Before you begin exercising or lifting any weights at all, it’s important to take a few minutes to warm up your muscles. Doing some light exercises actually warms up your muscles and makes them more flexible. This way, you’re less likely to injure yourself during a workout.
Some warm-ups include exercise bike riding, walking, jogging, or even basic calisthenics. Don’t start at the pace you hope to keep during your workout; start slowly, building up momentum and energy as you go. Set a stopping time and then move on with the rest of your workout.
When you begin lifting weights, start with lower poundage to warm up those muscles. Then you can add more weight and start lifting. This way, you won’t be as apt to strain a tendon or muscle-group—your muscles will be more limber and ready to handle the strain of a more exertive workout.
While you’re lifting weights or doing any sort of exercise, you need to breathe. People have the oddest habit of holding their breath during hard physical exertion or times of discomfort/pain. When you exercise, if you hold your breath, you can actually raise your blood pressure and put a larger strain on your heart and blood vessels.
Breathing sounds simple enough, but in order to make it intentional during a workout, breathe in through your nose, taking a long, deep breath. Then exhale through your mouth. Don’t reverse it—you’ll end up hyperventilating if you do it wrong or too quickly. Inhale on the ‘lift’ of an exercise, and exhale on the ‘release’ of the same.
Some gyms will have step exercises or jogging boards in between the weight machines to help you keep your heart rate up during your workout. This lets you rest your muscles a little between each machine, as well as keeping your heart rate at an optimum level. You don’t want to lose the benefits of your exertion between stations at the gym—that defeats the purpose!
After you’ve completed your strength-training workout, you want to allow yourself four or five minutes of light aerobic exercise to relax your body and give you a chance to breathe easier. Just walk around at a normal pace, then stretch lightly. You’ll be amazed at your flexibility and the ability you have to extend arms and legs further than before!
Before you think about exercising or doing weight training 6 or 7 days in a row, consider this. When you do weight training to bulk up, your muscles are strained. In order for them to become stronger and larger, they need some time to repair themselves. So let your muscles rest a day in between workouts. Do some walking or aerobics instead on those days and you’ll maximize your workout!
As you may have already discovered, the squat is at the top of the heap (along with deadlifts) as one of the most effective overall exercises for stimulating body composition changes (muscle gain and fat loss). This is because exercises like squats and deadlifts use more muscle groups under a heavy load than almost any other weight bearing exercises known to man. Hence, these exercises stimulate the greatest hormonal responses (growth hormone, testosterone, etc.) of all exercises. In fact, university research studies have even proven that inclusion of squats into a training program increases upper body development, in addition to lower body development, even though upper body specific joint movements are not performed during the squat. Whether your goal is gaining muscle mass, losing body fat, building a strong and functional body, or improving athletic performance, the basic squat and deadlift (and their variations) are the ultimate solution. If you don’t believe me that squats and deadlifts are THE basis for a lean and powerful body, then go ahead and join all of the other overweight people pumping away mindlessly for hours on boring cardio equipment. You won’t find long boring cardio in any of my programs!
Squats can be done with any free weighted objects such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, or even just body weight. Squats should only be done with free weights – NEVER with a Smith machine or any other squat machines! Machines do not allow your body to follow natural, biomechanically-correct movement paths. You also perform less work because the machine stabilizes the weight for you. Therefore, you get weaker results!
The type of squat that people are most familiar with is the barbell back squat where the bar is resting on the trapezius muscles of the upper back. Many professional strength coaches believe that front squats (where the bar rests on the shoulders in front of the head) and overhead squats (where the bar is locked out in a snatch grip overhead throughout the squat) are more functional to athletic performance than back squats with less risk of lower back injury. I feel that a combination of all three (not necessarily during the same phase of your workouts) will yield the best results for overall muscular development, body fat loss, and athletic performance.
Front squats are moderately more difficult than back squats, while overhead squats are considerably more difficult than either back squats or front squats. I’ll cover overhead squats in a future article. If you are only accustomed to performing back squats, it will take you a few sessions to become comfortable with front squats, so start out light. After a couple sessions of practice, you will start to feel the groove and be able to increase the poundage.
The front squat recruits the abdominals to a much higher degree for stability due to the more upright position compared with back squats. It is mostly a lower body exercise, but is great for functionally incorporating core strength and stability into the squatting movement. It can also be slightly difficult to learn how to properly rest the bar on your shoulders. There are two ways to rest the bar on the front of the shoulders. In the first method, you step under the bar and cross your forearms into an “X” position while resting the bar on the dimple that is created by the shoulder muscle near the bone, keeping your elbows up high so that your upper arms are parallel to the ground. You then hold the bar in place by pressing the thumb side of your fists against the bar for support.
Alternatively, you can hold the bar by placing your palms face up and the bar resting on your fingers against your shoulders. For both methods, your elbows must stay up high to prevent the weight from falling. Your upper arms should stay parallel to the ground throughout the squat. Find out which bar support method is more comfortable for you. Then, initiate the squat from your hips by sitting back and down, keeping the weight on your heels as opposed to the balls of your feet. Squat down to a position where your thighs are approximately parallel to the ground, then press back up to the starting position. Keeping your weight more towards your heels is the key factor in squatting to protect your knees from injury and develop strong injury-resistant knee joints. Keep in mind – squats done correctly actually strengthen the knees; squats done incorrectly can damage the knees.
Practice first with an un-weighted bar or a relatively light weight to learn the movement. Most people are surprised how hard this exercise works your abs once you learn the correct form. This is due to the more upright posture compared with back squats. To see photos of proper form on the front squat, visit the link below.
The Best Way to Get a Flat, Firm Stomach 11 November 2008
When it comes to our bodies, we all have one place or another that we are somewhat unsatisfied with. You always here people say things like “I hate my thighs” or “my butt is too big”. Of course some of these things are said in jest, but there is still discontent hidden in there.
Despite it all though, the one thing that has become almost an obsession today is the way our abs look. It seems that everyone is looking for those ever elusive “six pack abs”, but much like Ponce De Leon’s search for the fountain of youth, it seems like it is impossible to find.
Now, while there is no “magical formula” for attaining a flat, firm, and toned stomach, there is something you can do that if done regularly, will get you the results that you are looking for. To get these results, stomach crunches need to be done daily but keep in mind that stomach exercises alone will not burn the fat off of your midsection.
Keeping your calories in check along with doing your crunches everyday will be the way for you to see that flat, chiseled, sexy stomach. Crunches are easy to do, and if done properly, are very effective for toning those abs. Here is a step by step breakdown of the proper way to get the most out of your crunches.
Lie flat on your back on the floor with your legs bent to about a 90-degree angle with both your rear and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head making sure not to interlock your fingers. You can make your hands into fists so you do not pull up on the back of your neck.
The next thing to do is to pick a spot on the ceiling directly above you. This should be done in order to ensure that you do not bend your neck during the duration of the movement. Do not take your eyes off this spot! The most common mistake while performing a crunch is too much stress on the neck as a result of pulling on it with the hands.
The next step is to stabilize the low back. This can be done by tightening the muscles in the abdomen. Slowly curl forward and up using your abdominal muscles only. There should be no bending at the waist. Keep your abdominal muscles firm for the entire duration to ensure low back stabilization. Keep your focus on that spot on the ceiling to prevent neck pain as a result of stress.
At the top position your shoulder blades should only be between 4-8 inches off the ground. There is no need to go any further. Pause at this top position. This whole movement should be performed slowly and take about 2 seconds to perform. Pause at the top position for 1-2 seconds to ensure full contraction of the abdominal muscles.
Slowly return to the starting position keeping your abs contracted.
That is all there is to it. The crunch is not a very big movement because you are working your abs only. A full sit-up does not work your abs better than the crunch because once you are past the crunch position, your abs are fully contracted and it is your hip muscles that are straining to lift you up, not your abs.
Doing a hundred of these a day is not the key here. Doing two to three sets of 15 to 20 of these at a slow and deliberate pace with good form is what is recommended for maximum benefits and minimum risk of injury.
Rep ranges are a funny thing. Lots of people talk about doing this many reps for this many sets but really have no idea why they are doing that particular number or the effect it will have on their bodies.
Generally, lower repetitions like 3-8 are most productive for creating absolute strength. Repetitions in the medium range like 10-20 produce anaerobic strength endurance. The higher rep ranges between 20-40 produce aerobic strength endurance.
The reason for such varied ranges even within a category of rep range is because people will take varying amounts of time to complete the rep. We know that it is not the actual number of reps but the time that the muscle is under tension that really causes the adaptative response. So if you do 4 reps that take 6 seconds each and I do 6 reps that take 4 seconds each, we have both worked in the 3-8 range and caused that adaptation response that would be caused by putting a muscle under 24 seconds of tension.
Now on to fiber types. There are actually 3 major types of muscle fibers in the body that we are concerned with. Type 1, type 2a and type 2b. Some people have natural tendencies to do well at certain activities more so than others and this is because of the ratio of one muscle fiber type to another, among other things. Type 1 muscle fibers (or slow twitch muscle fibers,sometime called red) are your endurance muscle fibers because they are very resistant to fatigue and injuries. The sad part is that their ability to produce power is very low also.
Type 2a muscle fibers (fast twitch muscle fibers – intermediate - sometimes called white) are much larger and stronger than type 1 muscle fibers. These fibers have a high capacity for glycolytic activity and can produce high force output for longer periods of time.
Type 2b muscle fibers are the extreme end of the power scale. These are the survival fibers. The whole purpose for 2b muscle fibers is to allow enough power and strength to survive emergency situations. Sixteen percent of an inactive persons body is 2b fibers. Now even though these fibers are powerful, they have no resistance to fatigue or injury. Fact of the matter is that if and when you need to use these guys, most untrained people will damage that tissue beyond repair.
Now I’ve said all that to say this. Research has show that it is the white muscle fibers, the type 2a and 2b that give the greatest returns in size and strength when trained. These white muscle fibers are for high force output, that means lots of calories burned along with a tissue that requires alot of calories to stay alive.
So what about the red muscle fibers, the type 1? Well your body becomes efficient at what it is needed for. So if all you do is only cardio and other high rep activities, your body is going to favour the development of type 1 muscle fibers and in the end rob you of your ability to achieve your maximum strength, size and power. What if strength, size and power are not your goals? Well not having at least some of those attributes will result in a supressed metabolic rate. That means you will not burn as many calories in a day. This means that if you are on a weight loss program, you need to work the type 2a muscle fibers in the 10-12 rep range in order to boost your metabolism and stay strong and healthy.
Now the body can only handle increasing levels of stimulus in a particular area for a given amount of time. This is why in good programs you will find several totally differant workouts, each stressing a differant muscle fiber type for a given period of time. An individualized program has the majority of the workout time spent in the phase that best effects the goal that is trying to be achieved.
What To Eat To Gain Weight And Build Muscle 27 October 2008
Are you underweight and don’t know what to eat to gain weight? Millions of dollars are spent each year on magazines, books, and weight gain supplements. Gaining weight does not happen overnight and requires a commitment from you, but does not have to be hard if you work out and eat the proper foods in large enough amounts.
Numerous people are continually searching for the fastest ways to gain weight and don’t know what to eat. If you truly want to learn what to eat to gain weight and maintain it, a diet rich in calories and protein combined with a regular weight-training regimen will help you accomplish your goals.
If you are looking for the best weight gain supplement for you, take into account your diet and exercise routine before making a decision. Weight gain supplements can be very beneficial when used in conjunction with the proper diet and weight training routine.
The major part of your calorie and protein consumption should come from the foods you eat. Substituting a weight gain supplement for a meal is never a good idea. Your body needs the natural nutrients found in lean meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, and carbohydrates. Weight gain supplements can be used effectively as a weight gain aid when they are used to supplement your diet, not replace part of it.
A diet consisting of large amounts of protein, fats, carbs, and high in calories is essential to any weight gaining effort aided by weight gain supplements. Training with weights is necessary if you want to build new muscle tissue, and a weight gain supplement can be used after a workout, in between meals, or as a snack but should never replace a meal.
Protein is a major component of any diet designed to add body weight. Lean red meats, fish, poultry, and eggs are excellent sources of protein. Several small meals per day containing large amounts of protein are crucial to your weight gaining effort. The question of what to eat to gain weight is not as complicated as some believe.
Along with plenty of protein, fats and carbohydrates are a big part of any weight gaining diet. By avoiding sweets and empty calories, you will give your body the fuel it needs to add body mass and build new muscle tissue through the nutritious foods you eat at regular intervals during the day.
If you are finding it difficult to stick to a weight gain diet, try eating five or six smaller meals per day instead of three large ones. Keep in mind that a piece of chicken and a baked potato is always better than a shake, bar, or pill.
If you should decide to use a weight gain supplement, make certain you consume adequate amounts of food each day in addition to the supplement. Weight gain supplements can give you added protein and calories and may be especially helpful if used immediately following weight training. Always be certain your diet contains all the required elements and use weight gain supplements wisely.
Learning what to eat to gain weight is a relatively simple task. Increase your calorie intake and make certain you are eating healthy, protein rich foods. This combined with weight training and plenty of rest should allow your body to bulk up effectively and help you maintain your new body shape.
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