The internal health of your gut has a huge impact on its external appearance. Research in Nature Communications found your intestinal immune system controls how you metabolize energy, which affects your body fat. Use these foods to make sure your innards contribute to your outer abs.
Research in the British Journal of Nutrition found that these seeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which can reduce gut inflammation and help you burn more fat. Theyâre also rich in fiber and omega-3 fats. Spoon generous handfuls into your next smoothie.Â
Avoid the fat-free versions and go for the plain unflavored options for your probiotic fix. Research in the British Medical Journal found that the probiotic lactobacillus cuts the rate and length of respiratory illness in long-distance runners. If you donât like dairy then try a probiotic supplement.
This oil is made of medium chain triglycerides, which help your body absorb fat. Remember, you need fat to absorb several vitamins and minerals and research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found these fats helped people lose weight.Â
These have all the benefits of yogurt thanks to their high probiotic quantities. Research in FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology found that eating a little each day helped keep your immune system strong well into old age. Â
We used to eat fermented foods because it was a way of keeping them fresh. Today these specialty items are a tasty way to get vitamins and probiotics into your diet to improve your digestive health. Try foods like tempeh, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha tea.
Some foods are difficult to put down, but this might not be entirely your fault. There are subtle factors that can cause you to overeat. These are the warning signs to look out for
Blue light is everywhere in a world of smartphones and TV screens. Research by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that blue-light exposure before and during your evening meal can increase hunger and alter your metabolism for the worse. Switch off the screens and youâll be leaner.Â
Shelling out for a new, smaller crockery set might be worth the cost. Research in the International Journal of Obesity Â found that 92% of people eat whatever is on their plate until itâs completely clean. Smaller plates mean smaller servings and less body fat.Â
Keep your mind on your meal and youâll eat less. Research in PLOS ONE Â found that people who were distracted while eating ate significantly more. Switch off Modern Family and engage with your real family to fight the fat.Â
BEING IN A RUSHÂ
A to-do list that reads like a phoneÂ book is no excuse for wolfing down yourÂ lunch. Research in the British Medical Journal found eating quickly until youâre full triples your risk of being overweight. The tortoise wins the weight-loss race.Â
Small cutlery might supersize your waistline. In a restaurant setting people who used large forks ate less than those with small ones, according to research in the Journal of Consumer Research. Bigger bites make you feel full faster.Â
As a celebrity trainer I learned early in my career that Hollywood doesnât have âbody seasonsâ. The phone rings for a movie role and you simply need to be ready.Â
It was on account of this that I found success early on in my career as a top Hollywood transformation expert. While most programmes take eight to 12 weeks to garner results, the entire methodology of my Clutch Programme is about quick and lasting transformation.
âHow?â you may ask. Well, itâsÂ one part crazy workouts thatÂ ramp up testosterone and growth hormone (GH), helping the body burn fat and build muscle simultaneously. Plus, itâs one part fat-burning and muscle-building nutrition that removes items from the diet that slow the body down. The magic is really in this principle.
Think about a Ferrari for a moment. If you filled it with high-powered fuel but also placed a few pebbles of sand in the tank, what would happen? It would break the Ferrari. I equate this to people that load up on stimulants, dairy and tonnes of gluten-based carbohydrates.
Stimulants can fluctuate cortisol, dairy can be filled with all sorts of disgusting by-products such as hormones due to our modern farming practices. And gluten, whether you are intolerant or not, causes inflammation in the body, which leads to slower recovery times.Â
So letâs address the question burning a hole in your mind right now: âHow can Â people who are shredded claim to eat all of these foods?â
Well, in the spirit of total honesty,Â the answer is either great genetics or drugs. âWait, fitness models take drugs to look like that? But they said they were all-natural.â
Unfortunately, itâs true. There is rampant use of steroids and GH in the fitness industry. I for one would like to see mandatory drug-testing of all models and competitors so people know whoâs natural and who isnât, so they can choose whose diet and workout plan they want to follow.
The truth is, when the body is on these sorts of drugs it can process just about anything, which means that if youâre drug-free then you must take things like dairy, gluten and excessive stimulants into account.Â
So having said all of that, whatâs the fastest way to get shredded for summer? Two words. Clutch. Cut. Three more words: Free on Bodybuilding.com. Clutch Cut is a three-week circuit-training programme designed to help you lose 10â15lb fat and define lean muscle.
But if youâre not looking to start an entirely new programme, here are my five top tips for shredding fat.
FASTED CARDIO IN THE AM
Twenty-five minutes fasted cardio in the morning will help your body incinerate fat. Do this five days a week for two weeks. If you are going to lift directly following, make sure you have a protein shake containing at least 25g carbohydrates before starting resistance training. Also, take BCAAs before and after your cardio.
WORK OUT IN THE MORNING
This allows you to structure the most optimal meal plan, which is to front load the majority of calories and carbohydrates before 3pm. This ensures your body burns through its glycogen prior to bedtime.
DRINK COCONUT WATER POST-WORKOUT
The fast-digesting carbs in coconut water will ensure you are replacing the glycogen you just burned, helping to spare muscle and trigger insulin to spike.
NO COMPLEX CARBS AFTER 3PM
Same idea as above. After 3pm, all carbs should come only from vegetables, but not from the root variety.
GAME-CHANGER FOOD CHANGES:
â˘ Replace gluten with whole-grain carbohydrates like rolled oats, quinoa and sweet potato
â˘ Replace dairy with unsweetenedÂ almond milk
â˘ Eat only organic chicken.
â˘ Limit red meat to twice a month and make sure itâs organic and grass-fed.
â˘ Stick to fast-digesting proteins, such Â as white fish or organic egg whites, at dinner.
Donât save your fist-clenching for traffic jams, hereâs howÂ it can give you a sporting advantageÂ
Need to settle your nerves before a crucial point? Make a fist with your left hand.
Research in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that right-handed athletes who made a fist or squeezed a ball with their left hand before competing were less likely to choke under pressure than right-handed playersÂ who made a fist in theirÂ right hand.
This performance-improving method was found to work best on sports that require accuracy and complex body movements.Â
Want to remember your opponentâs weakness? Clenching your right hand can help you form a stronger memory of an event or action, found research done by the Public Library of Science. Just make sure you donât do it after a defeat; some memories canÂ be painful.
Performance nutritionist, coach, author and public speaker, Ben Coomber looks at whether abstaining from food could just be starving you of training gains
Fasting: ever done it? Maybe youâve skipped a meal. Maybe youâve forgone breakfast in a rush. This is essentially what fasting is: abstaining from food or skipping a meal, which is usually breakfast in the fitness world. In the pursuit of being lean and mean, people are always looking for easier ways to strip body fat.
Enter, fasting, or in itâs most popular form, intermittent fasting, aka âIFâ.
People are successfully using IF as a way to âshred upâ in the health and fitness community. Such names as Martin Berkham, Brad Pilon and Robb Wolf have done a great job raising the awareness of fasting, which is a wonderful weapon to have in your nutrition arsenal.
Benefits include upping your regulation of fat burning from stored fat tissue, greater detoxification effects and better mental clarity. But while fasting has its place in some populations, does it have a place in sport or training?
Because fasting is relatively new to the fitness world people are always keen to know more, and how it can be applied to them, if at all. I often get questions from enthusiasts such as, âBen, I want to get leaner but Iâm struggling to lose body fat, so should I try this intermittent fasting protocol?â Now this seems like a reasonable question, right? Wrong.
In short, this is my advice: if you play sport or train a lot, donât do intermittent fasting. If you are an athlete, or train like an athlete, meaning anything above five to six hours a week, donât fast. In my opinion, people are turning to fasting to lean out because they are lazy and just want an easy way out, working on a simple semi-starvation model which is what IF is at its roots. Women have been doing that for years, yo-yo dieting, and look where that leaves most of them.
One of the beauties of fasting, and a key reason it works, is a process called hormesis, whereby the human body adapts to a stress. So if a body is healthy, sleeps well, trains well and eats well, then fasting is seen as a positive stress and adaptation occurs in a favorable way. If someone is stressed, has a high training volume, can have bouts of poor sleep or inadequate sleep and is emotionally troubled, then this âhormeticâ stress just compounds the issue.
We donât want stress; it is bad for fat loss, for health and for body composition.
In the context of the dedicated trainer the key stress we battle to overcome is training. Be it weights, field conditioning, pad work, cardio, HIIT, complexes or whatever, they are all stressors that need optimal recovery strategies. Throw too many stressors into the mix and you encounter the over-training dilemma.
I love training and get a kick from it but when you get carried away with it and donât allow your body enough time to recover, over-training hits. This is due to you not recovering properly and you canât do that when a third of the day is spent fasting.
And this under-recovery often comes from inadequate calories, macronutrients or micronutrients, which fasting will make worse. Optimal recovery comes from consistent feedings; fast for periods of the day and youâre not recovering optimally.
Itâs about managing the variables and making performance and recovery optimal. When working with clients I might use fasting as a tool in the box, but not if they have a high training load. Five to six hours a week is my cut-off point for someone to incorporate fasting into their regime. So if you train more than five hours a week, fasting is not for you. Youâll likely feel great for two weeks, but it wonât continue. Enter into the third, fourth and fifth week and recovery slows down, your sleep suffers, your joints feel sore and then everything suffers.
So whatâs the biggest flaw I see with most athletesâ or tough trainersâ diets? Well, itâs the over consumption of carbohydrates and not enough good fats. Learn to cycle your fats and carbohydrates in and out of your diet at the right time. This benefits weight, sleep, hormonal function and performance. Fasting isnât the hidden answer to fat loss, itâs your current diet that needs work.
Want to hear a little secret? You can both burn fat and build muscle using just your own bodyweight. Let Ashley show you how...
Boston. Fall of 2009. There I was in the penthouse suite of the Ritz Carlton being held hostage by paparazzi along with my A-list celebrity client who was at the center of a breaking news story â and we had just two weeks to transform her body for her latest movie role.
âI guess we canât work out today,â she said hopefully. I smirked and said: âIâll be right back.â
When I returned, I had a single resistance band and a wry smile on my face. What happened next was one of the most epic workouts Iâve ever put a client through. Within the first two minutes she was drenched in sweat and gasping for air.
Iâd managed to turn every square inch of that suite into a brutal exercise station. We did dips on the bath-tub, plyometric jumps onto the bed, army crawls across the carpeted floors and more burpees than any human could even think about. The result? And I quote: âAsh, that was the hardest s**t Iâve ever done.â
Which begs the question: when did we start believing we need an expensive gym membership and fancy equipment to get the body we want?
Now, donât get me wrong: I love lifting weights. Lifting weights transformed my body when I was in high school and launched my lifelong obsession with the human body. What I donât love, is the misconception that if you donât have access to a gym and two hours to work out, there is no point in training. Or, walking into a gym and seeing people stroll through a workout and then saying: âI donât understand why Iâm not getting results?â
One of the greatest advantages of bodyweight training is that thereâs never an excuse not to work out. Whether youâre in a hotel room, a park, or at home, bodyweight training turns any environment into your own personal gym.
Here are some of my other top reasons for bodyweight workouts:
- Due to its compound movement patterns, just 20 minutes of bodyweight training can burn as many calories as a 90-minute machine or dumbbell-based workout.
- Because bodyweight training combines cardio and strength training, the workouts are extremely high-intensity, which means you burn a lot of calories in a short period of time. Plus, these types of comprehensive workouts switch on fat-burning and hormones responsible for building lean muscle.
- Simple bodyweight movements require the core to fire because most engage all the large muscles of the body. Not only does this improve core strength, it can also re-define the shape of your core because itâs being worked from all angles.
- The biggest excuse for not working out is usually lack of time to get to the gym. Well, with bodyweight training you donât even have to even leave the house to get a great workout.
Results: Bodyweight workouts involve compound exercises (numerous muscle groups are involved per exercise). Exercises like burpees, push-ups and plyometrics have been proven to increase lean muscle, and improve sports performance by increasing strength gains throughout the body.
Now you understand why you should be bodyweight training, hereâs how to get the most out of it. Below is how I structured the workout that day with my client. It works great with male clients who are used to doing straight-up muscle-building or bodybuilding workouts, because itâs a fantastic way to shock the body into burning more fat and building muscle.
THE CLUTCH HOTEL ROOM SHAKEDOWN
Time per exercise: 20 seconds
Equipment necessary: Dumbbells, pull-up bar
Circuit Instructions: For a full workout, repeat full sequence four to six times. For an extreme time-saver workout, repeat twice
- Plyometric push-up
- Jumping jack
- Running on the spot
- Star jump
- Army crawl
- Plyo jumps onto bed, box or bench
- Dumbbell deadlift
- Decline push-up off bath-tub
- Step and shoot (replicate basketball jump-shot)
- MMA sprawl
Adding muscle while cutting weight is a difficult balance to get right.Â Let TRAIN show you how to achieve the optimum results.
If youâre looking to gain muscle or lose fat, breakfast is the meal you should beÂ targeting to make that happen. Hereâs how to perfect your morning macros.
There seems to be an obsession that in order to get huge you need to eat vast amounts of food. But is bulking the answer to piling on brawn?
Simeon Panda is aÂ self-made fitness phenomÂ who travels the world givingÂ seminars on his unique exercise strategies.Â Hereâs how he keeps lean and muscled, evenÂ when the working day is long.
Name: Enayat Nazhat
Before: 145lb/66kg (November 2013)
After: 165lb/75kg (January 2015)
I started working out in November 2013. I worked out non-stop seven days a week, all year long. I probably only missed a day a week on the rare occasion that I didnât feel well. I give a tremendous amount of credit to Greg Plitt (RIP) who was my trainer and motivation. I used all of his Youtube training videos to achieve my goal, it was my main source of training. I trained exactly the way his videos show with the same attitude and mentality. The guy was a genius. I probably wouldnât have gained the physique I have now, if it wasnât for the training tips and motivation that I got from him.
The simple formula I have is to work out intensely from the get-go, this makes my muscles wake up and get to work. I do not like to waste my time chatting or taking long breaks in the gym. My longest break between sets are 45 seconds to a minute. I always include running in my weekly workouts, at least two miles a week.
At the beginning it went unnoticed, but by August 2014 people started to ask about the changes in my physique. Guys in the gym began toÂ ask me for nutrition and workout tips.Â I'm always happy to give tips to those who ask questions. I believe it's important to have a pleasant attitude in the gym, I always try to encourage others.
My meals consisted of boiled eggs, oatmeal, pancakes, chicken breast, beans and peas, casadillas, and sometimes almonds and dates. I also included salads in between my meals and some fruits such as apples, strawberries, and bananas. I have recently added boiled potatoes, brown rice and homemade beef burgers in my meals. My cheat meals are pizzas.
I used Optimum Nutrition's Serious MassÂ post workout.
My goal is to become a fitness model for big clothing companies. My biggest dream is to appear on the cover of magazines and provide information on how I work out and what I do to maintain my physique.
Â Want to have your Transformation featured on our website? Simply emailÂ your story, along with your before and after images to firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ to apply.
Name: Edwin Velez
Location: Albertville, Alabama
- Age: 26
- Weight: 310lb
- Body Fat: 48%
- Age: 27
- Weight: 160lb
- Body Fat: 9.4%
Why I decided to transform:
"After going on a cruise with friends and looking at pictures, I noticed my weight was out of control and something needed to be done. I challenged myself to lose weight and began my journey in December 2011. I know firsthand what being overweight does to you physically, mentally, and emotionally. I know how it feels to be unable to tie your shoes without holding your breath or being told you have to sit in a special seat on a roller coaster.My life is much different now, but I'm still adapting to the new me. I still catch myself looking for the wrong sizes when I shop and still do double takes in the mirror."
How I accomplished my goals:
"Single at age 26, I set a goal to drop 100 pounds between my return from the Bahamas in November 2011 and the next trip in March 2012. I had four months to reach my goal. I started walking 45 minutes per day until I could jog for the entire time.
"I started a high-protein, low-carb diet. Fish and chicken combined with fruits and vegetables became my best friends during the process. Coming from a Latin household, the food changes were extremely difficult to maintain, but I was determined. Going from eating rice and beans with fried chicken and fried plantains on a daily basis to grilled chicken and broccoli was extremely hard. I put away all sweets and soft drinks, which were my two favorites. I recall eating 10 mini chocolate bars during a work day.
"I didn't completely eliminate carbs because they're a major source of energy. I used the "little rule." If it was originally white in color, I removed it from my diet. These foods consisted of rice, pastas, breads, crackers, and tortillas. For carbs, I ate vegetables, fruit, and whole grain cereal. When I ate out, I ordered a salad completely dry. I stayed away from ketchup and mayonnaise. I completely removed sodas, juices, and anything that wasn't water.
"I permitted one cheat meal per week. When I went out to dinner with friends, I ate whatever I wanted, but stuck to water as my beverage."
For Edwin's full workout and diet, check out his full feature at Bodybuilding.com.
The 2014 CrossFit Games womenâs championÂ shares the secrets to her success.
From Greek god Zeus in Immortals, toÂ becoming a master vampire in Dracula UntoldÂ and slaying dragons in The Hobbit, Luke EvansÂ is a versatile actor who believes whatÂ goes into his body defines the way heÂ looks on screen.
Big arms arenât earned with a singleÂ strategy. Theyâre forged using a varietyÂ of innovative strategies that push theirÂ muscle fibers to their limits. HereâsÂ your game plan for tighterÂ sleeves at any cost.
The ultimate Dark Knight hasÂ become the master of shapeÂ shifting. Hereâs how he did it for hisÂ most famous roles.
The world champion mixed martialÂ artist walks you through what itÂ takes to be a top athlete and forge aÂ career as an action-movie star.
Hollywoodâs highest-paid actor weighs-in withÂ his fitness and nutritional regimes that earnÂ him multi-million dollar paychecks.
Drills to strengthen yourÂ jaw to shore up yourÂ defenses during contactÂ sports and protect anÂ asset thatâs valuable onÂ and off the field.
Waterproof your skills and performance with this guide to becoming strong, powerful and confident this summer.
Fear â do you run from it, or does it bring out the best in you? Fear plays a huge role in just about every sport and every method of training. Bodybuilding and strength training are no exception. Whether you're dealing with bone-crushing weights, gruelingly long workouts or even the pains of hard dieting, fear can either crush you or help you make the best gains possible.
Although most fighters will fit in several cardio based sessions per week as well as their gruelling training regime, injuries, thankfully, are a rarity. That aside, the yearly incidence rate for injuries suffered by recreational runners while pounding the pavements or treadmill is between 37 and 56%.
The highest percentage of those occurs at the knee, a joint thatâs prone to damage due to its relative instability, either by misalignment or muscular imbalance. Too much, too fast, too quick, poor exercise selection or execution makes the joint vulnerable to overtraining.
The knee gives support to the body and allows propulsion during the gait cycle. Propulsion can be either moving the body in walking/running or acceleration of the movement of the foot rapidly as in kicking.
The stability of the knee joint is due to an array of ligaments connecting the tibia (lower limb) and femur (upper limb). The strong muscles surrounding the joint are activated in response to tensions within the muscles. The two main ligaments are the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) which stops unwanted twisting between the two adjoining bones and prevents a forward glide of the tibia on the femur. The other ligament is the PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) which sits behind the knee and also prevents twisting motion and any backwards glide of the tibia upon the femur.
ANTERIOR CRUCIATE LIGAMENT AND MENISCUS TEAR
The two menisci in the knee rest between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia) both medially and laterally. The main function of the meniscus is to distribute weight evenly in the leg to prevent damage to the knee joint.
Most common traumatic meniscus tears occur when the knee joint is bent (flexed position) and the knee is then twisted. It is not uncommon for the meniscus tear to coincide with anterior and medial cruciate ligament damage.
Signs to look for include pain along the joint line, locking sensation, generalised ache in the knee or feeling of weakness and insecurity around the knee (a feeling like it will give way). You can expect minimal swelling and a full range of movement with pain only at the end of range.
The ACL can be injured by twisting the knee or because of an impact to the side of the knee, often the outside.
Amazingly a recent study showed 76% of ACL injuries are missed by a primary physician, so itâs important you keep a careful history of any problems you have. Any twisting,Â cracking, popping, immediate pain, swelling within four hours (usually immediate) and a situation in which you have to stop the initial activity would suggest a cruciate tear until proven otherwise -- and recognising the injury can save a career. The extent of the injury is determined by the degree of damage to the ligament.Â If the ligament has been stretched and not torn there will be a minimal amount of swelling. In order to diagnose correctly there are questions that need to be addressed:
1. What was the activity? Has activity changed or increased?
2. What was the force? Was it due to a fall or a takedown?
3. What happened to the knee? If it was twisted then either of the cruciate ligaments or the meniscus will most likely have been affected.
4. Was the knee hyperextended or flexed? If it was then itâs more often a muscular issue, although occasionally it could have affected the ACL.
5. Did it swell? When? A watershed of four hours divides cruciate injury from meniscus and ligament injury which normally takes four hours or more.
6. Did you have to stop immediately? If so, this could be the result of a cruciate Injury or occasionally a fracture of the tibia.
7. Did you hear anything such as the pops and cracks that are common in cruciate injury?
8. Was there pain? When? Within four hours divides cruciate injury from meniscus and ligament injury which normally takes four hours or more.
PATELLOFEMORAL PAIN â RUNNERâS KNEE
Damage to the knee accounts for more than half of all sports injuries and is often the result of individual quadricep muscle weakness, tightness of other related muscle groups, imbalances around the knee and quite often poor footwear choices.
Other causes include a weakness in the VMO (vastus medialis obliquus), a muscle that plays a key role in stabilising the patella, and allows the quads to work effectively. Weakness in this muscle can lead to maltracking which can cause anterior knee pain and tension in the iliotibial band as a result of an imbalance, and this can go as high as the gluteus medius/minimus.
Exercise, excessive bending, pain when contracting the quadriceps and pain during weight bearing are all signs of patellofemoral pain.
Knee injuries can be split into acute or overuse injuries. Acute can be caused by trauma and normally involves an improper balance between strength and mobility of musclesâ components, ligament strength and the forces put through them.
Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive movements and triggered biomechanical factors tend to be the underlying problem. Acute injuries, in which the foot is fixed during a fall or when excessive force is applied during a twist, can cause structures of the knee to become severely damaged.
Immediate treatment for all of the above injuries is recommended by initially following the procedure below, which is aptly labelled P.R.I.C.E.
P - Protect
Protect yourself from any further damage to the area by stopping the activity. If the injury isn't too severe, it may only require taping.
R - Rest
The first 48 hours following an occurrence is when severe swelling and bleeding around the Injury is at its maximum. Seek alternative activities and/or take complete rest to reduce any further pain. Depending on the severity of the injury immobilisation is not usually necessary, and can be potentially harmful to the repair process and outcome.
I - IceÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
The application of ice cools the damaged tissue by contracting the blood vessels. This will prevent any further swelling and bleeding, allowing the healing process to start. The applications should be frequent, but each application should be for no more than 15 minutes at a time.
Once any swelling has subsided â usually 48-72 hours after the initial occurrence - heat is then generally applied to chronic injuries that have no inflammation as it increases circulation and raises skin temperature. Sore, stiff, nagging muscle or joint pain is ideal for the use of heat therapy.
Apply compression to the affected area, no matter how gentle, as it will prevent and control the extent of swelling.
By elevating the affected area above heart level, swelling should drain away. This is crucial within the initial 48 hours.
We outline major points of difference between these muscle-building mainstays and how to use them to keep growing
Like it or not, the moment you step into a gym you inadvertently join a long-running locker-room debate about whether intensity or volume produces superior muscle gains.
Seems everyone has their opinion, despite sporting and bodybuilding champions having been built using both approaches. However, a keen eye will notice the differences between the results that the two approaches produce.
âYou might see a guy lifting heavy weights and appearing to be strong but he doesnât look very big; and you may see a guy using light weights yet he looks very round and very big,â says Kirk Chittick, a top-level trainer for 25 years to competitive bodybuilders, fighters and models.Â
âItâs natural to wonder why this might be. Well, this is the difference between volume and intensity.â
To get to the bottom of it all letâs start at the beginning. Your goal is to build more muscle. Exactly how do you accomplish this? By convincing the muscle it needs to grow. The ideal way of doing this is to stress a muscle beyond what it can handle.
And this is where the fork in the path presents itself. Hereâs your guide to choosing the right trail.Â
THE VOLUME APPROACH
WHAT IS IT?
As the name suggests, the idea is to bombard your muscles with such a colossal quantity of sets and reps that it has no choice but to adapt and grow.
A huge believer in this approach was Arnold Schwarzenegger who would happily train for several hours a day. The premise is simple: you pummel your muscles with a behemoth workload, which thrashes them out so that when they recover they grow.
âFor bodybuilding and fitness you want a round and separated look, and the way to do this is to use high-volume training which pushes lots of blood into the muscle fascia which stretches it,â says Chittick.
âAppearance wise youâll earn a rounder, fuller look, and to do this youâll use a very specific 10â15 rep range for upper-body muscles groups and 15â30 reps per set for your legs.â
This approach isnât limited to compound multi-jointed movements such as the squat and bench press â you need to mix it up.
âIt is very important to do isolation exercise (concentration curls, leg extensions, etc.) where youâd concentrate on using a good range of motion and have full control of the weight through the positive (raising) and negative (lowering) portion of every rep, as this is how you will achieve big muscle.
âWhen doing volume-style training techniques be sure to train heavy three times a month to retain and build on your strength, but always warm up with high volume sets then go on to the heavy stuff while maintaining good control and form.â
This way youâre less likely to get injured and can still enjoy oversized-looking muscles.Â
1. There is an obvious risk of overtraining and burnout, which can bring your muscle-building ambitions to a screeching halt.
Research in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that youâre overtrained if youâre depressed, irritable, feel weak or tired, or canât sleep. Take a breather when your body is dropping you these hints.
2. Another problem is psychologically prepping yourself for the multiple sets to come and not to go all-out in the initial sets when youâre at your strongest. This can leave you working with smaller weights than you need to trigger growth.
THE INTENSITY APPROACH
WHAT IS IT?
The opposite of lounging about in the gym all day is to, of course, relax at home all day and get in and out the gym as quicklyÂ as possible.
This less-is-more approachâs biggestÂ backer is Dorian Yates, the winner of six Mr Olympia titles. The intensity techniques suggest that muscles need to be pushedÂ beyond their comfort zone with brief workouts and extremely heavy weights, lifted with perfect form.
Often youâll have more rest (one to two days) between each workout than the volume approach because most intensity techniques stress the importance of rest and recovery. Cue: couch time.Â
1. If youâre tempted to stray away from perfect exercise form you run a serious risk of getting injured because the exercises require all-out effort.
âPeople who lift very heavy, often lift with bad form, putting a lot of stress on the joints and in many cases are not hitting the targeted muscle,â explains Chittick.
âFor instance, when doing really heavy curls you tend to use the biceps tendon in the shoulder too much causing a break down in that area and shoulder problems.â
Going for maximum lifts all the timeÂ with even a little bit of cheating can leave you licking your wounds sooner thanÂ youâd like. This can make this approach tough for novice lifters and those with nagging injuries.Â
2. Looking flat rather than full. âWhen heavy training is done properly you do get mass but you can only do this for so long because you tend to push the fascia and the fibres against the bone therefore having a flat look,â says Chittick.
âSo make sure your fibres and your body are intact for heavy lifting; do this by consuming plenty of good minerals, enjoying plenty of massages and undergoing regular chiropractic sessions to make sure youâre not training with bad alignment or cross fibres. Injuries really slow down any good progression.â
THE HYBRID APPROACH
WHAT IS IT?
Youâll use a mix of volume and intensity approaches in the same technique. Often youâll use a volume approach for one to three weeks then do intensity-based workouts for one to three weeks, then revert back to the volume style again.
They usually last more than six weeks but can cough up some huge gains inÂ both size and strength without a big risk of injury.Â
1. That pesky personal life of yours can get in the way of fulfilling these longer-winded techniques and skipping a week can be tough to catch up on.
They can also be complicated and some of them require you to become a muscle nerd by jotting down the weights you push while you rest between sets.Â
2. Knowing when to change and when to take a week off can get confusing and you risk overtraining if you stick to a system that continues to deliver results.
MAKING YOUR PICK
Well, thereâs no doubt you can already sniff out the solution â alternate between these three approaches.
âWhen you pit the intensity of heavy lifting against high-volume training they are both correct; itâs the way you utilise them thatâs important. You just have to know when to switch them up by listening to your body,â explains Chittick.
Try a volume workout for one to two months, then, when your gains ease off, move onto an intensity or hybrid-style technique. The trick is to keep your muscles guessing so you continue to force change and growth.
Einstein said it best in his famous quote: the measure of intelligence is the ability to change.
Barefoot running shoes have made tremendous strides in the running community but they could also see your weights-room gains taking a giant step forward
Footwear is seldom of any concern to the average lifter. A pair of old Chuck Taylor Converse or favored running kicks are often the wheels of choice for a run-of-the-mill exerciser.
Of course for a more serious lifter thereâs always the option of wearing the wooden-soled powerlifting footwear used by Olympians, but theyâre about as comfortable to walk around in as a pair of cycling shoes.
Fortunately, minimalist and barefoot running shoes are adding a new fashion flavor to the weights room, one thatâs peppered with improved performance. Hereâs why theyâre proving to be a step ahead of the competition.
Are your running shoes a lie?
Despite the likes of Nike, Asics and Adidas having oil well-like money, scientific labs and millions of sample runners, theyâve never been able to claim their cushioned shoes reduce sports injuries.
In fact, quite the opposite has been found because traditional running shoes actually have a skeleton in their closet. Cushioned shoes can put more stress on your knees, hips and ankles compared to running barefoot and even wearing high heels, found research in PM&R: The journal of injury, function and rehabilitation.
Whether youâre a weekend warrior or a pro athlete it seems people everywhere have all been favoring heavily cushioned footwear; and these pillow-like running shoes are still the dominant shoe type in most gyms.
But all this pomp and comfort could be stealing the gains from your hard slog in the weights room because training without the cushioned soles will make you work harder and smarter.
Grounding your gains
Absorbable running shoes make sense when youâre pounding pavements during a marathon, but in the gym, force absorbed by foam is force lost to your muscles.
âThe muscles in your feet tell you what to do, and then the muscles in the trunk and the hips basically do the work,â says Jay Dicharry, a physical therapist and director of the SPEED Performance Clinic and the Motion Analysis Lab at the University of Virginia.
âYour feet are the first thing that hits the ground, and if they work, then things simply work well up the chain.â
So having your feet almost touching terra firma tells the rest of your muscles to behave correctly. But what does this mean to the guy who wants to push bigger numbers on the squat or deadlift? Well, everything.
âFeet are crucial in activating the stretch reflex, an involuntary muscular contraction that helps lifters blast out the bottom of squats,â says podiatrist Dr Emily Splichal.
âYou get this impact, your body takes this force and it releases it elastically. If your shoe is designed to absorb the shock, you lose that energy transfer. So you are no longer an efficient mover. And if youâre not an efficient mover, youâre now muscling your way through things, and youâre at risk from overuse injuries.â
It seems that being more in touch with the ground will actually help you power out of the difficult parts of your lifts, which runs contrary to the promises of powerlifting shoes.
Taking the next step
Lifters like Arnie were famous for training barefoot, showing just how far ahead of the times they actually were. Even trying to balance on a single leg barefoot elicited significantly higher muscle activity throughout the leg than doing so in shoes, found research in Footwear Science.
âThere is a lot of research showing that when you stimulate the bottom of the foot, and the stabilizers fire up, that leads to a faster lumbar-pelvic complex stabilization,â says Splichal. âSo athletes feel stronger in their movements, because their base is far more stable.â
Since most gyms are bathed in footwear bureaucracy you probably canât kick off your kicks anymore, which is where minimalist footwear is great because it provides the thinnest reasonable barrier between your feet and the ground.
This strategy will net you several benefits, according to the lab coats. Research published in Footwear Science looked at the effects training in minimalist shoes had in all-out athletic training such as rope skipping, running stairs and jumping.
They found that the participantsâ toe flexor muscles were significantly strengthened. An increased strength in the forefoot has been shown elsewhere to improve general athletic performance.
So if youâre looking to jump higher and become your teamâs MVP then barefoot or minimalist shoes could be the trick youâre after. And if you want to get out the âholeâ easier during your squats then these shoes could be the small step you need to take to hit new personal bests.
Bear in mind that making the switch can initially be a little painful for your feet while the muscles and tendons strengthen to this new technique. Itâs a learning curve so start off slow with one or two workouts in them each week and gradually phase your running shoes out of your training routine.
Youâll soon be duly rewarded with more muscle and improved balance.
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