Even if you hit the gym every day, if you aren’t lifting properly, you’re losing out on massive gains. Some guys who have been lifting for years claim to be lifting experts. While that may be true for some, we can certainly argue that the wisdom of others may be lacking.
While old-school lifting methods have been proven time and time again over the years, the fact is that there is a new biology to get bigger muscles. With the power of science, we are learning that the “big lifts=big gains+greater intensity=greater results” may not be as good as it gets.
Old Way: Go Hard or Go Home NEW WAY: DO LESS WORK, BETTER
To get the results you desire, you don’t have to push your body past its limits. Training actually will eventually become less effective as you tire and your form breaks down. After that threshold, gains dwindle and injury risk increases. The key is to figure out the dose that helps you meet your goals without putting your health at risk.
How to do it: Hold off on doing more than a total of 22 good sets in a workout if you’re looking to bulk up. Limit yourself to 4 sets per exercise. Australian researchers found that more than 4 sets offers diminishing results. I doubt you want that.
Old Way: Lift Heavy Always NEW WAY: GO LIGHT, GROW BIG
High weight, low reps is the age-old mantra of guys trying to pack on size and strength. Science has revealed that lifting lighter weights for more reps can boost growth as much as lifting heavy weights.
How to do it: Including both high and low rep sets in your workouts ensures that you hit both your fast and your slow twitch muscle fibers. First, do 3 sets of up to 30 reps. Then, load a bar with a weight you can squat, press, or lift 12-15 times and do those reps. Without letting go of the bar, set it down, take two breaths, and do 1-or-2 more repetitions. These are called “breathing reps.” Continue this process until you reach 20 reps. That’s 1 set. Do a total of 3 sets.
Old Way: Count Your Rest Period NEW WAY: MAKE YOUR REST PERSONAL
Exercise affects everyone differently and scientists have confirmed that over the years simply by finding that people differ significantly in their recovery needs. Without proper recovery, performance suffers, especially if you’re doing circuits. Use a heart-rate monitor to customize your rest. Wait until your heart rate reaches a safe level of true recovery between workouts.
How to do it: Determine your maximum heart rate. Then, multiply your age by 0.7 and then subtract that number 207. Then strap on a heart rate monitor and track your pulse between circuits. An example if your 30 years old: (30 x 0.7 = 21 and 207-21 = 186) Wait until your pulse lowers to a target HR zone which would be between 95-160 beats per minute.
These three simple methods will help your body take advantage of extra gains that you potentially could be missing out on. Now, go out there and share your new-found wisdom with your gym buddies.
I promised a post that shows a 3-step plan to help boost testosterone naturally. This formula has been successful for many guys, including myself, over the years. For some, it doubled their T levels within a 90-day period. We will cover this topic in a series of three posts so you get all the info without getting a migraine afterwards.
Testosterone levels are taking a nose dive. Studies have shown that the average male’s testosterone in today’s society is nearly 25% lower than in the 1980’s. Without the big T, men become infertile, impotent, docile, and weak.
The thing is, men’s testosterone levels in 2013 ranged from 270 – 1070 ng/dL. 100 years ago men’s testosterone levels were recorded to be between 800-2000 ng/dL!
This means that the men with “low testosterone” 100 years ago would be considered men with high testosterone now. This is an alarming statistic. And the trend is continuing each and every year! It is estimated that over 14 million men currently suffer with low testosterone levels.
The SECOND STEP to increase T naturally is: SUPPLEMENTS
While there are probably hundreds of different supplements on the market claiming they raise testosterone levels, not all of them actually produce the results you see in their ads and websites.
Another factor is where are these supplements being sourced? Even when you’re taking a regular vitamin, let’s say vitamin C, it’s important that you get this from a reputable company that is providing a natural source. Even when a vitamin is marked “natural”, it only has to include 10% of the actual natural plant-derived ingredients. The other 90% could be synthetic.
This is an important factor since what you put into your body is crucial for your health and longevity. I’m going to take this a step further and quickly discuss six categories of nutrients used in the manufacturing of vitamin supplements.
1. NATURAL SOURCE – These include nutrients from vegetable, animal or mineral sources, but prior to being bottled, they undergo significant processing and refining.
2. NATURE-IDENTICAL SYNTHETIC – This includes nutrients completely manufactured in a lab with the molecular structure identical to the same nutrients occurring in nature. Manufacturers often prefer this process because of the cost and scarcity of natural resources. Most standard vitamin supplements on the market today are this type.
3. STRICTLY SYNTHETIC – These nutrients are manufactured in a lab and are different than the same nutrients found in nature. Synthetic vitamins can have the same chemical constituents, but have different chemical compositions.
4. FOOD CULTURED – These are actually my preferred source and what I generally purchase for myself. This involves the same process behind cultured foods like yogurt, kefir, miso, and sauerkraut. Nutrient supplements are often grown in yeast or algae. Culturing in and of itself creates nutrients and can make them more bio-available.
5. FOOD BASED – One kind of food based supplement is made by enzymatically reacting synthetic and natural vitamins with extracts containing vegetable proteins and then making this into a supplement. This is not food cultured, because the nutrients are not grown into a whole food, as in the yeast/algae suspensions.
6. BACTERIAL FERMENTATION – This includes nutrients produced by genetically altering bacteria. Genetically altered bacteria can produce nutrient by-products.
One thing I’m going to say again, popping a few vitamins isn’t going to magically increase your T levels. This is a 3-part program. If you’re eating garbage and not exercising, no amount of supplements is going to help your testosterone levels reach optimal levels.
VITAMINS & MINERALS THAT NATURALLY BOOST T LEVELS
– Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 actually isn’t a vitamin, it’s a hormone — a really important hormone that provides a whole host of health benefits. Our bodies can naturally make vitamin D from the sun, but recent studies have shown that many Westerners are vitamin D3 deprived because we’re spending less and less time outdoors. When we do decide to venture outside, we slather our bodies with sunscreen, which prevents the sun reaching our skin to kick-off vitamin D3 production. If you’re not getting enough sun, you may have a vitamin D3 deficiency, which may contribute to low T levels. Studies have shown that men who take this supplement see a boost in their testosterone levels. Because I live in the Pacific Nortwest — and the sun isn’t out most of the year — I take 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 in the morning and could probably take more. Tim Ferris from the 5 hour body recommends 6,000 IU upon waking and 6,000 IU at night. Keep in mind that it may take someone already deficient 6 months to return to baseline levels.
– Omega-3 Fish Oil (EPA and DHA). First and foremost, I’m very picky with my fish oil. I only buy wild caught and make sure it contains low mercury and heavy metals. Fish oil has been shown to lower SHBG and increase production of Luteinizing Hormone (the hormone responsible for triggering the testes to produce T). You want to make sure you have enough of the “good” fats to clear the gunk out of your blood. hey have been shown to reduce triglyceride levels while providing your body with the fat it needs to produce testosterone. Fish oil is also known to help improve mood, which is a nice bonus.
– Zinc. Studies on zincs supplementation suggest that zinc plays an important part in regulating serum testosterone levels in healthy men. Zinc is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in western countries, and even a mild zinc deficiency lowers sex drive, limits muscle gain potential, causes weight gain and hurts energy levels. Zinc is also a powerful aromatase inhibitor that will greatly reduce the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in the body.
– Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is another widespread problem in our country. While this makes you prone to stress and muscle cramps, it also starves your body’s endocrine system of a vital mineral it needs for testosterone production. We wrote another article on how magnesium alone can send your testosterone levels through the roof. You have to check it out. Aim to get 400 mg daily.
– Vitamin C. Vitamin C reduces cortisol in your body. This is a very good thing. Less cortisol = more ability to produce testosterone and vice versa. So taking your vitamin C, along with de-stressing, will promote a natural anabolic environment in your body. Aim for 1,000 mg daily.
– Vitamin A. Vitamin A has been shown to increase testosterone levels in men by means of the suppression of estrogen levels. When your estrogen levels are high this causes a decrease in testosterone production. Blocking this production with Vitamin A will allow your testosterone to flourish.
– ZMA. Since Magnesium and Zinc both raise your test levels, it makes sense that taking a combination supplement like ZMA will work for you. The collaboration of these two supplements has been proven to increase the deepness of your REM cycles, which will raise your testosterone levels.
– DHEA. One alternative to straight testosterone replacement is to boost the levels of the hormones that stimulate testosterone production instead. DHEA, for example, is a “parent hormone” made in the adrenal gland and testes, which changes into testosterone in men and estrogen in women. One solution to low testosterone is DHEA supplements, which naturally raise the body’s serum androstenedione levels with is a 19-carbon steroid hormone that is an intermediate step in the biochemical pathway that produces the androgen testosterone and the estrogens estrone and estradiol. A DHEA clinical study found that DHEA supplementation significantly increased strength and lean body mass.
– Tribulus Alatus (T-Alatus). Not to be confused with its relative, Tribulus Terrestris, this special herb was proved in a study to significantly increase the level of free serum testosterone. Tribulus Alatus is also great for muscle building and strength enhancement.It also boosts your immune support from its high antioxidant qualities. Tribulus Alatus is said to be slightly more effective than Terrestris because it contains 6 unique steroidal saponins. The dosage is in the range of 350mg to 500mg. Also, make sure is it pure Alatus and not a scaled down extract version.
– Allicin Garlic. In a garlic clinical study found that garlic supplementation increases testicular testosterone and decreases plasma corticosterone. During the study, diets with different protein levels were tested to conclude that garlic boosts testosterone on a high protein diet.
– Vitamin E. One vitamin E clinical study found that after oral vitamin E supplementation, normal male subjects had a significant rise in basal plasma testosterone. The results concluded that vitamin E may play and important role in hormone production in the pituitary-gonadal area in humans.
NATURAL HERBS THAT NATURALLY BOOST T LEVELS
– Tongkat Ali Extract – Tongkat ali extract is both clinicaly proven to increase your testosterone levels through the production of leydig cells, and to increase your free testosterone levels by means of lower SHGB levels. This way, you are available to use all the hard earned testosterone you are producing with the steps above. (See all these studies and more here). It is one of the most easily faked supplements on the web, so make sure you are getting tongkat ali extract and not tongkat ali root powder. They look exactly the same. The extract strength is best at 1:200 and it has to be from Indonesia.
NATURAL SUPPLEMENT THAT NATURALLY BOOSTS T LEVELS
– D-Aspartic Acid. D-aspartic acid is all the rage in bodybuilding right now. It is an amino acid that has a dramatic effect on your testosterone levels. Many users report seeing a rise in testosterone of 33% in as fast as two weeks while using 3,000 mg a day. How it work’s is it helps your body convert cholesterol and its natural resources into testosterone. One supplement I would recommend for this is TestoFuel. With 2300 mg of D-Aspartic Acid, it also contains 5,000 IU of D3, 200 mg of Magnesium, and 10 mg of Zinc.
PROTECT YOUR ORGANS
Lastly, when you’re boosting your T levels, it’s important to take care of two main organs that are helping the testosterone conversion: Liver and Kidneys. There are three main supplements I suggest to aid with your liver and kidney health. You will thank yourself later for taking extra good care of these guys.
– Dandelion. Herbalists use dandelion root to detoxify the liver and gallbladder, and dandelion leaves to support kidney function. Dandelion leaves act as a diuretic and increase the amount of urine produced by the body, supporting kidney function. Dandelion leaves are also used to stimulate the appetite and aid digestion.
– Milk Thistle. Today, milk thistle is still one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world and is also the number one recommended natural herb for liver health. In fact,in Europe, milk thistle is a prescribed medication. The milk thistle extract is prescribed to treat mushroom poisoning, alcoholic cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis, drug and alcohol-induced liver damage and acute viral hepatitis, just to name a few.
– Tumeric. This yellow root—a cousin of ginger—is a powerful liver protector and even liver cell regenerator. It not only helps stimulate enzymes responsible for flushing out toxins (including known carcinogens) from the body, but UCLA research found that turmeric is capable of combating the effects of carcinogens.
Stay tuned for part 3. Until then, live well and be well.
STOP. Before you read any further I am going to emphasize that this is not some “crunchy granola” article telling you to go dress like Gandhi and start chanting random words like “om” with bells gonging in the background.
Yes, this article is about meditation, yet it discusses how meditation has actually helped bodybuilders obtain more physical strength (ie: Gains, son). Do I have your attention now?
Meditation is especially important for: Type A personalities, worriers, sleep-deprived individuals, evening over-eaters, hyper-active guys and the over-worked and under-played.
DID YOU KNOW? These are the rewards of daily meditation:
1. Lowered risk of over-training
2. Reduced stress hormone concentrations like cortisol and aldosterone
3. Higher DHEA-Sulfate as well as increased testosterone and growth hormone response to stress
4. Improved kidney function, lower sodium-potassium ratio and reduced urinary loss of calcium and zinc
5. Remarkable success getting off drugs, even after being dependent
6. Enhanced immune function
7. A shift toward fat oxidation “fat burning”
8. Enhanced reaction time
9. Improved focus and sports performance
10. Improved carbohydrate metabolism
11. Reduced evening-time overeating and better chance for long term weight loss
12. Slowed biological aging (according to biomarkers) up to 5-12 years
13. Improved antioxidant effects indicated by 15% lower lipid peroxides
14. Ability to levitate and dead lift using chopsticks. (well, maybe)
Surprised? I bet. It would sound like a joke if all of the claims didn’t have the hard science to support them. Every one of these 14, I mean 13, claims is scientifically referenced below and not just subjective, hopeful delusions. Meditation can do wonders for your mind AND body.
Young Grasshopper – Begin Here
The first thing you have to do is stop the internal dialogue that chatters beneath the surface of our every day lives. The thoughts filled with worry, the internal debates, the racing thoughts at bedtime and the constant replay of the fight you had with your girlfriend.
How do we get our brains to shut up? Well, there’s a space between our thoughts and you basically have the objective to make that space grow longer and longer with practice. A chatter-free mind is an unbelievably focused mind that spills over into physical benefits as listed above. I know it sounds virtually impossible and may even feel that way in the beginning, but I assure you that after practice, you can find silence and it’s a beautiful thing, my friend.
Shut Up, Mind!
Step 1. Focus on your breathing. Focus ONLY on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose slowly, breathe out through your mouth slowly – in and out – repeat. Yes, I do keep my eyes closed and do this usually in my bedroom with as little outside distractions as possible, including light distractions. I don’t sit all yogi master with my thumbs pressed against my third finger resting on my knees in romantic candlelight with burning incense – I simply lay flat on my back in the comfort of my bed with my arms resting at my sides or my hands entwined resting on my stomach.
Step 2. Sometimes, I listen to guided meditations. Some of the best I have found are actually on YouTube. There are a bunch of different types of meditations and you definitely want to go by the user reviews on the videos. You can also find some great websites that have videos and MP3 files. If you don’t want to hear someone talking, you can find mediation sounds / music.
If you want to learn to meditate with a fellow bodybuilder, check out Ben Pakulski’s video with Alvin Brown (Peak Performance Coach) – click here
Still think I’m full of sh*t?
Then, check out these other bodybuilders talking about meditation right on the bodybuilding.com forum: click here
Or, you can read bodybuilding.com’s article about “mindfulness” (mindful lifting) which includes meditation: click here
There are plenty of websites, articles and forums discussing bodybuilding and meditation. This isn’t some new thing I’m writing about.
The way I look at it, you’ll never know until you try it respectfully. I once thought the whole thing was just some crazy-talk from old hippies holding crystals in Sedona, AZ. But, then I decided to try it out for myself and realized I was reaping mega benefits from calming my mind and allowing my body to become fully alert. It’s not just your body that changes. Your life changes.
your workouts will never be the same, my friend.
Written by: Tristan “Lucky”
References and Further Reading
1. Aikens, J., et al. Psychological predictors of glycemic change with relaxation training in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Psychother Psychosom. 1997;66(6):302-6.
2. Fehr, T. Therapeutically relevant effects by transcendental meditation? Psychother Psychosom Med Psychol. 1996 May;46(5):178-88.
3. Glaser, J., et al. Elevated serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels in practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) and TM-Sidhi programs. J Behav Med. 1992 Aug;15(4):327-41.
4. Golay, A., et al. New interdisciplinary cognitive-behavioural-nutritional approach to obesity treatment: a 5-year follow-up study. Eat Weight Disord. 2004 Mar;9(1):29-34.
5. Infante, J., et al. ACTH and beta-endorphin in transcendental meditation. Physiol Behav. 1998 Jun 1;64(3):311-5.
6. Jevning, R. Integrated metabolic regulation during acute rest states in man, similarity to fasting: a biochemical hypothesis. Physiol Behav. 1988;43(6):735-7.
7. Jones, B. Changes in cytokine production in healthy subjects practicing Guolin Qigong : a pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2001;1(1):8. Epub 2001 Oct 18.
8. Kellmann, M. (Ed.) Enhancing Recovery. 2002; Human Kinetics Publishers: Champaign, IL. pp.65-66.
9. Kesterson, J. and Clinch, N. Metabolic rate, respiratory exchange ratio, and apneas during meditation. Am J Physiol. 1989 Mar;256(3 Pt 2):R632-8.
10. Levenson R., et al. Voluntary facial action generates emotion-specific autonomic nervous system activity. Psychophysiology. 1990 Jul;27(4):363-84.
11. Loehr , J. Mental Toughness Training for Sports. 1982. The Stephen Greene Press: New York, NY. pp. 82, 123, 181
12. MacLean, C., et al. Effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on adaptive mechanisms: changes in hormone levels and responses to stress after 4 months of practice. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1997 May;22(4):277-95.
13. Monahan, R. Secondary prevention of drug dependence through the transcendental meditation program in metropolitan Philadelphia. Int J Addict. 1977 Sep;12(6):729-54.
14. Nagler, W. and Androff, A. Investigating the impact of deconditioning anxiety on weight loss. Psychol Rep. 1990 Apr;66(2):595-600.
15. Pawlow, L. et al. Night eating syndrome: effects of brief relaxation training on stress, mood, hunger, and eating patterns. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Aug;27(8):970-8.
16. Pawlow, L. and Jones, G. The impact of abbreviated progressive muscle relaxation on salivary cortisol. Biol Psychol. 2002;60(1):1-16.
18. Schnieder, R., et al. Lower lipid peroxide levels in practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation program. Psychosom Med. 1998 Jan-Feb;60(1):38-41.
19. Sudsuang, R., et al. Effect of Buddhist meditation on serum cortisol and total protein levels, blood pressure, pulse rate, lung volume and reaction time. Physiol Behav. 1991 Sep;50(3):543-8.
21. Wallace, R., et al. The effects of the transcendental meditation and TM-Sidhi program on the aging process. Int J Neurosci. 1982 Feb;16(1):53-8.
22. Walton, K., et al. Stress reduction and preventing hypertension: preliminary support for a psychoneuroendocrine mechanism. J Altern Complement Med. 1995 Fall;1(3):263-83.
As everyone is well aware, exercise is good for your heart, helps with weight loss and provides a variety of health-related benefits. At the same time, exercise comes with a certain degree of injury risk, and depending on the activity, it can also put a lot of stress on your joints. The key is to exercise safely and choose activities and movements that reduce your risk of injury, pain or other complications.
So how do you protect your joints to make sure you’re not doing more harm than good? By creating a routine based on your individual needs and abilities as well as taking some precautionary measures. You can reduce your risk of injury and make working out an enjoyable part of your daily routine, instead of a painful one.
Common Joint Injuries
Joint injuries occur for a variety of reasons, including improper training or technique, overuse, sudden directional changes and even falls. Of course, there are health conditions that affect the joints, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and degenerative disc disease (the spine is comprised of many joints), but this article will focus on preventable injuries, not these chronic conditions.
The most common injuries happen to joints that are subjected to repeated impact, which will vary depending on the activity. For example, injuries to runners and walkers typically affect the hip, knee and ankle joints, since the lower body absorbs most of the impact during these activities. Tennis players often have elbow joint problems from the repeated swing of the racquet. Weightlifters commonly experience shoulder joint problems, especially if they regularly perform upper body exercises using very heavy weight. And people who play high-speed contact sports (such as basketball or soccer) can often experience injuries like joint sprains, twists or tears due to the torque of a sudden directional change or fall. But you don’t have to be a serious athlete to experience injury.
7 Common Mistakes that Lead to Joint Injury
Everyday exercisers and weekend warriors often suffer injury due to a few common mistakes that can be prevented with careful attention. Here’s what to be aware of so you can move and exercise without joint pain or injury.
Doing too much, too soon. When starting a new exercise program or workout routine, motivation is typically high. It’s easy to get caught up and decide that while a 30-minute workout is good, a 2-hour workout is even better. Before you know it, you’ve got nagging knee pain and have to stop your workout routine completely. Joint pain and injury is common when you don’t allow the body to adapt slowly to exercise. Remember it’s not just your heart and lungs that need to slowly work up to harder or longer workouts; every system in your body needs time to adapt: your muscles, circulatory system, ligaments, cartilage and even your bones and joints. It’s important to ease into exercise, regardless of how motivated you are to do more even if it feels “OK” at the time. Start with lighter activity, shorter duration, and less frequent workouts (to allow for some recovery days) and then progress as you feel up to it, but no more than about 10% per week. It is also true that injury becomes a higher risk as you age.
Performing the same activities all the time. It’s important to find activities you enjoy, because that makes it easier to stick with an exercise routine. But you can end up with too much of a good thing if you are always doing the same activity all the time. For example, you like running so you do it every day as your only form of exercise. Taxing the same muscles (and joints) in the same way day after day can easily lead to overuse injury and wearing down of cartilage. This is one reason why performing a variety of activities each week is important. By moving your muscles and joints in different directions and intensities, you can help prevent injury.
Wearing the wrong footwear. When heading into a specialty shoe store for the first time, it’s easy to get sticker shock. Typically, there are lots of options. Many of which can be expensive. Although you might save money by picking up some shoes on sale at your local discount store, you may also be increasing your risk of injury by wearing shoes that don’t meet your needs. Employees at a specialty store are often able to analyze your foot, gait and foot strike, and look for any mechanical or anatomical issues to determine the right shoe for you. Plus, athletic shoes are designed for specific purposes. Running shoes often provide some motion control and cushioning for forward motion, but won’t have the ankle support you’d need for playing basketball, which involves a lot of lateral movement and sudden directional changes. An investment in good footwear for your specific activity can prevent injury and pain, as well as the expense from doctor’s visits and physical therapy. And, yes, there are also specific shoes for weight lifting. read more
Exercising with improper technique. Whether riding a stationary bike or lifting weights, proper technique is essential to preventing joint injury. For example, if the seat of the bike isn’t positioned properly, it can put extra pressure on the knee that wouldn’t otherwise occur, increasing the risk of injury. If you try a new weight machine at the gym without knowing how to use it, this increases your risk of injury. If you don’t have ideal gait patterns or alignment (and most people don’t), you are putting your joints at risk with every step, lunge, jump and squat–unless you know how to correct yourself. The truth is, few people without formal instruction know how to line up every joint and move through the correct range of motion that keeps their joints safe. While it’s something anyone can learn, it takes diligence and attention during every movement–not just in the beginning, but forever. If you aren’t sure how to do an exercise properly, ask! Most gyms have trained fitness staff who are there to help. You could also hire a personal trainer for a short time to learn these basics, or even go to a group fitness class where a qualified instructor will be able to explain and point out those keys so that all participants stay safe.
Skipping the warm up, cool down or stretches. When you’re short on time, it’s tempting to skip one (or more) of these pieces of the workout routine. But there is an important reason for each one, and choosing not to do them can lead to joint injury. A proper warm up safely prepares the body for the increased demands of exercise by generating heat, increasing circulation to the muscles and joints, and lubricating the joints for activity. Cold muscles do not absorb shock or impact as well, and are more susceptible to injury, so always warm up for at least a few minutes before you work out. The cool down brings your heart rate back to normal slowly and safely, which helps prevent pooling of the blood in the extremities (which can cause dizziness or fainting), and stretching after a workout (when the muscles are warmer, lubricated and more elastic) helps maintain and increase joint mobility.
Doing too many high-impact exercises. Joint injury can occur more easily during high-impact activities. It’s a common belief that high-impact means “hard” and low-impact means “easy,” but these actually describe the intensity of your body striking the ground. If one or both of your feet is off the ground, even for a split second (such as when you run or jump), the exercise is high-impact, meaning your body has to absorb a higher impact of shock when you come in contact with the ground. Because high-impact exercises put more stress on the joints and skeletal system, they actually help strengthen bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. However, the higher the impact, the greater the injury potential. Assuming you have a doctor’s clearance and take good care of your body, you can still perform high-impact activities safely when you take certain precautions (like using proper form). But more importantly, aiming for a variety of impact levels in your workouts is ideal. Too much high-impact is, well, too much for the joints. If you are looking for activities that are easier on the joints, there are a number of options available. Swimming, water exercise and biking are all no-impact cardiovascular workouts. Some low-impact options include walking, biking and the elliptical. Just because an activity doesn’t involve lots of running and jumping doesn’t mean it can’t be a great workout. As long as the activity is challenging and gets your heart rate up into the cardio zone, you’ll be on your way to losing weight and improving your fitness level.
Skimping on rest. Most people think that exercise itself is what leads you to be stronger and fitter, but it’s actually the rest that happens after a workout that creates those positive changes in your body. When it comes to getting results and protecting your joints, rest is just as important as exercising with good form. You aren’t being lazy by taking rest days, you’re being smart. Taking days off from exercise helps prevent overuse injuries, stress fractures, and joint inflammation that can lead to pain. Recovery is the time your body uses to adapt to the stresses you’ve put on it, as well as repair tissues that were damaged during your workouts. If you avoid rest days and don’t give your muscles and joints a chance to recover, you’ll continue to break the body down instead of making it stronger. A good rule of thumb is to allow for 1-2 rest days per week. This doesn’t mean you have to sit on the couch all day and do nothing. It’s OK to do some light activity, like go for a walk or do an easy yoga session. But your activity shouldn’t be intense or challenging. Your body–and your joints–need the time to rest and repair.
It’s easy to assume that older adults or those with previous injuries are most at risk for joint problems, but the fact is, anyone can experience joint pain or injury if they aren’t careful. If you are new to exercise, or if you have had joint problems in the past, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or work with a qualified personal trainer before you start an exercise plan. These professionals can give you personalized advice based on your medical history and offer tips to help you have a safer workout.
While there is some inherent risk in any type of exercise, the benefits of working out regularly far outweigh the risks for most people. With attention to the prevention and safety tips above, you’ll be strengthening and protecting your joints for the rest of your life by exercising your body regularly.
BONUS: Taking a supplement that helps nourish the joints is an exceptionally smart idea. One that I personally take is Synotrex. It’s all natural and contains Glucosamine Sulfate and Chondroitin.
“The human body is a machine which winds its own springs.”
– Julien Offroy de la Mattrie, L’Homme Machine
When the 2015 tsunami of people turn your gym into an amusement park this January, it’s time for you to focus on your resolution: GAINS
Not everyone under the roof of the same gym has the same goals. You have people there to specifically lose weight, tone muscle, gain mass, increase definition, get ripped, bulk up, improve their health and so on.
For those who are looking to make GAINS in 2015, then keep reading.
6 SIMPLE TIPS TO GET MAD GAINS
1. Know the number of calories you need to grow bigger
The amount of calories you consume depends on your age, gender, current weight and how active your lifestyle is. For the sake of simplicity, multiply your current weight in pounds by 20. If you weigh 180 pounds, that’s 180 x 20 = 3,600 calories daily. This might come as a shock if you’re not used to eating that much in a day.
2. Exercise big muscle groups to jump-start the muscle building process
Studies show that training big muscle groups jump-start the muscle building process leading to faster and bigger muscle gains. Make sure you involve these muscle groups at least once a week. The largest muscle groups are the legs, back and chest muscles. Now you know why leg day is the hardest for most (probably all) bodybuilders.
3. Lift progressively
As your muscles get used to the heavy load, you may need to shock it by constantly changing the weight you lift. If you used 135 pounds on your bench press during your first week of training, try to add 5-10 pounds for the second week. Add another 5-10 pounds on the following week and so on. The same goes for other body parts.
Progressive lifting makes sure that your muscles don’t get complacent and stop growing. The additional weight tells your body to grow more muscle fibers to keep up with the load. Watch yourself get bigger and stronger every week.
4. Alter your exercise routine
If you’re working out three times a week training two or more body parts, try to spread it to six days working only on one body part per day. This allows you to push that muscle to failure and destroy the muscle fibers which help them rebuild with more mass. If you decide to do two muscle groups in one training day and, for example, do chest and biceps on Mondays and back and triceps on Wednesdays, instead do chest and triceps on Mondays and back and biceps on Wednesdays. This puts more stress on the common muscle groups (biceps and triceps) forcing your body to grow more muscle fibers.
5. Do partial and reverse lifts
Instead of lifting all the way for 3 sets, do it only a third of the way on the first set, two thirds on the second and full lifts in the third. Reverse the load progression so you can lift more weight on the first set and less weight on the second and third. Next, you can do reverse lifts to help confuse your muscles, which is a very good thing to do.
6. Use Supplements
Supplements, obviously, are not meant to be your only source of nutrients. You can call them helpers because they fill the nutritional gaps. These gaps happen when you are not getting enough nutrients from your diet to coax your body into producing more muscles. Here are some of the well-known supplements easily available in the market:
Whey protein powder
This supplement is almost always a requirement if you want to build big, lean muscles, improve your performance, and lose body fat. Whey protein is an essential part of your muscle building arsenal. It is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Watch out for powders with high sugar content.
Casein is the twin brother of whey. It’s the other type of protein found in milk. Compared to whey, your body digests casein slower. Taking casein before bedtime prevents catabolism, protecting your hard-earned muscles from being converted to body fuel. An easy way to get this is by eating a cup of cottage cheese before bed.
Creatine is one of the most important recent discoveries in the field of sports supplementation. It increases the amount of energy supplied to your muscles so you can do more repetitions and lift heavier weights.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Leucine, valine and isoleucine, together called as branched-chain amino acids are the most essential amino acids for repairing and building muscle tissue.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body. It increases the amount of leucine in muscle fibers and decreases muscle breakdown. It has also been proven to boost the immune system.
IGF-1 and HGH
Two products I recommend: AntlerX IGF-1 which helps maximize your weight training results using premium deer antler velvet and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Sytropin HGH (Human Growth Hormone) helps to promote tissue repair, cell regeneration and users, according to a recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that a dramatic decrease in body fat and increased lean muscle mass was found.
In just a few weeks after the ball drops and people shout, “Happy New Year!” and kiss their sweetheart, or the random person to their side, it is the moment most make a promise to stop a bad habit and make a good habit. People swear to quit smoking, stop drinking, lay off the sweets, quit being a couch potato, and the gym rat’s favorite one to hear: “I am going to get a gym membership and get healthy!”
Of course, we blue-blood gym goers know that the main floodgates of hell open January 1st and the swarm of people turn our haven into a mosh-pit of utter chaos. You have to wait 30 minutes for a bench, the weights are all over the floor, guys are swinging from the cables….and….and….you see CURLING IN THE SQUAT RACK!
Before you hyperventilate, I’ve got a solution! We all know that the gym rush is the worst in January and slowly tapers off. Let’s do ourselves a favor and take our workout outside of the gym.
SHORT CIRCUIT (the quick 30-min workout)
Perform the following exercises as a circuit, doing one set of each with a minimal rest between exercises.
After each circuit, rest 2 minutes. Repeat the circuit 5 times.
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.
There comes that day in every bodybuilder’s life where you hit that dreaded plateau. Your normal “beast mode” routines just aren’t kicking it anymore. You’re striving for more mass, yet nothing is happening. You’re stuck. What do you do???
Usually a change up in your old routine with a replacement of an advanced workout will get you to the next level.
Among the best routines to employ would be pyramid training.
How Does Pyramid Training Work?
The way pyramid training works is very simple. You perform a series of high rep exercises with a light amount of weight. For example, you could perform 20 reps of dumbbell curls at 15 lbs.
Once you complete the set, you will take a quick breather and move to the next set which would be 15 reps at 20 lbs. Take another break and then do 12 reps at 25 lbs. This progression could continue with 10/30 lbs, 8/35 lbs, 6/40 lbs, and 4/45 lbs. Of course, this is only one example of how you could structure such a training workout.There are many other creative ways in which a pyramid workout can be performed to take you to the next level.
Top 7 Benefits of Pyramid Training Workouts
The concept of pyramid training seems relatively easy to comprehend. Yet, you may be questioning the real benefits.
Here are seven of the major ones:
1. Through employing a diversity of weights and reps, your body does not become used to a standard routine. Once the body starts to get used to a weightlifting routine, it stops reacting to it. That means you cease to experience noticeable gains from your sessions. Pyramid training helps eliminate such plateaus through providing a more dynamic workout.
2. Pyramid training helps keep you from becoming mentally bored or burned out with your workout sessions. It is not just the body that reacts poorly to the same old workout. The mind ends up becoming more than a bit worn out with such repetition. When you become bored with your workouts, you stop putting the proper amount of effort into them. Pyramid training can add some new life to those dull workout days.
3. The lightweight exercises that commence the workout can act as an effective warm-up. The warm-up helps prime the muscles for the heavier lifting that will come at the end of the pyramid session.
4. As a means of packing on mass, it would be tough to top pyramid training in terms of results. This is because those last few short reps with heavy weight can help stimulate muscle growth immensely.
5. Mass is not the only benefit gained from pyramid training. The short reps with heavy weight will also contribute to the development of functional strength. When strength levels are increased, a person’s quality of life may improve.
6. There is great diversity among the different exercises you can perform in a pyramid training routine. Whether you wish to perform compound exercises or isolation exercises, you can do so easily.
7. Pyramid workouts are also quite easy to perform and do not require a significant time commitment. For the person that has a busy schedule and is always on the go, pyramid training may provide the perfect means of getting in an effective workout in a short session.
Pyramid Training’s Long History of Success
Pyramid workouts are nothing new. They have been around quite some time in bodybuilding circles. In fact, pyramid training was a very popular method of packing on mass among competitors for the Mr. Olympia back in the 1970′s. The reason the training was so popular was due to the fact it delivered pronounced results. This is why so many professional bodybuilders still use it a great deal today.
Anyone looking for a reliable and effective mass gaining workout program will find pyramid training to be beneficial.
Despite the similarities between elastic resistance and free-weight resistance, people would assume, due to the lightweight and “flimsy” appearance of elastic resistance equipment such as elastic tubing, that free weights are clearly the better resistance equipment.
Today, you’re going to learn that resistance bands just might beat out free weights in some prime areas.
Elastic resistance exercise, such as the use of elastic tubing equipment, has been used for almost a century. It originally was used as a fitness technique, but eventually progressed to be used as a rehabilitation device. Today it is used commonly in both fitness and rehabilitation facilities around the world. Both elastic resistance and free-weight resistance (such as barbells and dumbbells) have several similar properties:
Both provide some form of resistance
Both allow a free range of motion
Both allow variable speed of movement
Both allow progressive resistance.All four of these properties are critical for the benefits offered by effective resistance-training programs.
Studies have shown that muscle activity and peak load during elastic-resistance exercise is similar to free-weight resistance exercise. This means that when comparing the same exercise performed with an elastic resistance device or with free weights, the amount of muscle fibers activated is similar and the amount of force provided by the muscle fibers is similar.
Studies on elastic resistance training have also shown that programs using elastic tubing, elastic bands and similar devices increase muscle strength and muscle size and decrease body fat in a similar manner to free-weight training programs.
In addition to the similarities that elastic resistance shares with free-weight resistance, there are several benefits that elastic resistance offers that free-weight resistance does not.
One of the most important benefits of elastic resistance is that, unlike free weights, it does not rely on gravity to provide resistance. This increases its potential for use in more functional movement patterns that mimic both everyday activities and sport-specific activities.
Because free weights rely on gravity to provide resistance, they can only provide resistance in a vertical plane —the direction of gravity. This means that if you do an exercise with a free weight in the horizontal plane, such as moving your left hand (while holding a dumbbell) from the left side of your body to the right side of your body, there is no resistance to that movement. With elastic tubing, on the other hand, you can have resistance when doing exercises in a horizontal plane. This means you can perform exercises such as twisting your body from side to side, side kicks and punches, as well as movements that mimic a baseball swing or basketball pass with elastic resistance.
Performing exercises with resistance in a horizontal plane better prepares the individual for performing daily tasks—such as turning his body while carrying a heavy box—much easier and with less risk for injury. It also better prepares athletes for competitive movements that take place in a horizontal plane, such as swinging a baseball bat, and helps to prevent sports injuries. A study, from Louisiana State University (New Orleans), discovered that an elastic band training program strengthened the rotator cuff muscles of collegiate baseball pitchers better than a program that used free-weight dumbbells.
Because elastic resistance does not rely on gravity to provide resistance, it is possible to change the emphasis placed on muscles during certain exercises. This is made possible by changing the direction of pull of the elastic tubing or bands. For example, research from Brigham Young University reported that it was possible to change the emphasis placed on the quadriceps and hamstrings during squatting or stepping exercises by changing the direction of pull of the elastic tubing. The ability to change muscle emphasis is important for those who want to target specific muscles either for aesthetic reasons or for strengthening for sport competition. It is also important for those with injuries, as shifting the force more to certain muscles can help protect certain associated joints. For example, greater hamstring emphasis during squatting or stepping exercises helps to protect certain structures around the knee. This is difficult to accomplish with free weights because, as previously stated, they require the direction of force to be vertical, due to the reliance on gravity for resistance.
Another benefit provided by the fact that elastic resistance does not rely on gravity is that it provides continuous tension to the muscles being trained. When you lift a free weight like a dumbbell in any direction other than straight up and down, the tension on the muscle can actually be removed at certain points in the range of motion. For example, when doing a biceps curl with a dumbbell, as you curl the dumbbell up towards the shoulder, at the very top of the movement the dumbbell is literally falling towards the shoulder. This means that the tension on the biceps has been removed because the dumbbell is no longer being lifted up against gravity by the biceps. When doing a biceps curl with elastic resistance, the tension is present throughout the entire range of motion because the elastic material provides resistance due to its own properties.
The fact that elastic resistance equipment does not rely on gravity also means that the elastic resistance equipment used can be inexpensive, lightweight and easily stored and transported despite its ability to provide strong resistance11. On the contrary, free weights must be heavy and cumbersome to provide strong resistance. In addition, free weights tend to be expensive as they are typically priced by the pound.
Another unique benefit of elastic resistance that free weight resistance does not offer is linear variable resistance. What this means is that, as the range of motion of the exercise increases, the resistance provided by the elastic equipment increases. For example, when doing a biceps curl, as you curl your hand up toward your shoulder, the resistance of the elastic tubing increases. This is due to the physical properties of elastic material. As its length increases (from being stretched), it provides more resistance. One of the benefits of this is that as the range of motion increases and the resistance increases, the number of muscle fibers that are being used in the exercising muscle increase. The more muscle fibers being used, the greater the adaptations in muscle strength that can be achieved with the training program. This benefit is not offered by free-weight resistance.
Another reason linear variable resistance, as provided by elastic resistance, is beneficial is due to what is known as the strength curve of muscles. The linear variable resistance provided by elastic tubing better mimics the strength curves of most muscles. A strength curve refers to the way a muscle’s or muscle group’s strength changes over a range of motion. Because of their anatomy, most muscles increase in strength over the range of motion until a certain point. Again using the biceps curl as an example, as you curl the hand toward the shoulder, the muscle gets stronger up until about the halfway point of the range of motion. Thus, the biceps muscle is weakest at the start of the exercise and strongest at the halfway point of the exercise.
When doing a biceps curl with a free weight, the individual is limited to how much resistance he can use by how strong the biceps are at the beginning of the exercise (its weakest point). That means that during the biceps curl, the muscle is not receiving adequate resistance when the muscle is in its strongest point in the range of motion. When performing a curl with elastic tubing, however, the resistance increases as the range of motion increases. This means the muscle is receiving greater resistance at its strongest point in the range of motion and therefore is receiving more adequate resistance to better stimulate strength adaptations.
Many individuals using elastic resistance report that they can feel a difference, such as a stronger burn in the muscles and greater muscle fatigue, as compared to when they use free weights. This is due to the linear variable resistance that the elastic resistance equipment offers. This allows a greater number of muscle fibers to be used and taxed throughout the range of motion. Anecdotal evidence aside, research studies also confirm this difference.
One study performed at Truman State University (Kirksville, MO) found that athletes who included elastic resistance bench press training in their regimens had a significantly greater increase in bench press strength and power as compared to those who only utilized free-weight resistance training. Another study, performed at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, reported in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, that when athletes used elastic band training in addition to free-weight training they had significantly more leg power than when they only utilized free-weight training.
A critical benefit of elastic resistance is that it prevents the user from “cheating” on the exercise being performed. This is a common practice, especially for beginners, when using free weights. Cheating involves the use of momentum to get the weight moving. Once the weight has built up momentum, the muscle fibers do not need to be maximally activated to continue moving the weight throughout the rest of the range of motion of the exercise. This is due to the fact that the physics of momentum have taken over to move the weight. The physical properties of elastic resistance devices do not allow the user to cheat by using momentum. This is because the resistance from the elastic equipment comes from the stretching of the elastic material and not the mass of the elastic equipment. The only way to continue a movement while performing an exercise with elastic resistance is to utilize more muscle fibers in the exercising muscle to continue stretching the elastic material.
The research performed on elastic resistance suggests that not only does elastic resistance offer similar benefits to free-weight resistance, but it actually has several benefits that outweigh (pun intended) those of free weights. This means that a program using elastic tubing resistance can provide similar benefits to a program that uses free-weight resistance, such as increased muscle strength, increase muscle tone and size and decreased body fat. In addition, a program that uses elastic tubing resistance can also provide benefits that are not offered by free-weight resistance programs, such as more functional strength, better injury prevention, greater ability to change muscle emphasis during exercises, greater muscle power development and easier use.
Benefits of Elastic Resistance vs. Free-Weight Resistance