you must know, I did cut my water late Friday afternoon and only sipped through pre-judging. Use what works for you. I have seen people jugging down a gallon backstage and still winning the show. Everybody is different.

Salt: salt, like water, is very much misunderstood. A sodium de-loading and loading protocol will only make a very good physique even drier and crisper. But, if you are not vascular the days before a show, it’s not the salt that is holding you back. Again, you are not lean enough.

Sodium is needed to ensure that the muscle cells can contract and relax. All this is done via low electrical stimulus from the nerves. If sodium levels are inadequate for neuronal function, then a muscle cell will fail to function properly. This is why long periods of cutting sodium out don’t make any sense.

Without sodium, you cant get a pump and your body will appear flat. Cutting sodium out on Friday and re-introducing it on Saturday before pre-judging should do the trick.

Some athletes don’t bother without it at all and still look great. Again, it is all about observing and paying attention to detail.

These are the three biggest pitfalls when it comes to achieving peak condition. With your newly gained knowledge you should be able to get yourself into top shape.

4 Bodybuilding Supplement Scams to Avoid

suppscam
The world of bodybuilding has its fair share of supplement companies marketing their products with hyped up claims. Some of these supplements are go-to products that many bodybuilders “think” they need, when in reality, they’re really just wasting their hard-earned cash.

We’ve compiled a short list of the Top 4 Supplement Scams out there that have grown popular. You’ve probably bought one or more of these already! Save your money and use it on supplements that actually provide you with benefits.

ONE: “Advanced” Forms of Creatine

One of the most widely researched muscle compounds in existence is creatine. It’s been used by bodybuilders and athletes since the mid 1990’s and is most commonly sold in the form of creatine monohydrate.

Over the last decade, we have seen companies out there release new “breakthrough” forms of creatine that supposedly is more effective than the original monohydrate form. These “new” forms include: creatine ethyl ester, creatine hydrochloride, buffered creatine, creatine nitrate and creatine malate.

Don’t let the marketing hype fool you – not one study has ever been performed that has shown any of these “advanced” forms deliver any benefits above and beyond the monohydrate form. In fact, several studies show that certain forms, one being ethyl ester, are actually inferior.

These supplement companies will jack up their price range for their “new and improved” creatine product that delivers equal or even worse results than the original.

Save your money and stick with 3-5 grams per day of high quality, German-grade micronized creatine monohydrate.

TWO: Weight Gainers

First off, there’s nothing wrong with taking a weight gainer in controlled amounts, just keep in mind that all they really are is a basic mix of whey protein and simple sugar. Yes, that’s it!

A far better approach would be to add your own blend of carbohydrates and healthy fats to whey protein powder. You can add oatmeal, fruit, natural nut butters and healthy oils (like flaxseed or extra virgin olive oil) are all great options.

This will give you the high calorie density that you’re after while still giving your body a great dose of minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients and fiber, rather than a bunch of nutritionally void sugar.

THREE: L-Arginine (“Nitric Oxide Boosters”)

The idea behind NO2 products is to enhance oxygen delivery and blood flow to your muscles in order to increase nutrient uptake and give you a permanent pump and lasts throughout the day.

Usually, these NO2 Products are based off of different forms of the amino acid l-arginine, with l-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate being the most widely used.

This is the perfect scam for dishonest supplement companies out there since l-arginine is a dirt cheap ingredient that can be easily added to pre-workout formulas and other products to hype up labels and keep production costs to a minimum.

The problem for you as the consumer is that there is absolutely zero research showing a positive relationship between l-arginine and an increase in nitric oxide or muscular performance. That is correct, ZERO.

If you’re looking for a truly effective way to enhance your workout strength, energy and focus, one suggestion is to use a natural human growth hormone (HGH) spray like Sytropin. It’s safe and legal!

FOUR: L-Glutamine

I know you’ve heard about glutamine. It’s been a staple part of bodybuilding supplement plans for decades. Even though many bodybuilders swear by it, the concrete research on glutamine is extensive and shows minimal results.

First off, a very large portion of orally consumed glutamine never will make it to your muscles at all and is instead used as energy by the intestines. Percentages vary, but the average seems to be around 65%.

Second, around 10% of your total protein intake is already made up of l-glutamine. That means if you’re consuming 200 grams of protein per day, you’re already taking in 20 grams of l-glutamine right there. Don’t think that consuming more is better. It’s not.

Third, pretty much all of the standard claims about l-glutamine’s effects on bodybuilders have been debunked over many different studies.

Save your cash – you don’t need to add l-glutamine to your supplement list.

pityfool

Now that you’ve seen our list, make wiser choices when it comes to your supplement routine and don’t be made a fool by companies that don’t have your best bodybuilding goals in mind.

Top 10 Supplements For Bodybuilders (2016)

Ask any bodybuilder out there what supplements they are currently cycling through and you’re bound to get a different answer. What works for Joe doesn’t work for Harry. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of supplements on the market targeting the bodybuilding and weight lifting circuit. It’s easy to get lost as you try to figure out what’s legit vs. just a bunch of hype.

If you choose wisely, certain bodybuilding supplements will easily be worth more than their cost by helping you achieve hardcore results. A bodybuilder’s biggest mistake is to ignore the nutritional supplement aspect of the sport.

Here at Ripped Science, we pulled a team together and spent months researching hundreds of supplements and came down to this ultimate Top 10 list.

Are you ready for it? The countdown begins…

NUMBER TEN: GREEN TEA

pure inventions

WHICH TO BUY: If you’re looking for the best green tea extract, liquid is better than capsules. Our top pick for you is nothing other than Pure Inventions Green Tea Antioxidant Extract.

WHY USE IT: Simply stated, green tea is your tool to shred fat. Green tea elevates norepinephrine levels which prolongs thermogenesis. Translation? You will be turned into a fat-burning machine.

NUMBER NINE: MULTI-MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS

solaray

WHICH TO BUY: We zeroed in on a product called Solaray Mega Multi Mineral which contains several times the amount of amino acid content than ordinary products. This product is also “reacted” with whole rice concentrate opposed to soy or yeast.

WHY USE IT: If you’re training hard, which you should be, then consuming a multi-mineral supplement is a good idea to reduce the effects of excessive ROS and inflammation produced from the intense training. You don’t want to risk being deficient in anything, do you?

NUMBER EIGHT: FIBER SUPPLEMENTS

raw fiber

WHICH TO BUY: We’re big fans of Garden of Life products and they just so happen to have a product called Raw Fiber – Beyond Organic Fiber. It contains 15 Raw Organic Superfoods and is sure to keep you in tip-top shape…especially in the bathroom.

WHY USE IT: With all the caveman portions of protein you’re eating, it’s important to get in some good fiber to help you get rid of toxins and also to keep your digestion in line.

NUMBER SEVEN: ESTROGEN BLOCKERS

equalize

WHICH TO BUY: Our research pointed us in the right direction when we discovered Equalize by ACN. This product uses ground-breaking ingredients to enhance testosterone and stop testosterone from converting into estrogen. Two other products we recommend are AntlerX IGF-1 and Alphatropin for the ultimate stack.

WHY USE IT: I don’t know one bodybuilder that wants an above normal amount of estrogen. Yes, believe it or not, men do produce estrogen and it can wreak havoc on your gains. An estrogen blocker is imperative to keep your hormone levels balanced and minimize muscle loss.

NUMBER SIX: GLUCOSAMINE AND CHONDROITIN

synotrex

WHICH TO BUY: It wasn’t rocket science for us to figure out which supplement nails it when it comes to joint health. If you haven’t added Synotrex to your daily routine yet, better go grab it. NOW.

WHY USE IT: Every bodybuilder knows the importance of joint health. If you don’t support your joints, you might as well sit on the bench. Over time, if you skip joint health, it will be a huge (and I mean HUGE) regret!

NUMBER FIVE: POST-WORKOUT RECOVERY

bsn

WHICH TO BUY: The post-recovery workout powder we salute is BSN’s Amino X.  This BCAA formula supports endurance during your workout and aids in muscle recover post-training. BOOM! You need this! Blue Raz is our favorite taste of the bunch.

WHY USE IT: All you hear about these days is pre-workout and how many scoops you took that day. But, equally important (if not more), is post-workout because if you don’t recover, how will you hit it harder and make gains? You follow me?

NUMBER FOUR: ANTIOXIDANTS

swanson

WHICH TO BUY: We searched high and low and finally found the supplement to win this category: Swanson Premium’s High Potency Antioxidants delivers a comprehensive collection of powerful antioxidants – including, vitamins C, E, selenium, SOD and more.

WHY USE IT: If your immune system is suffering, so are your workouts. You need antioxidants not only improve your immune system response, but to reduce oxidative stress. It’s time to challenge free radicals and stop them in their nasty tracks!

NUMBER THREE: OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

fish oil

WHICH TO BUY: We love fish oil, but we don’t like fish oil supplements that are not tested for heavy metals or impurities. We also don’t like fish that aren’t wild-caught. Thankfully, there is a wonderful product by AMRAP Nutrition that is the Fish Oil of champions.

WHY USE IT: Fish oil is crucial to improve athletic recovery and is also an anti-inflammatory. Despite what you saw on a gym meme, you can definitely gain without the pain. Everyone knows that lubing up is always better! Your joints will thank you.

NUMBER TWO: CASEIN-WHEY PROTEIN

grow

WHICH TO BUY: You need to care about the whey you use. If you don’t use whey from grass-fed cows…you’re going to screw up your hormone levels. Thankfully, on the 8th day God created Xwerks Grow – the cleanest, nutrient rich protein you can drink!

WHY USE IT: I’m not sure this one needs an explanation. If you don’t know that this helps up your daily protein intake, and is a staple for bodybuilders worldwide, then you must be a newbie. Hit the weights, kid!

NUMBER ONE: CREATINE

creatine

WHICH TO BUY: There are so many to choose from, but after a ton (and I mean a TON) of research, we decided that Optimum Nutrition’s Micronized Creatine Powder wins the gold medal prize. It’s packed with 99.9% pure creatine with no fillers or additives.

WHY USE IT: Adding this to your supplement regime is a no-brainer for bodybuilders. I’m not sure you can call yourself one if you don’t use it. In short, if you’re ready to have insane strength and power, this stuff is for you!

 

Do You Have A Rotator Cuff Injury?

As you are probably aware, injuries to the rotator cuff are fairly common to athletes and bodybuilders. The shoulder is actually a complex series of joints that can be difficult for the average Joe to understand. As a result, many rotator cuff injuries are self-diagnosed and are likely to be something else entirely.

In the event a legitimate rotator cuff injury rears its ugly head, staying informed on how to deal with it is absolutely critical to proper healing.

First, let me describe what the rotator cuff is, which may be confusing all by itself. The rotator cuff is four muscles in the shoulder that are responsible for some of the shoulder’s motion. A lot of that motion involves the rotation of the humerus, the long bone in the arm, which is why the group of muscles is referred to as rotators. Another major role these muscles play is the stabilization of the shoulder, which is a series of joints that requires muscular stabilization to allow for greater range of motion.

rotator-cuff

When one of the muscles, or the tendons that connect the muscles to the bones, becomes torn, either partially or completely, you have a rotator cuff injury.

In one study of athletes, the research indicated that only 10% of partial tears heal completely, and another 10% heal partially. 53% of tears will actually worsen and 28% will progress into full tears, which do not heal on their own. In some cases these tears can cause long term changes to the joint itself.

The acute phase of rotator cuff treatment occurs immediately after the injury occurs and will continue until pain free range of motion (below shoulder height) has been achieved and normal daily activites are relatively pain free.

Apply cold therapy and compression wrap to the shoulder. This will help reduce pain and inflammation. Apply ice for up to 15 minutes every 2 hours, gradually reducing the frequency of applications as the shoulder improves. Posture is important and sitting upright with the shoulders back, especially when sitting at a desk or using a computer can help relieve symptoms. Also, it’s not a bad idea to add a natural supplement for joint aches and pain, like Synotrex.

A doctor may prescribe NSAID’s or anti-inflammatory medication (e.g. ibuprofen) may help in the early stages although it is argued they are not as effective later on or if the injury becomes chronic. Always check with your Doctor before taking medication if you are not sure. Electrotherapy, such as ultrasound, may be beneficial to reduce pain and inflammation.

shoulder-pain

RECOVERY PHASE

The recovery phase begins when the initial pain and inflammation has dissipated, most normal daily activities are pain free and the injured arm has at least 75% range of movement compared to the uninjured one.

Aims:

  • Regain full, pain free range of motion
  • Normal upper body strength
  • Normal shoulder joint movement patterns

Range of Motion

This is achieved by wand or pole exercises which help with flexibility above shoulder height, progressing onto stretching and mobility exercises without assistance from a pole. Scapular control is progressed with balance board exercises on your hands, press up type exercises and ball catch and return exercises.

Strengthening

Exercises to isolate the rotator cuff muscles can begin including strengthening exercises which concentrate more specifically on the external rotator muscles (the ones that rotate the arm out) and the scapular stabilizers (muscles that support the shoulder blade). It is also important to strengthen the whole joint with weight training exercises such as the bench press, shoulder press (military press) and pull downs – but with very light weights. For example, aiming for 12 to 20 reps of a light weight concentrating on correct technique.

Shoulder pain

FUNCTIONAL PHASE

During the functional phase exercises which are more sports specific are introduced in preparation for returning to full training and competition.

Aims:

  • To increase power and endurance in the upper body muscles
  • Improve strength of the shoulder joint in all directions
  • Introduce sports specific shoulder exercises

Increasing Power

This is done through more plyometric or explosive type exercises and may depend on your particular sport. Sports specific exercises using exercise bands and throwing and catching type exercises with mini medicine balls can be done.

Game of Thrones Celebrity Reveals 9-Meal-A-Day Lifestyle

Thor Bjornsson (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) plays Gregor Clegane in the hit HBO show  Game of Thrones and his massive size isn’t based on a small diet plan.

The Mountain Who Rides posted on Instagram his entire meal plan:

7:30am Breakfast: Eight eggs, 200g of oats, blueberries, strawberries and avocado.

9:30am Second Breakfast: 400g of Beef, 400g of sweet potatoes, and a handful of spinach and greens.

11.50am: Glutamine and BCAA.

Noon Lunch: 400g of chicken plus 400g of potatoes, with greens and some fruits.

2:00pm Snack: A shake consisting of 50g oats or sweet potatoes, 2 bananas 150g Kelloggs Rice Krispies, frozen berries, a handful almonds, peanut butter and glutamine .

thor2
On Tuesday, Thor posted a video of himself on Instagram lifting 705lbs

2:30pm: Strongman training and more supplements.

5:30pm Snack: 60g of protein and two bananas.

6:00pm Dinner: 500g of beef with potatoes and greens.

8:30pm Second Dinner: 500g of salmon plus 500g of sweet potatoes.

10:30pm Late Night Snack: Six eggs with avocado, almonds and peanut butter.

Thor says that he drinks a lot of water throughout the day, plus juices to get in more calories. He also added that in addition to this massive food intake, he also snacks on more protein or a few more raw eggs in the middle of the night.

The Icelander has been Europe’s Strongest Man two years running and has placed in the top three of the World’s Strongest Man for the past four years. Perhaps, he’ll take the crown for the World his next go at it.

This is definitely a dietary lifestyle that isn’t for everyone!

Bodybuilding 101: How Effective Are Steroids?

One question that often plagues bodybuilders is whether or not to use steroids. They want to know how effective steroids actually are compared to staying natural. Also, they are concerned by the risks. By reading this, you’re taking an important step to educating yourself prior to answering this question for yourself.

HOW EFFECTIVE ARE STEROIDS?

Simply said, a “steroid” is an “anabolic steroid” which is a man-made substance that has similar effects to the body as testosterone, including increased muscle growth, strength, leanness and recovery.

While testosterone itself is the best known steroid, there are many others that are quite popular among athletes and bodybuilders, including:

  • Nandrolone
  • Stanozolol
  • Trenbolone
  • Oxandrolone
  • Deca Durabolin
  • Dianabol
  • Methandrostenolone
  • Boldenone
  • Oxymetholone
  • Drostanolone

Each of these have unique profiles in terms of potency, toxicity, side effects and synergism. They are combined in various ways to create different types of steroid “cycles” for different purposes and goals.

As I heard one popular bodybuilder say, “It takes a lot of hard work to build a top-tier physique, but it also takes a lot of drugs.”

The fact is that you can only build so much muscle and get so lean naturally.

One scientific study performed at Maastricht University found that during a period of 10 weeks, individuals who practiced resistance training while on anabolic steroids gained 4 to 11 pounds of lean muscle mass. Individuals who did weight training while using anabolic steroids gained 16 pounds of lean muscle mass in just 6 weeks.

There have been numerous studies on steroid use. The below graphic shows the results from a study at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

43 men were divided into 4 groups
Group 1: Placebo with no exercise
Group 2: Testosterone with no exercise
Group 3: Exercise only
Group 4: Testosterone with exercise

All of the men were given a standardized diet to follow and the exercising subjects squatted and bench pressed three times per week for a total of twelve sets of six reps, with varying amounts of weights lifted in each workout. Muscle size was measured by MRI and strength was determined by actual one-rep maxes.

After 10 weeks, here’s what happened:

bodybuilding

As you can see, the men who took testosterone and exercised gained 3x the amount of muscle mass compared to the men who exercised only.

As a sidenote: the men used 600 mg of testosterone per week, which is a moderate dosage by today’s standards.

RISKS OF STEROID USE

Steroids may not be as dangerous as some people think, yet anyone who uses steroids and thinks they are safe and harmless is “whistling past the graveyard.”

Some side effects of steroid use are reversible and some are not. Permanent damage is definitely possibly.

For example, reversible changes include testicular atrophy (shrinking), acne, cysts, oily hair and skin, elevated blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels, increased aggression and lowered sperm count.

Irreversible damage includes male pattern baldness, heart dysfunction, liver disease and gynecomastia (breast development aka “man boobs”).

Another downside of steroid use is the risk of biological and psychological addiction. 30% of steroid users develop a dependence syndrome. This occurs due to the “invincible” feeling while on a steroid cycle, opposed to the “low” they get on an off-cycle.

Some people argue that you can mitigate or even eliminate the risks of steroid use if you properly manage your drug cycles and health, but that is wishful thinking.

Every time you inject or swallow steroids, you put a lot of stress on your body and there’s a chance something can go very wrong.

In the end, the choice is yours.

Does Cardio REALLY Kill Gains?

1For most of you guys out there, CARDIO sounds like a 4-letter word. When I first started training, I was told not to do cardio because I’d lose gains. I looked over at the treadmill with a big grin on my face and waved goodbye.

Years later, I finally was told the truth: steady-state cardio offers some serious advantages for lifters. Once I started incorporating it into my routine, I actually improved my performance in the weight room. True story.

TRAINING THE ENERGY SYSTEMS

To understand the value of steady-state cardio for lifters, we first need to understand what fuels our body. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is the currency our muscles use to pay for the work we do. ATP is the most basic form of energy and without it we’d be downright screwed.

We have 3 main energy systems we rely on to produce ATP:

  1. ATP-PCr system: This system kicks ass, but can only do so for six to ten seconds at a time. It’s the fastest at producing energy, but requires more time to recover.
  2. Glycolytic: This system is the intermediate one. It can hit hard and fast like the ATP-PCr system, but can’t sustain that for more than about 120 seconds of true work.
  3. Aerobic: This bad boy is awesome when it gets going. It takes longer to get up and running, but it’s incredibly efficient and you can count on it for hours at a time.5

High intensity forms of cardio such as sprints, and other HIIT-type training, work the ATP-PCr and glycolytic energy systems. This form of exercise is quick, dirty and straight to the point. You burn through a ton of ATP and glycogen in a short amount of time and you need longer to recover.

Aerobic cardio, on the other hand, can seemingly go on forever. Once you’re in the aerobic system, you can crank out ATP for hours on end thanks to its superior ATP production.

BENEFITS OF CARDIO

The most obvious point of cardio is that is easily improves body composition. In terms of physical development, the combination of resistance training and aerobic training is unmatched. This is likely due to the fact that resistance training increases metabolic rate, while aerobic training decreases hunger levels. Improved body composition also leads to increased leptin and insulin sensitivity, as well as increased testosterone and lower estrogen levels.

ADD CARDIO TO YOUR ROUTINE FOR NEW GAINS

One of the most long-standing arguments in the lifting world against aerobic training is that it wastes away muscle tissue. Lifters who have put in countless hours of work are worried they’ll see all of their hard work for their gains disappear. Poof!

This concern is a given and one that does seem to be a reality. But when done correctly, aerobic training won’t be responsible for destroying your gains in the weight room. In fact, it might be just what you need to move beyond the progress plateau.4

If you’re still concerned, the perfect options for you would be cycling, swimming, rowing or even some time on the (dreaded) elliptical. The higher impact the cardio, the more muscle loss that’s likely to occur.

4 Muscles Not To Ignore In 2016

On occasion bodybuilders train large muscle groups such as legs and chest very intensely, often to the exclusion and neglect of other body parts. This selective training can result in muscular imbalance in which some muscles become stronger than others. This increases the risk of injury. From an aesthetic standpoint, the physique looks fitter and more proportional when all muscle groups are developed to their fullest potential.

DON’T NEGLECT THESE:

GLUTES

Glutes / Gluteus Maximus - Anatomy MusclesThe key to developing the glutes is to perform specific exercises that isolate the major muscles of this area: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus.

Here are several exercises that directly work the glutes:

Glute squat: Take a stance slightly wider than shoulder width. Descend slowly – past the point at which your thighs are parallel to the floor – while keeping your weight on your heels. Sit back as you move through the exercise. This action keeps the leverage and emphasis off the frontal thigh and squarely on the glutes. Slowly return to the starting position. Keep your glutes tight throughout the exercise.

Reverse hyper-extensions: Lie face down on the hyper-extension bench so that your legs are extended off the bench and form a right angle to your torso. Keeping your glutes tight and your legs together, lift your legs upward in an arc. Squeeze your glutes even more tightly as you reach the contracted position. Lower the legs in an arc.

Leg press with glute emphasis: To work the glutes on the leg press simply take a wide stance and place your feet high on the platform. Press up and down in a single, continuous movement. Keep constant tension on all working muscles as you push through the exercise.

Stiff-leg deadlift: This exercise is a pure glute-isolation movement. To begin the exercise bend forward and arch your back. Stretch your hamstrings at the bottom as you pick up the weight. Keeping your legs straight or slightly bent, slowly lift the bar.

At the top of the movement tighten your glutes, drive your hips forward and lock your knees. Then slowly return to the start position, pushing your abdominals toward the floor. Pivot at the hip joint and not with your lower back. Keep everything tight in the process.

ERECTORS

pain in back.Medical concept

These muscles border each side of the spinal column. In people with poor abdominal tone, the erectors can become weakened and inflexible – a condition that can increase the inward curve of the back. This tends to lead to back strain and ultimately lower-back pain. Because strong abdominal muscles help support the spine and keep the back in proper alignment, a good idea is to regularly strengthen the abs as well as the erectors so that lower-back conditioning can be achieved and maintained.

Here are two exercises that will accomplish this:

Ab isolation: The type of abdominal exercise I recommend requires a partner and a slant board. Get into position by first hooking the insteps of your feet under the padded roller or bar at the top of the board. Then have your training partner lie face down behind you on the slant board. This position forms a cushion for your lower back and also secures the hip joint and lets you better isolate your abs during the exercise.

Clasp your hands behind your head and lift your torso up toward your knees. Keep your ab muscles completely tight and pulled in as you curl forward. Crunch down at the top of the movement. Then return to the starting position using the strength of your erector muscles. Be sure to pivot over your partner and not at your hip joint. Get a good stretch at the bottom of the movement.

Hyper-extension: This exercise is an excellent one for strengthening the lower back. Hook your heels under the hyper-extension apparatus so that your torso can move freely up and down. Clasping your hands behind your head, lower your torso toward the floor. Then slowly lift it up until your torso is parallel to the floor.

TRAPS

Trapezius - Anatomy Muscles

The trapezius muscles (known as the traps) are kite-shaped muscles that extend from the base of the neck down to the middle of the back. The traps deserve extra attention in training because they help support the shoulders and can be seen from the front of the physique.

The three best exercises for developing the traps are shrugs, lateral raises and behind-the-neck presses.

Shrugs: This exercise directly stresses the trapezius. Take a dumbell in each hand and hold them on each side of your body. Lift the dumbells while imagining being able to make your shoulders shrug as high as your ears. You can also perform shrugs with a barbell. Lift the weight using the strength of your traps. Be sure to squeeze your traps hard at the top of the movement. Lower the barbell and repeat the movement.

Behind-the-neck press: Sit on a bench or seat and take a wide grip on the barbell. Drop your shoulders and flex your lats. Press the weight to an overhead position and straighten your elbows. Then push the weight back slightly but without arching your back. This entire action isolates your delts. All the emphasis is right on your shoulders and traps. Lower slowly and repeat.

Lateral raise: With a dumbell in each hand and arms held along the sides of your body, lift the weights upward to about shoulder level. Keep your elbows rotated back. At the top of the movement lower your shoulders. Together the elbow and shoulder positions keep the stress firmly on your deltoids. Lower the dumbells and repeat.

FASCIAL STRETCHING

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To continue making gains you should incorporate my technique of fascial stretching – intense stretching between sets when the muscle is fully pumped – into your workouts. By opening up the area between the fascia (a protective sheath of connective tissue) and the muscle it surrounds, fascial stretching dramatically enhances muscular growth, size, separation and strength.

When the fascia is stretched the muscle underneath has more room to develop. Stretching also gives the muscle better shape, with more convolutions. As a result, muscular separation improves too. The overall effect is larger muscles and better separation between muscle groups.

Fascial stretching elicits responses in muscle groups that have reached sticking points in training. If you have a certain muscle that still seems at a stalemate in size, strength or appearance, then stretching that muscle will help you overcome these frustrating plateaus.

In addition, stretching loosens tight muscles, which tend to trap lactic acid. Lactic acid is a waste product that accumulates in muscle cells during hard training. When lactic acid builds up, muscular fatigue is the result. Stretching helps release lactic acid from muscle cells into the bloodstream so that lactic acid doesn’t interfere with muscular contraction. This loosening effect of stretching also helps you breathe better during workouts, thereby increasing your oxygen utilization for improved energy levels.

Fascial stretching is not a gentle, touch-your-toes type of exercise you might associate with conventional stretching. As the stretch begins the body part being trained is guided into position, stretched past the point of pain and then held in that position for about 10 seconds. You should exhale and relax as you go into the stretch. Do not hold your breath.

Bottom line: Pay more attention to your forgotten muscles, adding fascial stretches into your workout, and you’ll start making greater gains in size and symmetry in no time at all.

Is Alcohol Killing Your Physique?

I hope you’re not one of those guys that think, “If I train hard in the gym, the drinks I had from partying this week are cancelled out.” Think again. I truly hate to burst your liquid beer bubble, but alcohol can impact your body’s ability to burn fat and also lead the way to severe health problems down the road.

Alcohol is a toxin, plain and simple. When you down a few beers, your body on the inside immediately goes to work to break it down.  Alcohol (ethanol) is broken down into Acetyl CoA and NADH by an enzyme . What does this medical mumbo-jumbo mean for an athlete like you? Is booze actually even worse for athletes than it is for couch potatoes?

Get the rest of the story at  Bodybuilding.com.

Jedi Mind Tricks to Beat Your Food Addiction

With the new Star Wars movie hitting theaters soon, I found it appropriate to fully engage jedi mind tricks. It’s time to use the power of the force to beat your food addiction.

Food is a drug. This is an undeniable fact. Like cocaine, you can become physiologically addicted and the body shows withdrawal symptoms. The body will also feel a “high” in the brain after consuming food. Eating when you’re emotional (stressed) produces real, physiological relief like taking a Valium.

People are still suggesting to use willpower and discipline to fight cravings and beat food addiction, but that isn’t the solution.

You need JEDI MIND TRICKS.
Your entire approach has to be different from just “fighting it.”

Figure Out Your Eating Type – Then Dominate It

In Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink, PhD, he cleverly put many of us into five main categories based on our eating habits. Although categories aren’t new, his “catchy” category names can help you remember which kind of eater you are.

A. The Meal Stuffer – Meal stuffers eat primarily during mealtimes, but they stuff themselves and eat to excess. They often eat so quickly that they’re uncomfortably full after. These are the people with “great appetites” and often go back for seconds.

A man lying on a couch with sweets and popcorn in a mess

B. Snack Grazer – Snack grazers reach for food whenever it’s available. Convenience is usually the main reason. In other words, when food is available, they will constantly eat it as long as it’s there. Snacking is sometimes a nervous habit or something to do when bored. It’s popular for them to snack when watching TV, on the computer or reading.

C. The Party Binger – Party bingers usually work in corporate environments. Food is either a backdrop for business or fun and it’s easy to lose track of how much they eat or drink. Lots of social events, happy hours and business meetings equals lots of food and eating out.

D. The Restaurant Indulger – Restaurant indulgers are people who frequently eat out a lot at restaurants. Sometimes these are young college kids, other times they’re professionals who work a lot and don’t want to/don’t have time to cook. Thus, they eat out every day. Or, they simply enjoy restaurants – they eat whatever cuisine they want and don’t have to wash dishes. Restaurant dining is their simple life luxury.

Stress uomo in carriera

E. Desktop/Dashboard Diner – Desktop diners speed eat while multitasking on the computer or driving. They usually do it to save time, but also do it just to avoid the hassle of getting a real lunch. These people often eat alone and are more focused on the tasks they are working on opposed to what they are putting in their mouth.


Now that you know your own eating type, avoid going to the dark side. Prepare for these situations by having escape plans and strategically build your day around them.


An easy secret is to: (1) know your cues, and (2) avoid them. Spend time for 1-2 weeks recording a few things in writing:

  • What time of the day do I crave food?
  • What moods make me crave food?
  • In what situations do I usually over eat?
  • With what people do I usually eat the wrong foods?
  • What places usually end up causing craving? (Do you pass a bakery on your drive to work and “have” to eat a morning bagel with cream cheese?)

Swap the routine. So, let’s say you know that you eat food when you’re bored. Every time you start to feel bored, find something to do. For example, if you’re at home and you’re tempted to stream Netlix and grab a bowl of popcorn, instead turn off the TV and go for a walk around the neighborhood. Or, make a task list of home chores that need to be done and start checking them off one-by-one. Be productive.

portrait one sad man standing near a wall and covers his face

Do you suffer from mental chatter? I know that I do. I have a lot of self-talk going on when I try to fight food cravings. The more you focus on trying to talk yourself out of something, the stronger it becomes and the more it steals your attention. One of the easiest things you can do in regard to your mind is change your mental chatter.


Instead of looking at the ice cream and saying to yourself, “Oh man, that is my favorite flavor and tastes so good, ” tell yourself the truth, “I know I can’t have just one bite…I’ll eat the whole thing.” Next, remind yourself of your goals, “I will feel down on myself and totally regret this.”


I find that it’s helpful to not just “think” these thoughts, but to verbally say them. The mind is powerful, but what you say is even more powerful. Hear yourself say, “I don’t eat french fries or any fried foods” or “cheesecake will kill my gains.” It will quickly become part of your identity and pretty soon your mental chatter will end.

This doesn’t mean you can never eat a treat again. First, you need to fully control the addiction. Never “reward” yourself with food. Though it may seem impossible now, once you stop eating unhealthy foods, your body will eventually stop craving it. Sugar is the biggest food addiction, so when you conquer that one, be proud of your accomplishment.

The force is strong with you. Stronger than you think.

 

The Science Of Muscle Performance