Broccoli, or “little trees” as you probably called them as a child, is one of the most rejected foods on many plates, including adults. I seemingly recall staring at the green forest in front of me while vigorously shaking my head “no, no, no” until Mom added cheese on top. Since broccoli is one of the top health foods, it is also quickly despised by those who are sick of healthy foods being shoved in their faces. It’s time to re-visit the world of green goodness.
Broccoli has a lot to offer, both in the nutrients locked inside each green floret and in the flavors you can coax out of this relative to cabbage and cauliflower. Don’t give in to those negative feelings for this common super-food. It’s worth exploring!
17 Reasons to Love Broccoli:
Cancer – Broccoli reduces inflammation and oxidative stress while aiding natural detox. Antioxidants like indole-3-carbinol protect against cellular damage that causes many cancers. Broccoli also contains glucoraphanin which is converted into sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that kills bacteria known to increase cancer risks. It also reduces damage from the sun, removes toxins, and regulates the methylation of DNA.
Cholesterol – The soluble fiber in broccoli binds to and removes cholesterol during digestion, especially when lightly steamed.
Detoxify – Glucosinolate phytonutrients, like glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin, and glucobrassicin found in broccoli, help detox at the genetic level on up.
Balance Vitamin D – The vitamin K and vitamin A in broccoli help control the levels and effects of vitamin D throughout the body.
Anti-Inflammatory – The flavonol kaempferol reduces inflammation, combats allergies, improves heart health, and may even combat some cancers. Broccoli also contains some beneficial omega 3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation too.
Antioxidant – The antioxidant powers of broccoli deserve another mention since they help the body resist much more than cancer. Vitamin C and carotenoids like zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta carotene are plentiful in our friendly broccoli florets.
Heart – Sulforaphane reduces the inflammation of blood vessels and prevents or reverses the damage to the linings of these vital vessels. Lutein prevents the thickening of the arteries while B6 and folate help control heart palpitations.
Blood Pressure – The sulforaphane, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in broccoli all aid healthy and balanced blood pressure.
Digestion – Broccoli is low in calories while rich in protein and minerals to keep you full and satisfied while your cells are well-nourished. The fiber aids digestion and prevents constipation too.
Bones – Broccoli is rich in vitamin K and calcium for strong, young, healthy bones.
Nerves – The potassium, healthy fatty acids, and B vitamins in broccoli are good for the nervous system, keeping those signals firing and our nerve cells healthy.
Immunity – The sulfur compounds in cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli bolster the immune system and inhibit bacteria. Vitamin C, beta carotene, and the trace minerals zinc and selenium all play a role in immune system health too.
Alkalize – The nutrients and minerals in broccoli can help alkalize your system.
Arthritis – Sulforaphane prevents cartilage destruction and acts as a mild pain-killer by reducing inflammation.
Blood Sugar – The fiber and chromium in broccoli aid in balancing blood sugar.
Skin Health – Sulforaphane prevents and repairs damage done to the skin by the sun, healthy fats keep skin supple and inflammation free, and vitamin C builds healthy collagen.
Broccoli is at its best as sprouts or micro-greens, but it is still healthy steamed or lightly cooked. It is also more delicious than it gets credit for. You can search and find some amazing broccoli recipes and taste-test them for yourself.
Unless you’ve lived in a musical cave the past few months, then I’m sure you’ve heard Meghan Trainor’s hit song, “All About That Bass.” I decided that for today’s blog post, we’re going to get down to it and talk about the booty and how to make yours turn heads.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, it isn’t a surprise that the ass is a sexual turn-on for many. There is just something about those curves that turn the heads of both sexes. The glorious glutes sometimes get lost, especially with those that skip leg day.
I’ve got FIVE glute exercises to help you shake it like a Polaroid picture.
*NOTE: I fully exercise my right to make as many butt-related puns as I feel like during this article. Enjoy.
1. SINGLE-LEG ELEVATED GLUTE BRIDGE
Let’s start with the exercise that’s easiest to perform and requires the lease equipment. While you can do this bilaterally, I specify the single leg version simply because – though it’s a tad more advanced – it’s really the only version worth doing if your goal is posterior development.
When performing this exercise, it’s important to focus on two things: recruitment and position.
In order to make sure you activate and recruit the glutes to the fullest extent, don’t just think about lifting your hips; instead, think about driving your heel into the bench and focus on using your posterior chain to raise your body. Also, remember to flex and squeeze the working glute throughout the entire rep. To increase activation, lightly rest your hand on the cheek — it’ll look silly but will help out a bit.
As for position, how you finish the exercise is important here. Don’t just drag your ass off the ground and stop when you’re in the air — a fully executed rep ends when your hips are completely “locked out.” To make it simple, raise your hips as high into the air as you can. In the finished position, you should be able to follow a straight line from your knee to your shoulder.
This exercise is great for development, but I find it works best as both an activation exercise during a warm up and a teaching tool for helping people understand and develop increased awareness and activation.
2. BARBELL GLUTE BRIDGE / HIP THRUST
Staying with the same theme, let’s look at barbell glute bridges. Popularized by Bret Contreras, the barbell glute bridge (or BGB, as I like to call it because it’s more fun to say) is the exercise that contributed heavily to Bret becoming known as: The Glute Guy. (NOTE: It probably also helped that he registered the domain thegluteguy.com and uses it as his blog; but let’s not split hairs.)
There are a number of variations of the BGB, the main difference between them being the number of benches used, which varies from 0 to 2. Using multiple benches increases the range of motion, the difficulty and the name. Once you add in a bench, the name generally changes from a glute bridge to a hip thrust.
Even with the difference in names, the movements are similar in a few ways, not the least of which is that they both involve using your tuckus to drive your hips up while loaded with a barbell.
Here’s a video of big Bret rocking out the BBGB with just under 500 pounds.
Moving on to the hip thrust, you need to have your shoulders elevated, increasing the range of motion and lines of force. The hip thrust is more difficult, and because of that, perhaps more effective in a number of ways.
Here’s a video of Bret’s client, Kellie Davis, banging out reps with 225.
For more videos, check out Bret’s YouTube channel, which is the biggest collection of ass-related videos not on a porn site.
3. HALF-SQUAT FROM THE BOTTOM
I don’t think there’s a butt in the world that can’t benefit from squats. Moreover, I don’t think that there are many great butts that have been built without them.
Today, we’re going to take that one step further.
This highly specialized version of the squat is done for just half a rep — the bottom half. You see, the glutes are recruited more heavily as squat depth increases; therefore, it is the bottom half of the squat that involves them the most. By limiting the movement, you focus on the goods.
Here’s how it’s done: In a power cage, set the pins at just above where your shoulders would be if you were in the “rock bottom” position of a squat. Load it up, climb under and ignore the looks you get. As you come up, focus on flexing the glutes. Halt your ascent at roughly one-half of the way up, pause for half a second and come back down. Allow the bar to come to a stop on the pins. No bouncing!
This is a killer exercise because you’re moving the bar from a dead stop for every rep, there’s no possibility of cheating, and you completely take away any effect inertia would have had. The movement becomes much harder and is very effective.
Now, this variation of the squat is very specific. While useful in the context of glute training, in general, you should be doing regular squats as well.
4. KETTLEBELL SWINGS
I’ve often heard people say things like, “I do the stair climber for cardio because I also work my butt.” While that’s not totally untrue, it’s also not the best option. If you want to get your ass in shape figuratively while getting your ass in shape literally, KB swings are the way to go.
Now, I’ll say right off the bat that I’m not really a kettlebell guy. I like kettlebell exercises as a conditioning tool, and I see some value in terms of specific applications. This differentiates me from pure kettlebell gurus, a number of whom are passionately dogmatic about kettlebells.
Again, KBs are good for condition and specific application, one of those applications being glute training.
For a simple movement, it’s hard to beat the KB swing. Done with proper form, it works the majority of the posterior chain and hits the glutes like little else.
You can use the swing with mildly heavy weight as part of a more complete program, or you can use lighter weight and higher reps for a cardio / conditioning effect — each effective for different goals, but both effective with regard to your butt.
FURTHER READING: Tim Ferriss wrote a detailed post on how to use the KB swing to sculpt the perfect posterior, which you can read here.
5. GLUTE – HAM RAISE
I don’t know why I even bother to include the GHR, other than the fact that if I don’t, other fitness pros will blast me for leaving it out.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome exercise, if you’re part of the small 2% of people who don’t screw it up. Since I’ll assume that all of my readers are in that group, we can discuss.
There are two ways to perform the glute-ham raise: on a machine and without one, which is called a natural glute-ham raise. The machine version is generally easier for setup — at least in the sense that you don’t need a partner for it — but executing it is murderously difficult.
A few companies make decent GHRs, but the best one by far is produced by EliteFTS. If you’re considering picking one up, that’s the model I’d go with.
Most gyms don’t have a GHR machine, so let’s talk about some modifications.
The first of these is to use a friend. It’s somewhat difficult to manage, though.
To perform, kneel down on some padding and have your partner secure your feet behind you. Keep your trunk upright (your back straight and in line with your hamstrings) and lower yourself to the ground as slowly as possible. If you can pull yourself back up, do so. If you cannot, simply use your hands to work back into the starting position and perform another negative.
It looks like this:
If you don’t have a partner, there is another variation that makes use of the lat pulldown. Essentially, you’ll be using the knee rollers to hold your ankles in place and perform the GHR. This is the first version that I ever tried.
Here’s a lil’ snippy-snippet:
Looks easy? Nope.
All variations of this exercise are pretty easy to screw up.
Now, here’s how it’s awesome: While in many ways this is a hamstring exercise, it still works the glutes, oddviously. Specifically, this will work what we in the biz call “the gluteal fold,” or the glute-ham tie-in, the often-saggy flap where your butt meets your leg. Meaning that the GHR is going to help your ass look awesome when you’re naked more than almost any other exercise. Making it exceptionally important.
Bonus: Hill Sprints!
Yeah, hill sprints.
These are pretty much the most awesome form of cardio you can do. How do I know this?
Here’s my rating system:
Equipment Needed: hill, legs
Difficulty: varies (6-8)
So, basically, hill sprints are convenient, effective and make you look awesome. They’re hard, but worth it.
Also, because of the incline, they work the gluteal fold and make you bootylicious (yes, I went there).
Walter Payton, the greatest running back of all time, did these religiously.
All right, folks — time to sound off. No treble.
Written by: Tristan “Lucky”
1) Caterisano A, et al. “The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles.” Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. August 2002, 16(3):428-32.
2) Vakos JP, et al. “Electromyographic activity of selected trunk and hip muscles during a squat lift. Effect of varying the lumbar posture.”Spine. Mar 1994, 15;19(6):687-95.
Take a second to think about your gym routine. Typically you have it mapped out day-by-day which exercises you do. I bet you feel pretty good about the fitness moves you’ve incorporated. You’re hitting the big muscle groups and have become the local weight room champion. Plus, these moves you’ve mastered are so popular that they have to be effective. Right???
It’s time to find out if any of your fitness routine is actually falling flat — plus, expert-approved advice on taking your workout to the next level.
This gym-class standard needs an update: According to research from San Diego State University, the traditional crunch is the least effective strengthener for both the rectus abdominus (6-pack muscles) and the obliques (waist muscles).
What’s more, because sit-ups require more strength from front ab muscles than obliques, this move can create a strength imbalance in the core — setting you up for back problems.
UPGRADE: THE PLANK
Not only does the plank require more muscle activation in the obliques than the traditional crunch, according to research, but researchers have also found that practicing this position can actually help lower the risk of developing lower back pain later in life. How? The plank targets your abdominal muscles, helps to build muscular endurance and spares your spine in the process.
OVERRATED: PEC DECK/CHEST FLY
While research has found that the pec deck machine is a great way to build chest muscle, the fact is that this machine puts your shoulder joint in an extremely vulnerable position, as it simultaneously rotates and abducts. While this is especially dangerous for those with shoulder problems, using this machine can also cause injury in otherwise healthy exercisers.
UPGRADE: BENT-FORWARD CABLE CROSSOVER
Engaging the same muscles as the Pec Deck, the Bent-Forward Cable Crossover allows you to build strength quickly and effectively. But, it does it without unnecessary risk to your joints.
OVERRATED: BENCH PRESS
Though research has shown this staple gym exercise to be excellent for building chest and triceps strength, some bench press-related shoulder injuries are common enough to have earned the nickname “bench-presser’s shoulder.” Also, the bench itself limits natural movement in the shoulder blades, putting tremendous stress on rotator cuffs. As such, some fitness experts have deemed bench press unsafe.
Push-ups are a safe and (happily) equipment-free exercise that builds muscle in the pecs, triceps and shoulders while developing core strength. What’s more, it can be modified dozens of ways to work different muscles or increase the intensity and complexity of this tried-and-true, basic movement.
Note: Any of the products I’m suggesting I am not being paid to mention. I have actually tried and tested these products myself.
These days, it is the norm to hear people mention a food allergy or intolerance: gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, shellfish, and soy just to name a few. This can make it especially hard for those weight training when trying to find a protein powder or a bar they can eat without having side effects.
Some people (like myself) choose to only eliminate their food intolerance(s) while some other people will go all out vegan, paleo, or create their own special diet.
Sadly, I’m dairy intolerant. Prior to my blood test results, dairy was a staple in my diet. I had to learn my way around this new food obstacle and I found there were items that could be replaced without killing my taste buds. Of course, you can never truly replicate cheese – sorry Daiya, you’re close.
NON-WHEY PROTEIN POWDER? HMM…OR…MMM?
I had just bought a huge 4 lb container of MusclePharm’s Combat whey protein powder in my favorite chocolate peanut butter flavor. I stood there for what felt like hours just staring at it blankly. Then, I finally walked away after a very heavy sigh.
I had tried Jay Robb’s egg-white protein powder in the past and didn’t really enjoy it. I then bought some Hemp protein powder by Nutiva and after two attempts, it’s been in my cabinet ever since. It’s hard to compete with the taste of some of the whey protein powders out there that are packed with what I want AND the taste I need.
Finally, after doing a ton of research, I found PlantFusion. It’s a totally vegan protein powder that has:
1 scoop (30g) contains: 120 calories, 2g fat, 4g carbs, 4g sugar (frutose), and 21g of protein. Not bad!
I use the Chocolate and Cookies n Creme flavors on their own (sometimes add some peanut butter). With the Vanilla Bean, I toss in some frozen fruit. Tasty! I have not tried the Natural or Chocolate Raspberry. They do have a new product called “Phood” which I’m definitely going to order and try out! It’s supposed to be your daily supplements and protein shake all in one.
My next favorite vegan protein powder I found is by Sun Warrior. I have only used their Vanilla flavor and give it two thumbs up. This company has a variety of products most everything is Raw, Non-GMO, Organic and Vegan.
Both products contain a high profile of essential amino acids in a complete, balanced profile. Both also contain pea protein, which is a remarkable source of plant-based proteins and amino acids. Protein from peas satisfies all FAO essential amino acid requirements and include Lysine, Arginine, Glutamine, Leucine, Isoleucine & Valine (BCAAs).
PROTEIN BAR WITHOUT DAIRY, OR EGGS, OR…?
Next on my list was finding a bar that (a) was friendly to food allergies (b) wasn’t a sugar bar, and (c) tasted delicious.
This wasn’t an easy process. First I tried KIND bars. These, I admit, are very tasty, yet they just don’t contain the amount of protein I was wanting. Only 3g of protein per bar isn’t cutting it. These are NOT for anyone with a nut allergy, since the bar is basically all nuts. But, if you’re looking for a snack, this pretty much nails it.
Next on my list, was Betty Lou’s Organic Cacao Acai Bar. These bars contain cashews only, no other nuts. Again, the protein came in at a slim 5g per bar. The taste? Oddly very good.
I was about to call it quits when I stumbled upon a bar that blew my mind….seriously. AMRAP Bar Almond & Honey made me love life again. This isn’t vegan because it contains egg-white protein and to the nutty folks, sorry, it has almonds. Each bar delivers 15g of protein and this is becoming THE bar for the paleo enthusiasts. The bar itself is dense, so it fills you up. By the texture and taste, you can tell they went all out on quality for their bars. They also have Cashew & Vanilla and Fig & Cacao which I haven’t tried yet, but ordered them today!
Last, but certainly not least, is an innovative bar I stumbled upon this past summer on a trip to Austin, TX. EPIC bars are not your average protein bar. It’s a meat bar, but is softer than jerky, and contains ancient berries and premium nuts. All of their bars are 100% grass fed meat and my two faves are the Bison Bacon Cranberry bar and the Beef Habanero Cherry bar. Their other flavors include Turkey Almond Cranberry and Lamb Current Mint. With 10-14g of protein per bar and an “epic” source of omega-3, CLA, vitamins E and B12, antioxidants, niacin…and are gluten-free with no added sugar? I don’t know if it can get better than this! Seriously. These are what I call my “MAN” bars and I always try to keep one in my bag. When I flew back home I was thankful to find them at my local Whole Foods Market!
TELL ME YOUR FAVORITES!
Go ahead, don’t be shy – leave a comment with your favorites. I’m always game to try some new things.